OCEAN CITY – Lloyd Martin may have had to regrettably miss a few City Council meetings, but he couldn’t miss out on a trip of a lifetime.
Anyone who closely follows Mayor and City Council meetings noticed that the seat where Secretary Lloyd Martin sits has been vacant for a number of meetings. One joke heard before the start of a recent work session quipped that maybe Martin had gone fishing. In reality, Martin was on a safari, literally.
Martin took a two-week trip to South Africa with long-time manager of his North Ocean City 7-Eleven convenience store, Stephen Vanwijk to his homeland in Johannesburg last month, and encountered not only the obvious culture shock, but also an almost shockingly warm welcome from his hosts.
“It was a totally different atmosphere, but I was completely surprised by how welcoming the South Africans were to me as an American, and how knowledgeable they were about our country, and interested in our recent Presidential election,” he said.
Martin described South Africa as “incredibly beautiful and had the best of both worlds”, describing state-of-the-art urbanized areas and expansive open lands where he did encounter some wildlife in their natural habitat.
“I’ve been out west hunting several times and the safari was a whole different kind of hunting. We were hunting for springbok [African deer] and a group of rhinoceroses were running alongside the truck at a pretty good rate of speed, and they were about as big as the truck itself. That was the only time I felt uneasy the entire trip,” he said.
Martin also visited Cape Town, a resort town, he said, similar to Ocean City, but much larger. Martin described how hospitable the locals were and how simple things like disguising cell phone towers with palm trees and adding flowers all over for improved aesthetics went along way to him as a visitor.
“I guess I look at things in a different way than most people. I was very interested in the way that people lived and how hard these people wanted to work, and how there was no work for them to do,” he said. “They have the same problems that we have, and they are behind us in some ways, but ahead of us in others.”
Martin said that despite misconceptions that African countries are considered “third world” or run down, South Africa was proactive in recycling and using wind power and alternate energies.
“They have pre-paid electric, where you have a box on the side of the house and a card that you have to pre-purchase and insert into the box to power your house, said Martin, “but I think the most interesting thing was how amazed they were at the American voting process and how we could get that many people to vote on one day.”
While his colleagues were taking cost cutting measures and dealing with some hot-button issues like the redesign of the town website head on, Martin said he was keeping up with Ocean City current events via the Internet.
“We all want to go in similar directions and save the town money, but we don’t want to cut off essential services. I think the new council will try to work together to find out what we need to get rid of and see where we are going to be next year, while learning how to work well together,” he said.