South Africa in Black and White (Part 2/2)

7/13/2013 – The 2013 Commonwealth Championship has no fewer than 900 participants hailing from 29 different countries, making it the biggest event ever held in Africa. The organizers have set the standards of excellence, holding it in the official five star Boardwalk hotel, with meals of antelope and fig delicacies as well as safaris in the wild.

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South Africa in Black and White (Part 2/2)

By Alina L'Ami

Always a must: the group picture

Little could I have anticipated these wonderful feelings on my travel day from Amsterdam to Porth Elizabeth. At the check-in counter in the Schipol airport, I got the shocking news that my ticket had been cancelled! It is hard to describe the intense hour that followed, my anxiety and tears (ok, maybe I exaggerate a bit but you get the picture), but they were quite the opposite to the dinner scene...  The situation was solved in the last moment when the organizers sent me another electronic ticket!

My night safari tour. I arrived quite late in Port Elizabeth but they still fetched
me and brought me to the Shamwari game reserve! It was my first time so
close to the animals and much better than watching them in a zoo...

The downside was that South Africa goes under the blankets quite early: at 6 PM
it is already dark. I can tell you one thing though: after the driver turned off the
flashlight and the engine, we could simply sit there and listen to the sound of silence...

...surrounded by lions!! An amazing experience.

The initial impact of the bad news was almost of cosmic proportions in my limited universe, but after the tournament started I got a more proper view over the situation. The festival is simply magnificent, as the continent itself. There are more than 900 participants from 29 different countries, making the event the biggest ever to have been held in Africa. The conditions are superb and the official five star hotel offers exquisite comfort. Just try to imagine what effort it takes to accomodate such a large number of players; or, thinking of my favourite two African meals so far, imagine how many ostriches and kudus (antelopes) need to be hunted to feed the guests! I would conclude that the generous budget of roughly 300 thousand Euros could hardly have been spent better!

Dinner with all GMs after the safari tour

Sergey Tiviakov is enjoying...

...Kudu! (Antelope)

It might look like an ordinary cheese platter but there is a delicious tiny detail : the
green stuff is in fact marinated figs!

From this perspective, my airport incident looks more of a storm in a teacup, especially since the organizers were not responsible for issuing my ticket! It was the travel agency that screwed up things for me, while the organizers took charge only of... saving me while the last minutes before embarking were ticking painfully into my ears... And the way the situation was solved in practically no time, speaks about the organizers’ adaptability to any emergency. Once on African earth, I noticed this thread in more than one situations, involving other participants. And once again the image of the wild flowers comes up to my mind, with their ability to blossom again and again, despite the natural vicissitudes...

Nothing can stop the tough Dutch GM from taking a swim - not even freezing cold water!

Souvenirs and Ostrich eggs

I realize that there are more black and white threads in my South-African adventure, symbolized by the marked contrast between the family dinner and the Schipol scene. I travelled from the cold Dutch summer to the benign southern hemisphere winter; after facing the rigidity of the KLM functionaries, it was so refreshing to experience the typical South-African faces with broad smiles and free of worries; and given the amplitude of the chess festival I could say that for ten days the country has dressed in black and white!

Ibis birds

An Ibis bird in flight

Perched in the tree and enjoying the shade

Also by contrast to this contrast pattern, I spotted a couple of happy coincidences connected with my trip. I flew on the 3rd of July, the day of the 3rd anniversary of my marriage. And this rounded up my traveling experience to the 50th visited country! To be continued...


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