Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup Final and Going Home

The end is finally upon us - we will be departing Johannesburg in exactly 5 hours on a non-stop flight to Atlanta. Last night we each witnessed our very first World Cup Final match in person, as Spain defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.

It was a surreal experience. We arrived about 5 hours early to the game to avoid any hiccups, and cruised around the stadium until it was time for the closing ceremony. I'm sure the ceremony looked a lot better on TV, because where we were sitting, it wasnt great and you couldn't hear much.

Unfortunately we were all sitting separately, having bought tickets on our own accord, but we each made friends with the people we sat next to. I had a Moroccan on my left and two Dutch fans on my right. The Dutch guy next to me had just flown in that morning from Thailand to see his team play in the Final.

As a side note, we also met a USD alum in the stadium before the game, just because we were wearing our USA gear. Small world, and a picture that needs to go in the alumni magazine!

It wasnt the classic we had been hoping for, because the Netherlands clearly thought their only chance at winning was to foul the Spanish midfielders each time they touched the ball. Eventually this backfired and Heitinga was sent off just a little bit before Iniesta put home the winner.

Nonetheless it was quite the spectacle. Being there is totally different from watching at home - we got no commentary, no replays, just the pure sport for 120 minutes.

So we close the chapter on our month-long journey to South Africa, with wonderful memories and solidified friendships. See you in Brazil!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cape Town / Durban / The Final Weekend

Monday we went up to Table Mountain in Cape Town pretty early, about 9am, but the visibility was poor as a thick cloud cover was over the city. So at the suggestion of the hostel, we hopped on the train and headed south about a half hour to a place called Kalk Bay, and ate at a delicious seafood restaurant right on the water.

Kalk Bay is a heavy fishing town, and people were buying boxes of lobster as soon as they were loaded onto the dock. We took the train back up to Cape Town in the afternoon, and since the weather had cleared up, we decided to make another trip to Table Mountain.

The line at this point was quite long, and we were concerned that they wouldn't allow us to go up since 5pm was the cutoff time. But we were one of the last groups to make it, and we took the lift up to the top of the mountain. Although it was somewhat cloudy, we were able to get some great views and pictures of Cape Town from the peak. We also got a nice sunset on the Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday we spent the first part of the day in Clifton, an area about 15 minutes southwest of Cape Town (on the road to Cape Point). We were all pretty tired from having to wake up early and check out of the hostel, so after we attempted to get Bill to fall in the ocean while climbing rocks, we just laid around in the grass and in the car. Eventually we headed over to the Green Point area, where the stadium is. Had lunch and got to the game way too early. This was the first game where we knew we wouldnt be able to sit together, but it wasnt too bad. Ben had great seats right off midfield just 2 rows up, I was in the 2nd of 3 decks behind the goal, and Bill and Ron were just a row apart in the upper level at midfield. It was one of the better games of the tournament, with possibly the goal of the tournament by Van Bronckhorst.

We left with 5 minutes to play, so we didn't see Uruguay's last goal, but we had more important things to do, like catch a 2:25am flight to Durban.

In Durban we were pretty low key, our lodge was in Umdloti Beach (pronounced um-shlo-tee), about 20 minutes north of the city, but only 1 exit from the airport. We rested on Wednesday (it was cloudy), but we did get in the Indian Ocean for a little bit. Thursday we did much of the same, laid on the beach, ate good food, and Friday... yep pretty much the same.

Got up really early today (5am) to catch our flight to Johannesburg. We are back at the Humphrey's and are all very excited about the Final tomorrow between two excellent teams. My prediction? 2-0 a la Furia Roja.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Mother City

The four of us took off for Cape Town at 7am on Saturday, and a 2-hour flight later we were in the Mother City. Saturday was a relaxing day for us, as we were all tired and Ben was under the weather. So we had a big Mexican lunch (it wasn't half bad), and watched the two quarterfinals.

Today we split up, Ben and Bill went shark diving (there was only room in the group for 2), while Ron and I headed down to Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope, which is the southwestern-most point on the African continent.

Ben and Bill said they enjoyed themselves, but the water was quite cold. They were able to see two sharks, and returned with all limbs attached. Ron and I had a great day driving down to Cape Point, a little over an hour south of Cape Town. Stopped off for a seafood lunch on our way there. It really was picturesque and the weather today was magnificent.

Photos can be found towards the back of this album:

Tomorrow ... Table Mountain.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The quiet days

Now that almost everyone has left, it seems as though Johannesburg is a bit quieter. The group stages are over so the majority of foreign fans have returned home and back to their jobs. Our group is down to 5 people, and will be just 4 people tomorrow when Andy leaves.

Ben, Ron, Bill, and I are passing the time until we fly to Cape Town early Saturday morning. We are staying at some apartments in Auckland Park, which is in west Johannesburg (we were previously in east Jozi). The accomodations are nice, but we prefer where we were. The lack of internet in the apartments and some poor management is not helping. And the area is a little different.

Nonetheless it is good to get a different feel of the city. Today we picked up Bill's Jabulani ball at the Bedfordview House where we had left a few things, and we took it back to Auckland Park where we played with a group of local guys on a nearby field. There were quite a few quality players out there, and if they had shoes on theyd probably be a little better. The game ended abruptly, however, when one of the locals accidentally kicked the Jabulani over an electric fence and into someone's backyard. We'll try and recover it tomorrow...

We are all about Joburg-ed out, and looking forward to next week and plenty of beach time!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 15 & 16: Apartheid Museum and Goodbyes

Yesterday Colin, Cammy, Ben, Bill, Mitch, and I headed out to the Apartheid Museum.  After a very scenic route, we finally made it there.  The first thing we saw was Mark Schwarzer, the goalie for Fulham FC and the Australian National Team.  Colin was about as giddy as a 12 year old school girl. 

The museum was very moving, and it was difficult just to see what went on here such a short time ago.  I was very happy that we went to Lillysleaf, District 6, and through Soweto first as it really enhanced our experience at the Apartheid Museum. Some of the most moving exhibits were the execution room which had nooses hanging from the ceiling for every political execution and the wall of Apartheid laws as well.  We left from there in order to make it back for the Brazil Portugal game, which amounted to nothing.

From there, Colin, Andy, Ron, and Bill headed out to the Spain v. Chile game which Colin can tell you about later.  Cammy, Ben, Allie, Mitch and I headed to our favorite restaurant Adega for one last meal.  Their chicken pasta is amazing.

We came back, met up with the rest of the crew, and then Cammy, Colin, Bill, Ron and I headed out to Colin's favorite spot Stones for one last celebration before Cammy and I have to leave today.

Today, we woke up, had another great breakfast prepared by Lu, and we headed to the mall for some last minute items.  Ben, Mitch and I ended up kicking the ball around and sharing old soccer stories from the glory days for a while.  Then everyone besides Mitch, Cammy, and myself left for Rustenburg for the big USA Ghana round of 16 game.

This trip has been absolutely amazing, and the biggest thanks has to go to Colin for planning the majority of it.  These have probably been some of the best weeks of my life, and I can't wait to come back to South Africa some day.  I'm going to have to start saving for Brazil 2014 tomorrow.  The people here at Lampstand Lodge have been great, and have really made this a memorable stay, so a thank you to Lu, Dave, Roger, Vaughn, Lance, Shadow, and Simba for everything the last two weeks.  Finally, gotta thank the whole crew for getting wild at all the games and knowing how to have a good time, so thank you to Cammy, Colin, Mitch, Pat, Preston, Andy, Ron, Wes, Ben, Bill, and Allie.  I love you guys, and I'll see you in Brazil!

The blog is all Colin's now.  Ryan signing off from JoBurg.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 14: Soweto

Today, we recovered from the madness that was last night.  We regrouped early at 9 AM and headed out on a tour of the South West Township (Soweto).  It was amazing to see the other side of the city.  We've been in pretty nice facilities and areas this entire time, but we got to see the poverty sticken area of JoBurg. 

We saw a lot and learned a lot.  The biggest hospital in the Southern Hemisphere is actually in Soweto, and many international medical students come there to learn as they are exposed to almost everything.  Right next to the hospital, we were able to talk to a healer who operated our of a small storage closet with various roots and potions intended to heal various cases.  She even showed us a powder called "waking the bull" which is their substitute for Viagra. 

We then were able to walk inside of Nelson Mandela's house that he lived in before and shortly after his prison term.  It was amazing to think I was in the same house that he once lived in.  Actually on that street in Soweto, Archibishop Tutu also lived there.  2 Nobel Peace Prize winners lived within a block of one another on the same street.  Wow.

We then went to another museum depicting the uprising of the Soweto area in 1976.  It was very moving.  The struggle that South Africans had to go through is tough to imagine, and only ended less than 20 years ago. 

We left from there and headed to the Orlando Towers.  It was here that Patrick, Cammy, Allie, Wes, and I bungee jumped 300 feet under the watchful eyes of Mitch and Ron.  Wes and I are terrified of heights.  I walked in to the check in station, and immediately walked out to join Mitch and Ron on the viewing deck.  After watching 3 other jumps and hearing Wes give me crap for walking away, I went back and got strapped up. 

We took a lift up the tower, where we were scared by the lift operator as he shut off the tiny lift.  When we got to the top, I immediately sat down and starred at only my shoes.  Of course, I would have to wait until everyone went and then be up there by myself before I was able to jump.

Patrick was first, and although he was shaking, didn't hesitate a minute and went over the ledge like a champ.  Cammy got a little freaked out, backed away, and then went again.  Kudos to her, I don't think if I backed up, I would have been able to force myself to go again.  Allie jumped off without a hitch.  As soon as Allie left, it was just Wes and I at the top, the two guys most afraid of heights.  To make matters worse, the pump up music they had going up there stopped, so we were forced to sit there in silence, both freaking out.  Wes walked down the bridge sooooooooooooooooo slowly.  You would of though he was in a wedding procession thinking "step, feet together, step, feet together."  He got over there and jumped off.

My turn.  So not only am I now up there by myself, but I'm just insanely jealous of the people on the ground.  I can here Wes yelling at me from the ground below.  I made my way to the jump platform.  The crew was very good.  They went through every check point 3 times to make sure everything was set to go.  It's no wonder why they haven't had an incident in 3 years.  I inched my way to the front and hurled myself over.  I didn't look down until I was actually in the air.  Scariest moment ever and I still can't believe I was able to do it, but I concerred my fear of heights just a little today.  I even got a "When the Yanks Go Marching In" chant while hanging upside down. 

Here are the photos:

Anyways, only two days left before I fly back.  I'll see you all soon.

- Ryan

Day 13: THE GAME

We all woke up from the previous night pretty tired.  However, we rallied and made sure we were ready for the crucial USA v Algeria game.  We needed a win to advance.

We drove up and made it to Pretoria, the site of the game, by noon.  When we got that we walked by the American Embassy and headed over to a bar that had been taken over by hundreds of Americans.  We hung out there for about 2.5 hours.  In the meantime, we sang, chanted, and drank with our fellow countrymen.  Bill even made a trip to the barber shop to get a mohawk, which was awesome.  I've never seen anything like that.  All I can say is whoever says Americans don't care about soccer, has to go to a game because it's not true.

We then marched over to the stadium with everyone, again singing and chanting.  We got to our seats.  Sitting with Colin and I were Allie, Cammy, Ben, Andy, Lance, Bill, Preston and Mitch.  We watched all game intently hoping for a bit of magic.  Soon, our focus turned into nerves.  Throughout the game, Ben, Mitch, Colin, and I kept looking at each other, unable to cheer.  We know the USA was supposed to advance, and every minute that passed was more and more nerve racking, especially when we could look into the suite behind us and hear that the score was 1-0 England in the other game.  We couldn't tie.

Just as we though the game was over and the game advanced into injury time, Tim Howard launched a fifty yard throw to set Landon on the break.  He passed it to Altidore, who crossed it to Dempsey for a shot that was initially saved by the keeper.  Donovan comes sprinting in and finishes it.  What came next, besides the greatest feeling of our lives, can only be described by the individuals I was able to see:

  • Mitch/Ben:  Mitch and Ben immediately dogpiled half our row jumping up and down screaming with Colin, Andy, and I.  Others may have been in there too but like I said, it was a blur.
  • Andy: Andy was part of said pile, then pulled away cursing loudly in celebration, and then switched jerseys with an Algerian fan.
  • Cammy:  Cammy, after a post celebration hug, moved up several rows to stand on the seats and hold up a sign, only to fall into the row behind her.  She got up like a champ and kept going.
  • Colin: Colin was in the original dogpile, then started sprinting up and down the steps.  He broke his camera in the madness, called someone, and started crying.  Never seen the kid so happy.
  • Myself:  I stood up on my seat as soon as the rebound came out so I avoided the brut force of Mitch and Ben.  I jumped on top at first, turned around to the South Africans in the suite behind me, and just jumped in there and started jumping around with them.  Ben soon joined me at the railing, where we were given Budweiser and a full glass of whiskey from the South Africans that we'd spend the next 30 minutes with.
It was EPIC.  Easily the biggest goal ever scored in American history.  First time we've ever won the group.  The Slovenians had already begun celebrating in the other stadium before we scored thinking they were through.

After the game, the US team stayed out on the field as almost every American in attendance was still in the stadium for another hour, yelling and screaming.  There was dancing, singing, hugging, and photographing going on everywhere.  There was a full blown mob just outside the stadium banging drums and signing.  Basically, it was the greatest party you'd every been to.  Absolutely amazing.  Nothing in American professional sports compares to this.  All I can say is, everyone needs to make it to a World Cup in their lifetime.  This game made this the most amazing trip I've ever been on.

Day 12: Lillysleaf

Tuesday, Cammy, Allie, and I went to Lillysleaf Museum.  Lillysleaf is the former secret headquarters to the ACN during Apartheid, including Nelson Mandela.  It was at this very farm that the leading members of the ACN were captured and arrested, sentenced to varying terms.

It was easily the coolest museum I've ever been to, filled with technology I haven't seen in the states.  The conference/dining room had a table in it which was basically touch screen and fully interactive.  The museum also featured one of the original safari trucks in which the ACN smuggled guns and weapons into South Africa.

After that, we came home and went to the Italian Club to watch South Africa beat France (AWESOME).  The place was filled with South Africans and everyone was pulling for Bafana Bafana.  They won, but sadly were unable to move to the knockout stage. 

At this point, we headed to a Portuguese restaurant called Adega.  The food was amazing, and we basically took over the restaurant with our loud American antics.  After that, we went to News Cafe with Wes, Ben, Bill, Cammy, and Colin.  Total gong show that ended with Bill somehow getting behind the bar, and us chanting "When the Yanks Go Marching In" after we closed the place.

All in all, a good day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Days 10-11: Burma, Cote d'Ivore v Brazil, Safari, Spain v Honduras

Alright, a lot to cover before I forget. 

Day 10: Burma Flea Market and The Big One

The day started off with stopping by the local flea market called "Burma World Shops" I believe.  After picking up all the small gifts for the fam, I splurged a little on myself and got the one souvenir I set out to get when I got here, a Djembe Drum.  For only R750 (about $100) I got a full size Djembe Drum.  Back in the states, these range from anywhere from $400 to $1,000. So pumped about it, and I'll probably start taking drum lessons when I get home so I can actually get use out of it and the congas/bongos I already have.

After finishing my schwarma at the market, we headed home and left early for Ivory Coast v. Brazil.  What a game.  Luis Fabiano is amazing in person, and seeing the likes of Kaka, Drogba, Toure, Robinho, and Maicon live ain't too shabby either.  It was my first true wow moment as I realized I was watching Brazil, the greatest international team ever, play live.  All I can say is wow.

Day 11: Safari and La Furia Roja

Today we woke up early, and after a great breakfast provided by our hosts, 7 of us set out on a mini safari with our tour guide, Joy.  As you can see from Colin's update, we saw a plethora of animals.  My personal highlights were seeing the rhinos that were 10 feet from us, literally petting a full grown cheetah named Eddie, and holding a baby white lion cub.  I'll post photos later, but easily one of the top non-soccer highlights of the trip.  Although all seven of us were crammed into a small SUV and Mitch fell asleep on me in the back big spoon style, it still was a great trip.

After that, we came home and got ready for Spain v. Honduras.  Spain is amazing.  Easily the most impressive team I've seen live so far.  The passes they put together are phenomenal, and the first David Villa goal rendered me speechless. 

Alright, that's it for now.  I'm not going to post any photos until I get back to the States so you'll see all the updates then.  Tomorrow, we'll explore JoBurg a little more and enjoy the games played tomorrow.  Last USA game is coming up Wednesday!

- Ryan

Safari ... Brazil v Ivory Coast...

A few days late, but nonetheless, Ron/Ben/Bill/Allie and I went on a mini safari last week to a northern section of Johannesburg. It is a private game reserve and is populated by rhinos, lions, hemboks, ostriches, all sorts of African animals. And baby lion cubs:

The rest of the group is enjoying that safari today, so I'm sure they'll have additional stories and photos.

On Sunday night, 10 of the group headed to the Brazil - Ivory Coast match at Soccer City, one of the marquee matchups of the Group of Death. 8 of us had tickets, but Mitch and I did not, and decided we would try and buy tickets from someone outside the stadium. We arrived there at 5pm (8:30pm kickoff), and there were definitely far more buyers than sellers. Many sellers were attempting to sell average tickets for double their price, not realizing that in a 90,000 seat stadium, there will be tickets available. Our patience paid off and around 7pm Mitch got the attention of two Englishmen that had spare Category 1 tickets. We paid just slightly under the face value of R1120 ($150ish) each and ended up with tickets 6 rows off the pitch. They were epic seats in a fantastic stadium - which will host the World Cup Final on July 11. Definitely worth the time and effort to score tickets. The game was not as close as we had hoped, but Brazil put on a show, reminding everyone that their talent is almost unparalleled.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 9: Newtown and Melville

Today we woke up and explored some of the communities within JoBurg.  First up was Newton.

Newtown's a previously poor neighborhood filled with crime and poverty that was revamped recently into a turist area.  First things first, I paid off the parking attendent in a restricted lot to let us park there for the day.  Every parking experience here starts with a bribe. 

We started out at the Market Theater and went to eat at Nikki's Oasis while we watched the first half of the Netherlands v. Japan game.  After that, we made our way over to the flea market.  I picked up a Djembe which is something I wanted to pick up while over here.   Cammy also picked up some items.

We then headed to the Museum of Africa which was very interesting.  We learned about Ghandi's time in South Africa, Gay and Lesbian history in Johannesburg, townships, and 5 grade level geology from Showrock Holmes.  We also saw a crazy art exhibit with sculptures literally carved out of bones.  Very creepy, but fascinating.

Next we headed over to the World of Beer, present by South African Brewries.  We went on a 90 minute tour of corny awesomeness.  Apparently 5 minutes of lightning video is essential in the beer making process.  It was awesome though.  We learned about South African beers and that the South African Brewing company actually owns a lot of major brands of beer that we drink in the states.  At the end of the tour, we ended up getting a couple of free drinks.

That was the end of Newtown.  Andy and I then spent the next 45 minutes trying out how to make a 5 minute drive.  After finally arriving in Melville, we went to the restaurant suggested in Lonely Planet called Loft.  Really good food.  I ended up having Springbock wrapped in bacon with potato and veggies.  Delicious. 

Melville looked really nice, and had we been up to the task we probably would have gone out there.  However, we were all pretty tired and headed home.

- Ryan

Days 7 & 8

 To tell you the truth, I don't remember too much what happened on Day 7.  I know Colin went to play with baby lions, but he'll have to tell you about that.  Day 8 however was epic.

We started the day out with a nice hearty breakfast prepared by Lu.  It was super good.  Then we got dressed and headed out in a 12 person van to Ellis Park, the historic site of South Africa's World Cup of Rugby Championship back in 1994 or 1995.  Along the way, we sang a chanted USA songs to the people on the street corners who were loving it.  Once we got to the stadium, we stood out side and got in a bit of a shouting match with some Slovenian fans.  We won, and I lost my voice later in the day because of it.

We went into the stadium which was awesome.  Now back in the states, lettered rows normally go up, row A being the first row and Z the last, so when we had row U, I thought we'd have good seats but be a bit of a ways up.  Well at Ellis Park they count down, so we were in the 8th row!  Amazing seats in a great soccer stadium.  We ended up sitting next to the same guys from our bus trip to Rustenberg, and we ended up taking some vuvuzela bongs (beer bongs, using vuvuzelas).  Let me tell you, not easy.

The game was crazy.  We all thought it was over when we went down 2-0, which made our celebrations in the second half all the more insane.  So much so, Mitch and Colin broke a chair in half basically.  When we thought we had the 3rd game winner, I'm pretty sure I tore my calf in half .  Too bad we found out that the goal would be called back (and after seeing the replay, what a crap call!).  Oh well, it just means that the 3rd game matters now which is all we could have asked for.  Win and we are in!

After the game, we were supposed to meet back at the same spot the van dropped us off.  Along the way there were large school groups dancing and singing in the streets.  Cammy and I gave them a USA flag, Cammy's scarf, and my gloves and they kept doing USA cheers.  It was pretty cool.  What wasn't cool is that we couldn't find Kris.  We went home hoping that he caught a cab there after waiting for an hour but no such luck.  After waiting for 3-4 hours, Preston and I started calling the cops and the embassy to start putting some kind of search in motion or at least getting stuff on record.  Right as we finish doing all that, Kris shows up at the house hammered after hitchhiking home. 

We then took a cab out to Stones, which is a giant club in Edenvale with multiple rooms and DJs.  We ended up seeing a very popular South African rapper, Jack Parrow, there with a cult following.  He was ok, kinda, but the people there absolutely loved him.  As a Californian, I was struggling with the smoking indoors thing.  It was a non smoking facility, which apparently meant nothing to the people inside.  As Cammy point to a no smoking sign, a guy literally lit up right under it. 

Mitch, Andy, Cammy, and I decided to leave early. We were told to walk across the street to the BP station to catch a cab.  No cabs there, so we asked the gas station attendant for a number to call.  He then pulled a number out of his cell phone.  I called, and it was definitely just some guy, not a cab company.  As we waited for him to show up, I remember telling the group that I've yet to feel unsafe here at all this trip.  Well that was all about to change.

This cabbie pulled up in a Benz which was falling apart and sounded like it was preparing for rocket take off.  The taxi sign on the top of the car looked like a small table tent that he wrote on himself.  After we got in, we all quietly said our goodbyes to each other and started hatching silent escape plans if things went south.  The car could only go about 40 tops on the freeway, and the last stop sign we came to, the car literally started shaking.  However, we made it home somehow.  Once again, just when you think something is slightly sketchy, the South African people always pull through.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Days 5 & 6: Cape Town

Well folks, Mitch, Cameron, and I just returned from Cape Town.  It was absolutely amazing.  I'm just going to give the quick rundown since we did so much, and I have little time for a recap.

Day 5: 100% chance of rain.

  1. Started the morning by not waking up to the alarm we set.  In a panic, woke everyone up and rushed everyone to the airport.
  2. Arrived in Cape Town wearing shorts, only to realize it was absolutely frigid there.  Flight attendants made fun of me.
  3. Checked into our three bedroom guest house run by a man named Vic.  Very strange man.
  4. Went to breakfast at Mimi's which was absolutely phenomenal.  Bacon abroad is a lot better than bacon in the states.
  5. Took the train into town, and we were surrounded by some hardcore soccer talk.
  6. Walked around Fan Fest for a bit.  Walked by City Hall where Mandela gave both his first speech after being released from Robben Island and after he was elected president.  They didn't let us in the building though.
  7. And then it started pouring.  We headed over to the Castle of Good Hope, which is right in the middle  of the city and was used as a fort for the East India Trading Company.
  8. Headed over to the District 6 Museum.  We learned about how people were displaced to make room for white people during Apartheid.  
  9. Took a ridiculously cheap taxi over to the VA Waterfront which was absolutely beautiful.  Walked around for a bit, seeing Mitchell's Pub, seeing the Nelson Mandela gateway to Robben Island (couldn't go across due to weather), and saw some really cool street performers. 
  10. Ate dinner on the waterfront at Belthazar.  Had a Game Kabob which consisted of Wildebeast, Impala, Springbok, and Kudu.  Also, had a couple prawns.  An absolutely delicious meal, with Wildebeast being my favorite.
Day 6: Table Mountain, UCT, Green Point and Long Street.

  1. Woke up and went to Mimi's again.  It was just too good not to go back.
  2. Headed by cab over to Table Mountain.  Ten times more cold than the day before.  We go to the top, and despite my fear of heights, loved every minute of it.  Great view of the entire city.  Got some great photos.
  3. Took a cab from Table Mountain over to University of Cape Town.  The campus was really beautiful.  Cammy regretted not transferring there Sophomore year (ouch).
  4. Took a cab from UCT over to Green Point where we enjoyed the sunset and breathtaking view of the Green Point Light House.  Walked all the way back to the VA Waterfront.
  5. Cammy picked out some African pop CDs.  We also found out that Spain lost then (WOW).
  6. Went over to Long Street, which is the main strip in Cape Town to catch Bafana Bafana play against Uruguay with all the South Africans.  We ended up going to Mama Africa for the game where we met our bartender who guided us through the rest of the evening.  Cammy got a prawn curry, and Mitch and I went with some more mixed game kabob, this time featuring Croc, Springbok, Ostrich, Kudu, and something called a game sausage (I don't know what it was made of, and I don't think I want to).  The food again was terrific.  
  7. The Marimba Band began to play some of the USA's greatest hits including, "Paradise" by Genesis, "You Raise Me Up" by that opera guy, and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  The singer needs to be signed in the states.  The guy hit two different octaves throughout that were on the opposite end of the spectrum. Each slow song we broken up by a ridiculously fast dance break in the middle.  Luis, you would have loved it.
  8. The game sucked, but overall, it was my favorite night of the trip thus far.  We tipped our bartender very well, and he brought us over some free Springbok shots.  Then meet some other Americans from LA, Chicago, and NY who told me the score of the Lakers Game 6.  Great way to finish the night.
As far as today, not sure what's on tap yet, but hope to figure it out when Cammy wakes up.

Goodbye for now.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Days 3 & 4: Disorganization and Disorder

Day 3:  Lazy Sunday

On Day 3, after getting back at 4:30 AM from the USA England game, we decided that Lazy Sunday would be necessary in order to keep going the rest of the week.  We proceeded to the local mall in order to refuel at lunch with Preston, Andy, Wes, Cammy, and myself.  For Luis Berga, this is the most important part of the trip as I was able to get a hold of a schwarma out here in Africa.  The dream!

We then proceeded to the liquor store, where we stocked up on five 24 racks of Castle, Castle Lite, Castle Stout and some Black Label.  The rest of the night, we played beer pong and baseball, introducing our South African hosts to the levels of drinking that our group is accustomed to in the States.  Wes and I dominated as Team Manpri.  Somehow Wes had the same 3/4 pants as myself, and the matching uniforms propelled us to several victories.

Day 4: Soccer City

Monday started with an early game of pick up soccer on the local pitch by the creek.  The San Diego Crew took on the Tulsa group.  However, due to sickness, Colin's lack of defense, and people still being drunk from the night before (Ben and Ryan), the SD crew dropped a 3-2 decision.

Ali, Ben, Wes, Preston, Andy, Bill, Cammy and myself headed out to Soccer City in JoBurg to watch the Netherlands take on Denmark.  The stadium was amazing.  Absolutely huge and a world class stadium.  The Dutch ended up knocking in two crap goals and won the game, which was the deserved victory.

The Holland fans were absolutely amazing and lived up to their billing as the best national fans in the game.  The best of many costumes seen throughout the day were 3-4 gentleman dressed as pilots but in all orange, complete with orange rolling suitcases.  Another crowd highlight happened around the 15 minute mark when a large group of seemingly Denmark women fans stood up around the half line and starting singing.  Halfway through the song, the women started stripping to reveal that they were actually Holland fans.  Needless to say, everyone in the stadium forgot about the game and started watching the crowd.

- Ryan

Those of us that didn't go to the Netherlands-Denmark game (Colin, Pat, Mitch, Ron) figured we'd have an easy day and go to a fan park up in the Sandton area (read: upscale/business area) to watch said match. What ensued was over an hour of pointless driving, ridiculous directions, language barriers, and a complete disgust of FIFA organization.

The fan park would not allow us in the entrance we found because we didnt have a parking permit. The gate worker said to go up the road a bit, park, and walk in. There was nowhere to park. We turned around and asked a police officer what he recommended. He said we needed a parking pass and told us in very vague terms where we could find a "media center" to obtain this pass. After a couple of u-turns we managed to find this media center. Mitch and Patrick went inside while Ron guided me to a successful parallel park on the first try (recall the steering wheel is on the other side of the car).

Apparently this media center was for press pass credentials, and we left empty handed. So we went back to the same police officer and explained this to him, and he told us to go in an entirely different direction. This new direction happened to be the correct one, and when we finally approached the entrance to the fan park, we were directed by traffic cops to keep going just "a couple robots ahead." (Robots are South African for traffic lights).

This turned out to be about 6-7 robots until we found a dirt and rock parking area with about 20 of the locals offering to watch our car while we parked. We decided we'd like to keep the rental car safe, and at that point I was so incensed at the day that we packed it up and went home.

On top of the fiasco that is the City of Rustenburg, the disarray of fan park accomodations and the terrible (and vague) directions given by local South Africans (our hosts excluded, whose directions are to a tee), our group is pretty disgusted with FIFA's arrangements. Not to mention that many of the less-than-marquee games are being shown around the world with thousands of empty seats, often times because they are in such inaccessible locations (Rustenburg, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, Nelspruit) that most of the fans are locals, and most of those locals cannot afford the VERY expensive tickets.

But I digress.

We finished off the night by going to the "Italian Club of Johannesburg" (shoutout to Nic DiLoretta) at the recommendation of our hosts. This was one of the better choices our group has made so far, with a small but packed fan park (a few thousand people) watching Italy-Paraguay. Prior to the match, Ryan was able to get a shoutout for our group and a special request for Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA."  This made 15 out of 4,000 people happy.  Unfortunately a few unnamed individuals complained about being cold, and we left at halftime....

Much of the group will be in Cape Town tomorrow, so Ryan can tell you about their adventures there. The rest of us (Colin, Bill, Ben, Ron, Allie) will be hanging out in Johannesburg.

- Colin

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 2: The Tijuana of South Africa

Today was a momentus day.  As most of you already know, USA tied England 1 to 1.  The game was great, but the day was long.  Here we go...

We woke up early and everyone got on their best USA garb.  After a picture-taking scene that would rival most suburban prom pre parties, we left for Nelson Mandela Square where we met up with 350 other USA fans.   We proceeded to fill 6 buses and 1 short bus for the seemingly endless trip up to Rustenburg, armed with 4 different cases of beer (variety is important).  The rest of the drive was spent drinking, cheering, and singing along to Miley Cyrus "Party in the USA" with our fellow Yanks.  Don't worry, all beer cans and empty bottles were "recycled" and untilized to their fullest extent during the 3 hour bus ride.

We finally made it all the way to Rustenburg.  The town itself looked ok, but the stadium was in the middle of nowhere. The stadium itself is extremely old, and surrounded by dirt.  That being said, it was a great atmosphere when you get inside.  We were split up amongst the different buses, and of course I had tickets for people that didn't arrive in my bus.  After several phone calls, Bill, Alli, and I literally had to sprint probably a good half mile to meet them on the other side of the arena.  For those of you that know me, you can imagine what my undershirt looked like.

The game was everything I could have wanted in my first World Cup game.  The US crowd fell silent after the early Gerrard goal, but luckily Robert Greene had been playing with butter before the game and let Dempsey's long shot trickle through his hands. 

We didn't end up getting home until 4:30 in the morning and I'm still up now at 6:00 AM.   As soon as I can get some sleep, I'll post pictures from yesterday.

Goodbye for now.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 1: The Trials and Tribulations of Michael Colin Dowd

Folks, it's finally here and our group has finally all arrived in South Africa 12 people strong.  That, however, did not come easy for my compatriot Michael Colin Dowd who struggled to make it here, despite essentially planning the entire trip.  Here's the log of the day for Colin:

  1. We arrive at Sky Harbor in Phoenix.  Colin goes to check in, only to find that his tickets are not registered on the system.  A couple phone calls later, and we found that Delta still thought he was going to NY and then Ghana instead of ATL to JoBurg.  This crisis was temporarily averted
  2. Security check:  Colin decides it's a good idea to leave his netbook in his backpack.  Needless to say, TSA was not too happy and we were detained for a bit.
  3. We arrive in South Africa.  We go to pick up our tickets from the automated machines.  6 of the 7 people that flew in at the same time picked up the tickets without a hitch.  The one person that didn't: Michael Colin Dowd.  He forgot to bring the credit card that he purchased the tickets with, waits in line, but eventually works it out.
  4. Rental cars: We arrived in the Eurocar line only for Colin to realize he didn't book with them.  He then has to try and remember which company we did book with.
  5. Drive home:  Finally, we think we're in the clear.  We are attempting to form a four car caravan to drive back to the house we are staying at and Colin's car is out of gas 1 minute out of the airport.  We then struggle to get all the cars together for another hour before we start heading back to the house.
Luckily, we've all made it here.  The house is absolutely amazing.  Cammy and I have our own bathroom, vanity, and bedroom overlooking the pool and grass area.  Colin has his own room, Allie has her own room, and then the other guys are split between three other rooms.  Dave and Lou have been nothing but nice and accomodating, along with Lance, Vaughn, Roger, and Shadow (dog).  This  is already shaping up to be an amazing trip. 

Later today, England v. USA.  The biggest game of the trip.  Get excited!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In-flight blogging

I write to you from on-board our Delta flight to Atlanta. Isn't technology grand? For $9.95 it is.

So far the trip has started without any issues for Ryan, Cammy, Mitch, and myself. We will be meeting up with Andy, Ron, and Wes in Atlanta for our arduous 16 hour flight to Johannesburg.

And what movie is in-flight today? Invictus... story of the 1995 South African rugby World Cup winners.

It will be interesting to see the make-up of this next flight out of Atlanta - Delta only offers the one direct flight to Johannesburg every day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The day is almost here! Preston has settled at the house, Ben/Bill/Allie are on the way, and the rest of us depart Thursday morning! - Colin

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

One week from tomorrow...

Tyhoid shot? Check.
Malaria pills? Check.
Warm clothes? Check.
USA scarf? Check.
American flags? Check.

Just 8 days to go, and we are about as ready as can be. I (Colin) will have a cell phone, as will Bill, Ben, Allie, Ryan, Ron, Pat, possibly Wes.... ? We should have no problems with communication.

Our host family is excited to have us, and have promised a wonderful stay. The host (Dave) has a brother that owns a coffee plantation, so for those in the group that are coffee drinkers, we should have some of the best.

Remember to sign up with your Google/Blogspot account so you can follow our updates.

 - Colin

Monday, May 31, 2010

10 Days Left...

In only 10 days, we will be touching down in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.  With that, we're going to countdown the top 10 things we are looking forward to:

  1. June 12th, USA vs. England.  One of history's oldest rivalries on sport's grandest stage.  It'll be our first game of the World Cup.  A great kick off to the trip.
  2. Ivory Coast vs. Brazil: Quite possibly the game of the opening round and I will be there in attendance.
  3. Seeing the some of the top teams in the world live that everyone grows up watching: Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Ivory Coast, and England.
  4. Staying with our South African host family.
  5. Visiting Cape Town, climbing Table Mountain, reaching the Southern most tip of Africa where there are penguins, checking out a game reserve, and for some, but not us, Shark Diving.
  6. Hopefully, finding a pick up football game in South Africa with some of the natives.
  7. Trying some of the interesting food options, such as zebra steak.
  8. Marching in with American Outlaws/Sam's Army, and then standing and singing the whole game.
  9. Meeting people from all different countries at the Fan Fest in Johannesburg. 
  10. Watching the USA progress into the knockout round :::crossing fingers:::
Check back for photos as we update from South Africa starting June 10-11th!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Final 23 Man Roster

The 23 man roster was announce today for the 23 men headed to South Africa.  Here it is:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes, France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Jay DeMerit (Watford, England), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan, Italy), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England).

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus, Denmark), Stuart Holden (Bolton, England), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Hull, England), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla, Mexico).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

30 Man Preliminary Roster Announced

Here it is:

Goalkeepers- Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan

Defenders- Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Bornstein, Heath Pearce, Chad Marshall

Midfielders- Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, Alejandro Bedoya, DaMarcus Beasley, Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers

Forwards- Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley, Brian Ching, Edson Buddle, Eddie Johnson, Herculez Gomez

Charlie Davies was left off the roster.  Our hearts go out to him, and hopefully, we'll see him in Brazil 2014.  The other surprises include Findley, Rogers, Kljestan, and Marshall.

Personally, I'm hoping Beasley or Holden returns to form and can start on the outside so that Dempsey can move up top.  If that happens, this looks like a solid group of guys headed to SA in June.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bracket Challenge

Join our World Cup Bracket Challenge on Yahoo!


Also, 30 man preliminary roster for the USA is announced at 11 AM tomorrow on ESPN News.  Make sure you tune in.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

World Cup Anthem

So the World Cup Anthem was released. I don't know about you, but when I think South Africa, I think Shakira and apparently so did FIFA:

Catchy, but personally, I prefer the "unofficial" anthem by K'Naan:

Which do you like better? Vote in the poll.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Crisis Averted!

We found out on Monday that our flight from Ghana to South Africa was going to be delayed by 36 hours! That would have put Cammy, Bill, and I in the morning before the England USA game, and the rest of our group arriving after the first game. We all launched into action, and after 2 days of straight calling to Cheapoair and late night calls to South Africa's Air Namibia, we thought we were screwed with a 36 hour layover in Ghana and an increased chance of catching Yellow Fever.

However, Jawanda at Cheapoair saved the day! Now, instead of all of us being split up on different flights, 8 of the 12 of us are now on the same flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We also only have one connection as opposed to two and Jawanda made sure we didn't pay a penny more, even with all the changes. Needless to say, we were all very excited, and Bill, Colin, and I may even call back Air Namibia to tell them where they can put their plane ticket. Seriously, who just cancels all their future flights on Thursdays.

Mitch has now booked a flight to Cape Town with Cammy and I. We're hoping to hike Table Mountain and go to the Southern most point where there are penguins in Africa. We're also looking into going to Kruger Park, which is a drive through Safari essentially. There's even talk from some other members of the group about cage diving with Great Whites.

The trip is only 70 days away...

Sunday, March 14, 2010


We found this out quite a while ago but realize we never updated about it. On top of the 3 USA group games, our group was able to pick up tickets for the following games:

Netherlands vs. Denmark
Ivory Coast vs. Brazil
Spain vs. Honduras
Spain vs. Chile
Pretoria Round of 16

In Spain, England, Brazil, and the Netherlands, we will be seeing 4 of the top 10 teams in the world. Needless to say, very exciting. The Ivory Coast vs. Brazil game is probably the game of the tournament.

In some other good news, Dempsey returned to start for Fulham this weekend so it looks like he will be in great form by the time the World Cup rolls around.

However, on a sadder note, David Beckham tore his achilles this past weekend, which will cause him to miss the World Cup. I was hoping to see him suit up against the US because it wouldn't be England without him.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lodging U-Turn!

Well we thought we were all set with lodging at a bed and breakfast in Kempton Park, close to the airport, free breakfast every morning, only about $26/night per person - and then we had the rug pulled out from under us with an email from the B&B manager stating that they would be closing their doors, and our reservations were no good!

Bill, Ryan, and I scoured the internet over the next 7 or 8 days to try and find comparable accomodation for our group of 12 Yanks. What we found was that every mom and pop in South Africa is trying to make a quick buck off fans of the Beautiful Game. Just about every hotel, hostel, guest lodge, and straw hut were charging 4-5 times the normal rate. And there were plenty of places available!

Luckily though, I was able to get a response from a realtor in the Johannesburg area that showed me a couple of properties. Eventually the group decided on one - a six bedroom house in a gated community, with full kitchen, back yard, pool, and parking for three cars. At a price of about $60/night per person, it is more than we had hoped to pay, but it was one of the better deals around.

So a big THANK YOU goes out to Nicki at !

- Colin

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Development

It's been awhile so here's the updates on trip planning and the USMNT.

As far as the trip, we're now working on renting three automatic VW Boras which should make driving around a lot easier. Cammy and I just booked a two day trip to Cape Town while we're over there so that will be an awesome chance to check out the other big city in SA. Now, we just need to work on booking accommodations and figuring out transportation over there.

As far as the USMNT, rough game against Honduras, but we were playing with a lot of the fringe guys in the USMNT pool. Johnny B had a great game. There was also great news that Charlie Davies, Clint Dempsey, and Oguchi Onyewu should all be back in time for the cup. That means, I'm probably getting a CD9 jersey for the tournament.

I'm so excited. Less than 5 months...