Category Archives: Safety

Stab vests and our northern neighbors

One of the more amusing moments of the planning process came when stories about the infamous World Cup stab vests hit the news.  (If you missed it: a London-based company, capitalizing on fears of safety in South Africa, marketed a “stab-proof vest” to World Cup attendees.)

I received more than a few links about the stab vests forwarded to me by friends – some concerned, some amused – in the days that followed. The situation created an opportunity to explain the reality behind the fear mongering.  If nothing else, the stab vest uproar gave me the platform to convince a few acquaintances that the perception of South Africa as dangerously unfit for tourists is largely overblown.

As well as a chance to laugh at my (Canadian) boss and my (Canadian) coworker.

Boss: Well, you certainly can’t get the American flag on the front of your stab vest!  You don’t want ‘em to know that you’re American!

Me: We won’t actually be buying a stab vest.

Boss: You could get the Irish flag.  You look Irish.

Me: Ireland didn’t actually qualify?  So I’m not sure I could get the Irish flag on my stab vest?  The stab vest that I’m not buying.

Boss: No, Switzerland!  Switzerland, of course.  Switzerland is neutral.  You should get a neutral Switzerland stab vest.

Coworker: Canada.  Can you get a Canadian stab vest?  Everyone loves Canada. Everyone loves Canada because we are essentially powerless.

Boss: True!  We could teach you how to be Canadian.  We can tutor you!

Me: We won’t be getting a Canadian stab vest.

Coworker: You won’t need a stab vest!  We’ll get you a Molson t-shirt.

Boss: And a Tim Horton’s t-shirt.

Coworker: And some things from Roots.

Boss: We can work on your vocabulary.

Coworker: Tell people you’re from Trahna.

Boss: Get that?  Not To-ron-to.  Trah-na.

Me: Trah-na?

Coworker: When you’re going to the bar, say “let’s get some beers.”

Boss: Not beer.  Not singular.  That’s the key.

And that, friends, is how to stay safe in South Africa.  Not beer.  Beers.  And throw on some red and white while you’re at it.

You’re welcome for saving your life.

ne of the more amusing moments of the planning process came when stories about the infamous World Cup stab vests hit the news.  (If you missed it: a London-based company, capitalizing on fears of safety in South Africa, marketed a “stab-proof vest” to World Cup attendees.)

I received more than a few links forwarded to me by friends – some concerned, some amused – in the hours that followed. What could have been an annoyance was an opportunity to explain the reality behind the fear mongering.  If nothing else, it gave me an opportunity to convince a few acquaintances that the perception of South Africa as dangerously unfit for tourists is largely overblown.

And it gave me the chance to laugh at my Canadian boss and my Canadian coworker.

Boss: Well, you certainly can’t get the American flag on the front of your stab vest!  You don’t want ‘em to know that you’re American!

Me: We won’t actually be buying a stab vest.

Boss: You could get the Irish flag.  You look Irish.

Me: Ireland didn’t actually qualify?  So I’m not sure I could get the Irish flag?

Boss: No, Switzerland!  Switzerland, of course.  Switzerland is neutral.  You should get a neutral Switzerland stab vest.

Coworker: Canada.  Can you get a Canadian stab vest?  Everyone loves Canadians.  Everyone loves Canadians because we are powerless.

Boss: True!  We could teach you how to be Canadian.

Me: We won’t be getting a stab vest.

Coworker: You won’t need a stab vest!  We’ll get you a Molson t-shirt.

Boss: And a Tim Horton’s t-shirt.

Coworker: And some things from Roots.

Boss: We can work on your vocabulary.

Coworker: Tell people your from Trahna.

Boss: Get that?  Not To-ron-to.  Trah-na.

Me: Trah-na?

Coworker: When you’re going to the bar, say “let’s get some beers.”

Boss: Not beer.  Not singular.  That’s the key.

Coworker: It’s foolproof.

Bringing Detroit smarts to Jo’burg

When slipped into conversation (and, I’ll be honest, I slip it into every conversation. “How’s the weather today?” “Probably better in South Africa, WHERE I AM GOING TO THE WORLD CUP THIS SUMMER”), I find that news of our trip to Johannesburg elicits one of two common responses.

1. Jealousy. “Seriously? That’s extremely awesome. I hate you.” Responses like this are generally preceded by requests for souvenirs/stowaway space in our luggage/the kidnapping and safe delivery of Cristiano Ronaldo.

2. Fear. Fear of long flights. Fear of foreign countries. Fear of the exchange rate. Fear of FIFA. Fear of rapists. Fear of the African continent. Fear of carjacking gorillas. Fear of soccer hooligans. Fear of terrorism. Fear of lost luggage and misplaced tickets.

This will sound a little arrogant, but: I get the jealous.

I don’t get the fear.

I understand that there are things that we must be mindful of. We don’t plan on going to South Africa and being completely reckless. I have done endless research. We’re young, female foreigners traveling alone. We can’t be stupid. We get that. Common sense was instilled in us long ago (thanks, Mom!). I honestly believe that we’ll be okay.

I’ve made decisions and bookings and plans with safety in mind. It’s something that I’ve kept in mind but haven’t really obsessed over. Taken into consideration? Absolutely. Every time.

Being smart is one thing. Being fearful is quite another. Safety may guide our trip, but fear will not dictate it.

Also: we’re from Detroit. So we’re sort of (read: incredibly) bad ass.