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.

The USA Match

Today was the big day. On every trip, there is one day you circle on your calender. One day where you know its going to be absolutely EPIC. The USA England Match lived up to expectations.

Since the game was at 8:30 PM South African Standard Time (phrasing might be off), we had the day to get ready and hang out. We left about 1PM for the approximately 2 hour trip to Rustenberg. Some time was built in for shopping and we had "Chicken Lickin'" for the first time. Chicken Lickin' is KFC except with little chicken sliders. The food is all fried and its almost impossible to order without having some chicken. There's ice cream but it may be laced with something fried. I didn't try it so I can't speak to it.

Rustenberg is out in the sticks. It's not a parking lot stadium similar to many of the Stadiums in the US. We essentially got dropped off on a street of fanfare similar to Yawkey way in Boston or that street with the Bowling alley and Stan's in the Bronx. The place was poppin' and we were essentially surrounded by a sea of English flags for the majority of the time. There were many groups of rowdy US fans as well. Tell the kids this little chant --- "Joberg, Cape Town, Rustenberg, and Durban, if it weren't for USA you'd be speaking German." I love that chant.

Security update for Dr. Walker. It was real easy to get in. It didn't take us long because there were less fans at this game (stadium holding about 44,000, whereas Soccer City holds almost 90,000). Backpacks weren't checked to harshly and I'm 100% sure I saw a gentleman with a beer funnel enter the gate next to me with not even a question being asked. But regaurdless Bill Clinton was there so I felt as though we were pretty safe.

Now at the first game, I stated the venue ran out of food in areas. In Rustenberg, they ran out of beer before half time. They didn't get the message that "The British were coming." And they came. They came and bought no fewer than 5 beers a pop. This came with many complaints that the price of 30 rand was to high compared to their home premier leagues. So you can see the difference between their sport culture and our own where a beer is about 9 bucks at Yankee Stadium.

As for the game, the atmosphere was pretty electric. We went in about 2 hours early and clearly missed the opportunity to hang our flags. There was a circle of English flags around the stadium that appeared to be unbroken. Fitzpatricks senior and junior were sitting in the front row. So they decided that their seats entitled them to put their flag whereever they wanted. I mean hell we bailed these in greats out of two world wars and ran train on them in the revolution and the war of 1812. The bloak (spelling?) that hung his flag in front of US didn't see it that way. Dave and Shawn stood strong but eventually comprimised with the gentleman with the help of our UN ambassador, Curt Hamakawa.

With the approach of the game nearing (stadium beer supply at about 30%), we began to realize that we were on the English side of the stadium. The US had a modest showing on another side of the English dominated Venue and we had a great view of it directly across of US. Curt took about a thousand pictures and the game was ready to start. I had no idea great britains national anthem was similar to a song we sing as kids in the US. Dr. Covell belted the national anthem and the game was under way.

The brits scored early. They scored devestatingly early. I lost all confidence in the team and the Brits were juiced. I still managed to tell Wayne Rooney that he sucks in every possible way. 1-0 England kept being belted over the PA every 10 minutes because the scoreboard and video board didn't work. I decided to get some refreshments which took forever and I managed to miss the US goal. Shaker warned me against making a run down to the concessions during the game after missing a goal in the first game.

1-1 USA sounded great to me over the PA. I was hoping it wouldn't end in a draw but at a point I realized it was the best result for me team. Still really trying to understand that tie concept. Anyways the game ended in a draw and it was like a funeral home. The brits scored early and thought they would score often. They had tied the US, their prodigal son and savior, in something they pride themselves immensely. I tried to give out some post game hand shakes but nobody was feelin' it.

It was a hell of a night and we all had a blast. More tommorow...

Too many things to do in so little time

Greetings All,

I hope the New England everything I remember. As the post title suggests I haven't had any time to get into this delightful computer lab to update you all in the past few days and I don't have any time to respond to all (3) of your comments because I have to get the "gooods" posted.

Gabby I saw ANOTHER tie. Dave is working on explaining the concept still today. Don't get discouraged Dr. Walker, I'll get you all your answers soon enough.

Without further adieu, here's whats happened the last few days.....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This one was in fact for Africa

Waka Waka Guys and Dolls

Today was epic. The opening match of the World Cup. And we were in the fourth row. The seats were phenominal. Special shout out to Professor Hamakawa and his friends over at the Yamahshi Corporation for allowing us to acquire them.

But to talk about the destination, we must first talk of the journey. After an exhilerating wakeup call for breakfast there was a presentation about South Africa by two delegation members. I really enjoyed being half of that team. We boarded the bus to some crazy South African rap music with blarring horns similar to the ones that fill the streets and stadiums of South Africa currently. The group was juiced. We couldn't wait to get there and the rest of South Africa agreed.

In traffic, people were driving cars and holding their massive flags out drivers side windows. In fact, you couldn't avoid seeing a South African flag if you tried. Our driver is a certified boss when it comes to getting around South Africa. This guy knew every short cut and played rough in traffic. Car horns and Vuvuzelas blarred in all directions, not due to traffic but out of excitement. It was as if all of South Africa would be in attendence for the game that marked the first World Cup game in country, or on African soil in general. Let's just say if we thought were juiced, they had a Jack Lelanne blender. It was pandemonium and I couldn't possibly describe to you the atmosphere.

The clutch play of the day was made months before we left. Delegate Michael "Mike" "Mike Who?" Jones made some ID tags which can be seen somewhere on Professor Hamakawa's megablog (check the links section). These tags allowed us to get into a special drop off section that can't be accessed by most ticket holders. They were simply presented with confidence by the driver and although they have no accrediation or authority, they worked. It was one of those moments where you think to yourself and mumble something along the lines of, "Holy shit this security is atrocious." It was like trying to break into a secret spy headquarters and getting into the mainframe only to realize the password is "GUEST." Either way our driver and Mike saved us about an hour of traffic and a mile or so of walking.

We went through the checks and about a half hour later we were insead the belly of the beast. Two hours to gametime and you couldn't hear yourself think. Needless to say we were pretty psyched. The pregame ceremonies were epic. I had no idea what was going on with all the African music and tribal clothing but it was a show second to none. After the song and dance portion, the current South African President (name not known) and the Mexican President (name not important) came out and spoke. The crowd loved it. Unfortunately, former President and South African (hell, international) icon Nelson Mandela couldn't be in attendance because his great grand daughter was tragically killed in a car accident the night prior. It was understood that he couldn't be there but he would have absolutely brought down the house if he made his way onto the pitch.

I know most of you are interested in one thing and one thing only in this post. I will now give you the goods. The concessions review. This was the opening match and occasionally there are some early difficulties. Food and drink areas had some early difficulties. Food was very very reasonably priced by US standards. The selection was small and certain areas ran out of food. Also credit cards didn't work, or were extremely slow. Visa is going to be pissed because they are an official partner or FIFA and it makes them look bad. Hot Dogs, Chili Dogs and Cheese Dogs were strangely all priced the same. Chips and mashed potatoes were available as well. Soft drinks were available for 15 rand (2 bucks) and beers were 30 Rand (4 bucks) each. You could buy as many as you want at a time. I saw one guy with the double "six pack strangler" and another guy with a box of beer. Since Budweiser and Coke had the official pouring rights as FIFA partners, their product was available exclusively. Only Budweiser ("Bud heavy" for the college set) was available. The food was generally nothing special but enough to get you through the game and there were a ton of spots to purchase.

So finally we are up to game time, it is a consensus that none of us have ever been to an event sporting or otherwise that could compare to this. The atmosphere was electric. I cannot stress this enough. The place was going crazy. The match started and Mexico was dominant early. I'm no soccer expert, so I'll spare you my analysis of the game. But when South Africa scored, it was the most exciting sporting memory I have. It was as if they had won a war, landed on the moon, and cured cancer with one kick to the back of the net. It was a great shot and it gave the South African team a ton of confidence. Eventually Mexico scored. The stadium turned into a funeral home, you could barely hear anything. It was like hearing an explosion in the distance while you were underwater. It sounded like there were some Mexicans cheering and you could see them waving their flag in their little sections but you still weren't quite sure.

I'm a firm believer that soccer won't ever be a major professional sport in the United States. My opinion is based on several factors both economic and social as well as the game play itself. But this was straw that broke the camels back, the game ended in a tie. This is viewed by South Africa as a victory because Mexico was heavily favored. To me it was ironic, as if O'Henry and Alanis Morissette wrote something and named it that exact situation. How can a game with so much passion and attention end in a draw? I guess everyone else gets it besides me.

That being said, it was an awsome time. We got out quick at our same special exit place and ate some fast food. We took a virtually traffic free route home and now it is about 8pm and I'm wiped out.

What a day. Tomorrow, we crash England's party. We dump out their Tea and tell King George that we'll pay no taxes. Their gonna think they got off easy in 1812. Look for myself and Dr. Covell holding up the "Don't tread on me" flag because not only do we hate England, but we have been Taxed Enough Already (This political shout out to Tyler is not endorsed by Western New England College, the Center for International Business at Western New England College, or Dr. Covell).

To Market, To Market

Greetings San Diego

After a long night of setback, the day began for the delegation. It was approximately 7:20 AM when the athletic tandem of Dr. Covell and Professor Hamakawa busted in after a brisk jog. They suggested that the delegation would convene on the other side. Moans and groans were heard (Jet lag sucks), but everyone made it to the meeting.

Our agenda was set for the day and after breakfast we headed out for our first destination, FIFA international communications palace, which is by Soccer City in Johannasberg. We got into the bus and made the hour long trip and in our trip of classic misdirection we hit a snag. The FIFA people told us we needed our passport to take the tour after they had expressed previously that this would not be necessary. Half the delegation had the passports and half did not creating two classes, the haves and have nots.

Since we had driven all the way there the group split up and I was lucky enough to be one of the haves. Our tourguide, a Colin Farrell Look-alike, was very helpful. He showed us around the communications compound which houses all the satellites and communications equipment used by countries broadcasting the world cup on site. We were also granted access into the German press area where we got to see the german press pool and an actual stage they use for their international station.

We then took a tour of 3 different South African shoping centers.

The first one would remind many of you of Springfield's Eastfield mall. It was a lower class placee but it was located on the bottom of the countries tallest building. We sampled some food at "King Pie" which serves delicious hot pocket-eqse food with french fries on the cheap. We also took an elevator ride to the top of the building and looked at all the sights of Johannesberg from 50 stories up.

The next mall was similar to West Farms mall (for my people from the 860) or the Holyoke mall closer to school. It was your average middle class shoping emporium and was a very pleasant experience. Everyone got something a little different. Shaker picked up some expensive nike sweatshirt. Myself and Fitzpatrick senior picked up a cigar cutter for our cubans, some beverage glasses and ice trays, and some matches as well as checking out a local pub. Mike Jones and Fitzpatrick junior got some leather bracelets and experienced some real life bartering. And the professors aquired some much needed towels for the delegation.

After the 15 or so minutes alotted by the professors (We move quickly in South Africa), we went to Mandela square. This place was high class and I felt like I was in poverty back in the states looking at some of the expensive stores they have there. It was an outdoor/indoor mall complete with a Sony 3D soccer tent. It was pretty sweet. We also were able to meet John Oliver for the Daily Show and I got to play the role of an ignorant American Soccer fan. I got real into character and told him I've come to Africa to drink, don't know any of the players, and that I hate England more than any other team because of their failures at defeating us in battle and requiring us to bail them out in War. Thats neither here nor there, but check out the daily show the next few days they said that my farce might make it on.

We had a great dinner on ISPs dime complete with two free beverages. Some drank wine, others soda. But the most satisfying beverage in South Africa I've found so far is Carlin's Black Label Lager and was a clear choice for my meal. The Golden bear agrees.

Now it is about 10 PM our time and I have to go play some setback, but rest easy I'll be on again soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It was the best of times, It was the Worst of times

The planes had landed. The bags had been claimed. Another 2 hour bus ride had been completed. We arrived at the college campus (Tswane University in Pretoria) we were set to stay in during our long awaited international trip. There was only one problem. There was a bit of miscommunication on their part that made them think our reservation was for a day later. So, after our fearless leader, Delegation Leader Curt Hamakawa, kindly negotiated with the good people at "Simple Bedzzz," we were shown to our accomodations.

There may have not been televsion, heat, or towels (none of which were promised in the brouchure), but after traveling on planes and busses for over 30 hours it was home. We were split into two side by side dormatories featuring 6 bedrooms (3 doubles, 3 singles each) and two bathrooms on each side. Rooms were selected and it was time to eat.

Everyone we met was extremely friendly. Throughout all the confusions in the accomodations, almost everyone greeted us with a smile when faced with our inability to understand accents and cultural differences. Our first real encounter was at "dinner" in the cafateria at approximately 10pm in our time zone. The ordering communications were rough, but the food was pretty Americanized (Pasta, Meat Sauce, Salad, Brocoli, Rice, Juice, and a desert in the deluxe meal). Everyone ate and with that sign I sign off to play some setback and bed.

(Real Time notice, More tommorow, I'll have a ton more time to catch up).

Planes, Pains, and Automobiles

Well, it has been a turbulent last 36 hours or so to say the least. We kicked off with the aforementioned 3 hour bus ride from Springfield to JFK. Then as planned we took two international flights to bring us to Johannesburg. Since traveling was the main pastime, I'll give a systematic overview of the airline, airports, and people met along our initial travel days.

We arrived at JFK and checked in at the Emirates International terminal. Against all odds everyone's baggage passed the weight inspections. The bags were checks and send off to the plan without any real delay. This allowed us for over an hour of time to roam around that airport and take in some breakfast food. Delegate Jones decided to buck the trend and purchase "the most expensive piece of pizze you'll ever eat." Some delegates seemed nervous for the flight while others seemed infifferent. This being my first time in the air, I possed a Dramamine or two and got ready to strap in.

For those who haven't taken an international flight, or at least haven't taken an international flight on Emirates, you don't know what your missing. Meals are free. Drinks are free (with the exception of 8 dollar glasses of champagne). Movies, music, and television shows are all free on your own personal display unit in the back side of the head rest of the person in front of you. Hot towels are also distributed at different points during the trip (a highly underrated feature).

Aside from the length of the flight, I saw few problems to record. Delegate Dave Fitzpatrick and myself had a tough time with our units on flight number one. His screen wouldn't play video and my hand held remote wouldn't deploy itself. It was as concensus that the scrambled eggs on Emirates are about as horrible and generally tasteless as any of Lady Gaga's raunchiest outfits. Other than that the food was reasonably good and the drink carts came around in a timely manner.

As I have mentioned prior, this trip had a lot of firsts for me. Exposure to leaving the country, taking a flight, an international flight, spending time in an airport, etc. We have met many people from different countries, ethnicities, and rooting interests on our plane rides and the passion of the world cup is beginning to present itself. At the conclusion of our first plane ride, Dave and I saw how hardcore soccer fans can be. At 8 AM, flight patrons were getting liquored up on the last two hours of their flight and talking about all the great games they plan to see in South Africa. These folks in section 29 of the plane are HARDCORE.

The airport and Dubai were very modern and all signs were translated into English and Arabic. It is interesting to see all the things featured featured on the signs. For example, I saw one listing that said, "Prayer Rooms/Duty Free Store" with the same directional arrow. The food was relatively Americanized. I stopped at a place called "Cosi" and purchased their version of a Chicken Parm (because quite frankly I like to try the chicken parm everywhere I go). Although this might not have been the most cultured food I could have eaten, Cosi was next to a Burger King. This location truly allowed me and other delegated to feel like we were really blending.

Flight number two kicked off with an agressive round of video triva played by almost our entire delegation. Each round was hard fought but won by our delegate of the day. Information on this will be forthcoming. From there we had an interesting Chicken dinner with some questionable salad but nothing to serious. I stie here now typing on my laptop 55,000 feet above the ground concluding my blog for the evening.

Technical Difficulties on the Reg

Well everyone, as you may or probably not have noticed, I haven't posted anything since the beginning of our trip four days ago. We haven't had time to use the "internet cafe" until now. So, I have blogged in Microsoft Word and will release the blogs in order today. Thanks for the Patience.

Game 1 in less than 6 hours until game time. LETS GO BAFANA BAFANA!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Less than 24 hours to go

The final preparations are being finalized. The bags are being packed and weighed. In less than 16 hours our delegation will meet in front of an administrative building at Western New England College in beautiful suburban Springfield to begin our journey.

The current travel itinerary is as follows:

We are to meet in front of Deliso Hall at 5 am. (If your a member of the press be sure to get there before 5 because Professor Hamakawa has made it clear that we need to be there by 5 and there is a good chance that bus could leave at 5:01.)

We will travel by bus from Springfield to JFK International Airport in New York City and board a lengthy 12 hour and 45 minute flight set to leave JFK at 11:20 AM and arrive in Dubai at 8:05 AM.

Anyone terribly concerned with our plan taking off and landing can receive email or mobile alerts by going to , clicking flight status in the column on the left hand side of the page, entering our flight number (204 on 08 June 2010) and clicking the denoted tab "get email or mobile flight status alerts.

We will be flying economy class and the conditions sound good according to emirates web page. Meals are provided and include complimentary beverages. Reviews on the airline food and service will be forthcoming.

There will be a layover of approximately 2 hours in Dubai while we wait to board our second flight from Dubai departing at 10:15 AM and arriving in Johannesburg at 4:25 PM (flight 763 on June 9th). The same tracking and confirmation is available for this flight.

I've spoken with many members of the group. Most are a little worried about the length of the flight and other travel logistics but everyone is extremely excited. This trip began with an idea over a year ago. Most of us heard about it shortly thereafter. The applications were due before the holidays and the first payments due when we returned. Since then we have learned about South African culture and soccer history through a series of Friday afternoon meetings, academic research, and article postings by professors and delegates in our online classroom. And now the day is upon us, we are taking a journey halfway across the globe to a foreign land for the largest single sporting event in the world.

Barring an incident of Snakes on the plane, this should be an awesome trip and I look forward to letting you all know about it twice a day.