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Monday, October 18, 2010

FIFA on the FDR

A wonderful thing happened on the way up the FDR…

Once upon a sleep evading night circa 2 or 3 AM, I made a whole bunch of workout mixes on my iPod.  Thing is, I usually don’t make it down to Dance Mix 5 or Dance Mix 6 during my workouts (as marathons also evade me lately) but on today’s run, I skipped right down to Dance Mix 5 and hit play.  The first song was “Wavin’ Flag” and there, amidst the commuter traffic and smog on the FDR, I was back in the rolling hills of East Africa during the frenzy of World Cup.

I returned from Africa three months ago and I can recall it vividly, but whenever I come back from a big trip, the pace of New York City grabs a hold of my bra straps and woos me with new cultural offerings at the MoMA and the Whitney, a slew of marquee names appearing on Broadway, the best chefs in the world opening signature restaurants, a host of my favorite authors passing through for talks, Central Park runs as the leaves turn, and my darling nephew on the cusp of actually, gulp, walking.  Oh, and there’s that small burden of trying to make a living.

Lately, I’ve been in a vortex of travel pieces, travel blogs, travel pitches, travel itself, and when time permits, the occasional dinner with friends.  Africa became a thing of a distant past.  Which.  Really.  Sucks.  On each return, I promise myself that I will reflect on the life-changing nature of my nomadic life in regular interval; I will stay in close touch with my new travel friends; I will keep the countries I love as close to my heart as I keep the people I love.  And I try.  I really do.

Enter today’s run. 

“Wavin’ Flag” was just the tip of the iceberg, recalling the regularly scheduled Coca-Cola commercials that ran to the World Cup’s anthem—commercials that I grew to love.  “Game On” sent me down a dreamlike road of memories and songs and I found myself back in Tanzania watching Ghana beat the United States (what a fucking game!) and the Zanzibar lounge where the guy next to us rooting for Ghana in the next round was from Astoria!  The aroma of the East River began to melt away, replaced by the salty ocean air outside Forty Thieves, the dive beach bar in Mombasa where Darryl and I watched the Netherlands rock Uruguay and Spain crush Germany with a few really dull Swedes. 

Lyrics to the songs that I knew just three months ago returned, and had I more confidence in my singing ability, I might’ve belted out a little “Waka Waka” right there as I hit the dog park.  With Shakira my running partner, my pace had picked up and I recalled my urgency about catching the finals in the very swanky bar of Nairobi’s Stanley Hotel with new Kenyan friend Brian Jones.  Surrounded by world citizens of all walks, rather than Giants fans of one state, I watched Spain coast to victory while text messaging with Edu and Chris, Barcelona-living friends who sent along pictures of the dancing going on in their streets. 

Talk about one world and one culture—summer of 2010 was all about identifying with those things.  South Africa set the globe afire a few short months ago, and I’ve been so busy trying to make a living, thinking about things like fall boots and maintenance on my apartment, that I clearly needed a reminder about global citizenship, the astonishing beauty of Africa’s open meadows, and the friendship of the people we met along the way. 

If just for 45 minutes on the FDR this morning, I was back in East Africa, living the dream, playing out my role of world citizen dutifully.  Then, Lady Gaga popped my bubble as a garbage truck honked in passing.  But for a moment, it was all about the waving world flag. 

Check it out:
The Official FIFA World Cup 2010 Album:

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