South Africa – Again
When the first part of the CISM course was completed, it was back on the road. Flying from Cyprus back down to Cape Town, South Africa for two reasons. It was again time for our annual Humanitarian Operations Team meeting and some training.
I guess the HOps team enjoyed Cape Town in 2011 and figured it would be good to do it again. It really had not been a year, more like seven months. This time should prove to be nice, departing the cold North for warmer South. January in South Africa is summer, last time was May and winter. I departed Larnaca on January 22 at 0815 for Cape Town. My route took me through London arriving in Cape Town at 0900 January 23.
From the airport, I was taken to the meeting location, the Cape Sun Hotel. This was quite a fancy hotel where some 50+ GRRT staff would be staying for $200 a night. The meeting portion was from January 25-30. I must say, the views from the hotel were spectacular of Table Mountain.
Like the previous year, the meetings were pretty mundane. The first day was full of first aid training, which was a good refresher. At the end, we all enjoyed some laughs and good times out on the town.
The following two days were just routine housekeeping and problem solving. What was fun was the drummers were back. If you recall the previous time we were here, we had the crew from the Red Zebra Foundation. This time, I purchased a nice drum, which was an adventure getting back to Costa Rica!
The final day of the meetings before the training, we had free. Instead of hitting Robben Island as I had seen that the year before, I went up.
One evening, a few of had decided to walk down to the waterfront for dinner. We discovered here the Karibu Restaurant. Here one can try just about any kind of meat local to South Africa, including crocodile and ostrich. We decided as an appetizer, to try the crocodile carpaccio, which was amazingly delicious.
Following the carpaccio, we each had a different selection from the main menu. But really, the delight was in the carpaccio!
January 29, I found myself staring at the world from another. That morning, I decided to join a small group of colleagues to the top of Table Mountain. To get to the top, one needs to purchase a ticket and use the gondola.
The gondola’s going up, and returning, are unique in that they are round. The inner part of the gondola spins as it travels. This gives you a full 360° view as you either go to the top or return to the bottom. Each gondola holds around 20 people, which means we can all see out the windows.
At the top of Table Mountain, it is like being on another planet. It is not as flat as you see from below, but flat enough. There is no real vegetation on the rocky summit, but the views are spectacular. There are a couple of lookouts where you can stand and see Cape Town below.
Very similar to my recent post on Jordan, also on the summit you could find many Inukshuks. We all placed our own rock to the ever growing pile.
We walked West along the edge of the summit for quite some time before deciding to take a break. Here, I found a nice crevice at the edge of the mountain. Feeling a little charged being up here, I decided to straddle the crevice. From this point of view, I could see the entire 900 or so meter drop. But the view of Cape Town from here made it all worthwhile!
Specialized HEAT – HOps
This version of Hostile Environment Awareness training was specialized for our team. Basically it was HEAT on steroids, but not quite how I had envisioned it. My thought process for this HEAT was to have us actually simulate a deployment. During this deployment, we would have things thrown at us, but this was not the case.
There were many similarities to a normal HEAT, which was defeating for the team participating. I would imagine time and cost were a factor. Really, cost in World Vision is not a factor in anything, so more likely time.
The only real incident during this training was during the night attack. The role players were all in position and waiting for the event to start. During the attack, the team was split into buddy groups and had to venture to a designated rally point. This rally point was less than 2,000 meters through some interesting terrain.
At one point, one buddy team got lost. Lost in that we could not find them. As teams started arriving at the RV, it was realized that two people were not accounted for. Immediately we went to a “real” state, literally ending the exercise. The problem was, as we were blowing whistles and calling out, some role players were still shooting weapons. This confused the two participants on whether it was a real situation or just part of the scenario.
It took almost two hours of searching in the dark for the two participants, but eventually they were located. One of the, my boss at the time, was furious at how this played out. However, we got through it without injury.
After the training, we all enjoyed a BBQ, some drinks and laughs. Then, it was time to start the long journey back to Costa Rica. I flew out of Cape Town on February 5 to San Jose via London and Dallas.