Everywhere we went today the World Cup was present. Magazines with pictures of the country players in boxer briefs ( courtesy of Vanity Fair), newspapers with predictions of the winner, passengers on our airplane sporting their teams jersey, everywhere even our little travel pack with an eye cover, toothbrush & socks from SA airlines had a world cup theme. For most die-hard soccer fans that would probably be what they needed to have the ” rush” of reality that they were going to Africa for the World Cup, but I am not a die-hard fan. If you have not already figured this out this is Alisa’s post not Alex’s.
My ” rush” of reality came at 2 AM in the morning somewhere over Guinea. Unable to sleep I was able to enjoy the early morning complementary drink round. I ordered tea with a milk and a little sugar, probably not the best idea since I was already having problems sleeping and tea in Africa means black tea (typically some form of english breakfast) Oh well! One sip of that tea and I was suddenly back sitting with my host family outside our house in Ghana having deep in-depth conversations about politics, religion and culture. Another sip and I was in Namibia having breakfast with Alex and Mo at the base of the tallest sand dunes in the world. So many of my greatest memories of my 2 trips to the African continent revolve around tea. I have been up way too many hours and I am starting to think what was my whole point of writing this? Well I guess my point is that everyday I look at baskets, masks, photos of my journeys as many people will do when they return home from SA, but they do not illicit quite the same memories or emotional response as that cup of tea. So while we are buying a 2010 world cup t-shirt and other reminders of your trip find your tea. Find the thing that no matter where you are in life you will see, smell, taste and it will bring your right back to SA and the 2010 world cup because when future generations ask you about what it was like to go the first World Cup ever hosted in Africa they are not going to want to see a t-shirt. They will want the little details that made this experience one of a kind, the memories that are often brought about by the smallest and most simple things.
A side note. I feel I should explain my relationship to soccer because it is very different then that of the other writer on this blog. Unlike Alex I had never seen a soccer game let alone a professional soccer game until I studied abroad at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban in the fall of 2007. The first professional game I went to was to see the Kaiser Chiefs play . After that Alex took my soccer education into his own hands ( I’m still learning). On our way back from SA Alex and I spent a few days in London where we did the grand tour of the Arsenal stadium( in exchange for him going to see Wicked with me). I was blown away by the detail that had gone into everything from the grass to the locker rooms. After returning to the states I realized how disconnected Americans were from the worlds most popular sport. Yes there is MLS ( Go Earthquakes!!) but for the majority of Americans it is all about American football. My biggest hope is that the USA qualifying for the 2010 world cup will spark more interest in the sport. Not just because it’s the most popular sport in the world and a lot more interesting to watch then American football ( in my opinion) but because of the power of sports to create peace and friendly competition. Sports psychologist have known for a while that play on a team sport like soccer builds confidence, cooperation and leadership. But recently members of the peace building community, like Search for Common Ground, have used sports ( mostly soccer) and television to address issues, raise concerns and build lasting peace in countries that have been torn apart by war. Please if you get a chance check out SFCG website and information about their program The Team, what it has achieved has only just begun. I will also post the articles I wrote about The Team on this blog if anyone is interested in reading them.
My soccer goal for the World Cup is to expand my soccer knowledge and learn how to kick the ball well enough to play in a pick up game with the kids in the villages I am volunteering at in Kenya starting in August.