In all there really aren't a lot of differences between the people we know and talk to everyday back home and the people we have met here. But, this of course comes as no surprise. People are people. They may not speak the same language all of the time but that doesn't change the fact that wherever you are from you can't be mad when you're laughing and it is impossible to whistle with a smile on your face. So, some random observations thus far:
The air quality here is horrible! There is no way to sugar coat this, the air is full of smoke and exhaust. This isn't changed by the city center to the suburbs- you walk outside and you smell smoke. I walked with a local S. African black named Tendai on the street after the US match at Ellis Park the other night. We spoke about the World Cup, S. Africa, Ben Harper, and why the side of the hill off in the distance was completely ablaze at 11pm. He said it was probably people trying to stay warm. At first this seems like perhaps he was trying to be funny, or he was clueless- this certainly wasn't meant to be a cozy little fire. The side of the mountain was on FIRE...FIRE...fire-fire-fire- ohhhh- yes it was on FIRE! But that probably makes Tendais point, it is cold here and there are a lot of people without the kinds of luxury's we are accustomed to so they burn whatever they can get their hands on to stay warm when the temps drop to about zero overnight. This bigger fire was probably just one of those little ones that got out of control. Plus, there are obviously no emissions standards here, and if there are, they are not enforced! If there is some posititve to be found from all of the pollution in the air, it does make for some pretty amazing sunsets. And I was happy he had heard of Ben Harper.
The music here is mostly trance, house, hip-hop! I made a terrible mistake prior to leaving on this trip. I tried to add a bunch of my brother-in-laws music to my I-pod. In my rush to get everything done before taking off I made the mistake of adding his music from my net-book. This of course erased all the music I previously had on the I-pod and added all of his. I am finding out that our tastes in music don't always jive. I miss my music!
There are advertisements everywhere here. The local newspapers put what look like front page story headlines in display cages on lightposts and and street signs. A couple favorites so far have been "FICK FUFA", and "Portugal Nukes Korea". Diesel has been running an ad campaign that I haven't been able to figure out just yet and that sort of scares me. "Be Stupid"! There are signs all over the place about things that are stupid and I just can't figure out what they are trying to say!
We have been unbelievabley lucky in terms of getting out to see other teams play. Never before have the tickets to games, or access to stadiums been so available to us. In the past we would always travel from city to city and stay for a night or two- check out the local happenings and then move on to the next place. This time around we have stayed in just one place. This has had its advantages, we have been getting a regular full breakfast with coffee and tea, eggs made your way, veggies and bacon, toast and jam. The lodge owners Ian and Larysta have been doting hosts with Dorothy and Yope making sure that we have whatever we might need or desire. The local stadium, as I have said is but 10 minutes walk from our front door. We have become familiar with shortcuts to the local fan fest so we can get down there without any trouble. We are becoming pretty good at navigating the streets in and around our neighborhood should we need gas for the cars, do some shopping at the mall, etc. It is nice to be able to get some descent sleep when it is needed. We have found what could be considered a paradise in the desert except for one minor detail- there is some construction going on here in Nirvana and they begin at about 7am. It starts relatively calm, with some early moring conversations and opening of tool boxes, placing of tools, maybe some remeasuring. This is the type of soft noise that you can easily work into your dreams. Ahhhh tapping, the sounds of muffled voices...ohhh dreamily warm and comfortable, secure and soft- dreaming of beaches and palm trees....BBBRRRRAAAHHHAHHAHHAH Circular SAWS and jackhammers, THWAK THWAK THWAK GRRRRRR THump THump! What The F%$K?!?! Is that dude hitting the wall above my head? I am waiting for the dust to start falling on my bed from the cieling above me. Oh yes, they must be pulling a 200 year old tree from the ground just outside my door. Ummmm yea, I am pretty sure I have heard that sound in the past, yep that is the sound of a funny car drag racer at the starting line exploding just after take off! But in the room next to me? Good morning! It must be 7am, don't want to waste the day!
We have seen four stadiums thus far; Pretoria (our home), Rustenburg, Ellis Park in Jo-Burg, and Soccer City in Jo-Burg. In these stadiums we have seen 5 games. Our first game was in Rustenburg and it was The US vs England. It was a pretty great experience watching what was a very surprising number of Americans show and support the US in what I thought would be a very one sided display of fans. The English fans were very brash and gave our team very little chance of competing with their beloved England! Looks like the English team had over looked us too. Because we live so close to the stadium here in Pretoria I was able to go see the mighty Danes play against Camaroon. I have an affinity for the Danes having played for a team there 52 or so years ago. They didn't disappoint and gave an effort equal to the task of getting 3 points. To all my fellow danes out there- you are DYNAMITE!