Thursday, June 24, 2010

Soccer Fever

The seas of people keep us warm in the bitter cold. It was about 20 degrees last night... and I was warmer in the crowd than in my house. Yet I was never uncomfortable or inappropriately touched, etc. There was one near-instance of a creepy drunk guy one night last week, but I didn't even have to say anything - some guy I'd never seen or met sent him away, with a simple turn, smile, nod from me as a thank you... before I went on celebrating with the multitudes of others around me. Can you imagine that - from a guy who wasn't even interested in anything but general comfort in the crowd. (and he wasn't the security guard - I'd already made friends with her, ha)

The fan parks are a world in and of themselves. We went the night of the USA-England opener. Soccer is one of those few places/times I feel I can proudly proclaim I am an American - especially on foreign soil. I (we - my roommates and I) proudly sang our national anthem at the top of our lungs with the few faithful around me (surrounded by England fans prepared to cheer against us). As we did so, people literally lined up to take photos of us singing. One guy said I was helping him fulfill his goal: He wants photos of fans from every country entered in the World Cup. Knowing all the words to a national anthem is a pretty sure sign we weren't lying about where we are from, even if many argued with me because I don't have (as thick of) an American accent, like my roommates do. I guess my accent has changed more than I thought?

Its a beautiful thing, isn't it? The World Cup? I have connected with so many friends from all over the world because of it, and met countless more while out and about. Even if temporary, this is exactly the start of community I was hoping and praying for one month ago. I am less lonely when I get to meet people, feel like I'm alive, dance to my heart's content, watch soccer more than I've been able to in my entire life (I watched at least part of every game the first week… and have done my best to keep up since then, though life must also move on...).

The days are full of energy and excitement, and the nights are COLD but kept warm with Soccer FEVER! With no insulation and no indoor heat here in good ‘ol RSA, its kind of like camping when its 20 degrees outside - every night - without a campfire! woot!

This only adds to why I like to go out as much as possible. It is warmer outside than in (really - unless its terribly windy), and the crowds make it even warmer! AND - the one place we can find a heater is in the car. so I like it there.

There have been more adventures relating to the World Cup than I can count. Perhaps I will have a chance to recount some of them here. But until then… I hope you are watching and may the best team win! That being said… GO USA!!!! (this photo was taken immediately following Donovan's AMAZING goal in the 95th minute of game 3!)
...can YOU feel it?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wavin Flag

If we are friends on Facebook or you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed I’m a little excited about the World Cup. We’re one week, several celebrations, a few heartbreaks and many good memories in. It is a good time to be in South Africa, and I’m doing my best to be a part of the excitement.

If there is one thing that has been consistent throughout the past 12 or so years of my life, it is that I have been deeply tied to the music which surrounds me. For me, music isn’t just about a good beat to dance to or fun lyrics to sing along to (though I do enjoy both of these things), but often about the heart and soul that has been put into it. These aren’t just lyrics… they’re poems with powerful stanzas put to music that helps me to feel the words. Words on a page can be powerful… but there is nothing like the spoken (or sung) word.

I can tie most moments of my life to music. Or the reverse - when I hear songs from the last 15 years, I can usually tell you what year it is from simply by tracing the memories closely tied to it. Just like before, there are many songs that will forever remind me of this moment now - the World Cup. Earlier this week, two incredible young people in my life (7 and 11 yrs old!) gifted me a mixed CD titled “Prince and Pricilla’s World Cup Mix.” It has lived in our car since then, and I have probably heard it played 10 times over.

The second song on the CD (second only to Shakira and Freshly Ground’s Waka Waka!) is K’Naan’s “Wavin Flag” - the official World Cup anthem. I LOVE this song! It is overplayed, for sure, but it is so uplifting! Lyrics like,
    See the champions, take the field now,
    Unify us, make us feel proud!
    In the streets our heads are lifin’
    As we lose our inhibition.
    Celebration, it surrounds us,
    Every nation’s, All Around Us...

Hearing someone sing this song in South Africa is almost as common as hearing a vuvuzela being blown. Almost.

Earlier this week, I googled the full lyrics to this song. What I found was a huge surprise…

Did you know this isn’t the original song?

See full size imageEvidently K’Naan was approached by Coke - they wanted to buy rights of this song b/c the chorus and beat would be PERFECT for the official anthem! But the lyrics? A little down and harsh, and NOT what they were looking for. Knowing what this could do for his career, he volunteered to re-write the song for them. What resulted is this song I love.

So what about that old song? I looked it up. and downloaded it. and what did I find? An intense, powerful, meaningful few stanzas packed with truth, pain, stories of survival and hope. Filled with harsh realities I’m not surprised Coke wanted to get rid of - who wants to think about realities of suffering in our world today when we are trying to focus on a global celebration and sports event?

I’ll leave space for your own criticisms for the many variables here. The truth is - had he not re-written this song, I may have never found the old one - and I’m glad I did.

The intense verses and deep, painful truths lined with hope in the chorus draw me into this song. Its a keeper, and one I will continue to reflect on in days (or more) to come. For now, I invite you to consider the “original” lyrics of the official song of the World Cup - a song that has been made into a song of celebration, and started as something very, very different. The music and chorus are the same… the other words are all (very) different.

When I get older, I will be stronger,
They'll call me freedom, just like a Waving Flag,
And then it goes back, and then it goes back,
And then it goes back

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
but Violent prone, poor people zone,
But it's my home, all I have known,
Where I got grown, streets we would roam.
But out of the darkness, I came the farthest,
Among the hardest survival.
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak,
Except no defeat, surrender retreat,

So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we'll be free,
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day,
It's not far away, so for now we say


So many wars, settling scores,
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor,
I heard them say, love is the way,
Love is the answer, that's what they say,
But look how they treat us, Make us believers,
We fight their battles, then they deceive us,
Try to control us, they couldn't hold us,
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers.

But we struggling, fighting to eat,
And we wondering, when we'll be free
So we patiently wait, for that faithful day,
It's not far away, but for now we say...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup

If the world is focused in on the World Cup right now, then South Africa has been taken over by it. and to be honest, I am LOVING it.

I love the sport we Americans call soccer, while most of the rest of the world calls it football. I love the energy of it. I love the global community created by it. I love the passion found in small children everywhere in the world as they play it. I love watching the games here with the wild and crazy crowds. I even love the overwhelming noise of the vuvuzela that goes almost nonstop.

It is good to be in this beautiful, friendly country called South Africa for this incredible event called the World Cup.

(more soon…)