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South Africa, New Zealand, Safaris, Oh My!

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Over the next two weeks, several of our alumni are traveling to South Africa to see many of the World Cup games and experience the culture.  They arrived just earlier this week and are reporting back......here are some more of their stories and pictures!

Day 3

Hey hey hey all of our American friends!!  Well we made it through day 3.  We decided to sleep in a little longer this morning (8:30am) b/c it has been a long first couple days.  Also, we stayed up a little late last nite just talking about the WC games, having some drinks and just reminiscing of our playing days as Bearcats!  Brandon and Justin were up early doing the dishes (yes, as we get older we have become more domesticated) while making coffee for everyone.  A little later the rest of the crew were up and we were all having breakfast trying to decide what to do on our "day off" from games.  We spent the morning catching up on a little

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world news and watching analysis from the US game.  After a while Justin took the wheel for the first time in SA and took all of us to the mall.  There, we met up with Carina to say hi at her store and we set out to explore the mall.  The ladies out there would LOVE this mall.  It was the largest mall any of has ever seen.  It was probably bigger than Kenwood, Tri-County and Florence mall combined.  While there, Ian met up with us and let us borrow his Tom Tom, which turned out to be pretty big time.  We all purchased a great amount of souvenirs and yes, the first Vuvuzela's were purchased.  We really can't wait to get back and annoy all of you with them.  Yes, Hylton, Dan and Jeremy they will be present at the UC games this coming fall, so be prepared!!  After our, what turned out to be a 3 hour trip to the mall, we headed back to our apartment for lunch.  We did stock up a bit on some SA adult beverages.  We had to, b/c the different bottles had WC labels on them so we felt obligated to buy them.

After lunch we headed out to the Monte Casino.  This casino reminded us so much of Vegas; the only difference is that being in SA they had a WC fan zone at the casino.  This means a giant TV about 3 times the one that sits on fountain square with hundreds of fans watching the games and having drinks.  It was quite surreal to be honest.  As futbol fans it was just awesome to all of us to walk into public places that we all would normally be in, in the States, and have EVERYONE so focused on the games.  It was just awesome.  While at the casino Mike and Thomas decided to sit down at a blackjack table.  Why not gamble here in SA, was the thought?!  After about an hour Thomas broke even and Mike was up about R550 (which is about $80 US).  Well done boys!  Brandon decided to go all out and bet R300 on USA red at the Roulette wheel and came up a bit short.

After leaving  the casino we decided to pick up some pizza which turned out to be a little bit of an adventure, including Justin nearly "rubbing" up against some Jalopies (yeah guys, Google that).  But I guess what they say for you NASCAR fans... "Rubbing is racing."  We got back to the apartment with the pizza and sat down to watch the Denmark vs. Cameroon game.  While getting ready to watch the game we got and unexpected call... it was Timmy!!  It was so great to hear from him.  He was just hanging out with the boys and getting ready for their dinner.  He took time out of his busy WC schedule to phone us.  He spent time talking to each of us and seeing how we were doing and being so appreciative of us coming so far to see him to play.  It really meant a lot to all of us.  I am speaking for all of us in saying we are so privileged to have him as such a great part of our lives.  He actually surprised us and got us 5 tickets, front row seats at the midfield, for the Argentina vs. Greece game coming up this Tuesday at 8:30 (2:30 EST), so look for us TV!!  He invited us to "family time" after the Italy game and also to the All Whites nite out with the team after their last game here in SA.  Which pumped us up more than you can imagine b/c we will get to hang out with Timmy and rest of the All Whites before they leave!  How cool is that?!  Honestly, this was one of the best moments of the trip just to hear from Timmy.  We can't be more stoked to go watch him play!  After talking to Tim we had a few minor wagers on the game to which Thomas and Mike cleaned up a bit and Justin was the big loser, but it was all in good fun.  But it doesn't matter b/c we are more or less playing with monopoly money!

As the nite went on we spent time "cheers-ing" each other on having great company here in SA, a great support group back in the States, meeting people from all over the world, getting to hang out with Woody and Paul (Tim's brother), seeing the Stars and Stripes, and most important seeing Timmy play in the WC!!  We spent the nite in the apartment b/c we are heading out to Nelspruit tomorrow early in the morning to watch the All Whites play! 

We all wish you could be here sharing this experience with us.  We have had so many good laughs and good times and its only day 3.  We are looking forward to the next 8 days! 

Until we message again, GO NZ!!!!!!!!

The SA crew

Day 4

First of all we would just like to say that there would be no way to describe the 3 hours of our lives that we were at the Nespruit stadium for the NZ vs. Italy game.  The atmosphere that surrounded the game is absolutely indescribable.  We thought that nothing could top the USA comeback against Slovenia but the NZ vs. Italy game topped the USA game, no doubt about it.  Absolutely magical game. 

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The 4th day started out very early because we had to drive 4 hours to Nespruit for the NZ game.  On the drive out we jammed to South African music and just BSed.  We got out to Nespruit and pulled into our hotel... or so we thought was our hotel.  Wwe pull up to the Protea Nespruit hotel and there was police, security guards and not to mention so many TV cameras.  We had no idea what was going on.  It became evident that the Italian National Team was staying in this hotel.  Justin was escorted into the hotel to the front desk by one of the armed guards.  We soon realized that we were at the wrong Protea hotel.  Our hotel was about 70km from Nespruit, which works out to our benefit.  So after finding out we can't check into hotel we decide to just get ready for the game.  After a great meal at KFC in SA we headed to the Java bar to meet up with Paul Brown (Timmy's brother), and mates.  What a great time!.  We all got to catch up with Paul and mates with what has been going for the last couple years, then headed to the park-and-ride to get to the game.  At the park and ride we met up with a bunch of Kiwis and rode the bus to the game with them and Italians. The bus ride was an experience in itself.   The mix of Kiwis and Italians was pretty cool but the Italians vastly outnumbered the Kiwis but we would have to say that the Kiwis were louder.  We learned some crazy NZ chants and our crew jumped in right away.  We arrive at the stadium, which is one of the new stadiums that were built for the WC.  The Nespruit stadium was built with the idea that it would be held up by giraffes, ask Thomas about how excited he was about the giraffes.  You will be happy to know that we did not have a "Mike Vessels" episode this time.  Everyone had their tickets for the game!  After hanging out on the front lawn of the stadium with about 500 kiwis, having some cocktails and we headed to our seats.  We get to our seats and we are in the middle of the All Whites section, we couldn't me more pumped.  As we were getting ready for the game to start we notice a mate 2 rows in front of us with a Tim Brown jersey and a hat on.  Within a minute Thomas and Brandon notice its WOODY!!!  How crazy is that?!  Woody and his 2 mates come up and sat with us and after about 10 mins WOODY looks behind us 3 rows and yells HONIE!  For those that don't know, Honie is Woody's brother and they were on different "tours" with the NZ group.  For those that know both of them we spent a good amount of time talking about the Reds, Bengals and all of you guys that they met at UC and they told us to tell all of you hello! 

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On to the game.  What an amazing game!  Of course we were all hoping Timmy would make it on the pitch but we have a few pics of him warming up.  For those of you that watched the game you know what happened in the 7th min.  Absolute ecstasy!!  There are no words to describe the atmosphere at the stadium... it was crazy as you could imagine.  After about 100 dives by the Italians they finally got a penalty, which the converted, it was tied 1-1.  Even then, most of the Kiwis weren't too concerned.  As the game went on the excitement grew.  The last 30 mins of the game entailed everyone in the NZ section standing up, taking their shirts off and waving them around their heads.  This included Thomas, Brandon and Justin!  It was pandemonium!  As the final seconds ticked off the chants of, "Ole, Ole, Ole" and "All Whites," All Whites" became louder and louder.  I think I can speak for everyone that it was one of the best moments we have ever been a part of!  We never thought that the comeback for the USA 2 nites before would top our WC experience but this game certainly did.  We all stayed and when I say all stayed, I mean EVERY NZ fan at the game stayed to cheer on the boys afterwards and watch the short training session that they had after the game.  After the training session we all were in the front row of the lower section we were yelling for Timmy.  We were the 1st ones he saw and pointed over at us us.  After the session was over Timmy came over to say hi and spent about 10 or 15 mins talking with us.  At this point of the email I should mention that Timmy is a celebrity amongst the NZ supporters.  This made us feel even more privileged for him to come over and give us a big hug and talk with us.  There were so many NZ supporters that wanted pictures with Timmy.  Brandon requested for one of Timmy's game socks so he gave him one.  He posed for a picture and just chatted with us like it was back in Clifton and we were all out having a drink.  Some things never really change.  Tim is a world class friend to us and we couldn't be more proud of him.  After a short talk with Timmy we had to figure out how the heck to get back to the park-and-ride.  After getting on one bus Justin made friends with some South African and he guided us on our way.  We must mention that everyone here in SA have been so friendly and so helpful, we couldn't be more grateful!   After FINALLY finding the car we decide to head back to the Java bar to meet up with Paul Brown and the mates.  The city of Nespruit closes down one of their major streets every time there is a game in town to have a street party.  They had a DJ so our group spent time doing the Electric Slide with people from all over the world.  It was crazy! After a while we leave the street party and decide to head back to our hotel.  Our hotel was about 70km outside of Nespruit right by the entrance of Kruger National Park.  This turns out to be pretty big time.  This hotel is pretty awesome.  We can't really describe it to do its full justice so you will have to take our word for it.  Justin has the reservation in his name so he goes to check in and as he is checking in the head chef of the hotel restaurant is hanging in the lobby as well.  Justin asks the chef if the restaurant was still open so we can all have a bite to eat.  He informs us that the restaurant is closed but would open it just for us to have a Braai (a Braai is a BBQ in the US).  See, everyone here is awesome!  So we dropped our gear off in our room and head to the restaurant.  It was pretty sweet. We had the place to ourselves!  The food was great as well!  We just sat around, ate, drank and had so many good laughs!  It was like being on cloud 9.  After our dinner we walked around the outside patio and stumbled upon the hotel bar.  We decided to head in for a little and have a beer before hitting the sack for a long day at Kruger National Park.  Well.... That didn't really pan out as we planned.  We met another group of South Africans that were top notch.  We started sharing stories about football, rugby and so many different things.  We had many drinks, some games of pool and just an overall good time!  Since we were guests in their country they would not allow us to purchase drinks for them.  After a while we decided to head back to the room and get ready for tomorrow!

Bottom line is.... GO NZ!!!!! WHAT A CRAZY GAME!

Talk to you all soon!

The SA crew

Day 5

Good Morning to you all again.  Day 5 started out bright and early at 630am b/c it is our trip to Kruger National Park for our Safari!!!!  We will be looking out for the Big 5 which consists of Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Rhinos, and Water Buffalos. 

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With hearing from a lot of locals that we would probably not see any of them we set off with our hopes high.  Before going in we had to stop at a petrol station to fill up and get some water for the trip.  The gate we had to go in was not exactly in the best part of SA so we were a little hesitant to stop for petrol and water...but we did anyway.  We all kept a lookout and stayed in groups and got out of there with no problem....it was off to the SAFARI!!!  We checked in at the gate and it was off we go!  Within the first 5 minutes we spotted a giraffe about 5 feet off the road! 

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What a start...as the day went one we spotted hippos, impalas, boars, warthogs, turkey vultures, zebras, leopard, eland, blue wildebeests, waterbucks, crocodiles, vervet monkeys, chacma baboons, komodo dragon, ground hornbill, and white rhinos.  We spent 6 hours touring around the park and decided that we would head back to Joburg.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with Kruger National Park you can spend 2 weeks in the park and not see all of it!  It is gigantic! 

We set off for home with a 5.5 hour drive and Thomas started and was going to switch half way through.  With it being a Monday there were a lot more trucks and cars on the road....we were unable to drive the speed limit for more of the trip.  When we finally got an opening Thomas hit the gas with only about 2kms to go from being half way.  As we came of a hill there was one of SA's finest sitting on a stoop at the bottom with a radar gun.  His partner promptly ran into the middle of the road to wave us over.  Instead of chasing cars they just jump out in the highway and flag cars down to ticket them for speeding.  They asked for Thomas' license and then immediately started chatting about the World Cup.  We thought we were free of a ticket but turns out that if Thomas just gave him 500 Rand and that was about it...no paperwork, no ticket, no nothing.  Basically its 500 Rand for the police's pocket.

We finally made it back to Joburg around 6 just in time for rush hour traffic...although much to our surprise we didn't have any traffic going our way but for the other direction the highway was at a standstill for 10 miles...not a car was moving.  What is funny about this is that Spain was playing Hondours that night in Joburg.  The buses were stuck in this traffic.  They had to shut down the other side of the highway for them to drive the wrong way on the highway to get to the game on time.  Crazy!

We decided that night we would hang out at the apartment and recharge and get to bed early which is exactly what we did.  We will be going to the Argentina vs. Greece game tomorrow at 830pm up in Polokwane.  Timmy got us these tickets on midfield about 5 rows up!  We will get to hang out with Timmy tomorrow for about an hour before we go to the game so we are really excited about that!  Until tomorrow folks....we are off to explore another wonderful day here in SA!

Cheers

The SA Crew




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