Finetastic Adventures

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Jazz Concert

Well we had one of our first nights out and it was great to have Alyssa with us. We attended the Mapungubwe Jazz concert at the Peter Mekaba Rugby Stadium. It was actually on the Rugby practice field and in many ways it felt like attending one of the outdoor lawn concerts in Milwaukee. People brought lawn chairs, coolers and food. The big difference is that there were thousands of people there. And the stage was quite large with a few screens placed around the field so no matter where you sat, the performers could be seen.

The grounds opened at about 11:00 am and the concert started at 12:30 pm. Amazingly this concert started on time. There were only a handful of people there when we arrived which should have told us something about the concert. After sitting in the shade for a little while, we found a spot to place our sheet on the lawn, far enough away from the speakers to be able to talk but close enough to see the performers. We laid out our bags of food and water and began to notice that we were 'standing out' from the crowd.

Nearly everyone else who attended brought folding camping chairs, coolers, large umbrellas and some even tent type coverings, as used by stands at outdoor fairs. They were hunkered down for the day and later as we found out, the night. The attendees around us must have known the timetable for the concert and brought large quantities of beer, some with hard liquor and we spotted several bottles of Amarula, a local cream liqueur blend similar to Baileys. There was also a Braai area (bar-b-q) where people placed their grills and cooked for their group. And, a large area where you could purchase food.

Well we brought a sheet to lay on the grass, a beer apiece and some peanut butter and jelly and snacks to get us through the day. We thought the concert might be completed by about 10 P.M., about nine hours after it began. We were prepared to stay out late (meaning after dark) to watch the headline acts. By 9 P.M., we were only halfway into the program. The concert was scheduled to go to about 5 A.M. I guess it did as we left about the time we planned and saw a lot of acts but unfortunately missed the headliners.

While we stood out from the crowd by being about the only people sitting on the grass and the only white people, except for the stage crew, we did join the audience in dancing with the music. Unlike the outdoor concerts in Milwaukee that have a dance area and a few people dancing, when the crowd recognized a song, they stood by their chairs and danced and sang along for the entire time. It was a lot of fun to be involved with the musicians and dancing with the crowd.
Once again we were surprised by the hospitality. While we were watching the concert, people around us respected our space as they respected everyone else's and did not pay undue attention to us. When we left, and we were about the first to leave at around 9 PM, many people said goodbye and have a nice evening. As we left the gates however, in this crowd of thousands, we bumped into a man who helps coach the basketball team that I was asked to help support. Then, another man approached us who was on the committee for the concert. They really wanted this to be a racially mixed event but we only saw one other white person among the entire audience. The man who helped organize the concert wanted to get our phone number so he could personally invite us to future events. Even when we told him his objective should be to get white South Africans to attend, he still felt that getting some white people might attract others. Finally, and we are not sure where this came from, but as we were walking through the parking lot, two young men look over at me and say “hey Detroit”. We all just kept on walking and we do not know where they may have gained this information; I wasn't wearing anything to identify me as being from Detroit.

We know we simply stand out as being nearly the only white people at the places we go but it still amazes us how people remember and reach out to us for conversation or simply to say hello. It does feel good.

Afterword

So, it's a few days later and we took the taxi to downtown Polokwane and walked the rest of the way to Nirvana. That's right Nirvana. It is where the b-ball court is located. Following our game on the way back to the taxi rank, we passed by the Irish House. That's right the Irish House. An old house with an unusual history, now a city museum. While it was not in our plans, this day, to visit the museum, we saw a group of people leaving. When we asked if the museum was still open, they told us they were the staff and were leaving for the day. Than, one of the staff, a woman about our age, recognized us. She said they would stay around for a few minutes and allow us to look around. Than, she pulled out her cell phone, where she had recorded parts of the jazz concert. We had made it on her cell phone recording. We were dancing and having a great time. Her husband, part of the staff as well, stayed behind and gave us our private tour of the museum. It couldn't have been a better ending to a great day.

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