I typed my Fri night entry at a fan park in Bloemfontein. After I finished, I walked up to the main area where there was a dj and a few scattered South Africans. At the fan parks, they often have performances before/after/in-between matches. I think most of the 15 people standing around were scheduled to perform after the last match. All the performances were cancelled due to the small crowds. South Africans do not like the cold. That is one of the flaws in this WC. They have all these great fan parks, but no one comes to them because it is too cold. During the days it feels in the 60’s and sunny. At night it feel’s in the 40’s. The sun goes down during the 4pm match (10am match there), so people are not really outside during the 4 and 830 games. All the fan parks advertise they will show all 64 matches. On a few occasions I have stood outside a closed fan park reading a sign that makes this claim. I guess they close when there are almost empty. Anyway, before I came I imagined watching most of the matches in fan parks with enthusiastic crowds, which I’ve done a couple times, but really only for South Africa’s matches. Despite being able to count everyone in a few seconds, I enjoyed this fan park. I had a conversation with a saxophonists, a comedian (who were both slated to perform later) and their friend. They left when their performances were cancelled. Then I chatted for a longer time with a couple university students. Both crews spoke about their challenges in SA and their perceptions of the US. It was the first time I had a conversation with substance for awhile. Everyone here wants to come to the US. Some for jobs/education, some to connect with the movies and music they know.
I wanted Chile to top the group so Spain and Brazil would play. Some are pleased they avoided each other with the hope they will meet in the final. It would be a good final, but its seems a long shot that both will make it with the quality of teams in their way. I would accepted one getting knocked early to see them play each other. I was glad Switzerland folded, they are among the least interesting teams to watch. Sorry Swiss Mike.
The matches ended and my university friends walked me the short distance to the bus station. The bus ride was a bit rough. There are a 4 or 5 major bus lines in SA. The one I have been using has two arms, Translux and City to City. Translux is the “luxury” line. There are two large comfortable seats on each side of the aisle, they play movies, it’s really quite nice. City to City has a third seat on one side, making everything quite tight, the seats are much less comfortable. I hadn’t thought to ask which bus my ticket was for because I had been given translux for all my longer trips. I noticed in the station that this ticket said City to City. A translux bus came at the same time mine was scheduled for, headed to my destination, East London. Just in case, I went out and showed my ticket, and was promptly sent back. A city to city bus came about 10 minutes later for East London, I also got rejected, there was one more on the way. So my bus came at about 12:30, 35 minutes late. This is the first bus that was late, I am impressed with how prompt the buses have been. I was glad to get on the bus, I was excited to sleep. The bus was already packed, it had started in Pretoria. I got an aisle seat close to the front, my seat mate took up a bit more than her seat, which was fine, but there wasn’t enough leg room. Luckily the back of the seats are soft so I could press my knees into the seat in front of me. I couldn’t find a comfortable way to rest my head, so I was in and out of sleep. I tried to lean my seat back, which actually moves the bottom part of the seat forward creating the slight recline in the back part. This was impossible because my knees couldn’t press into the back of the seat in front of me any further. Eventually the seat right behind the driver opened up as a passenger got off the bus with about 3 hours left in the trip. I hopped in that seat hoping that I could sleep a bit with the window to lean on. The bus driver got back on the bus with two cups of coffee. He handed one back to me and said something I didn’t understand. He then passed back 3 packets of sugar and a stirrer. I figured my job was to put the sugar in for him so he could keep driving. This was a disaster, as the cup was full and the ride was not smooth. I ended up with fair amounts of sugar and coffee on my sleeping bag which I was using as a blanket. After I got the sugar in I could not find the stirrer, so I gave it a soft shake and handed it back to the driver. He waived it off, saying it was for me. If I had known this I surely would not have removed the lid to put in sugar. There were two drivers on the bus, one sleeps in a compartment in the back while the other drives. I think the second cup was for the other driver, but he did not wake up at this stop. So I drank the coffee, not knowing what else to do with it, and not knowing what impact this might have on my ambitions of falling asleep. The sun was starting to come up as we wound through beautiful hilly landscape. I was glad I was awake for those couple hours, I did sleep for maybe an hour before we arrived.
I arrived in East London at about 9:30. I went to my hostel, showered, and figured I would see a bit of the town before falling asleep for the entire day. I ended up walking the town for the entire day. There wasn’t much to see in East London, I spose it’s a nice beach vacation destination. The national rugby team was playing in town that afternoon, so I made it to the stadium as the game was about to begin. I asked around about tickets and learned it was sold out. There were a couple scalpers asking for more than I wanted to pay. I spoke to a couple guys who were trying to buy tickets. They introduced me to the man who I will refer to as the Big Scheme. (BS) It was arranged I would pay r200 for my entrance once we were inside. BS simply said “trust” and away we went. He gave me half of a ticket, they tear the tickets when you enter. We had not entered. There were four others in our crew. He explained something to the people where they take the tickets and we walked through. He explained something to these people at a fence which was not the regular entrance. They opened the gate, and we went through. The next stop was more difficult. It was a turnstile with security. He pushed me through the turnstile as he was arguing, I gave my half ticket to one of the guards as I went through. While still arguing, he went to the next level of security, I think to find someone he knows. Former rugby players make up the next level of security. After a bit of talking with these large men, someone he knew came out and said something. A few minutes later, we were allowed to continue. Our crew of six then walked up the steps towards the corporate boxes. The security guard protecting these boxes tried to stop us, but he had no luck. He walked backwards up the steps trying to explain to the big scheme that he had to have a ticket, but BS was explaining to him why we should be there….I think. Eventually the guard gave up. BS and his friend then began to walk into boxes. The inhabitants of the boxes were surprised each time and promptly asked them to leave. We were forced to go back downstairs and enter the stadium where the regular folks enter. Now this is a very small stadium, Probably as big as a small college stadium, I would guess 10 to 15 thousand seats, mostly bleachers. We walked around to the main bleachers. BS went right to the best seats, right at midfield, and asked the ushers to arrange something for us. The bleachers were absolutely packed, and despite persistence from the BS, we were eventually escorted to the only section with a few empty seats behind the one end zone. I was given the seat closest to the field, with BS and the rest of the crew a couple rows behind. I sat next to a very nice university student, we talked during the game. He was good company. After about 15 minutes, BS came and took me to get food, because, the lines would be too long during halftime. He didn’t really ask me, just told me to come, so I went. On the way I told him I really didn’t need anything, I had eaten recently, but in part I thought this was the front so I could pay him in a way that wasn’t too awkward. I eventually agreed that I might enjoy a sausage. BS got one as well, I offered to pay for them , after a couple minutes we were up to 5 sausages and a porkchop. While in line I brought up the ticket. Eventually he said not to worry about the ticket, just pay for the food. I thought this was fair, since I never had a ticket, he just talked us in. I couldn’t have done that, so I was more than happy to buy some sausages. The game was cool, rugby players are big. The rugby team is nicknamed the spring bokkes, and the fans are quite passionate. Rugby and cricket are probably the top sports in SA, with football just behind. Most South Africans will tell you that Rugby is the white sport and football is the black sport. After the match I couldn’t find BS to thank him and get his contact info, I was sad about this. I had agreed to come to church with my the student I sat next to, so I would catch him tomorrow.
It was about 4:45 when I was leaving the stadium, I wanted to get back to the hostel before it got dark. East London is on a bend on the coast, I went to the stadium straight from my earlier wanderings, so I used my impeccable sense of directions to find the best route back to the hostel. A few minor miscalculations probly added about 20 minutes to my walk, but I got there.
I finally had a short nap, then it was time to watch US-Ghana. I went to a rather nice restaurant on the beach. Despite my imperfect appearance, they accepted me, they knew why I was there. I ordered butternut soup and peri peri chicken livers. I am usually open to eating most things, but these inner meats are quite new to me. I had heard someone saying how good peri peri chicken livers were, so I figured this was my opportunity. I can’t say I downed them like a champ, I finished them all, but the texture started to bother me towards the end. The sauce was good though.
The match was good. The US started slow, but they really should have won the match in the second half. I was disappointed in Ghana, with a one goal lead they should have controlled the tempo, slowed things down, possessed as much as possible. They looked uneasy, just clearing the ball and allowing the US to attack hoping they wouldn’t score. They were fortunate to get to extra time. Gyan’s goal was fantastic, he had a small window and he did everything right. Then Ghana did what they should have done in the second half, they knocked the ball around and ran out the clock. I am proud of the US in this tournament, they brought their best and with a little better play in both boxes they would still be playing. If they get a truly dangerous attacking player they could be the real deal. Maybe if Jozy keeps developing and Freddy Adu figures himself out to bring some creativity, the US can be a threat in Brazil.
I woke up a bit on Sunday, my friend from the rugby match told me church started at 8:30. I woke up at 8:30. I packed my stuff and hurried out of the hostel. He told me his church was on the main street in town…I walked the length of it and failed to find the church. Instead I went to a Baptist church when I got tired of looking. After the service I learned I had passed it, it was a few blocks back. I spoke to the Pastor for a bit, it is an older church and he is trying motivate the troops. He preached from scripture then pushed the vision statement for the second half of the sermon. Attached to the church is a community center which seems pretty cool. They do a bit of everything, it seems they try to meet all the communities needs. I am interested in the idea of community service groups specializing and collaborating with other groups to meet other needs, that’s for another time.
I decided to take minibuses(public taxis) along the coast to Capetown. My first stop was Port Elizabeth. It was about a 3 hour ride on the minibus to a taxi rank just outside the city, then another 15 minutes into town. PE is a nice place, large port, nice beaches, hills rising away from the coast. I didn’t really connect though. On Monday I walked all around the town and the waterfront. While I was walking along the beach area, a man selling crafts complimented my Nigeria jersey. I thanked him and shared my appreciation for the super eagles. He then offered me anything craft item on his blanket in exchange for the shirt. I presented two problems to him. The first being it is hard for me to carry things because of long journey and small capacity. He showed me some smaller items that were made of very strong wood, and once wrapped in bubble wrap and tape, would be indestructible. I then asked him what I might wear if I gave him my shirt. A couple minutes later I left wearing a small red tank top that didn’t quite cover my torso and a small wooden hippo well-secured in bubble wrap. I think I should get a Brazil jersey, they are extremely popular here, and see what I can get for it. Or maybe I can make an offer for someone else’s shirt. I now had the problem of being far from my hostel with a shirt that probably offended some who saw me. On top of the appearance, I didn’t smell too nice. I am out of deodorant, and for past couple days I have been rubbing plastic on my armpits hope I get some remnants of what was once on the stick. My first chore of the day was to get a new stick, but I was too impatient to wait in the lines at the store I stopped at. For this, I apologize to the greater P.E. community. But there was nothing I could do, Slovakia and the Netherlands were starting in about 20 minutes and I had to find a place to watch. There was an amphitheater next to the casino on the boardwalk, I got there just before kickoff. When the dutch scored their first half goal, music started playing and four girls in “sexy” outfits got up danced for about a minute. Frightened of what might happen at halftime, I left as soon as the first half ended to head back to my hostel. I walked farther than I thought, it took the taxi about 20 minutes to get me back, I missed a bit of the second half, but it seemed a rather dull match.
After a brief rest, I headed towards the fan fest in PE for the night match. Along the way I grabbed a bite to eat, spent an hour online, and found a store without a line to buy deodorant and chocolate cake. I was excited about the Brazil-Chile match. Chile had looked dangerous in all it’s matches, they were obviously vulnerable with their attacking style, but I thought it would be closer than it was. Chile looked scared most of the first half, like they were playing a team they couldn’t beat. If they had played with the same swag they came at Spain with, I think it woulda been more of a match. Oh well. I went out for a drink with a few lads at my hostel from England, Australia and Quebec respectively. I ordered a beer, it turned out they only 750ml bottles. It was good conversation, we talked about football. I was bored with PE, so it was time to move on.