Sunday, June 25, 2006

Springboks to Shebeens

Yesterday was a hoot. My new buddy Andrew and I ended up at a sports bar to watch the Springboks choke big-tme against France. As a general rule, when the Springboks are beaten in the pack, they are going to lose. Amabokkobokko rely on the fact that they almost always have the biggest, strongest forwards in the world. Not yesterday. Were it not for the stellar kicking of wizened (he was a Springbok back in 1997 when I first came to South Africa) fullback Percy Montgomery the Boks might not have even been in the game. It was a disappointing performance, but it was a good time nonetheless.

From there we hit the town, setling first at a place called Ratz, where we got in good with the owner and thus had a lot of our drinks comped as we watched soccer and made more new friends. I hoped Mexico would pull off a shocker over Argentina, but it was not to be. Then the Germans just dominated an overmatched Swedish team.

From there we moved on to a place that would like to fancy itself as Melville's equivalent of a shebeen, the once-illicit bars that flourish in the townships. We went with another American, a talented grad student from UT-Austin working on his PhD field research. He recognized me from a conference we attended last year in Burlington, the wonderful Northeast Workshop on Southern African Studies (NEWSAS). It was a great time. Basically, it was an African bar -- lots of drinking, lots of music, lots of fun, though the shabeen conceit is rather tough to pull off in the midst of upscale Melville. It nonetheless is always nice to immerse myself into a more "African" tableaux. It is interesting how racial tensions are both alleviated and have manifested themselves differently in the last few years. Generally we were welcomed with open arms, but there are always some who look askance at what they probably perceive to be whities trying to impress with their open-mindedness. I suppose that not only can I not blame them, there is also some truth to their implied accusation. In any case, the time just disappeared amidst the music and beer and people, and I emerged exhausted but contented at 5:30 this morning.

Oh -- and Williams has, for the third year in a row finished the year ranked #1 in both the U.S. News and World Report National Liberal Arts College Rankings as well as in the year-end Director's Cup for overall athletic excellence (the eighth win in a row in that latter category). Ho hum. And Big Papi won another game for the Sox with another walkoff home run in extras to beat the Phils. Another glorious ho-hum.

Finally, Shawn Wilsey has a worthwhile article in the New York Times on what Ghana's World Cup successes mean to the little West African nation that led the way to decolonization on this continent.

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