I had been looking forward to going to South Africa for Basketball without Borders since the Gala back in September. I had heard how great of a program it was from everyone who had been there, and it was finally my time to go! I decided to go to Cape Town for a couple days to do some site seeing before heading to Johannesburg. The first things I realized when touching down in Cape Town were: one, how smooth the roads were, two, there were no moto’s on the road, and three how cold it was (all in that order). South Africa is like no other part of the continent. It is very developed to the point where its hard to believe that Rwanda and South Africa share the same continent.
My priorities when I arrived were to climb Table Mountain and to visit Robben Island. The first thing I did was the climb, which was no joke! At time I feared for my life while I was climbing. It was so cold, windy and even slippery at times. After about an hour and fifteen minutes I had made it to the top, only to find out the the cable cars weren’t running so I would have to walk back down. However the view from the top was breathtaking. Once the clouds cleared up you could see the coast and the distance in which I had climbed. Although happy I had made it to the top, I was not looking forward to that trip back down. My legs were shaking, nose running, and of course I was hungry. I decided to just go for it and start making my way down. As I was balancing myself as I jumped from rock to rock and watched as others struggle up the mountain, I couldn’t help but laugh because I knew what they were going through. About halfway up it no longer seems like a good idea but you have to keep going. One lady, in her South African accent said “Now this isn’t funny anymore”. I don’t know why but I started cracking up laughing, her husband was already about 20 feet ahead of her and she was not a happy camper. I guess its because I was thinking those exact thoughts as I was at the same point in my hike.
It took me about 40 minutes to get down and I was exhausted. Thankfully there was a taxi waiting for someone at the bottom and I hopped right in. Glad to say I did it but I will not be doing that again!
The following day I went to Robben Island where Nelson Mendela was imprisoned for 18 years of his sentence. The island holds so much history and is just an amazing place. We had an old con as our tour guide, he had been imprisoned for 7 years and had been an activist in his time. It is crazy to think that he would ever want to go back to where he spent 7 years detained. We were able to see where Mandela stayed, where he gardened and etc.
In 3 days in Cape Town I met some great people, ate good food, and enjoyed some amazing scenery. I then headed to Johannesburg for BWB where I was greeted at the airport by some staff who took me to the camp. The first people I met were the Hoops for Hope coaches and things set off from there. I met some iconic people in the basketball world, one being Dikembe Mutombo. He talked to the girls about their importance in the community and how crucial they are in the development of the country. Afterwards he came up to me and shook my hand which I’m sure meant nothing to him but such a great honor for me.
There were so many successful people at the camp that I don’t even know where to start, just off the top of my head Chris Paul, Luol Deng, Muggsy Bogues, Greg Popovich, and my favorite, Boris Diaw. I didn’t want to ask for photos with any because everyone was always surrounding them, but I gathered the courage to go up to Boris. I told him that I had heard he wanted a picture with me and that I had a minute. He responded by saying, “would you please?” Needless to say I was ecstatic. We got to talking and he mentioned that he wanted to come to Rwanda and that if he was around he would let me know (ahhhh!!).
Besides being able to meet all of these iconic basketball figures, I had such a great time working with the girls. It was the first year that they brought in girls from around the continent; we had some from Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc. After talking to them it made me see what opportunities we take for granted. These girls had skill, yet had no way of getting exposure for themselves. Being chosen for this camp is a huge deal, and some parents didn’t want them to come because they didn’t find basketball of any importance. In the future I would love to have a job which helped get these girls an athletic scholarship.