South African elections and a new nickname

“It is not the critic who counts; not the one who points out how the strong stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to those in the arena; who strive valiantly; who fail and come up short again and again; who know great enthusiasm and great devotion; who at the best know in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Another busy week, punctuated by a public holiday in the middle to allow everyone time to vote. Interesting concept; wonder if it really changes voter turnout that much. I am too lazy to look up statistics.

Last year I remember remarking about how different it is to be in another country and experience different holidays. Right now, I think Memorial Day is coming up soon in the States but not here obviously. Another thing that is very different are elections. These were municipal elections, not national elections but it’s an interesting process. I didn’t actually experience it myself but from the sounds of it, long queues, a standardized voting procedure (as opposed to every town doing its own thing), inking of the thumb to indicate you have voted, and ballots that have parties listed in alphabetical order, standardized. So if you start a political party in South Africa, start it with a special character (i.e. non alpha).

Obviously also there is the fact that there is one super-dominant party, the ANC, the ruling party since the end of apartheid, and the party that led the struggle. Broad generalization, but most of its voters tend to be black. The DA is a relatively new party but its voters tend to be white. It’s very interesting to hear people speak about politics in this country because it is just so completely different. I had some fun explaining the differences between Democrats and Republicans, what happened in the Massachusetts special election (and why I’m actually kind of relieved Martha Coakley lost), the concept of gerrymandering, and how much more sophisticated the whole elections shebang is in the U.S. Everything from voter targeting to the get out the vote campaign is in its infancy here, which may partly be a result of the fact that the ANC is just do darned dominant, and the politics so tinged with race. It’s funny, there are most definitely corrupt politicians in government and the DA goes on and on about service delivery and so on so forth. I must say I haven’t had any dealings with ANC officials but on the DA side, government is government. Oh, but if you think Democrats and Republicans hate each other? Yeah, doesn’t compare, and in my experience at least, that’s not due to racism. But politics is so big and so broad it’s hard to say.

What I will say is that it will be interesting to see what develops over the coming years. Like it or not, there is a huge gap between the average white and average black in terms of education, ability to govern, etc. due to the legacy of apartheid. Whites are also quite a small minority. The degree to which stereotypes and race play into the picture doesn’t help anything, obviously. But the ANC has a big perception problem: it’s been in power for a long time, there are quite a few corrupt politicians (again, the Americans are just more sophisticated at corruption, ha!), and people of all races are starting to tire of empty promises. On the other side, the DA has a huge perception problem: I have more than a few non-white and very insightful and politically knowledgeable friends who refuse to vote for the DA because they think it is too white-oriented. Maybe it is. Hard to look outside your own reality. Then of course there are a ton of fringe parties (including one that is so radical it makes the Tea Party look conservative, and I mean that in a nice way).

It’s hard to say what will happen ultimately. But in politics as in life in general, there does seem to be a sense of change but also of impatience. Something has to give, something will give. The jury is definitely still out in democracy as far as I’m concerned. I don’t see it working well anywhere in the world. How are leaders expected to make tough (read: unpopular) decisions if they are so busy trying to get re-elected? This is why the money and special interests control America, to the detriment of the people government is supposed to serve. And that’s America. We haven’t even started talking about France, or South Africa. And those are just the places with legitimate elections and a relatively free press. Well, humans are hectic. What can I say?

What did I find myself up to this week? Writing down the stupid things other people said. Meeting some cool new people. Training. Working. Wasting too much time on chat, and getting behind in important emails. Again. Sorry peeps, I know I owe you, but I’m busy now writing this blog post. Doing stupid stuff. What else is new?

Monday – breakfast meeting with geez, how to describe Justin? Not even sure. Likeminded soul. When my friend Jason came to visit I said it was like talking to myself … similar vibe with Justin going on. Our breakfast meeting ran over by like 90 minutes so we scheduled our next meeting for an evening. Better idea. It’s so cool to meet other people who are like you, who think like you, and who are doers like you, and then the really fun thing is to figure out how to work together. So that was quite cool. Spent a few hours later in the day revising a contract which, oddly enough, is work that I enjoy doing. Did some power cleans that evening although my ankle was a bit sore. Mona kicked the crap out of the power cleans & bear complex. She is amazing to watch. I actually started squatting again and it’s amazing how heavy 24kgs feels like when you haven’t been squatting in weeks (or months??).

Tuesday – A bunch of acceleration meetings, followed by an afternoon meeting with government. Moral of that story: a government has a lot of internal politics, in the middle of which you do not want to be caught. Also, don’t ever compromise on what you know to be the right way to do business. It may well come back to haunt you. Brought my boss to the gym because I was his date to a work dinner (Max was sick), and taking him back to the office in between was not a good use of time. He found CrossFit intriguing. I did 50 pullups without ripping my hands open, died on the pushups, and subbed 50 burpees for squats which I completed in 3:10. Pretty happy with that all things considered. Work dinner with a bunch of people from the Netherlands in Langa. Interesting crew, one of them was the former head of the national police, so we talked a lot about how law enforcement is both a public and a private responsibility. Then on to Hoodwinx for the beautiful Lauren’s birthday party where I met a guy named Devin whose name had come up on many occasions but I never met the fellow. Until now. He is also quite interesting, and the conversation led me to an interesting thought about how to extend the accelerator to tech. But one thing at a time… The swype application on my phone makes a great party trick. And I remembered that tequila is paleo but still didn’t have a single drink. Just not worth it the way I can now feel that the poison affects my sleep.

Last time I said I was going to build some social rest into my schedule? Yeah, not so much. Tuesday was planned to be a chill evening at home and instead … I barely got home in time to get my 8 hours of sleep! Wednesday was the aforementioned public holiday for election day. Got up, went to yoga, then out to Birds Café for lunch with Mona. Saved a bee’s life, and was way more tempted by the coffee on the menu than by the baked goods on offer. Why must milk be non-paleo, darn it all!

Mona, Hermann, Chris and I all met up at the gym to go to the field where Regionals are going to be held and do a workout Chris designed. It was absolutely a killer. 20 minutes of as many rounds as possible (AMRAP, in cult language) of 2 burpees, 100m run, 2 kettlebell swings, 100m run, 4 burpees, 100m run, etc. My ankle was feeling a bit wonky so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run on it, so I emailed Chris to ask if he could think of anything I could substitute if necessary. The suggestion of walking lunges I didn’t care for due to my knee, so then he emailed back that I could do a 20 minute AMRAP of sitting, and called me princess. Quite uncalled for, and very chivalrous to make fun of the injured girl, I thought. How this moniker got turned into Princess of the Unicorns is a whole other matter entirely. I’m still not sure of the thought process behind that one, but whatever. Anyway back to the workout …. I had brought a heavy kettlebell which I think was a good choice because after the round of 10 it got VERY difficult. I’m done using the “normal” kettlebell and box jump height (once I can box jump again …). Do more difficult stuff and when the normal stuff comes up in competition it feels easy. And, it’s also all about scaling: when it comes to the point that kettlebell swings don’t tax you much, time to move up in weight. Anyway to make a long story short between the burpees and the swings that workout taxed the abs so much that I actually felt somewhat nauseous after. Then we went back to the gym for our second workout which was practicing handstand walks (fun! I’m going to practice this at home!), and then another workout involving burpees. Now I love burpees possibly more than anything else but I must say 200 burpees in about 24 hours was about enough.

Afterwards, in the realm of not-quite-what-I-had-planned, a dinner with Rika where I had somehow assumed her husband Lluwellyn would be at their place and just the two of us turned into dinner with Rika, Lluwellyn, Mona, and Roland. This of course led to all sorts of hilarity including the fact that I didn’t have enough chairs, still haven’t replaced the chair Deon broke, left my coconut oil at work, hadn’t cleaned my oven in far too long, apparently I don’t wash either my glasses or steak knives properly … oh, yeah, and that first time I tried to do a handstand I fell on my head … well, you get the idea. It was pick on Ellie night in my very own apartment. But what the heck. I had a fantastic time, and hey, smiling and laughter is good for you!

Thursday was a FoodTents build at the Philippi Children’s Centre. This was really more of a fun day than anything. Got my hands dirty, played with the kids and dogs, tried to explain to a four-year-old why I ate snails but wouldn’t share his Coke, and couldn’t resist doing some pullups and tire flips on my rest day. Went to acupuncture: the ankle felt awesome from the very beginning and the knee felt like nothing until about 40 minutes in when it started hurting like the dickens. Good stuff. I also must have been exhausted because I fell asleep on the table a few times. Nothing quite like jerking your limbs as you fall asleep when they have needles in them. Anyway after, I had a meeting with half our FutureFit group at the cool offices of Pulling Rabbits, including a floor make entirely out of books. The first floor of their building is mighty spooky. We need to find GreenPop a trailer. Should be all kinds of fun, but hey, nothing like a good challenge, right?

Dinner that night was at the Greens’ place by me in Tamboerskloof. Turns out they will be living in Brewster next year. How ironic. How did I pick my dorm senior year? It was closest to the gym. And it was the only one in the quad that was still a girls dorm.

Friday I spent mostly reviewing and editing another contract, then going over to my boss’ place to check in with him and review it (he had offsite meetings and was working from home). Making good progress but we have a ton of work to do, and actually it does frustrate me a bit that some of the people we are trying to help are a bit impatient. I guess it’s our own fault for over-extending, but I think people should be patient and accept that some free help is better than no free help. Well, actually I guess it makes sense: people are naturally so self-centered that we don’t even see what’s going on around us. The world does not revolve around YOU. Or ME. Well, my world revolves around me but I don’t seriously expect everyone else’s to. Still, frustrating when you’re in a bit of pain and all you get is a bit of a snarl despite the fact that you’re doing your best.

Hey, we’re all fighting our own battles, mostly with ourselves, actually. I was really focused on Wednesday after yoga on the people I cared about finding some old hurt or pain and letting it go. It’s a healthy thing to do. My main focus at the moment is being more forgiving of myself. When I am, things come better. I have one good friend who I’m actually just about ready to tell that he doesn’t need to be perfect all the time … but hey, what you dislike in others is often what you dislike in yourself, right?

Another reminder of course that setting expectations too high often leads to you falling short. That’s one other issue with my own issues with wanting to be, or appear to be, as good as I possibly can be. The bigger they are the harder they fall, right? And reality can’t compete with a myth, so you don’t want someone thinking you’re someone or something you’re not.

Enough deep thoughts. Friday they announced the Regional workouts for the CrossFit Games. No sense speculating too much at this point about movement standards. We decided earlier in the week that I would enter on the team side so that depending on the movement standards and minimum qualifying requirements, we can send a team to the Games this year. I could have decided to compete as an individual but we needed literally every woman at the gym who qualified to enter under the team if we were going to try to send a team, since Rika entered as an individual. This was sort of a cop-out on my part because the individual competition would have been mentally tough, but it’s also like the prisoner’s dilemma: if we all are so focused on ourselves, then everyone loses. Also, my knee being as tender as it is this close to the competition I might re-injure it or exacerbate the strain and really, nothing is worth that.

Seeing the workouts now, I think I could have done quite well overall but we will never know. It doesn’t really matter. All things considered, with a strong team I would rather compete in a team anyway. So the workouts all look super fun except for the one with muscle-ups and heavy (for us) squat snatches. Hence the question on minimum qualifying standards. But in the meantime we are practicing the workouts, so on Friday we did a chipper. I was planning on doing 100 pullups but started to get sub-dermal blood blisters around 60 or so, so went to 65 and stopped, then did 50 kettlebell swings with the heavy kettlebell, and a few double-unders (they are still a bit sensitive on my ankle).

Went home to shower and doctor my hand, which consisted of draining the blood, cutting off the skin, and rubbing salt in the wound to dry it out. Roland said it would help it become usable again faster and I think he’s right. It is also not quite as painful as it sounds, or at least as I was expecting. The level of pain does vary with the severity of the deepness of the wound, however. Went out to dinner in Durbanville with Mona and some of her family. This must be pick on Ellie’s accent week also because when I announced that I was American in answer to some question her father said: “Oh I thought you just had a throat infection.” Haha. This man (ex-pro rugby player) is quite intense although very cool: his first question to me was what was my sporting history. Anyway I had a nice time and got home again just in time for my 8 hours of sleep.

Saturday brought the workout designed by the Greens. I won’t bore you with the details but it was a really fun workout during which I learned that I could muscle clean 43kgs a lot faster and easier than a normal power clean. Now where was that when I was trying to do Grace? But it’s amazing how my technique has improved: I remember in December I could barely clean 45kgs at CrossFit Fenway. Also, when we were doing the workout on Tuesday I was thinking back to when I first started CrossFit and couldn’t do one pullup (let alone 50), and doing the workout probably would have taken me 50% longer even with scaling. Which reminds me: another thing that I really want to do is reach out to all the people over the years who I think have had a big positive impact on me, thank them, and tell them so. I’m planning to do that one by the end of this month, because I bet some of them don’t even know it.

Afterwards I very nearly injured myself quite badly. I was practicing muscle-ups and apparently I’m getting good enough height but am having issues with the transition, so Jobst was assisting me a little bit to get me into the right position so I got to the bottom of the dip, tried to push myself up, encountered some weakness and as I was continuing to push one of my hands slipped right off the rings so I grabbed on with the other (falling from about 7 feet up was not in the cards). This process wrenched my left elbow, and luckily I landed on my good ankle. The worst thing to happen out of it was that grabbing onto the other ring for dear life caused the existing tear in my hand to get caught on the callous on top of it and rip half the callous off. Jobst had to remove it with scissors. Princess indeed. But I have a couple of things I’m going to practice the next week or so until my hand heals. I’m quite sure I can do this before the competition. It’s exciting actually to be so close!!

Quick breakfast at the market, then on to run some errands including to the Biscuit Mill where I (of course) ran into someone I needed to talk to and this caused me almost to be late for the movie we were watching: Pirates of the Caribbean 4. That was fun although sadly it’s the sort of movie that would be way better at home where you could be providing a running commentary the entire time. Later on that evening brought the Greens’ going away party. I am really going to miss them. I was having a great time but I did have to leave later on in the evening to go down to the Jeremy Loops show at The Assembly. It’s a great venue for him and I was meeting some people there. Turns out I got there right on time, and another great thing about not drinking is that going out is very cheap! I also thought the show was amazing: I had a great view from stage left, and somehow live music is way more fun when you know the musician, and they sing to you and your crew. They also played a song I hadn’t heard before called Treevolution, which is part of the Greenpop tagline. Was cool to see a couple of other friends, and just as I was about to leave ran into Devin so stayed another 30 minutes or so.

This turned into a bad joke the next morning when I got up after 5 hours of sleep to accompany my friend Keith out to the race I had entered but couldn’t run. Somehow a 15km trail run on this ankle didn’t seem like a good idea. But I ran into some other people that I knew, and it was very cool that the race organizers recognized me both my face and name from the Summer Trail Series. Turns out Owen Middleton has a sprained ankle as well. I was planning on running some light hill runs but decided I didn’t feel like it so I just took photos. We discussed breakfast spots, drug use, and the supernatural over breakfast at Beleza (Cape Town crew, do NOT go there, I have nothing good to say and that’s saying something). Shortly thereafter I headed out to Constantia for second breakfast with Mona. This was punctuated by this guy who told me I had the worst fake American accent he’d ever heard. I was rendered speechless for the second time in about 12 hours (someone had said something at The Assembly that made absolutely no sense and thereby had a similar effect). I’m still not sure whether he was serious or kidding but by my reaction realized I was the real deal. I am pretty sure my jaw hit the floor. Then he started going off about Noam Chomsky. Very random.

We hung out at Mona’s place then went by her work to train. Due to my condition I did some quarter squats to keep the pressure off the knee, then some power snatch technique work. Mona says my technique is actually great at the low weight (20kgs) I was using. I am also happy to see that for whatever reason although I haven’t been doing them (obviously) my overhead squats have significantly improved. Can’t wait to start loading up the weight and seeing what happens. We discovered that her rowing form needs some help, and then I did some light deadlifting (5×5 @85kgs with about 30s rest in between). I can’t wait to stop being gimpy so we can actually have some real fun training sessions together. Aside from being a fantastic athlete, Mona is also very cool to hang out with: I think we have a very similar approach to the world and that girl is incredibly perceptive, especially for such a young age. Being able to read people is a skill that some people just never develop! She is not as perceptive as my co-worker Shaun, though, who is just a freak of nature in that regard: there is no keeping anything from that man!

One thing I have been thinking about is coaching, and influencing. I was talking above about my issues with one kind of lift (the jerk). My biggest problem is that I don’t drop under the bar, and rather push it up with my arms. Now I know this, and it’s good to be reminded from time to time. But there are only so many times you need to tell me I’m not dropping under the bar. After a while, assuming I’m paying attention, thank you, I get it, I know I need to work on it. Once a day is ok, once every lift is not (not saying anything about any of our coaches here because they are all awesome and continuously push and challenge me, and don’t let me get away with crap. Usually.) But sometimes in day-to-day situations I will either get reminded of the same thing literally every time I do it or every time I talk to the same person, and I’m sure I probably do this as well. Goes back to that focus on the other person: make sure you’re not so busy trying to push your agenda that you forget to pay attention to why the other person is even talking to you to begin with.

• “They all just follow you around!” – Mona
• “That would be pretty crazy, but you can do it.” – Jobst
• “Is that a disease?” – Ellie (I had just said I wasn’t sick, unlike my co-worker, and a visitor from the Netherlands responded with ‘You’re American.’)
• “It’s not safe.” – Guard at Hoodwinx
• “It might look like incense but actually it’s tequila.” – Devin
• “Yes you do.” – Devin (I said I talked a good talk)
• “Okok princess u can do a 20min amrap of sitting… ;)” – Chris
• “Well that would be really worrysome.” – Jobst
• “You look really big.” – Chris (he was talking to a kettlebell … or at least that’s his story and he’s sticking to it)
• “Yes you are.” – Roland (I said I was an easy target)
• “Even the rats in Woodstock are coloured!” – Denzil (one was fighting with his Jack Russell …)
• “No that’s the thing about you, you’re so competitive I think I might lose!” – Jacques (takes one to know one?)
• “Shame, buddy, you didn’t need to bring your own mud water, we had plenty here already!” – Jacques
• “When South Africa swallows you hey, it swallows you.” – Denzil
• “I’ve noticed. I’ve seen you take care of a good couple of beers as well.” – Jacques
• “We wanted to introduce you to the man-whore quarter of our company.” – Jock (yes, he really said this, and yes, I can believe it…)
• “Women are so weird. They are just so so weird. They are such fragile creatures.” – Peter (around this point I told him he needed to stop talking)
• “I thought you just had a throat infection.” – Pieter (I was telling the table that I was American)
• “It’s like Grey’s fucking Anatomy over here.” – Jo
• “I thought you were great, too.” – Jeremy
• “Where’s the rest of my breakfast?” – Keith
• “Why does this sweet creature annoy me so much?” – Ellie
• “That’s the worst fake American accent I’ve ever heard!” – random guy in Constantia
• “The WORST thing is a dumb guy!” – Mona

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