Before starting this entry, which is my first in 5 months…ya sorry, I’d like to make good on a promise to my cousin Molly. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR ENGAGEMENT!!! Tyler, you’re a lucky guy…
So as I was saying, it’s been six months since my last entry which was just shortly after La Coquille had its first fundraiser dinner. Since then, I’ve done a lot of traveling, and thus, my work has been a little sporadic. For instance, I started a business course with artisans in May and then gave them a month to actually employ what I had taught them (in this case, accounting, among other things). In that month, I went to the world cup, which was beyond words...but I guess I’ll try.
But just to sum it up, I went with my two best Peace Corps friends, Doug and Brandon. We took a bus from Cotonou to Accra. In Accra,we got to go to a shopping mall for the first time in almost a year, which was more awesome because there was pizza, video games, and a movie theatre. The whole shopping thing wasn’t for me. I became very greatful for Peace Corps Benin’s facilities because what amounted to the equivalent of their capital bureau looked more like a Vietnam military camp. The volunteers that actually stayed the thing there were stuck in a creepy hostel with nothing but a moldy bathtub that basically had the water pressure of a small child spitting on you. In short, I’ll never complain again.
When we got into the airport in Joburg, we were met with free cokes. It was genius on Coke’s part as I didn’t buy anything but Coke products the entire time I was in SA (except for beer). Finally attempting to find Sandro, my 4th cousin twice removed also proved a bit funny as neither of us knew what the other guy looked like. He had in his mind a tall, dark haired man, as did I. My question is, who was this guy that we must have ran into at his sister’s wedding that had impersonated the both of us? Alas, we did find each other and drove on the other side of the road to his apartment which overlooked Joburg. Getting into his car was the first of many times I tried to open the door on the driver’s side as South Africa drives on the left side of the road.
That night we had tickets to the concert w/Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys, and Shakira in Soweto. Surprisingly not scary, although we did get robbed in that we thought the stage would be in the middle of the arena when it was at the other end completely. The concert was still awesome and afterwards Doug and Brandon got lost. But we eventually made it back in one piece after rolling through all sorts of stop lights (or robots as their called in SA) so our car wouldn’t get hijacked. The rest of the time in Joburg we made pasta and pretty much spent the next 3 days at the mall until we went to our first match in Rustenburg: USA vs. England.
Arriving at the stadium we were immersed into a sea of fans; the English singing all of their 100ish songs that they have because football is a big sport in their country, and the Americans chanting “USA! USA! USA!” I was proud to be American but a bit ashamed that we have no real team songs.
We immediately headed to the stadium, which was being circled by multiple helicopters, news crews, and loud, cheerful people. Even when heckling would take place, at least before the game, it was always in jest. This was much the case when on the way to the stadium we saw some English fans peeing in some bushes on the side of the road. Upon seeing this, Brandon cried “The British have small bladders!”, at which point, Brandon, Doug and I all jumped out of the truck and went and peed in the bushes too.
Once we got into the stadium area, which was protected by the checkpoints, Brandon disappeared to find us some beers. We thought he’d come back with 3…he came back with an entire 24 pack. I’ve never been so happy to see his goofy face.
The game was awesome. We played well, the English didn’t, and thanks to some AYSO level goalkeeping by Greene, the English keeper, we emerged 1-1; the first of four ties that I’d see during the World Cup. It was also fun singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” when the English were singing “God Save the Queen”. Whoever thought that up, however unoriginal, was quite the heckler.
The day after the match, we headed back to the Joburg airport. We got another free ride from some friends of the Bourhills who refused to accept any kind of money from us. Arriving in Cape Town, we made our way to the house that we’d be staying in all week. It was in Oranjezicht, I believe an Afrikaans word. Once we got to the house (and check out the pictures), we were pretty stunned that we were only paying the equivalent of about 50 bucks a night. We were greeted at the door by a crazy eyed German guy wearing his Germany jersey in preparation for the game and his enormous dog. The house was actually three floors, but we were only allowed to two, sharing his kitchen, flat screen and (to Doug’s delight) Playstation 3. He only had FIFA World Cup 2010, which though I was there, had no interest in playing.
Instead, Brandon, Doug and I went to a ritzy restaurant named Balthazar and spent $80 a piece on dinner. Best steak I’ve had in Africa, bar none.
As this was the first time that I’d been to the developed world, I was excited to remember what a real bar was like, and even more to see some people who (I LOVE PEACE CORPS GIRLS) didn’t look like they’d been whipped with a bamboo stick for the last year. Well we found a bar that had a pretty sizable line, so we went to check it out. We got inside and there was a live band playing, cold beer, but something was missing…I was soon after that I scanned the room and realized that we were at a boerwurst fest, which for those of you who don’t speak Afrikaans is the equivalent of a sausage fest. I guess it’s not that surprising considering we didn’t see too many girls at the games, but we were hoping something would change that night…oh well, at least we had beer!
The next day we woke up late and shuffled down to the supermarket where we enjoyed the amenities of sample dishes and a deli that was serving meat that hadn’t been cooked over an old oil drum (which is what we’re accustomed to here). It was glorious not to have to listen to blasting music or shoo flies away from my coke. Just very chill. That night Brandon (who is openly bi…how do you spell that), wanted to prove a point to us: there are more girls at gay bars than straight bars, and they are better looking too. Well hell, after being in Benin for a year, eating bush rat and fish that more so resembled snake, I guess a trip to a gay bar wouldn’t kill me…so long as nobody started thinking I was playing for Rainbow Nation’s other team.
Well after a bit, Brandon got impatient and led us to “The Bronx”, which was everything I imagine a gay New York to be. The pictures on the walls of dudes with no shirts holding fire hoses and other phallic symbols put me off a bit, as it made it hard to bat my eyes away from other things like a tranny giving the show of his/her life on the stripper pole. Swimming my way through the crowd and keeping my eyes down, I finally arrived in the back of the bar, only to find our funny looking German friend surrounded by (female) models! Brandon was right! Yay! Well that didn’t change the fact that models tend to be…what’s the word…dumb, dull, boring, and generally unpleasant people. I remember the next night after the Brazil game getting a pep talk from a Canadian model in the virtues of a good (multiple partner) sex life. I’m sure you can imagine his confusion when I told him that I was (willingly) a virgin. I guess for some people, when you’re good looking, there’s no reason to be smart.
Towards end of the week (Thursday), I finally got my wish; doing some actual tourist activities. We went to Groot Constantia, the oldest vineyard in the Southern Hemisphere, and tried some really good wine. We also had a fantastic lunch and, yes, another milkshake. That afternoon we climbed Lion’s Head, which though terrifying on the way up, gives you a 360 degree view of Cape Town (pics). It was nice to get some fresh air and take a break from all the clubbing that Brandon was trying to make up for having lost in the last year.
The week wound down from there and it was time to head back to Johannesburg. Brandon stood at the jet way entrance looking longingly backwards saying, in the works of General McArthur (maybe), “I will return”. All in all, Cape Town was absolutely incredible…next time maybe my experience will be a little more peaceful…and less gay.
Arriving back in Joburg, we all felt a little worn out. We made our way back to Sandro’s house with little trouble and proceeded to pass out on his floor. Going to the little supermarket a few times, Doug and I started to notice that Brandon was looking a little rough…turns out he almost died.
Our last game was a bit impromptu. Because we sold tickets to one match that would have been impossible to get to, we ended up picking up tickets to the USA vs. Ghana match. Again, we stayed with the Bourhills, but this time the match wasn’t two sided on the field or in the stadium. I felt like everyone hated me because Ghana was the last African team in the Cup and it was an African World Cup. In fact, at one point before the match, I got all confused and thought that a 7 year old girl had stolen my ticket. Long story, all you need to know is that I’ll no longer be excepting free drinks…because it’s harder to count. The game was…well we didn’t win. That’s all you need to know. We got pictures though! We ended up staying another day with our gracious hosts, the Bourhills, and it was really tough to leave such welcoming people, especially for Brandon, who told Mrs. Bourhill she was a “hottie”.
We spent our last day back at Sandro’s before catching our flight back to Ghana and then took our regular bus back to our home sweet home, Benin. Overall, it was fantastic trip, and I can’t wait to go to World Cup 2014 in Brazil!
Oh yeah, there are also some pics from the USA vs. Germany match that we put on ourselves in Benin. Blood was shed, it was fought tooth-and-nail, and ended in a tie. As a friend of mine said jokingly “It’s kinda like the Peace Corps; it’s really hard to do, and in the end, you might not have accomplished anything, but at least you have more friends!”