Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Fever - Final Impressions, A Canadian's View

At the beginning of every World Cup game I'm struck by the colonial influence on each nation's anthem. Western instruments, chorus lines, and structure predominate. There's no rumba, salsa, or cross-rhythm, and that's such a shame, given the diversity among each nation's fans and players. Fortunately, the music at taxi stands, airports, and fan parks weren't restricted to western notions, and, of course, the vuvuzellas made stadiums their own.

I took quite a few bus-taxis and buses to get around from my remote abode. Although people on the bus-taxis were quite friendly, especially when I repeatedly asked Illovo? or some other destination, people on the bus ignored me. I discussed this behaviour with a white South African after, and she attributed it to the fact that a white person on such buses is a rarity, never mind one with an accent. By the way, from what I've gathered South Africans refer to each other as black, white, or coloured (any ethnic mix other than the former two). I struggled with this terminology due to my North American sensibilities, but soon tired of unnecessarily tip-toeing around.

Another sensibility that I lost pretty quickly was pedestrian right-of-way. Drivers gave me courteous beeps, but such notions can be dangerous (I had a few close calls in my jet-lagged stupor). Like Europe, standard transmission dominates the market, so drivers are quite skilled, but the numerous construction projects made navigation difficult. I still can't get over the lack of seat-belt laws. I desperately wanted to fasten a belt around the new-born in the front seat. Although I wanted to stay and try to get tickets for the Brazil/Portugal, which turned out to be rather flat, the time had come for me to go. I made it to Sandton (an up-scale suburb into which a number of downtown businesses fled when the fence came down) and then to the GauTrain.

The train was filled with residents excited by the prospect of travelling at high-speed. They marvelled at the new smell and efficiency, and some claimed superiority to London's tube (not a fair comparison). I was buoyed by their enthusiasm. The driver came on the intercom, introduced herself, and announced we were travelling at 160 km/h. I was one of the few to leave the train; I picked up some last minute souvenirs and made for my gate. I flew Etihad to Abu Dhabi once more. There were many empty seats so I quickly grabbed a middle row, so I could stretch out later. The meal included a chicken tandoori breast and three bean salad and a choice of chicken tikka, grilled hake or penne in cream sauce. Then I slept. No movies needed on this leg. No World Cup on a single TV in the airport. What's with this place?

After a drowsy day in Frankfurt I boarded a Swiss Air flight to Zurich. The stewardess had a topless picture of Drogba on her serving station and defended her choice, stating that he was her motivation. Swiss chocolate and a great Duty Free catalogue made their low take-off-and-landing priority bearable. I then flew Swiss Air to Montreal. The service, chocolate, and Movenpick ice cream was excellent, but the entertainment system ran on a rotation so you couldn't watch what you wanted when you wanted. The kicker, however, came when I boarded an Air Canada plane and paid $7 for a stale wrap.

Canada really needs to welcome its citizens. Rather than calculating potential tax revenue, citizens shouldn't have to fill out forms or stand in a general line. Where's the Canadian Passports line? It's as rare as a default choice of "Canada" on a Canadian website form. Anyway, I'm back; nearly over 29 hours in the air and nearly acclimatized to Victoria's poky drivers.

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