Tag: world cup

My 2014

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve done a year end post summarizing what I’ve done in the past year. These posts are mostly for me, so that I can look back and remember what I did, what I was thinking and what was important to me each year. Previous versions (2000s200920102011, 2012, 2013). Here’s what I did in 2014.

Like 2013, I rang in the new year on a friends balcony overlooking Santiago surrounded by friends, including my friend Polsky who was visiting from the US. Polsky and I took off for southern Chile, visiting Pucón, Frutillar and Puerto Varas during the first week of 2014. I was back in the south six weeks later when my parents and brother came to visit, adding Chiloé to the list. Every time I go to the South, I don’t understand why I don’t go more. It’s relaxing, stunningly beautiful, has incredible food and, in summer, has amazing weather.


I always come back from the south with new ideas, rejuvenated to get back to work and this time was no different. While 2013 was a year of starting many new projects, 2014 was the year that I focused.

In January, I partnered with Francisco Sáenz and Diego Philippi to launch Magma Partners, a private seed stage investment fund and accelerator based in Santiago, Chile. Our goal was to bring US style investment and know how to Chile and pair it with Chilean connections and mentorship to help entrepreneurs create successful businesses.

magma partners fondo inversion chile

A year in, I’m extremely proud to say that we’re already starting to see results. Over the course of 2014, we reviewed over 350 startups, met hundreds of entrepreneurs and finally invested in 13 startups. Running a fund has been much more work than I thought it would be. But it’s been worth it.

We’re already starting to see promising results from multiple companies, but 2015 will bring the hard part: helping our 13 portfolio companies make their way from nascent startups to real, scaling companies. I have high hopes and 2015 will be an extremely important year for Magma and our portfolio companies.

In addition to Magma, I started the year with four active projects Andes Property, La Condoneria, Startup Chile consulting and teaching entrepreneurship at multiple universities. By mid year, my head was ready to explode from so many different projects taking up brain space and I started to focus.

First, I realized that I was using the same part of my brain to mentor Magma companies as  I had previously used to teach entrepreneurship at universities. I knew I had to stop teaching because I was getting mentorship overload, so I found other entrepreneurs to take over my classes. Next, I stopped doing Startup Chile consulting, as it was taking up too much brain space and tried to figure out how I could get La Condoneria and Andes Property to run more autonomously.

After a long search, I hired employees to help run La Condoneria and Andes Property, both of which continue to grow quickly month over month. At the start of the year, I was personally picking, packing and taking packages of condoms to chilexpress (chilean fedex) five times per week and was personally showing apartments to foreigners for Andes Property.  I still work on both businesses, but Andres, Gonzalo and Bernadette have really stepped up to the challenge to take responsibilities away from me.

2014 was the year that I finally started to get better at spanish again after feeling like I’d plateaued in 2013. I still speak with a strong accent, but I can say 95% of what I want to say and am now happy making a joke per day, up from one per week last year. Baby steps.

2014 was the first time I wrote an entire post on my blog in Spanish and the first time one of my spanish blog posts went semi-viral in Chile. It was the first year I presented to large audiences in Spanish without notes, just like I do in English. I also did multiple radio interviews in Spanish for the first time. I’m still not as good as I’d like to be and I hate to see eyes glaze over because I’m not as engaging in Spanish and I am in English.

2014 was a great year for travel, as I explored Chile’s south on two separate trips to kick off the year. In February I took an incredible ten day trip to Uyuni, Potosi and Sucre in Bolivia. I’d previously been to Uyuni in 2011, but never to Potosi and Sucre, both of which were amazingly different from anything else I’d ever seen. I took a mile long tour of the Potosi mine, where miners as young as 10 years old use pick axes, dynamite, coca leaves, pure alcohol and their brute strength to try to scratch out a living. Sucre was an amazingly beautiful window into the Spanish Colonial past.


Cerro Rico, Potosi
Cerro Rico, Potosi

I took an express trip to Lima for the first time when my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Paul decided to come go to Machu Picchu. It was fun exploring old Lima with them and I ate the best meal of my life at Maido, a japanese/peruvian fusion restaurant. I can’t wait to go back to Peru to continue exploring the rest of the country.

2014 was a World Cup year and I made it three world cups in a row, spending three amazing weeks in Brazil. I saw 10 matches in five different cities, traveling over 14,000 miles in the process. My friends Enrique, David, Sandra and Tiago each traveled with me for parts of the trip, making it an incredible trip. I’ll never forget the marathon trips getting to the first three USA games, early and late goals in USA/Ghana, Jermaine Jones’ goal in USA/Portugal and the trip to the jungle, and the incredible spirt of the Chilean fans, even in defeat against the Netherlands and Brazil. I’m so thankful I’ve been able to attend.

USA Germany
USA Germany

I took three quick trips back to the US, one in late May to visit family, another for a friends’ wedding and the third for my group of college friends’ 10th annual Friendsgiving and the holidays with my family. I think I stayed better connected to family and friends by visiting more, but for shorter amounts of time each visit, a plan I’d like to keep up in 2015, rather than one 5-6 week long trip as I’ve done in previous years. It still isn’t fun to miss weddings, bachelor parties, thanksgiving, the Forward Festival and birthdays, but life is all about tradeoffs.

I made it back to Madison on all three trips, including an extended stay where my friends and I reunited for a weekend of Badger football and memories. I honestly can’t believe it’s been ten years since I started college. Time really flies. Madison is noticeably more dynamic each time I visit. The tech scene is on the leading edge of this new dynamism and I’m thankful and proud of Madison’s entrepreneurs for paving the way. Capital Entrepreneurs (made one meeting this year) and Forward Fest (sad I missed it this year) continue to be pillars of he newly emergent startup scene, with other entities and institutions arriving to continue to progress.

2014 saw me focus on two key businesses, continue to explore South America, attend a world cup and still stay connected with my friends and family in the US. I’ve been very lucky that the years keep getting better and better and I hope 2015 is no exception.

Favorite Posts of 2014

2014 was my lowest blog output in the six plus year history of my blog. And even worse, I didn’t make up for the lack of quantity with better quality. I’m not sure if its because I’m writing less or because my brain is getting mixed up because I’m speaking more spanish, but my writing is noticeably worse than in previous years. Last year 10 posts made my list. This year only four made the cut. I need to get back to writing more.

Seeing Things From Other People’s Perspectives

Never Give Up Is Terrible Advice

The Chilean Mindset Needs to Change From Extraction to Value Creation

Lack of Skin in the Game is the Root of Our Problems

My best posts from the Magma Blog

Ten Frequent Mistakes of Chilean Entrepreneurs / Los Diez Errores Frequentes de Emprendedores Chilenos

The Magma Partners Latin America Investment Thesis / Tesis de Inversión de Magma Partners Para Chile y Latinoamérica

The best books I read in 2014:

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created – I learned more from this book and its companion book 1491 than I’ve learned in a really long time. 1493 talks about how things changed after Columbus arrived in the Americas. It busts myths, adds new facts and really made me think.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – This book completely changed my understanding of what the Americas were like before Columbus and opened my eyes to some of the amazing things that native cultures in our hemisphere had done. Really worth reading and makes me want to explore Peru and Mexico.

Five Days at Memorial – An investigative journalist looks at what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina where doctors potentially euthanized patients.

The Everything Store – A Jeff Bezos biography and the history of Amazon.com.

The Boys In The Boat – A history of the US rowing team in the runup to and at the 1936 Olympics. Entertaining story at the confluence of history and sports.

World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 3 – Manaus-Sao Paulo-Natal for USA Portugal, Chile Netherlands and Italy Uruguay

Note: This is part three of a series about my world cup trip. Read part one here about Natal and USA/Ghana, part two about Porto de Galinhas and Costa Rica Italy here, or the entire series here.

After relaxing in Porto de Galinhas, I left my group to travel 5400 miles in three days to see USA/Portugal, Chile/Netherlands and Italy/Uruguay in Manaus, Sao Paulo and Natal, respectively. I left Porto de Galinhas with flip flops, shorts, a USA jersey, a sweatshirt, USA sunglasses and my tickets to the games, nothing more. My plan was to wake up at 4am, get to the Recife airport by 5 at the latest, then fly to Brasilia, then onto Manaus. But I almost didn’t make it.

We’d arrived in Porto de Galinhas two days earlier, but hadn’t filled up with gas. We’d planned to fill up upon arrival, but beach and caipirinhas got in the way. Instead, we decided to fill up at 430am on the way to the airport. But nobody told us that gas stations aren’t open 24/7 in northern Brazil. The first station, a half mile from our house, was closed. We asked the people partying (yes, partying at 430am in a gas station parking lot) where the next closest one was. They said there was one down the road. Closed too. The next one was closed, with all the lights turned off.

Enrique was accompanying me to the airport so he could use the car while I was gone, so the two of us continued until we got to a toll booth, already riding below empty on the gas gauge. I asked the toll booth operator if she could sell us a few liters of gas, but she said it wasn’t possible. I even offered to pay 3x the normal rate, but alas, no dice. I asked if there was roadside assistance and got an affirmative, so I asked if they could call now and have them bring me gas, but they said that they couldn’t call until we were fully out of gas. We decided to press on, against the warnings of the toll operators. They said that if (when) we ran out of gas that we had to stay on the highway and not get out of the car, as we had to pass favelas and other dangerous areas. As we pulled away they asked “first time in brazil?” and just smiled and shook their heads. Silly foreigners, expecting the gas stations to be open 24/7!

About a kilometer later, Enrique had the idea to go back to the tollbooth and have them call us a taxi. His idea saved me. As we pulled into the toll plaza again, an unoccupied taxi materialized out of nowhere. I jumped out of the car before he could pay his toll and asked how much it would cost to get to the airport. He quoted me a fair price and much to the shock of the toll operators, I jumped out of the car and into the taxi and was on my way. As we pulled away, I heard the toll operators yelling in a confused voice, “but where’s your luggage!”

Enrique turned around and made it back to within 2 blocks of our beach house and promptly ran out of gas. If I hadn’t turned around, I would have missed USA/Portugal and Chile/Netherlands. Two lessons learned: gas stations close early and there’s always taxis in Brazil!

Manaus – USA vs. Portugal

I needed to sell two extra tickets to the game and had been anyone wearing US colors if they needed tickets. Luckily the girl sitting next to me on the plane from Brasilia to Manaus needed a ticket, as did another guy she had met in the airport. Turned out the guys she had met were recent UW grads (Badgers are everywhere!) and I now had sold my extra tickets and had friends to hang out with before the game.

Manaus Spider
Manaus Spider

It made absolutely no sense to have Manaus be a world cup city. Although its a city of a few million people, it’s completely in the middle of the Amazon. You can’t arrive by road. Just boat and airplane. It’s 90% humidity and 90+ degrees. There’s mosquitos. Spiders. Crime. Hotels are incredibly expensive. And the local soccer team draws about 1000 people per game. But FIFA and its corrupt Brazilian partners decided to make Manaus a venue. They spent at least $300m on a stadium that was used four times and might be used as a jail afterward.

Flight into Manaus
Flight into Manaus

The flight into Manaus is extremely beautiful. You can listen to people describe the Amazon, but until you see it, you can’t appreciate just how big it really is. Swampy wetlands as far as the eye could see. A 1-2 mile wide river. Bright colors. Incredible clouds. But Manaus itself is just another past its prime big city. Manaus was one of the richest cities in the world during the rubber baron era, but when synthetic rubber was invented, it began its first precipitous and now slow decline. The Brazilian government wants to keep its hold on the Amazon, so Manaus is a tax incentive zone where manufacturers can produce products with little to no taxes.

The Amazon
The Amazon

The first thing that you notice when you land is the humidity. It hits you like punch in the face as you leave the airport’s strong air conditioning. You’re sweating immediately. Otherwise once you’re in the city, you’d have no idea you were in the middle of the Amazon.

It was all a bit surreal when we arrived at the American Outlaws party to find 500+ US fans drinking beer, caipirinhas, eating some of the saddest pizza I’ve ever eaten. There was a live band playing patriotic songs and every so often the national anthem would break out. We proceeded to drink beer and hang out with US fans from all around the country that had made the trek to the middle of the Amazon to watch the national team.

Manaus, USA Portugal, Bodypaint
Manaus, USA Portugal, Bodypaint

We piled into a taxi and were dropped off close to the stadium. We were so hungry that we stopped at the first shack/bar we saw that had food. It didn’t matter that a 13 year old was manning the grill and that the owners didn’t tell me what kind of meat it was until they sheepishly said “beef” after I asked for the 4th time, but in the moment it tasted amazing. You can’t do much better than mystery street meet on a stick in the middle of the amazon! Shockingly, I ate an incredible amount of street food in Brazil and only got mildly sick on my last night from a dodgy “dogao”, or street hotdog, in Salvador.


The stadium itself in Manaus might have been my favorite stand alone stadium. It’s small enough that you’re right on top of the action and the outside design looks like something that could be floating down the amazon. Really beautiful. A great place to see the game. But it just made no sense to build it just for four world cup games. What a colossal waste of money and resources, not to mention making four games nearly impossible for most people to go to.


We had second row tickets in the US section and had a blast. Even though the US went down 1-0 inside five minutes, the fans were into it and screaming the entire game. When Jermaine Jones equalized with one of the best goals of the tournament, the entire US section went crazy. When Dempsey put the US in the lead a few minutes later, people really started to believe the US would qualify. When the ref showed 5 minutes of stoppage time, we booed mercilessly, but didn’t really think Portugal would muster much of an attack. After the first five minutes of the first half, the US really worked Portugal from end to end. But Cristiano wouldn’t be denied and made one of the best passes I’ve seen in person to a diving teammate who scored in the 95th minute. Even though the US had just tied Portugal and had 4 points from two games, it felt like a loss.

We were deflated and left to drown our sorrows in more brazilian churrasco, or steak, rice, beans and farofa. After dinner, we went to a bar for a beer, then I bid my new friends goodbye and went back to the airport to continue my adventure to Sao Paulo to see Netherlands vs. Chile twelve hours later. Manaus was a strange, expensive city in the middle of nowhere, but I’m glad I made the trip.

Sao Paulo – Netherlands vs. Chile

I slept a few hours in the airport, then the entire three hour plane ride and arrived in Campinas, about an hour from Sao Paulo at 6am for a 1pm game. I was still in my same outfit that I’d left 85 degree Recife and 95 degree Manaus, but arrived in 60 degree Sao Paulo in my flip flops, body paint stained US jersey, shorts and sweatshirt. I slept the entire bus ride into Sao Paulo and met up with some Chilean friends.

The look on the my friend’s face was priceless, but all he could muster was “you have something in your eye…” I knew I looked like a wreck, but I had to push on. I met up with another friend a few hours later and took a shower in his hotel room. As soon as I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized I must have scared my friend half to death! Some of the body paint from the night before had gotten into my eyes and had created a white streak across my entire eye. It looked like a big white cut across my eye or some strange tropical disease.

Chile Netherlands
Chile Netherlands

After showering, we took a taxi to the stadium, which is about 45 minutes outside of the main part of the city and met up with Enrique (who had a new Chile jersey for me). He’d had his own adventure, flying in from Recife that morning for the match. The stadium itself is really cool looking, but it was one of my least favorite venues because it’s hard to get to, isolated and there’s nothing to do around the stadium, as it’s located in a poor area of town with no bars, restaurants or really anything around it. And probably 30% of the seats (the ones behind the goal in the upper deck) are really, really far from the field. At least the stadium will be used after the world cup by Corinthians, one of Sao Paulo’s biggest teams.


Sao Paulo - Chile/Netherlands
Sao Paulo – Chile/Netherlands
Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo

Chile’s fans were the most impressive and most passionate of any that I came across. There were at least 100,000 in Sao Paulo, many of whom were paying whatever price they could to get into the game. They cheered loud and long during the game, even when they got scored on and even when they ended up loosing. The national anthem was worth the price of admission.

Marea Roja, Chilean Fans
Marea Roja, Chilean Fans, Sao Paulo

I wish I had taken better photos from our seats in the fourth row, but Chile looked like midgets compared to the Dutch. Chile was the smallest team in the world cup and the dutch were the second tallest. It looked like the u12s were playing the u18s, but the u12s were somehow holding their own. The game featured the two most impressive players I saw in person: Arjen Robben and Alexis Sanchez. Both players change the game just by being on the field.


Natal – Italy vs. Uruguay

After the game we went back to the airport to catch our 3am flight back to Recife. I was so tired and promptly fell asleep beneath a bank of phones and slept until they called our flight and then the entire flight to Recife. Still wearing my same clothes, we got off the plane at 6am and were on our way to Natal for the 1pm Italy/Uruguay game that afternoon. We arrived in Natal at 1030am, parked in the mall, had more gaucho food and then walked to the stadium. We drank a beer while we watched the crowds and met up with a Japanese friend of mine from the Japan/Greece game.

I had two extra tickets to sell and sold to two Uruguay guys who kissed me on the cheek they were so happy to get into the game. I saw one of FIFA’s henchmen directing the police to arrest ticket sellers and then the police taking people away. The saddest was when they arrested a ~25 year old Uruguayan guy with face paint and a flag draped around his back for selling his one extra ticket. He started crying knowing that he would miss the match.

The professionals mostly knew how to avoid the police and never got arrested, as far as I could tell. I saw the same scene at other matches, even when people were selling below face value. It would infinitely more ridiculous a week later when Rio police busted an illegal FIFA ticket selling ring worth a reported $100m per world cup. FIFA’s disgusting corruption really knows no bounds. It’s bad enough that FIFA were reselling their own tickets at 10x face value, but to have the gall to tell police to arrest fans selling single tickets and tickets for below face value is just too much!

Italy Uruguay
Italy Uruguay

The Uruguayan fans were really impressive. They got to the stadium early, chanted and sang though out the game and stayed late. It was a pretty boring game until Italy’s red card, but then the game opened up. Luis Suarez’s bite was right in front of us, but we could only see that he’d done something. I speculated that maybe he bit him, but nobody could believe that he would be so brazen in a world cup. The entire stadium erupted into pandemonium when Uruguay scored to put them into the knockout round and eliminated Italy in the group stage for the second straight world cup.

After the game we had lunch and then made the long drive back to Porto de Galinhas through a driving rain. We had two near death experiences on the road leading into Recife which again drove home the point why Brazilians were mad about spending money on the world cup when basic things like “this lane ends” signs were non existent.

After traveling 5400 miles in three days, sleeping in airports and airplanes for three nights, I was ready to get back to the beach and stay put for awhile. In past world cups I’d never done anything like this and I don’t think I will in the future. It was worth it, but just barely!

Travelogue Cape Town: Five Days During the 2010 World Cup

Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts about my experiences at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. You can read the first post, Twenty Days in South Africa for the World Cup, to get an overview of what we did while we were there and the second post is about the soccer and the third post about is five days in Durban, the fourth post is about my safari in Madikwe Nature Reserve.   This post is about five days in Cape Town.  I realized that I had written a post about my trip to Cape Town, but somehow didn’t put it live until now.  Oops.

We flew into Cape Town the day after the US beat Algeria on a last second goal in Pretoria and on a huge high.  The flight into the Cape Town airport is beautiful.  It was a clear day and we were able to see Table Mountain with Cape Town spilling downhill toward the clear blue ocean.  We got our bags and drove toward the city.  In Pretoria, the woman who owned the bed and breakfast referred us to her friend who runs a guest house in Cape Town.  As we got closer, we realized that we were staying at the foot of Table Mountain, with amazing views of the city.

Cape Town Harbor, Table Mountain in Background

The first night, we drove down to the harbor and took in the scene.  The Netherlands were playing Cameroon and the entire harbor was orange.  Many white South Africans have Dutch ancestry and were supporting the Oranje, so it was a really fun scene.  We watched Italy lose to Slovakia in a packed restaurant with amazing harbor/table mountain views and then I walked over toward the stadium to buy a ticket.  I ended up getting a ticket right on the midfield stripe for face value.  Green Point stadium was beautiful and the game, although meaningless, was really fun.

The next day, I went to an Internet cafe and tried to find out how much it would cost me to fly to Rustenburg to see the USA vs. Ghana round of 16 match and found a cheap flight/car rental.  It was too good to pass up, so I made plans to leave Andy and Katie later that night and flew to Joburg with my sleeping bag, USA gear and enough money to buy a ticket at one of the bars.

Before I left, we climbed Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain.  It was a tougher hike than I thought it would be, but completely worth it.  Although it was a little cloudy when we got to the top, you could see Cape Town on one side and the Cape of Good Hope on the other.  We could see the huge waves crashing into the Cape from both sides of the Atlantic and Indian oceans even though we were miles away and a few thousand feet up.

Top of Table Mountain, Overlooking Cape Town

In the airport, I met two other Americans who had the same plan.  We ended up hanging out the entire time and it was a great time and completely worth it, even though the US lost in extra time.  I flew back to Cape Town the next day and Andy and Katie were waiting for me with a picnic they had prepared from a local farmers market.  We decided to drive around the Cape, while taking a break for lunch to watch the Germany/England match.

We drove to Camps Bay, Hout Bay, Simon Town, Kalk Bay and all of the little towns along the coast.  Each had a different feel and different geography.  It was a beautiful drive, highlighted by penguins and an amazing sunset over Hout Bay.  We went back to our apartment and walked down to a neighborhood bar to watch the night game, ending an awesome day.


The next day, we went out to wine country.  Cape Town and the surrounding areas, including Stellenbosch, produce some of the best wines in the world and we spent the day going from winery to winery sampling the best.  Cape Town’s wine country is beautiful and very close together.  We went to 5-6 wineries and then ended the night in Stellenbosch, which seemed like it was South Africa’s version of Madison.

Wine Tasting

Our last day in Cape Town, it pored.  We went to Bo-Kaap, which is a high area overlooking the city.  It is hope to mostly Cape Malays, which are the descendants of Dutch imported Indonesian slaves in from the 1600-1800s.  We had a great meal overlooking the city and then explored a spice shop where we bought some awesome curry spices to bring back to the US.  My favorite was “mother in law curry” which was their hottest.  I’ve cooked with it a bunch of times since I’ve been back and it’s one of the better curry blends I’ve tasted.  Bo-Kaap is also home to the iconic multicolored houses that Cape Town is famous for.  After our trip to the Bo-Kaap, we drove to the airport to start our 34 our journey home via Dubai and New York.  Cape Town was one of the highlights of our trip and I’d love to come back some day.

Sunset, Looking South

Twenty Days in South Africa for the World Cup

Note: I just got back from South Africa two days ago and finally have some time to write up a post and share some pictures.  I’m planning to write this post as an overview and then go into detail in further posts about what we did in each city, plus include a practical guide to the things that I wished I’d known before going.

I left Madison on June 9th with my friends Andy and Katie, not really knowing what to expect.  We had tickets for all three USA matches, plus Spain/Switzerland and an idea of where we wanted to go, but hadn’t booked any accommodation except for the first two nights.  I had read all of the press about South Africa being dangerous and that we shouldn’t drive, but I wasn’t worried.  I figured that if their media is anything like ours, they would really overstate the bad and ignore most of the good.

The trip was unbelievable.  South Africa is an incredibly beautiful country, with varied climates and landscapes.  The people were extremely nice and we never felt threatened the entire time we were there.  If anything, the people, both black and white, were protective of us.  They clearly really liked Americans and everyone we met went out of their way to make sure that we were having fun and staying safe.  Here’s what we did:

We landed in New York on the morning of the 9th and dropped our bags with my friend Chris who works in the city.  He was nice enough to take all of our bags up to his office, even though his co-workers all gave him strange looks.  Andy and Katie had never been to NYC, so although it was rainy, we went all over the city.  We had to catch a flight out of JFK at 1130pm, so we had plenty of time.

We got to the airport to find it packed with soccer fans.  We were flying via Dubai and we were happy to see tons of Americans, Mexicans and South Americans, all dressed in their team’s gear, getting ready to board the flight.  As we were going through security, someone spotted Justin Timberlake going through security and most of the women got really excited.  When we got on the plane, someone asked one of the flight attendants if he was on our flight and she just giggled and said she wasn’t allowed to say.

We got to Dubai after a 12 hour flight.  We flew Emirates and it was a pleasure.  It’s the best airline I’ve ever been on, with fairly large seats, personal LCD screens with 600 channels and front and bottom cameras so you can watch the scenery from the plane.  The food was really good too and we quickly realized that they do Middle Eastern/Indian food much better than western food.

The Dubai airport is massive.  We had a 6 hour layover and got to explore a huge area.  It’s really the crossroads of the world and it was fun to see people from every corner of the globe.  To kill time, we walked around and tried to guess the destination of the flight by looking at the people.  We got pretty good at it after a few hours.  We finally got on our 8 hour flight to Johannesburg (Joburg for the rest of the posts) and arrived at 10am.

We rented a car and got on the move to Rustenburg, about 2 hours northwest of Joburg, where the USA would play England the next day.  It was incredibly strange at first to drive a car on the other side of the road, but I got completely comfortable after two days.  The hardest part were the round-abouts and shifting with my left hand, although the South African drivers were more aggressive than drivers here.  I’ll have more about driving in a later post.

We stayed at a camp in Rustenburg Kloof, which was a beautiful area just north of the “city” of Rustenburg.  I say “city” because there was really only a mall and a few restaurants, all about 10k from the stadium.  We watched the first South Africa match at a bar near our tents and it was an unreal atmosphere.  The South Africans were so excited, so supportive and incredibly happy to have to tournament start.  When South Africa took the early lead, the place went absolutely nuts.  We were too tired to watch Uruguay/France and fell asleep by 7pm.

Lucky's Bar Rustenburg

The next morning, we were woken up by Sky Sports News doing interviews outside of our tent and I got interviewed about whether we had a chance to win.  I pretty much said that we would draw and that we had a better goalkeeper and got to feature on Sky.  We went to a bar called Lucky’s in Bafokeng, about 4k from the stadium.  It was an outdoor bar with tons of English fans.  The atmosphere was electric and only built on the way to the stadium.  Most of the English were really nice, until we scored our equalizer on a howler by Robert Green, then they started to get really angry and a guy in our row tried to fight an older American fan with a neck brace on.  After the draw, which felt like a win, we went back and celebrated at Lucky’s.

The next morning, we started the 6 hour drive to Durban, without a place to stay.  Our plan was to start calling places from the road, but most of the places were booked up because Germany was playing Australia that night.  We asked a few places if they had any recommendations and one place sent us to Florette, a woman who rents out rooms in her amazing house.  We ended up staying there for five nights and it was one of the best decisions of our trip.  I’ll go into more detail in my Durban post, but I went to the Germany/Australia match after buying a ticket on the street for half price and the Durban Stadium was the most beautiful stadium I’ve ever been to.  Germany killed Australia, but the highlight was talking with a South African, Jordan, who sat next to me for the entire match.  He was extremely nice, bought me a soda and a pie and then offered to give me a South Africa Jersey for free.  He wouldn’t let me pay for anything.

Jordan and me in front of Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban

After we explored Durban for a few days, we had tickets for Spain/Switzerland and my friend from the previous game met me outside with the promised South Africa shirt.  The Spain match was one of the best games of the tournament.  Everyone thought that Spain would roll, but the Swiss were organized and countered well.  When the Swiss scored, they stadium was largely silent.  Everyone was shocked.

Golden Gate National Park

After Durban, we drove back up to Joburg ahead of USA/Slovenia.  We drove through Golden Gate National Park and it was absolutely beautiful.  We were staying in Pretoria since it was cheaper and safer and stayed at a hostel.  The next morning, we drove down to Joburg to see the match at Ellis Park.  We got there really early and went to Radium Bar, which was the bar picked by the American Outlaws as the place to be.  It didn’t disappoint.  Katie got on NBC getting her face painted and the place was LOUD.  We sung just about every American soccer song we could think of and then walked to the game.  As always, the South Africans were huge USA fans.

Katie with South African Kids Going to USA/Slovenia

We went down 2-0 early, but we felt that we could score.  In the 2nd half, Donovan scored a great goal and then we got another one in the 84th minute.  I got huge bruises on the backs of my legs from celebrating so much in the stands.  We were sitting next to three little South African kids and they were really getting into it.  We scored again, capping the biggest comeback in USA history, but the referee decided he’d seen a foul.  He got sent home for his poor decision.  It was still a great day, even though we should have won.

After the match, we went back to Pretoria and watched the England/Algeria match at Eastwoods, right across from Loftus Versveld, the stadium in Pretoria with two Americans we had met in the bar in Joburg.  We were rooting for the 0-0 draw that happened and were just about the only people supporting Algeria, as the rest were English fans.

The next day, we drove 4 hours through the mountains to get to Madikwe Nature Reserve, where we had a 4 day Safari at a place called The Bush House. Other than the soccer games, the safari was the highlight of the trip.  We saw all of the big 5, minus a leopard, a lion eating a wildebeest, a cheetah and tons more.  We were driven around by a trained guide and it was awesome.

Lion in Madikwe Wildlife Reserve

Lion Cubs

After our safari, we drove back to Pretoria for the USA/Algeria match, which was a must win match.  We didn’t have a place to stay again, but ended up right across the street from the stadium.  I’ll go into more detail again later, but FIFA and Match really screwed up here.  We got accommodation because FIFA bought up all of the rooms at cheap rates, then tried to resell them at 4-5x prices and failed.  The place gave us a room for a good price because they were empty, although FIFA paid for the nights.

On match day, we went to some bars and were completely surprised by how many Algerians there were.  They were everywhere and wanted pictures with us.  Most were really nice, but a few were a bit angry with Americans.  We had ANOTHER fair goal disallowed on a blown call and the atmosphere was incredible.  People stood the entire match singing, chanting and blowing their vuvuzelas.  We had chance after chance and finally put one home in the 91st minute to send us through.  I don’t remember the next 10 minutes because everyone was celebrating so hard.  Andy and I got on TV right after the match and everyone stayed in the stadium celebrating for the next 30 mins, then went outside to sing and dance some more.  Katie got a ride on a police horse in exchange for her American flag and the party went on most of the night. Those 4 hours and that one moment were incredible.  Those moments are what make soccer the best sport in the world and now clearly top the list of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to.

Katie on Police Horse

We stayed with a family near the stadium and left early the next morning for Cape Town.  We had assumed before the World Cup that the US was likely to finish 2nd in the group and play in Bloemfontein, which would have been a drive from Cape Town, but since we won the group, we played up north again in Rustenburg.  I went to an Internet cafe to check out flights and told myself that if I could go for under $500, I had to do it.  Luckily, I found a flight for $180, a car for $60, a place to stay for $40 and a match ticket for $150, so I had to go.

We climbed Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain, watched the two matches that day and then I drove to the airport for what I hoped would be an unreal 30 hours.  Besides for the final result, the day didn’t disappoint.  I met two Americans in the airport who were planning to do the same thing as me, so we traveled together.  We slept in the airport, rented a car, drove to Rustenburg, went to Lucky’s again and hung out with Americans and some really nice Brits.  The match was electric again.  When the media here says that Africa is behind Ghana, it’s an understatement.  Everyone except the Americans were cheering for Ghana, hard.  It was a fun match and I thought we would pull it out, but it was not to be.  We went back to Lucky’s and partied with the South Africans.

From the Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town

The next morning, I drove back to the airport and was back in Cape Town with Andy and Katie by 1pm.  We took a drive around the Cape, stopping at beaches, towns and mountains, before stopping in an English pub to watch England get destroyed by Germany.  We saw one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen from the top of a mountain, overlooking the Cape and then went back to Cape Town to watch Mexico/Argentina.

The next day, we drove to Stellenbosch and the towns around it, about 30 minutes outside Cape Town to tour the winelands.  It was a beautiful day and a great way to relax.  The vineyards were all set in incredible locations, many surrounded by mountains and rolling hills.  We did tasting at 3 different places, then went into Stellenbosch to explore for dinner/games.  We got back to Cape Town and prepared to leave the next morning for our last day.

It was raining the entire day on the 29th, so we drove around and explored Cape Town and had a great meal in the Cape Malay section of town.  We got to the airport at 4pm and were back in Madison on the 30th at 10pm.  It was an exhausting two day trip via Dubai and NYC again, but completely worth it.

Overall, the World Cup and South Africa were amazing.  The soccer was great, the people were incredibly nice, were were safe the entire time and it cost about what we expected.  I’ll likely come back to South Africa sometime in the future and will for sure be in Brazil in 2014!

This post was sort of a rambling overview, but I’ll get into more details about each city, the soccer and South Africa in general over the next week or so.  I hope you enjoy reading!

Andy, Katie and me at USA/Slovenia, Ellis Park