Last week I (Jamie) and my friend Jeremy went to South Africa to catch a few matches of the Confederations Cup. We are both big soccer fans so we figured we needed to take advantage of this opportunity while we are living here, and the lower cost (as opposed to going to the World Cup next year). We were able to see Team USA get beaten by Italy 3-1, and then watched Brazil beat Team USA 3-0 a few days later. Obviously we didn’t see the results we wanted but it was still great to see Team USA play as well as two of the best teams in the world, Italy and Brazil, put on two great shows. One of the craziest things that happened was that we got to meet Nicola Legrottaglie, Italian defender and current World Cup champ (may not seem like a big deal, but if you are a soccer fan you realize it is). Jeremy’s brother is a missionary in Milan, Italy, and he works with Nicola (who is a strong Christian) with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. When he found out we were going to be there he said he would like to meet us. So we were escorted in to the Italian team’s private hotel where we chatted with Nicola for around 30 minutes (Jeremy did most of the chatting using the bit of Italian he knows). I was just blown away sitting in the lobby watching some of the most famous athletes in the world (most Americans wouldn’t recognize them though) hanging out around me. Gattuso checking his e-mail behind me, Zambrotta reading the paper across from me, Iaquinta and Luca Toni playing ping pong…pretty crazy. Then to top it all off we watched these guys play a huge international match just a few hours later, unfortunately we watched them destory the US, but after meeting Nicola and seeing what a great Christian example he is it was hard not to cheer for him.
We didn’t just watch soccer though. We took advantage of being in South Africa and spent some time hanging out in the city of Pretoria, driving on some incredible highways, and eating McDonald’s. In a lot of ways it felt like being back in the States, especially when compared to being in Kenya. We also spent a few days just driving our rental car (world’s smallest car being driven by two pretty big guys) across the northeastern part of the country. We figured we didn’t want to spend the whole trip in the city, so one day we drove west and spent the day in Gaborone, Botswana. Another day we drove east and spent the day in Mbabane, Swaziland. We got to see a good bit of the country doing this and also got to see small parts of two other countries. Gaborone was pretty cool, but the drive from Pretoria, South Africa to the kingdom of Swaziland was the my favorite. The capital, Mbabane, sits in a valley surrounded by rolling mountains, so it is a beautiful place. Plus it was kind of cool to visit a true African kingdom, even though we were told (by a government worker we gave a ride from the border to the city) that the King doesn’t necessarily do what is best for the people. It was fun times and most importantly helped distract me for a few days of Jessica being gone. She is in the States for a few weeks and she should be posting some updates of her own about her trip home.