"Everyday in Africa seems to bring with it some sort of adventure of a lifetime. Whether it's interacting with the people, living amongst the wildlife or just getting out to the country. Every path leads you to something unforgettable. In the midst of all this which is new and exciting, you become even more surprised when the familiar finds you in the middle of nowhere.
One such day involved getting into a truck early in the morning and thoroughly wrapping myself in blankets. It is winter here in Africa and the mornings are cold. The plan was a full day canoeing on the Zambezi and knowing full well things were going to warm up and get wet, I was in a tank, board shorts, and flip flops.
I secured my protection from the morning chill first, before twisting around to introduce myself to the other two I noticed in the bed of the truck. Dogo and Gabriel, our guides for the day, fired up the engine and we were quickly on the streets of Victoria Falls.
Once on the move, I did a double take of my future shipmates. The introductions were fast. Now, looking back, I was met by two very serious and expressionless people. Their eyes shielded by reflective Ray Bans. Where humans would have pupils, I now only caught my failed attempt at concealing my puzzled expression. Who were these people? Was this the end of some elaborate hit put out on me? Did the $10 I owe someone back home finally catch up to me, here in the north of Zimbabwe?
The nonsense in my head only continued to grow until the woman on the left betrayed the facade with a sly smirk, quickly turning into a toothy grin. She was OK, but the bearded hulk of a man next to her remained completely in character. Not flinching for a second as I turned back around.
When we got to Zambezi National Park, our guides had to check us in at the gate, leaving us in the truck with the first moments of silence after a half hour of driving. I decided to reintroduce myself and this time with the purpose of finding out who these people were.
Now, for security reasons, I'm going to be a little vague and I'm going to use fake names. They were both American diplomats who worked at an Embassy in North Africa. Joanie and Chachie as I will call them. Joanie, the smiler, was from the east coast and Chachi, the silent one who I thought might still be on contract, was from the South. Their employer, being the State Department, quickly explained the Ray Bans.
Joanie and I talked about our plans while in Zimbabwe, Chachi just kept quiet with his head on a swivel. You could tell this was a very situationally aware but excited to be here individual. Once our guides came back we set off for our put in point up river and the small talk between Joanie and I came to end with very little input from Chachi. I didn't think Chachi liked me.
Before getting on the river for our 18km trip, we had breakfast. The conversation between Joanie and I turned to food and what we ate back home which perked Chachi up a little. He was going through some yoga and dynamic stretches to warm himself up, and his interest in food intake definitely spelled someone out who was all about the fitness. That's when I put on my hat.
Throughout Africa I've been wearing my hat from my box, Land Warrior CrossFit. Having been here for two weeks now, it's like another attachment to me. No real thought, just reaction to the rising sun. Chachi read the words and his attention quickly became focused on all I could tell him about constantly varied, high intensity, cross functional movement.
I told him I was a certified L1 trainer back home and more questions came. I then told him I was certified with CrossFit SPEAR (CrossFit's Self Defense Program) and I had even trained with SPEAR founder Tony Blauer. His reaction to this was priceless. He stopped dead, jaw dropped, 'Get the f#*k out. That's badass'.
Chachi and I were immediately like childhood friends. Swapping stories of what we've done in the past, styles we had trained. We were both students of fighting. I soon learned that for Chachi, it was actually his profession and he had been playing in the major leagues. Chachi was an old Special Forces guy, and the moment he said that, everything clicked.
We spoke about the difference between fighting for sport and fighting for your life. The difference often between a martial art and self defense. SPEAR was originally coached to SEALs and Chachi has been trying to get a similar training for security teams at the Embassies. It is absolutely vital in today's world.
Violence is not cool, it is not the answer, but we must be comfortable with violence so if the day comes when we must be violent to either protect ourselves or someone else, we can put our fitness to purpose and come down like an ocean on whatever coward would attack you.
Chachi, a man who made a career operating at the loudest volumes of violence, readily agreed. He shared a story where he was in a Saving Private Ryan situation. The infamous bayonet scene. Someone on top of him, knife slowly forcing its way down. In a situation like that, there is no room for civility to hold you back. Chachi is still with us so you can imagine how the story ended for the other guy.
We continued to go back and forth until it was time to get in the boats. Joanie couldn't help but laugh at our mutual geeking out. For the entire trip, as we paddled down the Zambezi, Chachi would pepper me with questions. He wanted to know more and more about CrossFit.
Chachi was doing it right. He was currently reading Learning to Breathe Fire and had clearly studied the roots of the movement. We found each other at exactly the right moment for him to ask me some of the more practical, day to day stuff. I explained how Regionals worked and what the Games were. He was all ears.
After nearly 10 miles of rapids, hippos, crocodiles, and elephants, we pulled out of the river for a late lunch ... which was crocodile kabobs. The smoke which thunders filled the sky before us. This was what Victoria Falls, the worlds largest waterfall, was called by the local people. We ate on the bank, enjoying a Castle or two and got to talking about lifts.
Within a few minutes, paddles in hand, Chachi and I were breaking down the snatch, introducing parts of the Burgener warm-up. There, barefoot on the banks of the Zambezi river, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, with the smoke of Victoria Falls rising close by I was delivering familiar cues and dropping into familiar positions. It was incredibly surreal.
Before going separate ways, we exchanged information and a hearty handshake. I'm not sure when I will ever snatch on the Zambezi again, but it was unforgettable, and like each other day in Africa, this one proved to be the adventure of a lifetime".
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