Monday, November 26, 2007

The Happiest Place on Earth

Andy and Kate have been some crazy places, but nothing comes close to the craziness of the Orlando Pirates vs. Kaiser Chiefs match that we went to on Saturday.

It’s very difficult to convey the passion that soccer supporters feel both for the sport and for their specific team.

Some of it comes through in the outfits that they choose.

The Orlando Pirates and Kaiser Chiefs are old-school rivals, both being from Soweto and both usually ranking towards the top of the heap in the Premier Soccer League. Most soccer fans in South Africa identify themselves as either Chiefs or Pirates fans. Fanship is hereditary, if your father is a Chief, you are a Chief.

We arrived about two hours early to the stadium, where a rockin’ dance party was already well underway. This soccer match truly is the event of the year (if South Africans are showing up early, you know it’s a big deal). This photo was taken an hour before the match even started.

The match was played at ABSA Stadium in Durban, the site of the earlier car theft (we took a taxi this time), which was full almost to capacity (55,000!). The match organizers didn’t sell 5,000 tickets to avoid too much craziness.

There was plenty of craziness…

But no problems.

The family that we live with, the Motales, are a Pirates family, so we dressed in black as Pirates supporters. The usually-mellow Danny Motale was reduced almost to tears by the Pirates’ first goal.

The Pirate’s have several team names, due to South Africans’ love of nicknames. “Pirates” takes the easy leap to “Buccaneers,” which turns into “The Bucs,” and our favorite “BAKABAKA!”

The team motto is “Happy People.”

There were plenty of happy people in ABSA Stadium all through the match, which was an exciting and well-played game that ended in, of all things, a tie. 2-2.

Monday, November 19, 2007

South Africa Loses!

We drove up to Johannesburg last weekend to watch Team America beat Bafana Bafana, South Africa’s national soccer team. The team name means “boys, boys” in Zulu. You can likely guess the meaning of the women’s team name, Banyana Banyana…

South Africa’s supporters came out in full force, but South Africa was not expected to win. Believe it or not, despite getting bounced out of the World Cup in the first round, the U.S. team is actually pretty good.

The U.S. also had some surprise supporters.

The impressive team spirit couldn’t pull the ball into the net for South Africa, though, and the U.S. won 1-0.

The match was the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge, with all proceeds going to benefit the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Because of the spirit of the match, the organizers arranged for several children’s soccer teams to score free tickets. The kids all came in their soccer uniforms (including cleats!) and were very, very excited.

“Who will you root for?” was the common question from people who knew that we were going to the match. That’s Andy in his Bafana Bafana jersey and Kate in her Red Sox shirt (still claiming bragging rights for their World Series win).

These two split as well, she’s in her Bloemfontein Celtics jersey and he’s waving a U.S. flag.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Watermelon Man

Anyone older than my students at Booth-Fickett will hopefully catch the Herbie Hancock reference in the title…

As summer is starting in Tweeling and the watermelons ripen, Andy has become Tweeling’s Watermelon Man.

While Andy already had a lot of fans in Tweeling, the kids now follow him around like he’s the Pied Piper since he turned them on to watermelon.

The kids were asking for apples, which we had been giving them whenever they were hungry. Andy instead sliced up the huge watermelon that we had bought for $5.

Due to a slight language confusion, the kids continued to ask for apples when they were hoping for some watermelon.

We have found some of the world’s biggest watermelons at the Fruit and Vegetable shop in Bethlehem, about an hour south of Tweeling.

Ntombi can hold the watermelon herself if we lift in and hand it to her, but Fana needs some help. One of these days, we are sure, there will be a smashed watermelon on our kitchen floor…

Andy continued to draw fans by teaching some of the kids to bake Toll House Cookies. The kids call them “The Cooks” or “The Little Cakes.”

He also taught them about the fun in eating the cookie dough and smearing it all over your face. He was even successful in convincing the kids that, after you eat the Cooks, you have to clean up the fantastic mess that you made.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Keep Lesotho Wierd

Not that Lesotho (pronounced Le-soo-two) will ever not be weird, but it could very easily adopt Austin's city motto ("Keep Austin Weird") as its national creed.

Lesotho's real motto is "Lesotho: Real Africa." A little jab at its neighbor, South Africa, but meant to imply that it is rough and mountainous, which it is,

that there are far more people walking than there are riding in cars,

that the only recognizable shape is a circle,

that they can think outside the box when making a public phone system,

that it has absolutely gorgeous sunsets,

that whatever you do attracts a crowd,

and that the crowd that you attract will sing and dance for you for free...

Kate and Andy crossed the very-porous border between Lesotho and South Africa to spend a weekend at Malealea Lodge in the tiny village of Malealea. We stayed in our own little rondeval and spent hours sitting outside looking at the scenery.

We were assisted by this boy to saddle up horses for a four hour ride to a nearby waterfall.

Our guide, Thapelo, gave us fabulous African answers to all of our questions. "Has the weather been nice here, Thapelo?" "Yes, it is time now for ploughing..."

Traditional Basotho people wear blankets to honor Moshoeshoe (Mo-shwe-shwe), the first king of Lesotho and the one who escaped King Shaka's massive bullying of anyone not Zulu and who brokered a deal with both the British and the Boers, both of whom wanted control of Lesotho. The story is that Moshoeshoe rounded up the people that were running away from Shaka's violent takeover of Eastern South Africa, marched them up to Lesotho, and founded a kingdom. Lesotho is the coldest place in Africa, getting significant amounts of snow in the winter, so when the British donated wollen blankets to the Basotho people, they decided to wear them all of the time to both thank the British for their donation and to honor the diplomatic skills of their king.