Monday, April 14, 2008

ironman......iron bars

Well I guess by now you've noticed that I'm a 'feast or famine', 'all or nothing' kinda gal! This applies in many areas of my life, and this blog is no exception. So days go by when I have nothing to say, and then BOOM, a mega-post! Today is a boom if you have a bit of time, make a nice cup of coffee, get comfortable, and I'll tell you about a couple of exciting events that have taken place in the last few days.

Ironman is an event for those loony masochists who like to torture their bodies beyond all reasonable limits in order to win a measly amount of money, or draw attention to themselves......... well that is according to a Pedantic Old Fart who wrote to the newspaper this morning! But for those of us who are slightly more tolerant... Ironman is an event for top triathletes, designed to sort the men from the boys! (Oooops, even this is wildly inaccurate, women also participate in Ironman, so maybe it also sorts the women from the girls?!! ...and our P.O.F. mentioned above had issues with the name too, suggesting it should be Ironperson. Ho-hum, all this ridiculous PC Speak... I guess soon it will be offensive to refer to human beings, we will all be hupersons!) however, I digress....

SO, this weekend, Port Elizabeth played host to Ironman SA, a huge international event which requires participants to swim 3.8km, cycle 108km and round it off with a little 42km run! (Come to think of it, maybe P.O.F. has a point about masochism!)

Normally Mr Farty (who is NOT a pedantic old fart) and I avoid this kind of event like the plague, we hate crowds and battling through crazy traffic and all the hoopla that goes with it. But since we have been doing the Port Elizabeth Daily Photo, we have felt that we need to show some of these things. What has taken both of us by surprise is how much we enjoy them!

It all started with the opening of the season last December, and a recent Cricket match. This weekend, we were at the beachfront twice. On Saturday we got there just after the Ironkids and corporate event had ended, and really enjoyed the buzz down there, the happy crowds, and so many different languages being heard, not to mention a STUNNING sunset. (I'll save those pix for Skywatch Friday).

So we got up before sunrise on Sunday morning, and got down there in time to see 1600 swimmers take to the sea.

All was ready, the lifesaving vessels lined up,

photographers in helicopters overhead to capture the event for posterity,
.........even the seagulls got in on the action....

and tribal dancers were ready to welcome the swimmers back.

The atmosphere was wonderful and seeing the Shark Rock Pier crammed with supporters,

and the sea glinting with a mass of swimmers as the sun rose behind them was something neither of us will forget in a hurry.

...........and they're off.......

1.9 km around the big red buoys, and back to the beach

run through the red arch

and back into the sea to go round again.

and while one batch was arriving back at the beach, and the leaders setting off behind them for the next round, the sun came up behind them and turned the whole scene into a magic glistening silhouette......

The sea rescue crew were alert and on hand to help anyone who needed them

After the leaders had taken to their bicycles for the long road ahead, we took a stroll back to our car, and went home to prepare lunch for 2 dear friends who we had not seen for AGES. I love the kind of friendship where you can meet up after years, and it is as if it was yesterday.

Then this morning, I went to prison! No... really!

And even though I was in a group of "business against crime" delegates attending a presentation by Correctional Services, it was pretty daunting going through the rows of razor wire, and hearing the heavy barred gates clanking closed behind us.

It was a surprising experience. I expected it to be heavy and depressing, but instead it was remarkably uplifting and inspiring.
Correctional Services is a far cry from what it used to be.
In the old days, criminals were put behind bars and the job of the prison staff was to basically make sure they stayed there. These days the South African Prison service is committed to doing everything possible to rehabilitate prisoners, and there are social workers and psychologists and clerics on staff to help them. The vision is to give each inmate an opportunity to develop a healthy self respect, and some skills so that when they are re-integrated into society, they have a fair chance to turn their lives around.
Here is one of the choirs greeting us as we entered Medium Security B.
There are workshops where inmates are taught metal work, carpentry, shoemaking, sewing, mechanics etc, and also farmlands where they raise crops and chickens to contribute towards the food supply.
In the workshops all the furniture and clothing used in this prison and others across the Eastern Cape are produced. The purpose of all this is not primarily to save the Department money, but to give the inmates a sense of pride and usefulness.
this is one of the little courtyards which is surrounded by cells. The new attitude of pride even shows in this garden, which is voluntarily maintained by inmates. There is even a little pond that has been created in the lawn.
Obviously there will always be the hardened criminals on whom all this effort is wasted, but there are also many who made a stupid mistake, but remain basically decent people, and for them these services make all the difference.
One such person is Siya.....
He was sentenced to 18 years, and due for parole after 13. He attended many of the skills development programmes on offer, and was released early because the parole board saw the potential in him. He now runs a personnel agency which specialises in finding jobs for freed prisoners and trying to get the community to give them a chance to get back on their feet. (I have his number if anyone has a vacancy and feels they want to help!)
So all in all a pretty interesting couple of days!


Chuck Pefley said...

Where there is life, there is also hope. Interesting behind the scenes most of us (thankfully) never get to experience. Thanks for the insight!

Pamela said...

Your photo's of Ironman are beautiful.

My sister competed again this year (we both did it last year). The support and the weather was fantastic.

Anonymous said...

And the Ironman winner was ... not me!
Great photos there.

Old Wom Tigley said...

What a great post Suzi..
I have watched Ironment contests from my armchair and thats it.. superfit is the word that comes to mind.

As for the prison.. I am the person I am now because of the chance I took when I found myself in one many years ago. Peter is the same, his artwork was helped in prison, and he took classes in it.
I look back now and realise how lucky I was to have been given a chance many years ago.. I grabed with both hands and it helped form the person here today.
Great Post

Suzi-k said...

Mr Q and Mr T: yup, getting down there to take photos is as energetic as I get! The men's race was won by Great Britain's Stephen Bayliss, in a record time of 8 hours18 minutes and 23 seconds.
Winning Ironman 2008 was especially sweet for Bayliss as his fiancee, Bella Comerford came in as first woman in a time of 9 hours 27 minutes and 48 seconds as well!

Pamela, I am DEEPLY in awe of anyone who competes in this event, wow, impressive!

Prison: Chuck, so true, there is always hope for those who choose to see it!
Tom, good on you for making the most of the opportunites offered, and look at you now... a respected pillar of society, who takes gentle nature shots and is loved around the world, hehe!

Laura Albertyn said...

Wow - very inspiring!!

sam said...

hi snora, hope you and your boys are well! We are going to stay witn P&Jo soon!

Jeanne said...

Love the Ironman pics of the swimmers. It reminds me of going to watch the Radio 5 Team Triathlon when I was a student and some of my hunky friends were taking part :)

As for the prison, I take it that's St Albans? I was a criminal advocate in another life and was quite well acquainted with the place, but never in such a positive context. Wonderful to see that there can be such a thing as rehabilitation in our overcrowded prisons!