The World Cup and Southern Africa

During the world cup I will be traveling around South Africa. After the tournament is over, I plan to travel over ground about 1800 miles up to Nairobi, where I will fly back to the states from in early August.

In this blog I hope to share my experiences, thoughts, and stories. I am not completely sure why I am here, I hope to know by the time I leave. I will focus on a few topics:
1) How do we develop people? (Education, Values, etc..)
2) Is there any absolute truth? I hope so.
3) Football

This will not be clean and edited, it is my journal. I will write very much in stream of consciousness, most statements I make are questions that I wish answered. Please feel free to add to my inner-dialogue.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ghana-Germany

So I went to Ghana-Germany match. It was a mess except for the match being absolutely beautiful. While I was still in Durban, I decided to call Martin, the cat that showed me around Soweto. I told him I would pay for his ticket if he wanted to come to the match with me. He was down, so that cemented my choice to return to Joburg. So when I got there, he told me he was sick and couldn’t make it. This sucked, because I had planned on staying at his house, but it is really hard to navigate the townships, especially at night. I had a few people who offered me a place to stay if I ever needed it in Joburg, so I figured I would call one of them. On the train to the stadium I met Jigs. His young son was standing behind my large backpack on a packed train, we starting talking. As we separated, he told me I can stay at his place if I needed. I figured this would be easier, I could just come home with him after the match instead of trying to connect with someone else. Now for tickets. At most I had payed half price thus far. I figured a 90,000 seat stadium there had to be lots of people selling. I was wrong. There weren’t enough tickets being sold to really drive down the price. In the end, I found half price, a $120 ticket for $60. It was a guy he planned to bring his girl, but she was sick. I only had r400($60) on me, so I couldn’t pay him more. He wasn’t too interested in playing the game, he tried for a bit, with no luck, so he told me r400 was fine. But as I talked to him and got to know him, I felt bad, so I gave him $60 US I had in my bag, so I paid full price.

The match was great. Germany is amazing. Everything about them is precise, they put constant pressure on the defenders, and always seem to make the right choice. They create so much space for themselves by playing smart football. Anytime Ghana cheated or guessed Germany easily passed or dribbled into the open space. They must play the best team football in the tournament. Nothing amazing from an individual, but they are so difficult to defend as a team. Ghana is also amazing. They create space when there is none. It is the complete opposite, but equally as beautiful. Every player on the field creates space for themselves whether it’s with their first touch, on the dribble, or creative passing. I could never coach West African football, I have no idea how they think to do the things they do. It goes against everything I’ve found to be good decisions. It’s one thing for a forward to be creative, but players in their defensive part of the field….dats crazy. I do think such flair comes with the casual attitude I’ve talked about, and it seemed to hurt them in the final third. It’s like they can’t accept an average goal, when they had a good shot, they would try to beat one last defender, when they could make a dangerous pass, they attempted a ridiculous shot, and they made one last pass whenever it seemed a chance for that player to go for goal. I don’t understand it, but I enjoy it. Anyway, the game was well worth it.

After the match I called Josi and got his wife. It turns out he left his phone at home. So that plan was out. Not wanting to bother anyone else that late, I called Martin to get his address to take a taxi there. I gave my boy that sold me the ticket $20 US for r150 and went in search of a taxi. First, I had a quick stroll through all the buses to see if any were going in the direction I hoped to go in the morning. No such luck. It turns out taxis are hard to find. I asked about ten people where to find one. Each told me something different. I was never sure to keep going where I was headed or heed the most recent advice. Eventually I was walking with no direction and I found them. This was probably an hour and a half after the match ended. They are metered taxis for r15 per km. But they don’t have a meter. They make up a number. The first told me r500. I talked to a couple more and eventually found one that would take me for the r150 I had. Now he just had to figure out where Martin’s house was. We stopped for help a couple times, and eventually I was at Martins house in a safe bed.

I got up a 7am and hopped on a Public taxi. Most drivers head to town when they are full, this one needed two more people than could actually fit. But they fit. I got to Park Station just before the bus left for Bloemfontein. My destination is Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein is on the way. I figured I’d spend a day there before I got back to the coast. The bus took longer than I could have imagined, it spent about 30 minutes of the trip on the highway. The rest was between small towns to drop off and pick up. My 8:35 departure arrived at 3pm. I think the distance is between 150 and 200 miles. I didn’t mind tho, I’ve enjoyed the long bus trips so far. The only problem was I still had to find a place to stay before dark. I went to an internet café and looked up hostels in the area. They were all out of town, one being just on the edge. I decided to walk to that one. After walking for about an hour, mostly cause I wandered around town a bit, I got to the hostel. It was basic like the others, but this one was charging r500. I guess they are trying to make money during the world cup. With it getting dark soon I decided to suck it up and pay. I regret this, it ruined my evening. I had a nice walk, a very tasty bacon avocado burger, and watched some football, but the whole time I was mad that I’m was $70 for a bunk bed. So now I am laying in expensive bunk bed with the loud tv in the background and the louder snoring in the room next door. We’ll see how well I can fall asleep.

Leaving Durban

Tuesday was my last day in Durban. I slept in, walked around a bit, then it was all about football. I went to the beach to Bafana’s last game at the Fanfest. The fanfest in Durban is great, I’ve been watching the night match there. For this match there must have been a couple thousand. It was packed, I squeezed my way up towards the front, when I turned around I couldn’t see past all the people, standing and sitting anyplace that had a view of the screen. It was lots of fun. I guess 4-0 over France was too much to ask, they did have their chances though. It was fun to have hope throughout the match. It seemed people felt good enough about going out on a positive result. I got interviewed by SABC 1 after the match, the main tv station in SA. They just wanted a fan having fun to say how much they are enjoying SA. I think I did well.

Now it was time to get ready for the South-Korea Nigeria match. I made a couple quick stops, then back to my hostel, then to the match. Tickets were tough to get, I was surprised. There were lots of empty seats in the stadium, but there weren’t many tickets being sold outside. I ended buy a category 2 ticket for $60, about half price. I couldn’t find any of the cheap tickets for either game in Durban. They were actually bad seats, they were in the corner with an obstruction, but I was able to move down a few rows and it was a pretty good view. I think I would have truly enjoyed this match if I was impartial, but because of Ewere, Bukky, and my current pro-African stance, I was pulling for Nigeria wholeheartedly. I had the jersey and everything. In the end, it’s better Nigeria is out, it is too frustrating to watch them earn poor results. I think this is the closest I’ve come to understanding how my parents may have felt while I was in high school and consistently earned poor marks on my report cards. They are beautiful to watch, but played with half the work rate of South Korea. They created a few goal scoring opportunities by pressuring SK, but most of the time they jogged to pressure the ball, even in dangerous parts of the field. This would be the same rant I’ve gone on a couple times, so I’ll stop. But the contrast in work rate between the teams was amazing. Again, Nigeria shouldn’t play like South Korea or Greece, but they failed to get the result they needed against two less talented teams. Hopefully they can sort it out, we need West African football.

So now I’m on my way to Joburg for the Ghana-Germany match tonight. I folded this morning. I didn’t have a bus ticket, so I was in a rush to get to the bus station. I woke up late, packed up my stuff and hurried out of the hostel. As I was trying to check out, this guy came up to me and asked if I was going to Joburg, he said he was too, he would just grab his bag, implying we’d catch the bus together. It took me a couple minutes to check out, then I went and looked for him briefly and couldn’t find him, so I left. I shoulda given him more time, I was crunched for time, but this is one of the things I need to relearn. I’ve slipped into being so focused on the things I need to do, that I don’t leave space for people and other opportunities. I could have been sitting next to a new friend on the bus right now. I could have supported him in some way that he needed, he may have supported me in a way that I needed. I missed that opportunity in my haste. After I bought my ticket I realized what I had done, I looked for him hoping he was a couple minutes behind me, no such luck. Sorry friend.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Durban

My time in Durban has been pretty uneventful. I went to the Netherlands-Japan match on Sat. and have otherwise just wandered around. Japan played extremely well and deserved a point. It seems like this ball really is bad. There aren’t this many goalkeeping errors in high school soccer.

It is quite the party atmosphere here. I guess that comes with being in a beach city. There is tons of activity along the beach. The highlight for me would be the beach soccer, but I cannot participate because of my knee. In large part I have avoided the beach. I do need to jump in the ocean before I leave. I will. The hostel I am staying also has quite the social scene. It’s pretty big, there must be 100 people staying here sharing the common areas. I’ve only spoken to a couple. This isn’t really my crowd…no one wants to talk about the politics or challenges of South Africa, or their own countries. I’ll have to be fun and outgoing to fit in here, not sure if I will figure it out. I’ve walked around the city lots, it really is a great vacation spot. It would be nice to have a car to tour around other places. There is mountain range to explore close to here. There is tons of Indian and Zulu culture to learn about. There are other natural attractions close by. I have thought of paying for a tour of something or spending a couple days in the mountains, right now I am leaning against it. I have a tendency to want to see everything, but then I never really relax and enjoy anything. But at the moment I am torn between just meandering along the coast, going back to Joburg for the Germany-Ghana match, or spending a couple days in the mountains. We will see.

African teams are killing me. I am still convinced they have the talent to compete with any team. Ghana and Ivory Coast showed lots of immaturity in not getting the results they needed in their last matches. I respect having a certain style. I understand pride and holding on to certain values. Every athlete dreams off making certain plays and scoring goals in big moments. But at some point all those things need to be put aside, or at least in the right place, to win a match. Ghana was casual and selfish against Australia, they played like they were gonna win just cause they are better. This happens all the time in all sports, but you don’t do it here when you have three matches to qualify. Cote d’Ivoire made a fair mistake on the first goal, but the next two should not have happened. Yes, the second was a handball, but the ball would have never been in their net if they hadn’t stopped. The third goal we saw a defender stand completely unaware of his surroundings and allowed a hurtful third goal. Then after they did score, they got caught up in everything that didn’t matter, and lost a chance to at least attempt to close the goal difference. Brazil’s antics were equally as childish, I can’t stand watching Luis Fabiano, he cries the entire match. But they are Brazil, they are established as the best team in the world, I don’t like it, but their arrogance and swag has a foundation. These African nations seem to have the same arrogance and swag. Many of their players have achieved much with their club teams, but not with their national teams, I’d like to see some more humility and a desire to earn some success. The Asian teams have been great so far. Each match they put their absolute best out there, and I think that is reflected in the results they have earned. All regions are really doing the best they can with the talent they have, but the African nations can’t seem to figure what it takes to get a result in this World Cup. Again, I am usually ok with taking things as a learning experience and moving forward, but this opportunity will not come again for a long time. Not in any of these players’ careers. Maybe African life is too fractured. There is corruption in African governments, there are always problems within African FA’s, there are countless problems in African nations. Maybe there is too much turmoil around an African player and their national side. Maybe they have to play for self, because playing for country just doesn’t make sense. I sure can’t understand whatever it is, it is upsetting me though. I came here dreaming of people encouraged, empowered, or maybe their lives just brightened a bit by their fellow countrymen doing something great. Now we hope at least one team gets through. I think Nigeria may be in the best place, even though they havn't earned a point yet. If they win and Greece loses, they should be through. Ghana needs at least a point against Germany, not easy, or a Serbian fold. Algeria needs to beat the US, which is possible, and then Cote d’Ivoire and Bafana need the stars to align just right. Cote d’Ivoire is a bit more likely, but still a stretch. Ok, I’m done now, time to go watch Spain knock the ball around, we’ll see if they decide to score this time.

Friday, June 18

I had Thursday typed up, but I lost it, so I will give the brief recap. I went with a crew to France-Mexico in Polokwane, it was fun, Mexico won. Onto Friday.

So I woke up in Polokwane and wanted to get to Durban. I wanted to travel east to the coast then down to Durban even though I hadn’t found any trains or buses that went that way in the minimal research I had done. I didn’t want to go back through joburg cause I been there plenty already. I told the crew I was with to drop me in town and I would figure it out. This was a questionable choice, but I was determined I would find a way to do it. I walked around town and asked a number people and everyone told me they same thing I had heard already, I had to go through Joburg. So in the end I caught a bus to Joburg, the bus arrived a bit after 3, and conveniently, the US played Slovenia at 4. So I got off the bus and walked down to find a ticket to the match after quickly saying hi to Martin at the cell phone store.

I found a ticket for r350, about $50. It was a good match, I am usually critical of the US side, but I was impressed, maybe even proud to be an American. Slovenia is no joke, they beat a very strong Russian team to get here. After the US went down a goal, they started playing really well and almost equalized on a couple occasions. Then they gave up another goal on the counterattack. Many teams seem hopeful they will score when they go down. I felt like there was a difference in the posture of the US team. The became more aggressive and hungry for a goal. They put dangerous balls in and threw their bodies at goal scoring opportunities, forcing the Slovenia defenders to be strong. Landon Donovan’s goal was a fantastic finish. I think the result was simply a matter of will, the US decided they were going to comeback, and Slovenia was uncertain if they could hold their lead. The decision to reverse the last goal was strange, I’m sure the US media had opinions. But the US team kept their composure and finished the game with class. I think that will, the decision to make something happen regardless of obstacles, is an American attribute. I like it. Their match against Algeria will be tough, Algeria has looked dangerous even though they havn’t scored a goal, and they play with great focus and toughness.

After the match I walked back to park station to wait for my 10 pm bus to Durban. 3 hours of sitting at Park Station isn’t much fun. You can’t stray at all cause of the risk of being robbed. I did get to watch the first half of the England-Algeria game. I gave one man an American dollar, I had given him some bread earlier and he come back to chat some more. He was going on about how he never touched a US dollar before, I’m sure this is a scam he's used before. I fell for it. “Boss” is one of the terms that people use to speak to a stranger. I get called boss many times each day. After giving this man a dollar, I got to be “Big Boss”, maybe it was worth it.

The bus to Durban was really nice. The seats were really comfortable, Madea goes to jail was on. I sat next to Moses who fell asleep immediately. I fell asleep about midnight, the bus was sposed to arrive at 5:40, unfortunately it arrived at 4:45. I was cheated out of an hour of sleep, I had no idea where in Durban I was, or what time the sun came up. I had some bread and fruit to eat, which took up some time. I called this one girl in the US who informed me the sun rose at 6:40. I couldn’t sit for a full two hours, so I started walking. Fortunately I started walking about the same time as someone else who knew Durban, He walked with me to the beach. I walked out on a pier as the sky was just turning red. There was a younger man there from Tanzania, his name is Ibu. He is studying business here in Durban. We talked for a bit as the sun rose, he liked to have his picture taken. He asked me to watch his belongings while he jumped off the Pier. I had thought of this possibility at one point, but I felt the pier was a bit too high for me. It turned out he was really good at staying afloat, but not much of a swimmer. I had to wait a long time for the waves to push him back to shore.

I said farewell when he returned. At last the day was bright and I could search for a place to rest. I tried to find free wireless with no luck, so I eventually stopped in an internet café. I found a hostel in central Durban, Banana Backpackers. They had a bed for me. It felt good to know where I was staying that night so early in the day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wednesday June 16

Wednesday June 16

When I woke up I went and sat in the sun for a bit. The days here are perfect, low 60’s with warm sun. The nights are chilly, I’ve been cold a few nights, and it’s always cold in the morning, so the sun always feel good in the morning. P.W.’s car is struggling a bit these days. He says it’s the carburetor, fuel isn’t getting to the engine well, so the car stalls constantly. So we drove around and talked to a number of people about how to fix his car. We stopped at the market. The townships are really interesting. They are a picture of all phases of development. There are shacks with no floor, rain turns everything to mud and destroys the few belongings people have. There are single room homes built by the government, many people have added on to these, and many people tear these down completely and build new homes, some are very nice. As we stood at the edge of this market filled people selling whatever they can to make a little money, we looked out on a mall that would suit the needs of anyone in the US. It seems that at least part of the emerging black middle class is remaining in the townships, creating economic in these areas.

On the way home we stopped and got a traditional South African meal. They take a big chunk of bread, cut out a square out of the middle, and put stuff inside. I have seen a couple variations, but I guess the main thing is polony, whatever that is. They put cheese, garlic, atcher (mango relish) and chips (French fries) inside. I guess Primanti’s ain’t so original after all. I enjoyed it. We returned to the house, then P.W. and I went for a long walk around the townships and talked. We got back to the house in time to watch Chile beat Honduras, then I said my goodbyes and jumped in a taxi to go back into Pretoria. There was about eight people in the taxi when I got in, half of them got out, so the driver had a bunch of seats to fill before heading into town. We drove around for about twenty minutes only getting a few more. This was killing me cause Spain Switzerland was starting and we still had lots of travel time. Eventually he started toward the highway and picked up a couple more along the way. I jumped straight into another taxi when I got into Pretoria and got back to my hostel with about ten miutes left in the first half. Spain was still beautiful, but beauty doesn’t count for much besides my (and maybe others’) admiration.

After the match it was time to get focused on the real objective of the day, watch bafana bafana make countries dreams come true with victory over Uruguay!!!! We now know this did not happen, but that was the dream at the time. I went out with Milan, my Serbian friend who was also staying in the hostel, to try to get tickets for the match. It was tough, there weren’t many available, except for those few who were asking insane prices. I think everyone has a price that would make them content to watch on tv rather than in the stadium. We ran into a guy who was selling one ticket, Milan bought it for r850 ($120). We kept looking for mine for a long time, finally I found a couple negotiating with a man. They were South African, the man was trying to lowball them, offering r400 and not budging, I offered r800 off top, then we realized they were selling two, so I offered r1400 for them both. They wanted to go, but we offered right around that price that made them happy. I felt a bit bad buying from locals who actually wanted to go to the match, we discussed it with them for a while, not putting any pressure, just allowing our offer to sit. They discussed it in a couple languages, then finally agreed. In the end I think they were probably happy they didn’t sit through such a depressing match. Now that we had 3 tickets, Milan had to sell the original. He started off asking r3000, and ended up selling it for r1100. After about two hours of scheming, it was finally time to go in the stadium.

Milan was an interesting match companion. He loves pictures. His camera’s battery was dead, so we just had mine. I pretty quickly just gave it to him to use for the night. He took 46 photos and two videos. I took two photos. I only know this cause I uploaded them on the computer later. When we were walking into the stadium., I was focused on getting to our seats. Milan had other plans, he wanted someone elses seat. He told me to follow and unfortunately I did. We pushed through crowds, walked through rows people, forcing them to let us by, through a couple private boxes cause the aisles were too crowded, and finally to a 6 empty seats almost at midfield. As people arrived, we were pushed out of those seats and were lucky to find a couple nearby that remained ours the rest of the match.

The match itself was unfortunate. South Africa was just not quite ready for this tournament. I don’t question any of the players’ heart, but their nerves and inexperience showed. A man told me that this will be the first time a host nation has not qualified, that’s sad. Their captain is the one who has made all their crucial mistakes. In the first match, he was the one who kept the Mexican goal scorer onsides, and this match, he backed off and allowed Forlan to turn for the opening goal in this match. You can’t let any player turn and shoot from that range, especially one of the top forwards in the world. He is the one of the few with international experience, and while the rest of the team is holding it down, he is folding. SA’s attack was very disappointing as well. They did ok possessing through the midfield, but they were never dangerous. Against Mexico, they did well when they played over top on the counter attack. I think Uruguay noticed that and weren’t pushing any of their backs up the field, but you have to test a defense in every way. It’s silly to keep trying the same thing when you havn’t created any decent chances. Bafana just kept trying to break them down with short passes and it didn’t work.

I think I will stay far away from the next Bafana match, maybe they will have better luck without me

Tuesday June 15

Tuesday June 15

I had originally planned to leave Pretoria this morning, but I decided I would stay til Thursday morning cause South Africa was playing Uruguay in Pretoria on Wednesday night. I didn’t really want to spend two more days just kickin it Pretoria, I relaxed for the morning trying to decide what to do with this free time, and ended up calling Pastor Washington, he had invited me to come up to the township area he lived in. I met up with him as he was leaving work and hopped on a rowdy public taxi. There was a woman who cut up the entire 40 minute ride. I guess on trains a Pastor will basically have church on the train cars. This practice has been around for a long time. The woman was imitating a pastor, leading our taxi in songs and encouraging her small congregation. The entire taxi was thoroughly entertained, I had to wait til we got off the taxi to learn what all the fun was about.

P.W.’s house is very nice. He lives with his lovely wife Nikki, her brother Lincoln, his two kids and his niece. I had fun with them, we watched Brazil and North Korea. N.K. was very impressive, they may be the best example of how to compete so far. The talent gap is massive, but they gave Brazil a challenge by preparing well, sticking to their tactics, and fighting every minute of the match. I still think they will be hard pressed to maintain that level for their other two matches, eventually they will get broken down. Well done Korea DPR.

Before the match, the power went out for about almost two hours for no reason. The family was saying the country’s electricity was stretched by all the stadium lights. We went for a drive and came back at about 8. The lights came back on around 8:20, ten minutes before the match. It was like they electric company decided they could turn off all the lights between matches and no one would get too mad.

We had a very tasty meal of chicken, rice, and something else that is slipping my mind. Lincoln gave up his bed for me, I would have liked to argue, but I think that’s the way it had to be.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday

I got up early on Monday morning cause I was too cold to stay in bed. I typed for about an hour until Abraham woke up. Our first task was to find me a place to sleep for the next night. I was hoping to spend about r200, r100 is about $14. I landed at a hostel for r300 right by the stadium. I dropped off my backpack, and started towards the city center with Abraham still to meet up with Pastor Washington. Pastor Wahington started a small community college/technical school about 3 years ago. That is where I met him, it is located on part of a floor in an office building. We talked for a bit then went to a nearby restaurant to watch Holland V. Denmark. The match was disappointing, neither team created much. I was pretty lame company at that point, I was tired and needed a bit of space and rest to re-energize. I walked back to the hostel and caught most of the Japan-Cameroon match. This was very disappointing as well, Japan played well, but Cameroon played well below their ability. African teams need to stop hiring European managers. It seemed Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire were uncomfortable in their matches, too rigid. Ghana and Nigeria also have Europeans in charge and seem more comfortable. We’ll keep watching. I don’t think much of Sven Goran Errickson (Cote d’Ivoire’s Manager). It hurts to say this about a Swede, but his teams always seem uninspired. Anyway, back at the hostel, I enjoyed watching the Jap-Cam match with Eric, an employee at the hostel, and the old Rasta man. Our chatter was entertaining, enough so that I chose the watch the evening match between Paraguay and Italy there instead going out. It was a nice evening, I also got to the owners of the hostel a bit, names to come, a Colombian man and a south African woman had met in Mexico last year to while the woman was backpacking and decided to provide a reasonably priced place to stay during the world cup. I they are only doing this during the tournament, then they plan on traveling around Africa once the world cup is over. I may travel with them, we’ll see.

Sunday

I woke up to a breakfast of eggs, beans and bread prepared by Evelyn’s son. She then put me on a taxi to town, giving very clear instructions to the driver on where to drop me off. We drove around the townships for a bit and only picked up a few people. Our driver signaled to another taxi, we pulled over and were instructed to change taxis, I guess cause both vehicles didn’t have many people. I had three main tasks: 1.Find a place to stay for Sunday night, I figured I’d enjoy the day more if I had security for the night. 2. Go to church 3. Try to get tickets to the Serbia Ghana match. It turned out I was fair distance away from Pretoria….the taxi wound its way through the townships and it must have been over ten miles on the highway before we reached the edges of Pretoria. While in the townships, a man and his wife got on dressed very I well, the man was holding a Bible. The taxi was jam packed, he was two benches behind me, I didn’t want to be goofy and turn around and ask him about, I was kinda out of place already. I decided if he got off when we were clearly in town, I would ask if I could join him for church. We ended up the last three on the taxi, at which point the driver turned to me and asked me where I was getting off. I had assumed the previous driver had relayed Evelyn’s message, this wasn’t the case, so I turned and asked the man with the Bible if he was going to church. He said yes and agreed to my company, so I reported back to the driver that I would get off with them. On the walk between the taxi and the church, I learned the man was in fact Pastor Washington, the shepherd of the church.

We entered a large building downtown and went into a small room on the ground floor. Church had just started, Pastor was a bit behind schedule because of a bit of car trouble, which was why he was on the taxi. Church was quite nice, good singing, sound doctrine, and a small friendly congregation. I was identified quickly in the one of these doesn’t belong game and asked to introduce myself, Pastor W. got up soon after and explained how I came to be there. There was one song in English, the rest in other languages. It was lively for having 15 people in the room. I joke (I think to myself) that half my church goes up front when our informal choir sings, in fairness it is probably only a quarter. Sometimes I’d like to be part of the choir, but I feel bad leaving the few people in the pews. Anyway, in this church it was just over half that went up to lead the singing on this occasion. I felt at home. Since I didn’t know the words of the songs, more accurately the language, I had to at least join in the dancing. I swayed to the best of my African abilities, trying to pick up accepted movements from those around me. There was a significant dance break in one of the songs, something I hope to bring back with me, but with someone else dancing. After church I spoke with a few people, there was a finance committee meeting so half the church stayed behind, another comforting similarity. One man wanted my phone number so he could call me when came to the states. I think I’ve invited about 40 people to stay with me in the US so far, hopefully not everyone comes at the same time, I may need some help from the readers out there.

We started walking as Pastor Washington gave me directions towards the stadium….one member, Abraham, was walking in that direction so he said he would guide me a bit. Abraham is a teacher, so he is off this month, so he walked me all the way to the stadium. He said he wanted to help get tickets, then help me find a place to stay….he basically took responsibility for me. We learned the only place to buy tickets was far from the stadium. This was disappointing, but we were content to watch in the nearby fan park. Ghana and Serbia both played well. I am excited about Ghana, especially the way they attack. The test the defense in every…short passes, long passes, counter attacks, crosses, off the dribble…granted their final ball was lacking, but I feel they will find it. Ghana, Serbia, and Germany are all quality sides, it’s too bad that one must go home. Everyone here is convinced Germany is among the top teams after dominating the socceroos, but I need to see more. Australia had terrible organization in the back, I don’t if I’ve ever seen a team get in behind so easily. Australia was just as bad as Germany was good. I still think it’s possible for Ghana and Serbia to go through ahead of the Germans, not too likely, but Serbia can defend well and they are capable of getting a result against the Germans, as are Ghana.

After the match, it was decided that I would just stay with Abraham. I said I was perfectly fine sleeping on a couch or floor. He said, no he has a queen size bed. I wasn’t sure why he was advocating bed sharing over other options, but I figured we’d sort it out when we arrived. It turned out the bed was the only option. Abraham lives in a room in a someone else’s small apartment. The room is exactly the width of a queen size bed and about five feet longer. The added length is where he keeps his belonging, and he still maintains a bit of floor space, I need to learn organization from this man. In an earlier conversation when he learned I was also a teacher, he enthusiastically pointed out that teachers are the most meticulous people, they must be in their planning and record keeping and so on. I agreed with his opinion, embarrassed to admit my shortcomings, but I didn’t think much of it. Seeing his living space allowed me to truly appreciate his organizational abilities. We got organized, then went to a nearby restaurant to watch the Germans dismantle the Aussies. I was dead tired by the time we got back, and fell asleep easily in the queen size bed. At some point I woke up to another man in the room. In the morning I learned it was Abraham’s cousin George who shares the bed when he has to work late. So yes< George jumped in the queen size bed as well. There was quite enough blanket for all three of us, and I think I lost the battle of the blankets. I feel they just had more experience in grasping to a share of blanket, but with a bit of practice I could compete with them. It gets cold here at night during their two winter months, and no place has heat, you just have a hot beverage and get under the blankets. Without the full blanket warmth I didn’t get much sleep.

Monday, June 14, 2010

not enough wifi in SA

On Monday I met Martin, he works at the cell phone store where I got my phone turned on. As he was sorting out my phone, we talked a bit, and he told me to call him later in the week for a tour of Soweto. I called him on Thursday evening and we agreed to meet up on Friday morning at his job. For those who might not know, Soweto is short for South West Townships. From the beginning of Joburg, the white population needed black labor, but didn’t want black neighbors. Well before the Apartheid government they tried to push blacks outside the city to their own areas. This includes Indians and anyone else with darker skin. Over a decade after apartheid began, the white population still wasn’t satisfied with the current level of segregation, so the government acquired a large piece of land well outside of the city (to the southwest). They tore down whole neighborhoods inside the city and forced people to move to Soweto. The living conditions were terrible in every possible way imaginable. It is still an area with lots of poverty and challenges. It is mostly proper homes at this point, although there are still a fair amount of shacks made of tin. There is lots more background information to be given about Soweto, but I’ll go on to my experiences.

Martin met me at 11am with his girlfriend Bernadette. We started off toward the public taxis, our first stop was the mall in Soweto. The mall was up to any US standard, unfortunately with American fast food chains as well. The large presence of American businesses is frustrating. SA needs foreign investment to build, I guess I just hope that SA and other countries end up with their fair market share as they develop. We got some biltong, which is dried meet, they dry every type of meat, right now I’m eating dried sausage. I got a South African flag painted on my face, so it was off to his Father’s house to grab the car. We talked to a few people on the way, ran a couple errands once we had the car, met up with his crew, got some beer and food, and we were about 10 minutes late arriving at the fan park we were watch the game at. While we were hanging out around Soweto, everyone was extremely friendly. I took this picture of Sbu in front of his house, he gave me a beer and shared his chicken with me. We got our food across the street from Sbu, many families sell food out of their homes.

I got to talk a lot with Martin and his friends about their lives, ambitions and such. In some ways SA and the US are much different. There is definitely better access to everything in the US, but challenges and concerns are very similar. His friends were great, I enjoyed being them. I am very grateful to them for allowing me to tag along on a day that was so meaningful to them.

The actually match was great fun. There were more people than could physically fit in the fan park. There was no space to move. Most of the crowd was blowing vuvuzelas in different rhythms, small pockets were chanting different things, but if you weren’t in the pocket chanting you couldn’t hear it. It was obvious something different was happening because they would wave the vuvuzelas in the air instead of blowing. When the goal was scored, it was a beautiful explosion, jumping and yelling and blowing and everything else. I was preoccupied with items on the ground, I was worried I might land a beer bottle or other recently dropped garbage as I was jumping and twist my ankle. I survived. In the end everyone felt good with a draw to begin. Both sides earned their point. It was a bit disappointing because most of Mexico’s chances including the goal, were pretty simple mental errors. I guess their nerves affected a bit. I was surprised at how much Mexico exposed themselves to counter-attacks over and over again. So again, in the end it was fair. But the country was robbed of a moment it would have cherished forever. I do not know if a victory in another match could equal what this may have been. Everyone had waited years for their boys to represent on their home, the whole country was ready to explode. It feels like some of that has been released, any victory will be huge, but I don’t think it will match what almost was.

I said goodbye to the Chandlers this morning. I will always be extremely grateful to them, not only for taking care of me, but just as much so for allowing me to get to know them and just the encouragement I received from being part of their family for a week.

Today has been a failure so far. I went to a fan park in joburg to watch the S Korea Greece match, but the fan park was closed for the first match, they were repairing something. So I started to walked up to the other fan park by park station. I figured I’d stop into Park Station and check out some travel schemes for tomorrow. I ended up running into some other Americans, who were puzzled by the Nigeria jersey I was wearing, and the fact that I was up in the air about going to Rustenburg. I went back and forth for a bit, and I did want to see Rustenburg, so I figured this was a good opportunity. So I am currently sitting on a bus in traffic approaching the stadium. We went through some beautiful countryside to get here, but I have been thrown back in with a bunch of egocentric westerners. This bus has been on African time, which is fair, cause we are in Africa, but these two great world powers are not so understanding. Once again, I don’t think the British and US fans are open to being changed by Africa, I sense they are looking for ways to change it. But we should be fine. I hope I can find a place to stay, and then figure out how to get out of here tomorrow. This is the only host city without train service. Ima try to close my eyes for a couple minutes before game time, until tomorrow.

The rest of the bus ride was quite interesting. There was almost mutiny, I think there would have been if anyone else knew how to drive the bus. The bus driver made a couple wrong turns, it turned out he really didn’t know where the stadium was. He also tried to make a stop with us a running very late, I’m not sure why, but he was gently encouraged to continue. The passengers were pretty rude to the bus driver, but at the same time, he was pretty bad and we made not have made the game without their intervention.

The England-US match was pretty average from an entertainment standpoint, England played good football at times, but there wasn’t much imagination from other side. The US are fortunate to come away with a point. I’m not much of a fan, I don’t like when the other fans yell mean things. I have to post what I have, I will try and clean this up and post the pictures soon tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday morning

For now I am skipping Thursday, I went to the Apartheid Museum, I have started to reflect on it, but it will take me awile.

I am about to venture off toward Soccer City, the location of the opening match. Car horns and vuvuzelas have been blowing since the sun came up.

Now for Feffer's match predictions:

South Africa and Mexico is very interesting. Mexico seems to be in top form and I feel would be a tough match for anyone. South Africa is going to play the best match of their lives today. With the support they have, they will play far beyond their ability, and they're a decent side to begin with, also playing well right now. Logically I want to say they will draw 1-1, with SA scoring a first half goal with the lift of the moment, and Mexico equalizing later, wearing Bafana down with their talent and experience. I dream though of a late Bafana winner to give this nation a memory to keep forever.

France and Uruguay will play tonight, the first of many in the series of heart vs. talent. Few teams can match the talent of France, but they still havn't themselves post Zhidane. If they don't figure out how to dig deep and play with each other, they will see an early exit. Heart wins this match, Uruguay 1-0.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday 9 June

Today I started in Sandton City, a suburb of Joburg. My understanding of Sandton is after the Apartheid, many businesses moved outside of the Joburg central business district. Sandton has very nice restaurants, shops, hotels and business parks. Today all of South Africa was to show their support of Bafana Bafana approximately during lunch time. Sandton was the center of all this with the team riding through the city on a double decker bus. Every inch of Joburg had people blowing vuvuzela, honking horns and celebrating their team. I will try to attach a video of one brief pocket, I dont think I got any sound. We’ll see if it works.

video

I was wearing a Bafana jersey for the days festivities. I crossed paths with a few Argentine fans. One approached me enthusiastically repeating “Bafana Bafana, Bafana Bafana.” I speak no spanish, he spoke no english, so we could’nt talk about much. I tried to tell him that I was in fact an American just jumping on the bandwagon, but it didn’t get through. He continued on to communicate that Argentina and Bafana are best of friends, perhaps from the same blood lines, and then implied that we should trade jerseys. He was wearing a tank top version of an Argentina jersey. Although I slightly preferred my shirt, I couldn’t refuse the offer, perhaps subconsciously attaching it to swapping jerseys after a world cup match. The cut off sleeves were nice in the sun all day, but I was no longer representing the in-fashion side.

I took a couple breaks in the festivities to catch museums. I first went to the Johannesburg Art Museum. It was lovely, it had regional art, some of which gave a bit of history. It had an exhibition about Cuba’s struggle for freedom from Spain. They compared Cuba’s struggle with SA, putting it in a positive light. This was refreshing, as I have hardly learned a positive thing about Cuba in my US-centric education. And then, there it was. Two rooms, 12 screens, showing different perspectives on the last world cup final between France and Italy. Here are a few examples, there was a screen committed to each of the following:
The normal match
A dot representing each player to show the movement of both teams
Lines representing movements of the players’
Cannavaro
Zhidane
Animated Zhidane
The guy who says what camera should be shown
Two seemingly intelligent fellows just talking about the match
The outside of the stadium
Security cameras inside the stadium

There were a couple others as well. I spent a long time watching the dots. The back lines almost never get more than 30 meters apart. I also spent a bit watching Zhidane, he is definitely brilliant, but very comfortable. He did lots of standing. I may have stayed the entire day, but I am still disgusted that Italy won that match, they must be the least innovative/dynamic team in the world. They have as much talent as anyone, yet they insist on playing a bland counter attacking style.

I also went to the Africana Museum in Newtown. It was interesting, I was a bit burnt out at that point, but I learned a bit about Ghandi’s time in Joburg, which was cool. I always enjoy learning of people’s development. More on that to come.
Overall, the energy in the streets was the main interest of the day. The blowing and honking was constant. At one point about 40 construction workers were playing with a soccer ball in busy downtown streets. A police car patiently waited until the game drifted out of his way. There is no doubt this country is in solidarity behind their team, but what lasting impacts will this tournament have. Last night we spoke of 9/11, and how it brought NYC together, and our country. What lasting impact has that unity had? Completely different circumstances, but what long-term impact can an event achieve? I guess the answer varies greatly depending on the event, we’ll see. That’s all for today.

Today started with Wendy taking me to meet a missionary couple working in the townships north of Johannesburg. It was great to see and learn about their work, progress, and vision in a place with innumerable challenges. They have started a preschool that they hope can be a model as they look to establish similar facilities. All the teachers in the preschool are southern Africans (some are from Zimbabwe). They also support area churches, with an emphasis on strengthening leadership. I appreciate that they are looking to provide resources for South Africans to make their communities better.

Wendy then dropped off at a local stadium to watch a warm-up match between Portugal and Mozambique. It was sold out, so I walked around the stadium for a bit, then went on a mission to find free wireless. This was very difficult. The majority of coffee shops and other “hot spots” are through a nationwide server that requires a subscription. After about an hour of opening my computer in different places, I was finally able to connect. I bought my first vuvuzela while I was at the stadium, and quickly learned that it takes a bit of skill to blow. I am pretty bad at it. When you walk around with it, everyone wants you to blow it, this has been a serious embarrassment for me. Everyone here knows how, so they are shocked to hear such a pathetic vuvuzela sound. Some people cringe then smile and try to encourage me, others just laugh at me and walk away.

Before I came home I stopped at a flower stand. They had flowers there that I didn’t existed. I was quite excited, I eventually admitted that I was from the US after many circles around the shop.

We had dinner with Wendy’s brother Andrew, and two of his kids Matthew and Kellen. They are lots of fun. This may come as a bit of a surprise, but we talked lots about football. I hope to bump into them again before I head out.

Monday Addition

One more brief story from Monday, I was coaxed into a barbers chair while walking through Joburg. It was a bad idea, he left me with only a mustache. I took one picture, I meant to take a better one before I shaved, but I didn’t get around to it. Oh well, er it go.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Monday, June 7

Before I start describing my adventures, I need to give a huge shout to my hosts in Johannesburg. I am staying with the most beautiful family in South Africa, the Chandler family. Mark and Wendy, along with their daughters Laura and Melissa have been so very gracious to me as I get my feet under me.

Sunday we started the day at church. The Chandlers attend a very warm Anglican Church near their home. I enjoyed the service. We then went to a large park/gardens area in the mountains outside of joburg. This was probably the best Sunday afternoon ever. We had a picnic, dozed off for a bit while listening to a South African choir. We walked through the gardens (South Africa is known for its huge variety of beautiful flowers) up to the base of a waterfall, then up the mountain to the top of the fall where we caught a glimpse of the black eagle. We returned to listen to the choir a bit longer then headed home for dinner and Pictionary.

Today was my first day wandering, but with some purpose. I had to get a phone and and try to learn about getting around Joburg. It must be one the least tourist friendly cities in the world. The only way to find out how to get somewhere is to ask each time, there are no printed materials for any buses or trains.

So anyway, I started at a bus station at which I was told different things by many people of how to get in to town. Eventually, I was pointed towards a larger street to catch a bus or a public taxi. Public taxis are VW bus-like vans that fit about 15 people. They have regular routes like a bus and can be hailed like a taxi, different hand signals are used to let taxi drivers know where you want to go, so they will stop and pick you up if your signal matches their route. The buses are like anywhere else, but again, you have to know what bus to take, the only way to really get information about a bus is to ask someone.

At the main road there was a joburg tourist info center. I was very excited to see this, but all I got from it was a placemat map of the Central Business District. I decided to walk down the road a bit before catching a public taxi. When I was ready to try for a taxi, a man in a small truck hailed me, cut off a couple cars and picked me up. His name is Walter, he is a messenger, he noticed when he drove up the road, and was perplexed as to why I was still walking when he was coming back towards town. We had a nice chat, he is very excited about Bafana Bafana, as am I. While we were at a red light, a policeman approached us to inquire why Walter had stopped at the red light. As Walter began to answer “because it was red”, the policeman interrupted with another line of questions to figure out why a white man was in the car with a black man. It was very nice, it felt just like home. My first stop was park station, the main train station, to learn about how the trains run. Walter insisted he drop me right in front of the main entrance “to make the best impression for his country.” Thanks Walter.

At park station, I hoped to get schedules and maps of trains. This failed. They do not have such things to give out. I got my cell phone activated along with a couple other tasks, then went to Wimpy’s for a late breakfast. Wimpy’s is a South African fast food spot with a pretty extensive menu, perhaps in the Denny’s/kings/EatnPark genre with a bit quicker service. I tried to ask my waiter what he likes to eat/recommends. He didn’t understand so I clarified, “What would you get if you were ordering.” Still perplexed, he pointed to one of the more expensive meals on the menu, I told him I’d have that, and he put in the order. He returned a moment later to clarify that I was buying him breakfast as well...he thought I was literally asking him what he wanted. So my cost of breakfast quickly doubled, but I made a new friend. He asked if he could keep the receipt, I guess as a keepsake.

I left Park Station to walk around a bit. There were street vendors surrounding the area. I was excited to find jerseys being sold for about $20. I ended up buying 4, two for other people, I felt pleased with my restraint.

My next mission was to stop at the bus information center in Ghandi square, fairly close to park station. I spoke with a couple people along the way. I asked for a map at the bus station, the man said he was going to pick some up right then, and he’d be back in about an hour. I wandered for an hour, in the end he only had World Cup maps that showed only how to get to and from the stadiums. I at least got a timetable and the intersection to wait at for my bus to return home.

I then wandered up towards a close by area called Newtown, I will have to tell you about it later because I got distracted by the South African Breweries (SAB) Museum. I went through the hour and half tour of the history beer worldwide then South Africa, then how beer is made. It was a bit overdone at times, but well worth it as we got a sample, the glass we drank the sample from, then two full glasses at the end, all included in the tour cost of $4. I shared the drinks at the end with a couple Australian lads here to support the socceroos and their tour guide. As we were debating the strengths and weaknesses of different teams, the chariots of fire theme song came on. It’s hard to explain, but it was a bit of an emotional moment for me.

It was now time to return home. I found the proper intersection after a couple more small distractions, then stood at the wrong corner at that intersection a couple times before eventually getting on my bus. The day ended well with another lovely meal with the Chandlers and an evening game of Outburst.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Intro post

So this is going to be a ridiculously long post. This will be very unusual. I will mostly discuss my interactions with South Africa, but in this post I will attempt to establish where I am coming from. I don’t necessarily expect my posts to be read, but it feels like good accountability to actually keep a journal. Already I have had numerous sights, sounds, and conversations to process. I wish I could process them all through his medium, but it would be way too much. I would like to start by discussing what I might accomplish on this trip.

My plan is to spend this time during the world cup traveling around South Africa. I don’t know how I will manage to get around, but I’ma try. I may have to learn how to ride a motorcycle, but don’t tell my mom. After the tournament is over, I plan to travel over ground about 1800 miles up to Nairobi, where I will fly back to the states from in early August.

There are a few major questions I would like to explore. The first is, how do we develop people? One of the first things I learned out of college is there is hardly an ounce of randomness in anyone. Every thought, action, behavior, etc.. is learned from somewhere. Starting at a child’s birth, those around that child determine who they will become. I think we need to be much more intentional in developing every aspect of a child. To do this, we need to figure what we want to them to look like. Values? Skills? Education? Faith? Relationships? The list of considerations goes on forever. Then how do we get them there. Modeling? Discussion? Experiences? Failures? Direction? Structure? Freedom? Of course there is no correct answer, but it feels like there are some dangerous trends in the way young people are being developed. I think this is partly because of the lack of being intentional, but also some questionable priorities. Whether or not a child is intelligent, athletic, attractive, successful, respected, are emphasized over honest, disciplined, caring, dependable, respectful. In other words, what they do is blurred with who they are. In my young observations, the latter has a great deal more to do with our quality of life than the former. Enough of that for now, on to the next idea.

The questions I have been playing with much of this year deal with truth. What is true and how do we know? I know, this basically gets down to the meaning of life and after a few people have tried to figure it out already, we still don’t have a great answer. That still doesn’t change the importance of the question. How can we determine what we do without knowing why? I am very young in this question and hopefully won’t butcher philosophy in discussing it.

So here is my current sticking point in my search for truth. Existentialism and pluralism seem to be the dominating philosophies of our day. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel their pull. With the exposure we have to different philosophies, beliefs, religions and cultures, how can we possibly say that anything is right or wrong? It feels like we are disrespecting others and their experiences. The problem is we have no way then of establishing right and wrong of everything is acceptable. I have to believe there are principles that must be upheld. Society will fall apart without them. But when every culture, religion and philosophy is accepted, there are no principles. You can say some things are common sense, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t rape, be kind, love each other. It doesn’t work. Without absolute truth, without an answer to why we do things, the what is left up to individuals. Individuals develop their values based on their culture, beliefs and experiences. In our age of understanding and exchanging of ideas, murder, theft, rape, greed, corruption and hatred are just as prevalent as any other time in our worlds history. Accepting everything will never improve anything, using our own judgement to accept some things is foolishness and equally ineffective, meanwhile, I am on a continent that is irreparably scarred from one group insisting they knew what was right. Sigh. I don’t know the answer, but I do believe that we need truth. Now for some hope.

In the past year I have found one statement that I feel I can prove to be true through observation. RELATIONSHIP IS IMPORTANT. Many people know this is down through the core of their beings. I guess I am learning it a bit late. Our quality of life has a direct positive correlation with our quality of relationship. When Americans go to impoverished nations to give they always do more receiving. They experience a foreign joy from people may only have relationship. They don’t have careers and meetings and material possessions that foster shallow and strained relationships.

This idea affirms my belief in God. The Judeo-Christian creator establishes the importance of relationship from day 1, or I guess day 6 when He created man. Man was created in God’s image, to walk with God, to communicate with Him, to return His love….to be in relationship with Him. These themes of relationship cannot be ignored in the Bible….Gods top priority is relationship and He created us the same way. If we were not created, if we were random, if our existence was based solely on our ability to survive, wouldn’t power and success and wealth and pleasure be the biggest factors in our quality of life? I don’t intend to discount evolution, I believe God created a dynamic world, but I cannot believe that a world with such depth and intricacy is random.

Along with these ideas, I will comment on football(soccer). I hope to keep comments on this topic to a reasonable length, but as most football fans in America, I am deprived of enough outlets. Hopefully I will have people to talk to here so I won’t waste as much of your time. Well, at 1am eastern time, the sun is up in Joburg, Im out.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

on my way

I am sitting in the airport in London waiting to get on my 12 hour flight to Johannesburg. I am excited. I think I could live on a british airways flight. They fed me almost every hour, they even put the muffin in front me when I was sleeping so it was there when I woke up. There are so many things to watch. I have a little tv to myself. At first this didnt feel right, I felt there was value in sharing the experience of an inflight movie with my fellow passengers; laughing together, crying together, falling asleep together, whichever might be most appropriate. But the choices are just too good!! New movies, classics, documentaries, sports highlights, tv shows, someone should check if we can get the british airways channel in the states. On the way over I watched an aerial tour of south africa and the history of the England-Germany football rivalry. I am trying to get everything I have to do out of the way now so I can watch the tv as much as possible on my 10 hour flight to joburg.

I will work on my big introductory post on my flight....maybe.....depending on what I find to watch. I have lots of ideas that I hope to pursue on my trip, so I will try to lay them out at the beginning. Until then.