Ocean Planet finished Leg Two of the Around Alone in the very early morning on Thursday, fittingly on Thanksgiving Day (in the USA). I was met by a very friendly group, including Leg One and Two winner Bernard Stamm and some of his support crew. It was a beautiful approach to the finish, in very light air with a fascinating view of legendary Table Mountain and the nighttime city lights illuminating a transparent layer of foggy mist just above the city. Once within a couple miles the mist descended and effectively turned into a light rain soaking everything and everyone, but failing to dampen the spirits of myself or my welcoming party.
Ocean Planet in Cape Town.
After a quick meal and warm greetings, I met my volunteer host Glen Langston, who is graciously putting up me and the Ocean Planet team of Stephen Hodges, Ashley Perrin, and Jason Winkel in his lovely house in the hills above the city. Glen has followed the race online and emailed offering to help, a perfect example of the goodwill that makes it possible to overcome fiscal reality and stay in this great race around the world. I slept (on a bed that didn’t move!) till early in the afternoon and then we went down to meet fellow American Brad (Van Liew), who invited me to a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner with his family, complete with turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings! It couldn’t have been a better time, or more appropriate, being on the same day of finishing the longest single-handed trip of my life.
Even this experience was topped yesterday (Friday), when I joined fellow skippers Graham Dalton, Emma Richards, and the inspirational HSBC Global Education Challenge team (http://www.education.hsbc.com/) for a trip to a school outside of town.
If you read my update the night before the finish, you know how significant my arrival by sea to South Africa is to me. Part of being involved with the Global Education Challenge is bringing the Around Alone race and its life lessons to kids around the world, but I’m learning that we also bring back lessons for all of us from the kids and places themselves.
As we drove out through the outskirts of Cape Town, I saw the immense challenge this country faces in bringing economic hope to the vast poverty stricken shanty towns I saw stretch out past the car windows. The contrast of the beautiful city to the miles of heroically assembled lean-tos and shacks built from second hand corrugated sheet metal and scrap wood, really struck home the contrast between rich and poor, here and the world over. I was conscious of the enormous turkey dinner still in MY lucky stomach…
The Education Challenge roadshow was set up here as a way to reach a number of kids who don’t have much access to computers and thus the education website. How difficult, I thought, to try to explain us crazy sailors on huge expensive boats to them. I needn’t have worried, as very talented show emcee Sky captured the kids initial interest with a catchy and positive freestyle Rap ability (yes, Rap can be quite positive, you know!). Sky got the kids to dance, sing, and generally excited, then they watched a great video with exciting sailing shots and little quotes from Graham, Emma…..AND ME!!
Believe me, I didn’t ever dream I’d be in an inspirational video and Rap show in South Africa. There is no end to the wonder of where life unexpectedly leads us, that’s for sure.
Part of the show was asking some kids what their dreams were to become when they grow up, and to emphasize that they can do what if they work hard enough. I had to think to myself: I wonder if I would have the capability to work my way up from a lean-to shanty to meet my dreams, like we were telling these kids. What an immense challenge.
Then Sky and Graham, moving through the audience, asked some kids what their dreams were. A tiny little girl confidently stated that she was going to be a successful freestyle rap singer. Sky asked her if she wanted to come up to the stage and perform and I was amazed at her confidence in her emphatic “yes”! This tiny girl with an electric smile was handed up on stage, handed a relatively huge microphone and gently urged by Sky to give it a shot. We were then all stunned as this miniature dynamo tore into an inspired, happy, musical rap about who she was, her class, her teacher, her family, in clear English. With surprisingly few words, we knew so much about her in mere seconds. I was (and still am) so blown away by her performance that I realized there is absolutely no telling what talent and inspiration may come to the world from humanity’s poorest places if there is hope and a positive attitude.
We then had a great question and answer session with the kids, whose questions were universal and relevant. At the end, I made a point to tell the kids how important I thought they were, right here in South Africa, and asked if I could have my picture taken with them.
The show ran a little late, and I was hours overdue to meet Steve and Jason who had just flown in to start work on the boat. But as we drove back to Cape Town, I took a look at the picture of me with the kids at the school, and realized that my time there were some of the most valuable hours of my life so far. The problems facing me to prepare for Leg Three do not seem nearly as insurmountable as they did a few days ago.
I can’t thank that little girl rapper enough.
Bruce and OceanPlanet