So being in Lesotho, I had the opportunity to attend two world cup matches. I have posted pictures on my shutterfly. I once again messed up the address. It is adamlesotho.shutterfly.com. That is the correct address. Please disregard the first two.
The first game we saw was Greece versus Nigeria in Bloemfontein (shortened to Bloom). This is a small city only an hour and a half from the border of Lesotho. We took a bus from the border, but before getting on the bus we had to take a taxi from the boarder to the bus. There happened to be a few cops in a truck present when we crossed the border. They offered to give us a lift to bus! So the pics of me in the back of a police truck were of us getting a ride…I swear I didn’t do anything wrong. My favorite part of the city is the cooling towers of a coal power plant (I think it is no longer operational, but I could be wrong). The cooling towers are painted with designs. They are very pretty. That coupled with my power engineering background makes them special to me.
We arrived in Bloom the day of the game. I think Bloom has a fair amount to do, such as a zoo (but I hate zoos because the animals look really sad), but we didn’t have a lot of time so we went to two malls. Ha. The first mall was called Mimosa mall and OH BOY was it shiny. I am not used to such cleanliness and bright lights. It was a sensory overload. We perused bookstores, clothing stores, and the food court. The highlight of this mall was the muffins. I know this is quite a bold statement, but I will say that the chocolate chip muffin I consumed was the best muffin of my life. It was huge and warm and fluffy. It came with a side of butter, jelly, and cheese (yes cheese…I’m not sure why). After the bliss of muffins, we walked to the waterfront mall, which was situated close to the stadium. I figured we would be able to buy vuvuzelas (those annoying horn things you hear on tv that sound like bees) there, but apparently everyone and their mothers had sold out of them! I volunteered to run back to mall number one and bought four from guys selling them illegally on the street (we saw these same guys being chased away by the cops later, turns out you can’t sell merchandise within so many kms of the stadium). I ran back and met up with my group. They came bearing face paint! We entered the stadium two hours early, expecting security and lines to be long. It took us about 30 seconds to get in. There is tighter security at White Sox games. Sooo with our ample time, we drank Budweiser (go America!), painted our faces and practiced using the vuvuzelas (They are harder than they look…the key is to motorboat those things!). We found our seats which were on the first level and only about 12 rows up. I rooted for Greece while my friends rooted for Nigeria. The stands were not filled. I find this a bit embarrassing. This is supposed to be the biggest sporting event in the world and they can’t sell tickets? I know South Africa has been praised for how they have handled the world cup, but after the hassle we went through with tickets and the fact that there were empty seats gives me the opinion that South Africa should not hold this major of an event for a long time.
After 90 mins of excitement and much vuvuzela blowing, Greece won their first ever world cup match! I was pumped. We walked to a resturaunt where I ate the greatest burger of my time in Africa. Then, influenced by a drink or four, we thought it wise to go to McDonalds and eat yet another burger (I got the mega mac…4 patties…yes I regretted this the next day). We then returned to the hostel where I got to take a shower! It’s great to have running water. I find it interesting that the actual game part of this trip excited me less than the shiny mall and many food options.
The second game was slotted to be the winner of the US/England group to play the runner up of the Ghana/Germany group. I watched the US/Algeria game with great excitement. I was pretty distraught, thinking there might be a chance we see Slovenia, but thanks to Landon Donavon in stoppage time, we were off to see the US!
We took a similar trip to Bloom (minus the police escort) where we had a rental car waiting for us. We drove from Bloom to Rustenburg in a few hours. We stopped for food and bathroom breaks (turns out gas stations are just as exciting as malls). Along the way we listened to music, played car games, decorated ties and vuvuzelas, and shared in the general excitement of getting to see the US. We got to Johannesburg and promptly got lost. The signage was terrible! We got through some of the city and my friend (the only one who knows how to drive stick) was feeling sick. I had expressed interest in learning so she put me behind the wheel. What a scary experience. I stalled the car at least a dozen times and three times pulling out of the gas station where we switched. I did have a few good accelerations and once I got going it was easy. Stop signs have never been so scary. We did make it however and now I have a new desire to learn stick! We got dinner that night at yet another shiny mall then rested for the big game the next day.
We woke up the next morning nice and warm (it’s really cold in Lesotho at the moment) and proceeded again to the shiny mall where we found the same place with the muffins (I guess it’s a chain). After stuffing ourselves with muffins, we went in search for America decorations for the game. My friend really wanted to wear a flag. There was one store that sold flags, but they were out of US ones. I spied a US flag in the window of a bakery. I smoothly greeted the owner and said, “I have a bit of a weird question, is there any way you could sell us your flag?” I think she thought I was a bit nuts, but agreed to swap for a different flag if we were willing to take the US flag down and put the other one up. So we bought an Argentina flag and switched them, earning us a cape! We also bought a fair amount of paint…
We then returned to the hostel and commenced decorating ourselves. It took several hours that is all I will say. It is a bit of a travesty that we did not wind up on tv. If you check shutterfly, you will understand. We drove to the game, parked, and took the shuttle to the stadium. There were a few England fans on the shuttle who gave us grief. I would have gotten mad, but I was too excited about the game.
I imagine our walk to the stadium is how celebrities feel walking down the red carpet. Everyone gaped at us and took dozens of pictures. Everyone wanted their pictures with us! I think part of it was amazement at how we looked and part of it was amazement that I wasn’t wearing a shirt in pretty dang cold weather. It was nice talking to other Americans as well. The game was one of the most invested I have ever been at a live sporting event (save maybe Stagg bball games haha). I lost my voice during the first half. When Ghana scored the first goal only a few minutes in, I felt like I had been punched in the chest. I was stressed the entire game. When Donavon scored his PK, I felt like I could never be happier. Waiting for the start of overtime was like waiting for the results of an HIV test (maybe that’s a bad analogy). When the final whistle blew, I was devastated, not to mention freezing and a bit intoxicated after a few beers to help keep me warm. We drove to find dinner. We stopped at a place that had chicken and I got a whole chicken, four dinner rolls, fries, and a 2 liter of coke. My rationale was that I could eat some the next day, which I did. The next day, we woke up way too early, hit the road, and made it back to Lesotho. I learned something from this trip. And that is that I really like America. It took being away from it to really appreciate how awesome it is. I think my extreme disappointment at our loss is really telling to my newfound pride in my country.