Tuesday, June 29, 2010

6/29/10 – Spain vs Portugal

                 Yesterday morning Dave, Jamaica, and went on a run along the beach under the surprisingly warm "winter" sun. We have been very fortunate with weather thus far, experiencing quite a few days in the mid 70s with plenty of sunshine. It is winter here in the southern hemisphere, and apparently average highs are mid 60s and average lows are mid 40s, so we consider ourselves lucky.

                We watched the games yesterday at home. Brazil and Netherlands both avoided upsets so Dave and I will see the two teams clash in Port Elizabeth on July 2nd! I'm so excited to see the top ranked team in the world, Brazil. Dave and I will both be cheering for Netherlands, however.

                The weather this morning was windy, rainy, and gray; however Dave woke me up with some news that brightened my day. He has been logging on to the ticketing website every few hours to check for more tickets, and he finally managed. The five of us who are still here will be going to the quarterfinal match in Cape Town featuring Germany and Argentina! This is likely going to be the game of the tournament. Both teams are in top form with Germany coming off a 4 to 1 thrashing of England and Argentina managing a 3 to 1 win over Mexico. We will be seeing the best player in the world, Messi, who plays for Argentina. I can't even express how excited I am to see this game. I'm excited to see the individual players on both teams, but I will be hoping for a German victory!

                We just got back from Cape Town and our knockout phase game between Spain and Portugal. Our seats were the farthest from the field in the entire 65,000 seat stadium, but we were actually able to see the tactics of the game better than when I sat close. Seeing Spain for me was absolutely unbelievable. Xavi, one of my favorite players in the world received the man of the match award as Spain beat Portugal 1 to 0. Spain looked very good against Portugal, who had just beat North Korea 7 to 0 and tied Brazil. I'm still so overwhelmed at each game, thinking about how fortunate I am to be here and watching the best footballers in the world.

                Tomorrow is the first day since the tournament began on June 11th that there is no games scheduled to be played. Weather permitting we will take advantage of the break in soccer to visit Robben Island. Robben Island was formerly the prison that held Nelson Mandela before he became president of South Africa and lead the nation out of Apartheid. The prison is now a museum and a historically important monument that commemorates South Africa's greatest hero and anti-apartheid leader. I am very excited for the boat ride out to the island and the inclusive tour. The tour runs as long as the sea is not too dangerous, so hopefully the wind will not be blowing like it was this morning.

                Hope everyone is well back home. Feel free to ask me any questions or make comments if you want!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

6/27/10 – Catch Up

                 Friday was an especially delicious day! Eber and Jamaica walked down to Kalk Bay to buy some fish. We spend the afternoon devouring a 3 foot smoked snoek. It was so delicious that the six of us had finished it off within a few hours. We only paid 60 rand for the snoek, equating to about $6.50 in US dollars! We also bought 4 red snapper for the braai (barbeque) that cost us about $5.00 US. I can't even imagine how much that seafood feast would have cost us in the States! That evening we watched the Spain vs Chile game and the Brazil vs Portugal game. Spain won and Brazil and Portugal tied, so we'll see Spain in the second round against Portugal!! It's still likely that Dave and I will see Brazil vs Netherlands in the quarterfinal game in Port Elizabeth if they don't get upset against Chile and Slovakia respectively.

                Yesterday was somewhat less pleasant. We went in to Cape Town with our painted faces, scarves, and jerseys to support the USA in their game against Ghana. The game was end to end action, with the US having better opportunities to score, but the Ghanaians won the match 2 to 1 in extra time. All of the American fans were upset, but I was still proud of our performance throughout the tournament and our persistence to come back from trailing in all of our games. To add to our state of defeat, I came to the realization on the returning train ride that I no longer had my camera in my pocket. I can't be certain how it fell from my procession, but I feel pretty unfortunate because I've been so careful with everything to this point. Nevertheless, I'm not going to hang my head. I have lots of friends taking pictures, so I will share with them from this point on.

                Today we spent the day in Cape Town again watching the Germany vs England game at the Fan Fest and the Argentina vs Mexico game at Baran's, a Kurdish restaurant with Hookah. The two games were likely the most entertaining of the tournament so far with Germany and Argentina both earning victories. The two teams, who look to be the strongest in the tournament, meet next week in the quarterfinal.

                Everyone is pretty burnt out right now, so tomorrow will likely be spent in Fish Hoek here at home. The train ride to Cape Town is very economical, but the voyage is over one hour each way and starts to take its toll after making the trip a few days in a row.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

6/25/10 – US vs Algeria and Netherlands vs Cameroon

               It appears as though I have fallen behind again in my blog in all of the excitement. Two days ago was the United States vs Algeria match, the most important game of the tournament to me thus far. If the US won, they were moving on to the next round, and if they tied or lost, they would likely be eliminated. We were hoping to go to the Fan Fest in Cape Town to watch the game, but unfortunately they decided to show the England game instead of ours. So we eventually found the perfect bar, The Purple Turtle. The Purple Turtle was apparently the spot to be for USA fans! The place was packed with red, white, and blue. I even spotted a familiar face from the U of O who plays for the club team there. The game itself was a mixture of excitement and frustration. The game was end to end action and the USA was robbed of another goal due to an unfortunate decision by the referee. The USA had so many chances including one off the bar, but heading into stoppage time, the score was still 0 to 0. Finally, in the 92nd minute, probably just moments before the referee was going to blow his whistle and send the USA home, Donovan clinched the victory with a goal following a wonderful US buildup. The Purple Turtle went CRAZY!! Everyone was jumping up on down, dancing on tables, blowing their vuvuzelas, and hugging fellow Americans whom they had never met. The party continued at purple turtle for another hour before we left to catch our train. Even in the streets everyone yelled out supporting remarks for the American team and the incredible victory. England also won, 1 to 0, but we still clinched first place in the group due to scoring more goals. A few English supporters were not so positive toward our team and tried to pick a fight with us on the street. Lucky for them we just exchanged a few harsh words and eventually went on our own ways. It was such an awesome night, and the US have an excellent chance to continue deep into the tournament, getting to play a beatable Ghana in the second round. And if we keep on winning we will play in Cape Town for the semi-final match!! I would do everything in my power to get a ticket to that!!

                Yesterday afternoon we hung out at Kalk Bay, watching seals, eating fresh fish, and watching reigning champions Italy take an early exit to the tournament. It was quite a shocker to see Italy get beat by Slovakia, but I found it pretty amusing, that's what they deserve for playing ugly soccer. After watching that game on tv at a bar in Kalk Bay, we hopped on the train for the night game between Netherlands and Cameroon. Jesse and I had our tickets together again, and Jamaica, Dave, and Eber were sitting together elsewhere in the stadium. By looking at our tickets, it seemed like Jesse and I had pretty good ones. When we got to the stadium and searched for our seats, my grin got bigger and bigger as we made our way down the steps closer and closer to the field. Jesse and I sat right at the half-line in the 3rd row!! I could see the individual blades of grass on the field!! When the players took the field Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt were on our flank, and I could clearly see their faces!! The game was very entertaining as well. I was supporting the Dutch, as was the majority of the stadium it seemed. They ended up winning 2 to 1 with goals from Van Persie and Huntelaar and a penalty kick from Samuel Eto'o for Cameroon. Arjen Robben came on in the 70th minute and played incredibly, having one wonderful strike hit the post and fall to Huntelaar for his easy goal. The Dutch fans are a lot of fun with their creative orange outfits and I had a great time watching them celebrate after the game. If Brazil wins today, and both Brazil and Netherlands win their second round game, then those two teams will meet in the quarterfinal that Dave and I are attending in Port Elizabeth!! Today we also need Spain to win, Dave and my favorite team outside the US, so that we will see them in our second round match. So everybody please cheer for Spain today over Chile!!

                Today we are all taking some time to recuperate after some exhausting fun-filled days. We plan to watch the Spain vs Chile game and the Brazil vs Portugal games either at a bar or just here at home. Both games are so important because it dictates who we'll see in the second round.

                Apart from soccer, I really love Cape Town and all of the small towns around it. Cape Town is big, but really not too crowded. Everyone so far has been so nice and we almost always feel safe. South Africa is so well prepared for this event; there are police officers and security always within your sight if you ever need any help. I have always felt that Americans are generally disliked abroad, but being here I have learned to take more pride in where I am from. When we are wearing our USA gear people are always stopping us to tell us how much they are cheering for our team and how much they like our country. It is also so nice to be able to return to Fish Hoek after spending a day in Cape Town. Fish Hoek is so quiet and safe, and most importantly far away from the noise of the vuvuzelas. Our home is such a nice retreat from the excitement in Cape Town. I am having such an incredible trip!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

6/22/10 Portugal v North Korea Game and Cape Town Fanfest

Wow!! I really have way too much to write about after not blogging last night! We attended our first match yesterday at Green Point Stadium. The stadium is absolutely magnificent! It was pouring on our way to the games and we all got pretty soaked since we were a little unprepared. Thankfully the magnificent retractable glass cover of the stadium kept us dry during the match once we were in our seats. Jesse and I had our seats together and, like most of the stadium, we were surrounded by fans in support of Portugal. Going in to the game I did not have any real passion or loyalty to either Portugal or North Korea, but the fans spirit was contagious. I found myself cheering on Portugal from the kick-off. It was incredible to see the highest paid player in the world. Everyone, especially the women, screamed for Ronaldo every time he touched the ball. The first half was very exciting as Portugal took a 1 to 0 lead with a pretty even number of chances at both ends. The second half however, was nothing short of amazing. The second half was not tightly contested like the first half, however. The Portuguese managed six goals in the second half!! Six different players scored the seven goals for Portugal as they absolutely manhandled the North Korean squad. The atmosphere in the stands was phenomenal. After each goal the crowd erupted and everyone was in a triumphant state of joy. Jesse and I could not believe the game we were seeing, the highest scoring game at the World Cup thus far. Even someone that isn't a soccer fan would have had fun at this one. I can't wait to show everyone all of the videos and pictures from the game.

                Today was another excellent soccer filled game. We went in to Cape Town again, this time to watch the South Africa verse France match at the Fan Fest. The Fan Fest is a huge celebration near downtown Cape Town with a stage, huge screen to show the game, 5 v 5 soccer fields, food and beverage, and a lot of South African fans blowing their vuvuzelas (the horns that everyone is hearing make those wretched noises on television). Only Dave, Jamaica, and I made it in to the Fan Fest because the others unfortunately missed out because it closed for being too full before they got there. Dave and I played quite a lot of 5 v 5 verse mostly South Africa kids and guys around our age. It was such a blast and Dave and I scored our fair share of goals, obviously :). We watched the game on the big screen, with the magnificent Table Mountain standing as a beautiful backdrop. The setting, game, and fans made the experience so incredible. South Africa defeated France for the first time in their history, and although they did not advance into the next stage of the tournament, it was still a great victory for South Africa. The mood after the game was triumphant, and really difficult to translate into words. My videos will tell the story when I am able to post those.

                Tomorrow is another huge soccer day. It is the final group stage match for the US against Algeria, and a must win! If we win the game, we will move on to the second round. The other matches during the day will determine if we finish first or second in our group, and who we will play. So look forward to hopefully a happy post soon after a victory!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

6/20/10 - Boulder Beach penguins

                What an incredibly beautiful day!! The sun was shining all day long with temperatures around 70 F, which is amazing considering it is winter here. The highlight of the day was a lovely 2 hour walk to a nearby town called Simons's Town. The path weaved along the Indian Ocean coastline with epic picture taking moments every minute. Everything about Simon's Town was very pleasant; the food, the people, the markets, the weather, and the sights. We ate lunch at a lovely seafood restaurant that lay directly on the beach.

                The overall intent in our voyage was to see the famous penguins of Boulder Beach. We did not, however, realize that the beach was on the far side of the town, so some members of our group began doubting our undertaking of such an expedition.  However, we moved onward and were greatly rewarded for our persistence. Before reaching the Boulder Beach we were surprised with a site nearly unheard of from this coast. We came across a group of people on a large rock pointing out into the ocean in excitement. We rushed toward them to see what the spectacle was. There were three or four orca whales that were swimming quite a distance off of the coast. Apparently they were noticed when a group of dolphins fled very quickly, obviously pursued by the killer whales. A boat was directly trailing the whales, taking in an unbelievable experience.  According to a man that lives in the area, it is the first time he has ever seen killer whales! I felt pretty lucky that we were able to witness something so extraordinary.

                Eventually we reached the penguins of Boulder Beach. Hanging out with the penguins was a lot of fun and we got plenty of photos. I was excited to finally see some African Wildlife today. I can't wait to see some of the more famous African animals, especially when we make it to a safari.

                Tomorrow however is all about soccer!! Our whole gang is going into Cape Town tomorrow for the North Korea verse Portugal game. The game could be very crucial, depending on what happens in a few minutes during the Brazil verse Ivory Coast game. We are all pulling for North Korea surprisingly, so that Ivory Coast and Brazil will likely move past the group stage. I am absolutely thrilled to be going to the game and afterward the fan fest tomorrow in Cape Town. The atmosphere is going to be awesome!! My next post is definitely one to look forward to if you are a soccer fan. Wish me look in the Vuvuzela contest at the fan fest, my trumpet playing past should come in handy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

6/20/10 - Home in Fish Hoek


                I am uncertain if jet lag is still corrupting my internal clock or if the overall excitement is keeping me awake, but nonetheless it is about 5:00 in the morning here in Fish Hoek and I have been wide awake and restless since probably 2:00. Yesterday was my first full day here at our beautiful home in Fish Hoek, a suburb of Cape Town. My travels went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for and a very nice gentleman gave me a taxi ride to the house on the evening of the 18th when I arrived at Cape Town airport for. When I arrived at the house Dave (Mehr), Jamaica, Jesse, Ashley, and David (Eber) were all watching the end of the England verse Algeria game, which to our satisfaction ended in a 0 to 0 draw (the ideal score line for the USA!). The USA tied their match while I was on the plane 2 to 2 coming back from 2 goals down, but they were robbed a goal late in the game that would have garunteed them a spot in the 2nd round. So that SUCKED!

                My first full day in Fish Hoek was absolutely perfect and restful. When everyone was up in the morning we took a nice walk down to some stores near our home and bought a soccer ball. From there we walked down to the beach, which is no more than a five minute walk from our home. We juggled on the beach for quite some time. It was great fun despite the fact that I chased one of Jesse's misplayed passes in to the Atlantic soaking my shoes, socks, and jeans. After juggling, that gang walked and I sloshed over to the market where we did some shopping for breakfast and dinner that day.

                We watched the matches at home during the afternoon and evening. The results of all the matches were not ideal, but we had a great time anyway. Cameroon's loss was quite a disappointment because now they are unable to reach the 2nd round, and will likely be less motivated to play well when we got to the match between Netherlands and Cameroon next week. I am having a difficult time knowing who to cheer for in the two first round matches we will be seeing. The North Korea verse Portugal game is especially tricky. Is it un-American for me to root for North Korea?! I would really like to see them win so that both Ivory Coast and Brazil make it out of that group, in which case I would likely see Ivory Coast in the second round game, and Brazil in the quarterfinal game that Dave and I are going to in Port Elizabeth. I only have a couple days to figure that out, I suppose I might have to hope for a tie.

                Yesterday was awesome, but I am excited for my first real activity today. We are planning on hopping on the train to Simon, which is probably about 30 km or so from Fish Hoek. At Simon's beach there are apparently lots of jackass penguins! I'm so excited to see some animals! The rest of the gang have been here longer than me and all had great experiences already, especially Dave and Jamaica who spent two weeks in Port Elizabeth volunteering to take care of baby lions and tigers on a reservation that also housed lots of other great wildlife. After hanging out with the Penguins we plan to come back home and rest up while we watch the games. Climbing Table Mountain is our next excursion within a couple days, so I can't wait for that!

                Hopefully my next update will be soon. Our internet availability is not as good as I had hoped for, so I will likely not be able to post many videos or pictures, but I will still try to post blogs regularly. Cheers!

6/19/10 - Travelling

Finally I have departed for my great adventure and juncture between school and the real world. It was very difficult to imagine and realize my true excitement the last few weeks as I was preoccupied with entertaining friends and family, moving out, packing, and graduation. This is my first blog entry dedicated to my trip to South Africa for the World Cup. I don't really have any preconceived ideas of what I might write about besides my experiences at the games. I am currently mid-flight from Washington Dulles airport to Johannesburg, which will be broken up by a stop in Dakar, Senegal. My flight does not however end in Johannesburg; I board another plane to Cape Town. Everything has gone as planned thus far as I have thankfully avoided any traveling issues. The flight is painless, besides on my neck, with plenty to entertain including my own personal screen with options including movies, tv, music, and games.

                I am interested to see how my experience will go when I first arrive in Cape Town. The loose plan after leaving the airport is to find a cab and hopefully make it to the home I am staying at in Fish Hoek, a suburb of Cape Town. Once reaching the house I am hoping that my friends will already be there or that there is some other way for me to get into the house. I haven't heard from Dave, so I'm just banking on the fact that he'll be there. I'm already loving the adventure of traveling on my own, and because I don't have anyone tagging along I don't have any real fears of hitting any bumps in the road with my lack of planning, because at least I won't be dragging them into it as well.

                Hopefully my next update will be an update of a successful journey to Cape Town and Fish Hoek, written from the comfort of our beautiful beach house. I'm so excited to see my friends and truly get settled into my incredible adventure. Looking forward to some excellent soccer and completely engaging in the South African culture!