Saturday, June 19, 2010

Closing up Shop

Well, I hope this helped the 7 readers I had during this trip. I appreciate the comments and hope that you enjoyed it. Since my life isn't that interesting, returning for the trip is a clear point to stop blogging. I will however leave the link up for another week or two and possibly add some photos as they begin to be tagged on facebook.

Good Night and Good Luck

The Food Review

Curt suggested that I review all the fine cuisine we took in this week. Since we didn't take in any, I'll briefly review all the fast food places we hit.

It should also be known that fast food over seas is way slower than here. People in the kitchen just sit around and wait until the person at the cash wrap takes like 5 orders then they start moving around. Then when like three orders are made, they call them all out at once often not in the order they were ordered. It's frustrating because we're all so used to the motivation and can-do attitude behind our fast food counters.

Steers: 4/5 Stars. This was the true fan favorite. I was unable to sample this establishment fine eats. However, the rest of the group scored it between 3 and 5 so I averaged the scores. This place offered burgers and chicken sandwiches that really pleased all the delegates especially Dave Quack.

Chicken Lickin': 3.5/5 Stars. My personal favorite pit stop. The low rating is based on the low level of diversity on the menu. Essentially, you could get chicken. The forms included popcorn, wings, regular fried, and sliders. All are delicious and if your ever in South Africa and need your KFC fix (and don't want to go to KFC, an official sponsor of South African Badminton) head over to the Chicken Lickin'.

King Pie: 2.5/5 stars. This was our first real stop for food when we were at the lower class mall. It sells hot pockets and fries. Some are cooked all the way through and others not so much. It's a mixed bag to say the least but with each meal under like 4 dollars you can't go wrong if you got robbed that day or felt like slummin' it. Each person who went only went once.

Su-Chi: 4.5/5 Stars: This rating might be based on the general rut we had in our eating habbits. Su-Chi is an eatery that features Japanese Sushi and Chinese food. Not only is the name clever but the food is delicious. We got to east sweet and sour and general tso style chicken just like at home. IT was a very welcome change and I expect this chain that currently only has two locations to expand nation wide.

Scooters Pizza: 3.5/5 Stars: This particular eatery is South Africa's answer to Domino's. If your pizza isn't there in 39 minutes or less it's free. Ours took like 2 hours but we didn't complain even after they almost doubled our order and charged us for it. Sure it may have been my fault that our true order got lost in translation but thats neither here nor there. Best 240 rand pizza I ever ate. Pizza was pretty good, no more no less.

Wimpy's: 4/5 Stars: Wimpy's was awesome. I really enjoyed my burger because it was actually cooked unlike at a McDonalds or steers type offering. The fries were crisp and although the wait was a little extra, I was pleased with my result. Many shyed away from ordering Wimpy's because the obnoxious woman on the safari suggested against it. She also wanted to know when Giraffe's could conceive (even after I told her the age of consent was 16). Regaurdless, my opinion doesn't matter and most took her advice not to try Wimpy's.

McDonald's was the same except the fry portions were smaller. It was tasty but I can't rank it because I've had it before.

I'm sure all these establishments have international websites. Be sure to check them out if you are going to travel to Africa (urbanized Africa).

Snakes on a Plane

As in, there weren't any snakes on a plane on our trip. What a relief. The flights seemed shorter than the first time around and we finally made it back to the USA. A trip that was truly once in a lifetime is now over and real life begins again. South Africa was a great experience for us all but I think it's a common theme amongst the group that it's great to be back stateside.

Here's some final closing notes:

Dubai airports are awesome. Not only do they have the cheapest Duty Free shopping of our three stops, but they also have a panera bread style pastry eatery that serves whiskey and beer in the morning. You just don't get that in the states.

Security to get into the US is excessive compared to what we had to do to get into South Africa. I was most worried about the final flight because it was from Dubai (in the middle east where the "evil do'ers live) to New York City. If there was going to be a flight with trouble, this would probably be it. We had our carry ons searched and got frisked before we got on the plane. This is great because our carry ons had already been scanned like twice. It made me feel safe to think that this type of thing was in place. Mike Jones had a large gift in a bag covered in bubble wrap and wasn't questioned about it but I suppose he wasn't what they were looking for. At the end of the flight, we were also asked to take everything off our laps and keep our hands visable until the plane was on the ground. No box cutter access on this plane!

We also had to fill out forms for our re-entry into the country declaring how much our bring backs were worth. I put mine at about $175 but I'm sure I was a low number. Touching American soil was great, I missed all the comforts of home.

It should be mentioned that Mnfo (spelling) our driver dropped us at the airport before we began our long journey home. He is expecting a child in about a month with his wonderful wife who we never met. We wish him the best luck and gave him a "team signed" soccer ball, a gift for his wife, and healthy sum of rand to show our gratitude for helping us out above and beyond the call of duty time and time again. This goes nicely with the 15 t shirts, 5 hats, and 17 pins Curt gave him during the week. Needless to say people throughout the country of South Africa will see the WNEC brand name somewhere.

The Final Countdown

All good, even great, things must come to an end. This holds true with our trip. Today we had time after AM seminar to hang out. We tried to cram all of the extra stuff were bringing home as gifts into our already crammed bags, relaxed, and got ready for our final match. Today's match was even in Pretoria so there was no lengthy trip back and fourth from the stadium. We did however have to walk because security wasn't letting even people as heavily credentialed as our delegation though the back entry ways. Plus 50 pts for security.

Security was also very effective taking everyones tickets as they walked in. The metal detectors were used and I was even padded down by a gaurd on the way in. Plus 100 pts for security. They didn't run out of food or beer plus 100 pts for the venue. Bathroom access was rough but I won't subtract any points as this was the best venue we had been to in about a week.

The match was cold once again with temperatures right around 40 degrees. We had awesome seats between the corner and middle lines about 4 rows up. Even with refrigerator perry in front of me, I had a great view. It was probably the most boring match we saw because Uraguay was so dominant. The South African crowd was once again electric up until the team gave up it's first goal and showed no signs of life. After the second goal, which was a penalty kick that followed a red card on the keeper, the crowd was essentially silent. We ducked out with like 5 minutes to go and had a nice quick trip home.

If we've lucked out anything on this trip, it's that we haven't had to wait around for anything after the game was over. Our driver knows where to go to get us home in a timely manner. Everything is packed and we're gonna play cards before bed but tomorrows the big day.

More after the flights....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The night the lights went out in....Joberg?

Greetings all,

Today is probably the first time I'm actually blogging in a timely manner. We had nothing on the agenda today after 9:30 seminar. Dr. Covell and I were unsuccessful in accessing the gym once again. South African's don't work out in the winter so its generally closed for all but 15 minutes of each day.

Yesterday was a great day. We had our usual morning seminar thing then we went in for a meeting with the sport management faculty and students of Tswane University where we are staying. We were greeted by a spirited young gentleman named Augustus with his accomplice Agatha. They were fourth year sport man students similar to Mr. Jones and myself. They came right to our door and took us down to meet the faculty. Unfortuantely, our own faculty got a little lost and we spent a half an hour waiting for our professors to rejoin the group. But thats neither here nor there.

We had our informal meeting in the Field Hockey Bar/Clubhouse/Premium seating area. There huge into field hockey here. It's a bigger men's sport here than a women's sport which is of course the inverse of the way it is in the United States. Dr. Covell, Spencer, Ally, and myself were able to take in some of the Women's game on campus a few days back (may or may not have dropped that earlier). It's an exciting game and I'm all kinds of excited for WNEC 2010 Ladies Field Hockey to take the pitch in the fall. But I digress. The faculty for the Sport Man department had some opening remarks and took our questions. Then both our professors and delegate Jones spoke about our program back in the States.

It was really interesting to see how they do things over here. Their course load is almost entirely in their major after freshman year. About 80% of their course work is in their major. So while I take meteorology and geology instead of picking up an extra marketing class or two, they are working almost exclusively where they focus their energy. This gives them a chance to take a class in sport sponsorship, sport licensing, sport finance, etc. These ideas are covered in one Sport Marketing class at WNEC (and probably in most programs in the US) and reinforced by general business classes like accounting and finance. They also appear to have a more hands on approach. One thing that didn't differ was the competitive market for jobs in sport. These students shared the same concerns that most of our sport man seniors have about being unemployed after graduation and having to fight tooth and nail for employment.

It was a great experience to talk with people of our own age and social situation. After the lecture portion, we had lunch and were able to swap stories with the students and faculty. There were some characters in the bunch including Augustus whom I mentioned earlier. He claims to love American music ranging and film. Denzel was his favorite.

After a brief break it was time to jump on the bus again. We traveled to Joberg which is about 45 minutes from Pretoria and stopped in a plaza to eat. This week we've been eating mostly McDonalds and KFC style fast food which for me is extremely uncharacteristic. It was nice to find a place called Su-Chi in this plaza. As the name suggests, the eatery features Sushi and Chinese food. This was proof for my money that Chinese food is good pretty much anywhere if you order the chicken. We then went to a local bar/cafe hybrid to watch the Portugal Ivory Coast match and to grab milkshakes and hot chocolate because it's fun to be 12 years old sometimes.

The weather was pretty cold. Think Foxboro in November or December. Curt told me this morning that it was 33 Degrees at game time. We brought blankets and once again used our ID tags to get through FIFA security to allow our bus to drop us off right by the stadium. It really is just baby town frolics with their security. But it gets better. We walk the block to the game and get to the gates which aren't letting anyone through. Some security gaurds abandoned their posts and people just started to walk into the stadium. SWEEET! By the time we got to the front we had to at least show a ticket to walk through but we could have easily smuggled in a slew of weapons if we were into that sort of thing. It was one of those moments I was glad I still have that invincible 21 year old college student feeling.

Facility update on Ellis Park for Dr. Walker: Once we got through the initial gate there was another round of gates to go through with your ticket. No check was present but you had to put your ticket into a machine to make sure it was the real deal. One problem. The generators in charge of power for the gates on our side of the stadium was on and off every 10 seconds. So we could see the power on one side of the stadium shutting off each time you turned your head. AWESOME! We walked to the other side and got in no problem. Once we were in our seats the power continued to shut on and off throughout the whole stadium. The video boards were turned on once the power was stable. Bad idea. Power went out again and the stadium eventually stabalized allowing one tiny video board and all the lights in the stadium to stay on.

The hyjynx ensues at our seats where vendors walked through our rows pedeling their ice cream (at 33 degrees). They sold a man wearing his jacked upside down (hood down at ass level) two beers which he spilled on Dan Gould and Mike Jones. People smoked throughout the stadium in front of security and we had a full band in front of us. They brought in drums, cymbals, saxaphones, and I believe I saw a tamborine or two. Then when they played the whole game and wouldn't sit down they sent over their unarmed "security force" who were really tremendous. They were agressive kinda France's defense of Paris in World War II. The leader of the group refused to sit down and it looked like it would end in fistacuffs but they compromised. The leader said he would sit down until security left and then stand back up. Everyone wins! They sat down for the real cops but once they left there was the same result. So security wasn't the best but against all odds no one was hurt.

As for the game, Brazil essentially ran train on Korea. It was kinda like watching a Division 3 baseball team play a Division 1 program. Korea would have needed absolutely everything to break their way to get a win. The brazilians were huge, fast, physical, and had finesse. They also all had one name which is pretty cool. We didn't get the 5 goals we wanted to see but the performance was dominant. Out of desire to beat the traffic and the opressive cold, an executive decision was made to leave the game in the 86th minute. Some Korean guy scored in the 89th according the radio man. I still think we got the better end of the deal getting out of there quick.

I'd like to end up the blog with a shout out to the WNEC dance team. During half time, the hooray for everything dancers came out and tried to do Shakira's Waka Waka, the theme song of this year's world cup. They were awful. Like Ben Affleck in Reindeer Games bad. If our team tried out the organizing committee would have had no choice but to select them and pay for their trip over here. Cheers Ladies.

I have to finish up some things now but I'll be sure to blog about the final day and the plane rides as well as a reflection after we get back to the states.

Keep on Keepin' on

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shooters keep shooting

Let's GO!

Today was the day we finally got to go to Sun City. It's like South African Vegas. I'm talking like luxury hotels, the Game reserve, Golf Course, and GAMING TABLES. This was the day aside from the matches I looked forward to the most. Myself and Fitzpatrick senior were trying to come up with any plausible way we'd be able to hit the blackjack tables and today we got to.

The casino is awsome. It's alot like in the US except its quite a bit smaller. There is also an auto shuffler that the dealer keeps putting cards into so they dont have to shuffle at the end of each shoe. We sat down right at 1pm when the tables started and bought in 300 rand on the 50 rand minimum table. Shaker lost 400 real quick. Fitzpatrick junior pretty much sat on his stack of 200 on and off and Mike Jones made like 300. Dave and I were the high rollers (mainly because he knows how to play and I ask him what to do). We both cashed out a 1000 and found ourselves just begging for another 2 hours on the tables.

It should also be mentioned that there was a mini golf game played. Ryder cup style. Me, Healy, Shaker, and Jones against the Fitzpatricks, Ally, and Spencer. We led through the first 9 but I put a few fives on the back 9 that I'm not exactly proud of. I was the hole in 1 leader with 4 but finished with a tragic 54 (2 strokes from last).

After the gaming and mini golf we jumped on an open air bus and hit the game reserve. A three hour tour through an African landscape was pretty sweet. We saw Elephants, Springboks, some other deer looking deal, some birds that this lady in the back was freaking out about, some hippos, some rhinos, and a sick leopard. There were only 15 leopards in the whole area so we really lucked out on seeing it. It got pretty cold and the sun went down about 6:30.

As degenerate gamblers, we all like to put some money back on the table given the chance. We went back into the casino for dinner and were alotted 45 minutes. Come on tell me you didn't think we were gonna play the slots. Everyone lost a minimal ammount of money just giving the machines a try. Fitzpatrick senior tossed a couple hundred rand in the machine without blinking and eventually won a large sum of credits that equaled out to about 500 rand. When asked why he put so much into start he simply let us know that "Shooters keep shooting."

Surprisingly, a night of setback occured before bed time.

More tommorow

Also sorry about the lapse of the delegate of the day I'll have the rest up tommorow as I have to run to Ellis park for the match now.

Things we know about but do not see

Poverty is horrible. It's world wide and there's no end in sight. Theres always going to be rich people and poor people. Most of us are fortunate enough to sit in the middle. We went to the Soweto township where Nelson Mandela grew up today. We didn't see poor people, we saw an impoverished community. I've made it pretty well known that I'm not well traveled or any type of citizen of the World but even Professor Hamakawa who has been to over 50 contries said he had never seen anything like this.

Picture a feed the children commercial. Except now it's in 3D and you have all the smells and flies you would rather pretend don't exist. It was appauling to see the conditions these people lived in. We exited the van to meet our informal tour guide to talk a walk through the village. Nick Starr brought some soccer balls and goalie gloves for the kids and he was stormed immediately by 7 or 8 kindergarden aged children. I mean intense storming like he couldn't move. They quickly took the soccer balls and began to play with them.

Eventually, we began our tour. The little kids are like little diplomats. They have a list of 5 questions to ask when they begin their begging scheme hatchery. They ask your name, where your from, favorite sport, and profession. They may also give you some background information on themselves in order to achieve sympathy. As if we didn't have enough already for just being there. We were instructed not to give money because you would instantly be charged by the children in a fashion that would make what happened to Starr look like Americans running to the voting booths on election day (I mean how are you gonna tell me only half of us vote).

We were then taken into one of the slum houses. Pride was swallowed by the owners of the house to grant us entry into their shack. The tour guide picked the complex appart listing all the problems with it. It was very very uncomforatble and there was really nothing to say. Professor Hamakawa asked if the wife cooked all the meals each day and they all laughed a faint laugh. They only eat one meal a day. It was eye opening. The professors gave a 100 rand to the people who owned the shack and we were on our way back to the bus.

Today was a tough day for sure. As interesting as it was, it was also very morbid. Some light notes came later with the climb to the top of the mountain where the South African national anthem was written. When we got back from Soweto, we played alot of cards at the Bar/Cafateria/Campus center complex. It was a fun night and I'll have more tommorow.