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.

Blackberry UMA International Calling

I figured the trip to South Africa would be a good test of UMA calling on the blackberry in an international setting. I set up a wireless network connected to a DSL 256/512 connection. As soon as I connected to the WiFI network with the blackberry the UMA symbol popped up.

I disabled the carrier wireless network just to be certain that I would not be roaming and made a few test calls on UMA. The call quality was surprisingly good. I made a few changes enabling Quality of Service for the UMA ports – TCP 500 and 4500. I selected this ports per this RIM document
http://www.blackberry.com/btsc/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&externalId=KB13922

I am not sure if the QOS settings will make a difference or not.

Since South Africa is currently 7 hours ahead of the US, internet speeds are decent when the US is asleep. As soon as the US wakes up, the internet speed slows down significantly. The UMA voice quality also degrades when US internet usage begins in the morning US hours.

So far I am very satisfied with the service. I did make a mistake and pay the $9.99 with T-Mobile for UMA / WiFi calling when I did not need to. I am on the unlimited voice plan so using UMA voice has no affect on my minutes used. The $9.99 add-on is only for people with restricted minute plans, who want to use UMA / WiFi calling without burning the minutes on their plan.

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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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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