My first world cup match

Earlier this week – I watched my first world cup match. I guess I should throw a disclaimer out there – I’ve never been a huge soccer fan. I almost never watch soccer although I did play it when I was in high school. Before I get started – there’s one other thing. People would always correct me as an American – calling football soccer. Except – here in South Africa – they call it soccer . So there! No more paying attention to the folk who keep telling me to call it football!

We did the fan walk to go to the first game. It’s basically a 30 – 45 minute walk from downtown to the Green Point stadium. Along the way there’s music, food, and tons of little stalls. I’m still planning to do it one more time so I can get a pimped out vuvuzela. It seems the best ones are sold there. I was shocked at the police presence in Cape Town. It’s not just a few extra police – there are thousands of them. They walk in groups ranging from 3 to 10. You see them on horses, on bikes, on foot, in cars, etc. Some walk around, some are stationed, and some are handling traffic. It’s actually quite amazing to see such a heavy police presence.

I went to watch the Portugal vs. North Korea match earlier this week. We had regular tickets in the stands. We ended up sitting amongst a group of Portuguese fans.  Everyone wants to see goals when they watch a match. In this match, Portugal destroyed North Korea with a devastating 7-0 score in their favor. Everyone jumps to their feet when a goal is scored. There were so many scored in this game that it felt like doing a squats workout.

The game was well attended – approximately 63000 people in attendance. I was worried about the vuvuzelas and the potential noise. Everyone was talking about how horrible they are and how loud they are. I honestly think this is just bias. I had ear plugs but I really didn’t need them. As long as someone doesn’t blow one near your ear – the sound is fine. The ambience in the matches is pretty cool. The people with vuvuzelas have sort of sound offs. One group on the other side start a beat with theirs and the vuvuzelas on the other side start blowing with a counter beat. That goes on and off all through the matches. As a team begins to gain momentum – they start blowing to the beat for that team.

And then there are the waves. I’ve seen waves in a stadium – but somehow these seemed to have a life of their own. For starters – it’s awesome to see over 60000 people join in a wave. As the wave approaches, you start beating your feet on the ground to create a thunder sound. The feeling is amazing – it vibrates through your whole body. Once it’s upon you – you jump up wave, blow your vuvuzela if you want, then go back down. The waves  circled the stadium over and over and over.

So I have only a few gripes about the experience. First is the lack of food in the stadiums. McDonalds is the official food for the stadium so there are a few lonely McDonald’s stands. The only other food available is ice cream. Now who wants ice cream at a soccer match in the winter? Budweiser is the official beer – but no one drinks Bud in South Africa. So there isn’t a lot of drinking going on. Half time is literally 15 minutes long, so the bathroom lines are insane at half time. In fact, all of the lines are insane at half time. They did have some folk walking through the stands selling beers – but they really needed a lot more.

When the match was over, we got up and headed out. I was expecting long lines and a miserable process getting out of the stadium – but it was actually painless. We basically had a nice leisurely walk out of the stadium. People were still blowing their vuvuzelas, recounting the awesome 7 goals we saw, and basically behaving like crazed fans. We did the fan walk back to the city and decided to go bar hopping for a while.  The bar hopping is actually pretty nice. Cape Town is renowned for Long street and its bar life. Add thousands of tourists to it – and it’s a bar hopper’s dream. Everywhere we went – people were clad in their national colors and flags. Since no one was drinking at the stadium – people went straight from the stadium to the bars and started loading up. There was a nice celebratory mood across all of the bars and lounges. It was nice to see all of the excitement, national pride, and patriotism, without any of the angry violent behavior that can ensue. All in all it was good times.

My First Taste of the World Cup – The Geriatric Hooligan

Being South African and American – I couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity to come to the world Cup. So we got ourselves together and headed down to Cape Town to enjoy the first World Cup in Africa. This time we flew through Europe – as opposed to our usual direct Atlanta – Johannesburg route. The flight out of the US was nothing to really shake a stick at – but the flight into South Africa was quite something else!

We were situated in our seats when 6 senior-citizen European men came onto the plane. They were clearly tipsy and jovial (to say the least). They were giggling, laughing obnoxiously and staggering as they made their way to their seats. Once they figured out where they were sitting – they started telling jokes, laughing out loud and telling stories so loud – we could all hear it. Several other passengers muttered, “11 more hours….. this is going to be horrible”. I should start by saying – I’ve never quite understood hooligan culture. I have sometimes contemplated what motivates the passionate European fans that wreak havoc with their sports-inspired revelry. These men were clearly itching to get up to some mischief – and it hit me – these probably aren’t hooligans – but they are either retired hooligans or perhaps the parents of some hooligans. The remainder of the flight was a flurry of requests for cocktails, wine, and beers.  The flight attendants came back countless times asking them to be quiet. Not only were they chanting and singing, but they kept congregating together. At any given time 2 – 3 of them were standing in the aisles with a glass of wine or beer, laughing out loud about something.

At some point, one of the men actually pulled out a light-weight European version of a Vuvuzela and started blowing it on the flight. I could only think that if this flight was bound into the US – an air marshal would have detained them and probably diverted our flight out of the US!  At one point, after about 20 minutes of constant horn blowing, the flight attendant walked by calmly and snatched the horn. She was met with cheers and clapping once she finally did it.

Then there was the singing. I heard a few national anthems and then lots of “Oooooolaaaaaaay-Olay-o-Laaaaaaaaaaay! Oooo-Laaaaay-Oooooo-Laaaaaay!” I couldn’t help but think that – these men were old enough to be someone’s parent. Imagine if your parents were this passionate about their teams, I can only imagine what their children were like. I felt sorry for anyone who was trying to sleep on the flight because there was no chance with all of the singing. Ultimately the flight ended without incident, but it made me realize how serious this soccer business is.

House and Home (Canal Walk – Cape Town, South Africa) Horrible customer service

I don’t vent often, but this purchasing experience was so ridiculous that I think they deserve an entire post about this. This might be because I’ve lived in the US for so long, but it’s absolutely unacceptable for me to spend any amount of money on a product and for a retailer to be completely apathetic about providing what I purchased. Hopefully anyone who finds themselves in Cape Town shopping for furniture will look at House and Home in Canal Walk and then keep on walking by. They don’t have a great website – but here’s what I found : http://www.houseandhome.co.za/finding_a_store1.asp?prov=WESTERN%20CAPE

Here’s my story:

I was in town visiting family this December. We were in the market for new patio furniture. On December 21st we came across House & Home in Canal Walk and they had some reasonable prices for patio furniture. After spending considerable time with the sales rep, we agreed on a set. The price was roughly R4200 ( About $600). The cashier even went back to the computer to double check to make sure the furniture was in stock. We asked about delivery and she said they did next day delivery. I made it clear that we needed this purchase because this furniture was needed for a Christmas event we were hosting. With this assurance, I went ahead and made the purchase. I also indicated that same day delivery would be great, and she said she would check with her manager and said it might be possible.

We discussed the delivery process and she indicated that they would call right before they arrived. After all of this, I was dismayed to see that on December 22nd nothing arrived. I called the store in the afternoon to inquire about my purchase. First I sat on hold for a very long time. Once I got to speak with someone they said that they would call me back in a few minutes. Of course no one called back. I called again and they said – no one is picking up in the delivery department, they must be loading the truck and your stuff is probably on the truck. An hour later I called again. This time they said, “I’m sorry , it seems that two of the chairs you want weren’t on the order, so they didn’t deliver it.” At this point I was livid. I asked the woman on the phone why our stuff was left off. She indicated that this time she would actually check on the next delivery. So why was I not surprised that on December 23rd – still no delivery. In fact – our furniture didn’t arrive ever. So on Saturday December 26th, we went back to the store to get our refund.

After confused looks on the cashier’s faces – they decided to get a manager. I’d like to note that when we said we want a refund, they thought we were coming for a refund for a refrigerator. This leads me to think that a lot of people were angry about not getting their purchases, and we’re not the only ones who wanted a refund. The manager was hesitant to give us his name or contact information. We paid with a debit card so they insisted that the refund had to be done in cash. Oh and surprise-surprise – they didn’t have enough cash in the register. Therefore they claimed that they would be getting money from sales in the rest of the day and someone would go to the bank.

Needless to say we spent Christmas without any patio furniture. We haven’t received any communication regarding this – and don’t know if we got our refund yet. It’s pathetic that a major retailer can have such pathetic customer service. Their manager was a joke, and was clearly uncomfortable. It was obvious that he just wanted to get out of this situation as quickly as possible. The sales person simply lied about having our stuff in inventory and their phone support is pathetic. If this retailer wants to compete with real chains, they will have to do better than this – because I will never shop at House & Home. And now that I know House & Home is a division of Checkers (for those who don’t know – a grocery store chain) – I don’t think they deserve my money either. I’ve been sharing this story with all of my friends to protect them from going through the same nonsense.

Emergency Landing on a Commercial Flight

I never thought I’d have an emergency landing in a plane. In fact, I never really paid any attention to those safety cards. Yes, we read them and make sure we know what’s there, but every time we get into a plane, we assume that it won’t apply to us. Well, a week ago, we were coming from Johannesburg to Cape Town and actually had to use what was in those safety cards.

For starters, we had been awake for about 3 straight days. We were catching our flight back to Cape Town in the afternoon. Our flight was delayed, because the plane couldn’t land in JHB. The plane circled for a while and was redirected to another airport to refuel. Finally the plane arrived. Once it arrived ( and 5 gate changes later) we boarded and were ready to roll out. The weather had turned horrible. A storm formed and the heavy rains started. Despite that, our flight took off. The first oddity of this flight was the fact that we actually flew low for a long time until the pilot found a hole in the clouds. Once we started ascending, a flurry of lightning crashed around the plane. Once we got above the clouds, I was convinced that the worst was over. About 40 minutes before landing, the pilot came on the speaker,” Ladies and gentlemen, we are having problems with the landing gear. We will have to prepare the cabin for an emergency landing and emergency evacuation of the plane. The crew will be coming through the cabin to brief you on the procedures and please cooperate with them.” The woman next to Peter kept asking if this was really happening. I told her “I know this is horribly philosophical, but we can’t stress over what’s happened – since we can’t change it. All we have now is to change the way we react to what’s coming next.” I’m not sure if that gave me any comfort, but it felt like a painful reality.

At this point people started seriously reacting. One woman across from us simply broke into tears. People started praying. The flight crew asked people in the emergency rows if they were still willing to open the doors. One woman simply threw her hands up and walked away from the seat. Now this is just me being pissy – but frankly speaking – shame on anyone who asks for an emergency row because they want more room but when push comes to shove, they aren’t willing to fulfill the role. The flight crew found people who were willing to open the doors and briefed them thrice on how to open them. As well as reminding them that if they saw flames or smoke, not to open that door, but to exit on the other side. The flight crew then swept through the cabin, removing all personal items and stowing all of them. They instructed us to leave all personal items. At this point, I started to realize that this was a very bad situation. Then the crew started teaching us how to do the brace position for an emergency landing. The pilot said ,”This is just precautionary, and we’ll only give the command if we need it.”

When we started descending, we noticed that this was not a normal descent. The plane was dropping so fast that our ears were popping. Suddenly the crew started shouting over and over, “Brace Brace – Put your head down! Brace Brace – Put your head down!” At this point it hit me that we might not make it through this. People were saying their final goodbyes, praying, and some just sobbing. We put our head’s down and waited to see if there would be sparks or flames or something. Fortunately we landed ok. People cheered when the plane touched down. The captain came on and said that we landed ok but our steering mechanism was shot, so we would have to be towed into the gate. Needless to say, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable on a plane again – but I NEVER want to go through an ordeal like that again.

Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town

Chapman’s peak drive is some of the most scenic drives in Cape Town. It’s a blur of hair pin bends , beautiful backdrops, mountains coming out of the ocean, etc. I thought I’d share some of the pictures we took when we were there in 2006.

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Cancun Mexico in December 2009

We went to Cancun for a friend’s wedding this December. I have to admit, we didn’t need any excuse – we’d definitely make it. It was our first time in Cancun and I think I’m hooked. Although you can get blue water in a lot of places – how many places can you get to the airport around 3:30 – 4:00 PM and by 8:30 PM you can be on a perfect beach. We stayed in the Le Meridien hotel. It’s a pretty nice 5-star hotel. Their service is great and the pools are great. The beach isn’t huge and it has a strong surf. However, they have three large pools. The first pool is heated. All in all – we had a blast and will be going back at some point. Here are some pictures taken with a Blackberry Bold 2:

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Cape Town vacation

We have visited Cape Town several times over the past few years. During our visits we visited several tourist destinations in Cape Town. Some of the places we visited are Seal Island, Table Mountain, Muizenberg Beach, and The Strand Beach.

Here is a collection of photos from these visits
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Birthday weekend in Nassau – Bahamas

We had never been to the Caribbean before and figured that a birthday would be a wonderful excuse to make such a trip. There wasn’t much time to take photos but I snapped a few shots away. I was also getting used to the camera, learning its features and finding a convenient way to haul it around.

Here are some pictures taken during this visit to Nassau.
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Weekend trip to Mexico City

In August 08 we paid a visit to Mexico City. I always wanted to see the pyramids in Mexico and despite the short trip, we were able to squeeze in a tour of the Teotihuacan archaeological site where we saw the Avenue of the Dead, the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon.

Here are some pictures from this vacation
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Vacation in Rio de Janeiro

We took a trip to Rio in December 08 and got to see some of Rio’s famous tourist detinations as well as experience the vibrant culture of the city. We got to see the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the Tijuca Forest National Park, Copacabana Beach, Ipanema and Leblon beaches, Sugarloaf Mountain as well as several Brazillian steak houses.

Here are some pictures from the trip
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