Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup--Cold Front and Elephant Kisses

June 15, 2010

We woke up this morning to freezing temperatures and high winds and thanked our luck that we did not have to sit in a stadium today. Instead, we packed up and went to the Elephant Sanctuary. You actually don't know how much you don't know about elephants until you have spent several hours with them, learning about them a to z. For me, the most fascinating insight was about elephant physiology, particularly elephant skulls. I got to hold a jawbone, which was heavier than Uma (35 plus pounds). The rest of the skull however, wasn't solid bone like the lower jaw. It was honey-combed, which apparently serves a variety of purposes: helping to magnify the elephants rumbling and trumpeting, to cushion head butting games, to create a cooling mechanism, and perhaps most importantly to lighten the load, so it can actually carry its head around (if the skull was as dense as the jaw it would be tough to walk and dangerous to swim).

This young man (the elephant, not the trainer) rewarded me for being such an attentive student:

I promised not to kiss and tell, but the evidence gave me away (just imagine trying to hide this with a little base make up, like girls in high school do. . . not to worry, it's dirt, not a hickey.):

Yesterday's day matches were somewhat disappointing. Who wouldn't feel terrible for the Denmark defender who scored an own-goal? The question I have is whether an own goal keeps Denmark's unbroken string of opening game scoring intact or not.

The own goal also broke a rule I had been empirically testing. My theory was that if you had not seen the actual play, but saw a player running away from the goal, you could predict what had transpired by looking at their hands/arms. If they run away with their arms outstretched, hands either pointed up, to the side: or down: , that player scored!

If you see them running from the goal with their hands on their head, covering, their eyes or rubbing their cheeks, they missed. The Danish player was evidence to the contrary: head and face rubbing, but, in fact, the ball went in the goal.

But on with the post-game analysis: Cameroon was a huge disappointment to me, with unorganized (I might even suggest "selfish") play to Japan's hustling, team-based defense and attacks. We had a better go in the evening when the candy-cane-socked Paraguayan side (these almost look like the tornado socks Erin's team used to wear) evened the score against Italy. And once again we counted our blessings that our ticket package was centered around Johannessburg, rather than down in Cape Town, which is experiencing monsoon-like rain and high coastal winds. (NOTE: it's easier to dress to keep warm than to keep dry!).

Between the games we attended a shebeen, which is a pub night with traditional African food. We had excellent chakalaka (really tasty cole slaw-ish vegetable dish) and marogo and pap (African spinach with a sort of grits-like grain porridge) and many other stews and grilled meats that would look more familiar to you. Also a dense chocolate something to sweeten our palates. Somehow, I was on wine instead of beer, so maybe I wasn't as authentic as I could have been.

I'll try harder next time.

People have been asking about the vuvuzelas (accent on the third syllable). The run up to the opening ceremony and South Africa's first match was vuvuzela heavy, everywhere: outside our window at four in the morning, out every car window that passed us on the streets, and certainly at the match and FanFest locales. They have since tapered off a bit and are not a bother. We actually worried quite a lot about the match level noise. We had brought ear plugs from home, but actually spent a little time on Thursday and Friday seeking out noise baffling headphones to wear at the game. They were sold out completely, so we had to tough it out with plugs and stocking hats covering our ears.

The excitement before US/England was quite loud with chanting and vuvuzelas and we were glad for the hearing protection. Part way through the first half, I took out the ear plug on one side, so I could hear conversation, and by the second half, I was plug-free with no detrimental effect.

I think the television audio picks up the horns a little more than you hear in the stadium (unless you are sitting by someone with powerful lungs and the ability to circular breathe). Otherwise, you just get the occasional blast every once in a while (at a lower decibel level than air horns that you have at some games and with briefer duration than the clackers that some fans bring).

I know, I'm late posting again, but you can tell these were our actual pre-game predictions. While I'm sorry to have lost out on my Slovakia prediction, who in the world can possibly hold it against the young Kiwi who headed it in in the 93rd minute to score New Zealand's first ever World Cup finals goal?

New Zealand-0 Slovakia-2
Ivory Coast-2 Portugal-1
Brazil-4 North Korea-0

New Zealand-0 Slovakia-2
Ivory Coast-2 Portugal-0
Brazil-5 North Korea-0

New Zealand/Slovakia--tie (smile rule)
Ivory Coast/Portugal--tie (green rule)
Brazil-win (green rule)

Yesterday was Davis's day, with a 2-1 record and the first two exact score predictions of the tournament. I was also 2-1, and lucked into my first exact pick. The Erin rules had a sad day (0-3), and Walter got on the scoreboard with 1-2.

Until tomorrow, I will leave you with a photo of my new South African friends: Samm and Deqlan:


  1. aaawww, i just love the photos with the elephant! we also went but Deqlan wasnt happy so we took him home but the rest of my family, including my step sister from canada had the most amazing day with the elephants! so glad you got to experience a shebeen evening to!! what a lovely photo, what a lovely mornig spent together which will be treasured always!

  2. Hi VB -
    Can't help but sit here and think how Erin would have treasured every moment of this trip! From the elephant, to the spreadsheets, to the games, the fans, and Deq! It's really neat that you met up!