The Complete Women's Squash Blog from South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA -

January 7, 2008

Today we packed up our things and headed out of the Breakwater Lodge moving inland from the harbor to the Ruslamere Guest House.But first, after two days of cancellations due to high winds, the weather conditions cleared up and were ready for us to brave the ascent to the top of Table Mountain.

Often referred to as “Table Top Mountain” by the squash team, Table Mountain reaches about 1000 meters (3000 feet) above sea level andis one of Cape Town’s most beautiful attractions. Thanks to our well connected driver, William, we beat the three hour lines and were escorted right to the base of the cable car station.The cable car was equipped with a rotating floor that did a full 360 degree turn on the way up the mountain so that we were able to get a great view of the mountain, the city of Cape Town, and Lions Head—the smaller mountain nearby.

Stepping into the confined cable car there were mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement.As we reached the top, the anxiety had gone away and we stepped out of the cable car onto a flat mountain peak that gave us the most beautiful view of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean as well as the city of Cape Town.We realized how lucky we were to be looking down on such an incredible place. From the top of the mountain we were able to see the suburbs surrounding the city, that were filled with tiny little houses and buildings, a view that somewhat resembles that of an airplane approaching the runway.As we finished taking in the view, and the feeling of being on top of the world, we descended down the mountain in the cable car.

Following Table Mountain, we made a short trip to Signal Hill, historically a warning post to alert the settlers of Africa that sailors had arrived and to bring their goods to sell to the sailors.Today there is a cannon shot daily at noon that symbolizes the history of Signal Hill.

That morning was filled with engaging activities that tested our fear of heights and expanded our brains with information, but the main event of that afternoon was Match No. 2 against Durbanville, the club of our fearless leader, Trevor Davies, better known to the members as “Tricky Trev” for his dying drop shots and devious boasts.Once at the club, we were greeted by some familiar faces from the match against Western Province Cricket Club and a number of new eager looking opponents.The club itself was a facility different from any we had seen before.With an enormous television screen projecting the latest cricket match versus the West Indies, an oak wood bar, a fully stocked kitchen, and a ladies room decorated entirely in purple, Durbanville was much more than a state-of-the-art squash club, but also the social center for all local fans of the game.

After our opponents were assigned, the games began.One of the most memorable matches was Britt Hebden’s five-gamer where the warm up goggles for the match were a pair of pink tinted 2-0-0-8 New Years Eve sunglasses.Kristen Lange’s games were equally as nail biting, as she took on Trevor in another 5 game match.To both Kristen andCoach Jack’s dismay, Tricky Trev managed to pull through in the clutch.

The loss was soon forgotten with the overpowering aroma of grilling fish on the outside brick grill just outside.The braae, or what we Americans would call a barbeque, was a feast of salads, pasta dishes, and the local fish called snook.Fair warning was given—snook is a beautiful fish but has many bones still intact making half the fun of our meal feeling out for the bits of bone.

Tummies full and fingers licked, the braae was followed by speeches of appreciation from both teams.The Penn women thanked Durbanville in our own typically boisterous way.Half the girls joined captain Elizabeth’s “Shoshaloza” (South African anthem) with the Durbanville-ites assisting.After a long and eventful day the girls, Jack, Mary, and William pilled into the bus and headed back to our hotel in hopes that the new beds and crisp sheets could rock us to sleep for another busy day tomorrow!

Alisha Turner C’09, Emily Goodwin C’09 & the Penn Women’s Squash Team

January 8, 2008

The final leg of our trip consisted of traveling to the Aquila Game reserve.Not knowing what we were getting into, we awoke very early to be there at prime animal viewing time and before the weather got too hot!

When we arrived we stopped for a minute to look at the crocodiles, and then hopped in our 15-person jeep with our tour guide.First stop wasthe watering hole, where we sawthree hippos, including one baby!After that we got a visit from a giraffe, who crossed right in front of the jeep!Thinking we were so lucky for getting that close, we had no idea what we were in for later on.

Running off of our adrenaline from our close encounter with the giraffe, we were extremely excited to see the zebras, who didn't seem to mind us coming in for a close look.Moving along on the tour,two elephants were spotted in the distance. As we watched them play, they came closer and closer until we were about 15 feet away from them.They stopped at a tree, ate bark, and played with each other.At this point, we thought it could get no better. Then we saw water buffalo, who did not enjoy our presence, and made that known through their noises of discontent.

Taking their warning, we moved along to see Springbok, which are very similar to the gazelle—smaller but very quick with great leaping ability.Our tour guide told us interesting facts about them, such as in their life span ofnine years, they do not need to drink water once to survive.Continuing on our journey and learning so much from our tour guide,we weretoldthat rhinosare very difficult to get close to, for they were the most aggressive.However, because of our luck, we were able to get very close to them, without them noticing, forthe white rhinocan only see up tofour meters away, and we were five!

Nearing the end of our tour, we saw ostrich (thesecond fastest land animal) who apparently can kill a lion with a single kick!Finally, we drove in search of a lion, with our tour guide explaining how rare it was to see them, because this game reserve dedicated 300 acres for the lions to roam. As he guide scanned the mountains for a slight glimpse of a lion, Coach noticedthree lions aboutthree meters away! We got to see all of them as they lazed about beneath the shade of a rock.It was incredible to see the lions so close, and our tour guide was just as excited about this chance encounter as we were.

After the game park, we were all exhausted from being in the heat of the sun all day and snacked on a few sandwiches in the pool area of the Aquila Hotel.It was just our luck, yet again, that they happened to be taking the cheetahs out for a stroll around the pool. We all had a chance to play with them for the second time on the trip. After the encounter we made our way back to the campgroud where we would be spending our last night. The “luxury tented camp” was just that and was made up of permanent tents with fancy bathrooms and running water in each one.Just as we were sitting down to a dinner of grilled lamb, chicken and sausage, and a special grilled bread, some of our friends from the Durbanville squash club stopped in to say goodbye! After another great braae (BBQ) many laughs, and even some dancing, 13 tired girlscalled it a night in our tents beneath the African stars.

The following morning we all sadly packed up our things and made our way to the airport after one final stop at the beach.Our incredible journey ended with flights from Cape Town to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to London, and finally, London to Philly--quite a memorable experience!

Chloe Wynne, C’08, Lauralynn Drury, C’08 & the Penn Women’s Squash Team

January 6, 2008

Greetings from Cape Town! Today was another jam-packed day complete with squash, sight-seeing, history and some more squash. We began the day at the Durbanville Squash Club, where we had the privilege to play with one of the world’s best young players, Tennille Schwartz, and Richard Castle, the South African National Coach.We then trekked off to Blue Peter’s Restaurant for sun bathing, lunch and another beautiful view of Table Mountain. After lunch we were given a moving and educational tour of a South African Township where poverty is widespread and living conditions are very poor.We were greeted by many friendly and playful children and invited into some homes to get an up close view of their lives. After this remarkable experience we switched gears and headed off to our fourth and final squash match in Cape Town against Paarl Squash Club.Following some long matches, good food and great company we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Tara Chawla C’09and The Penn Women’s Squash Team

January 5, 2008

Today we had a very busy day. We started out with a bus ride to Cape Point, nearly the southernmost tip of Africa.On the way we stopped for a photo op in front of the 12 Apostles.The road we traveled along was very beautiful, following the coast much of the way.We then stopped for a quick break at Hout’s Bay, which included many small shops, as well as an opportunity to pet a seal!

We made our way to Cape of Good Hope which lies within the National Park called Spear. We entered with a warning from our bus driver to not walk around with food or else the baboons will grab it from your hands.After a quick picture at the Cape, we made our way to Cape Point where we climbed to the top (800m) for amazing views of both the Indian Ocean on one side, and the Atlantic on the other.

After making our way back down, we took a quick ride to Simonstown for a look at some African penguins! I know what you’re thinking, penguins in Africa? You bet! We then headed over to the Muizenberg beach for lunch and a quick dip in the Indian Ocean.

We left the beach and drove over to the Western Province Cricket Club for a match with some local players.Everyone got a great match in and we ended the day with a post-match braae (South African BBQ) and socializing with our opponents.It was a jam packed day filled with one exciting activity one after the other, leaving us tired for a great nights rest.

Christina Matthias C’10, Sydney Scott C'10and The Penn Women’s Squash Team

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January 4, 2008

After the canceled activities of yesterday we were hoping the winds would have died down today.Unfortunately, they were as strong as ever so we headed to the courts for an early hit. We started with a solid warm up, followed by a great game of 50 Up with Tara Chawla ‘09 eventually winning, even beating Jack. We finished with some court sprints which snapped us out of our vacation stupor.

With Robben Island and Table Mountain out due to the gale force winds, our host, Trevor Davies secured box seats to the South Africa – West Indies cricket test match.The ground, as it’s called, was beautiful with ivy growing on the exterior walls and the sun was shining all day. In the match, we were very fortunate to see South Africa bat, and one of their best players (Kallis) perform.

Since we had no idea of the rules of the game we were all continually asking anyone who would listen to help us understand what was going on. We learned the terminology, the basic rules, and how long a match lasts (FYI this one lasts for 5 days, a little longer than a squash match!!).

We just got back from a nice dinner allowing us to relax and gear up for our big day tomorrow which includes a visit to see the penguins, swimming at the beach, and most importantly we get to hone our skills through a match against the members of the Western province Cricket Club.

Kristen Lange C’10, Annie Madeira C’11and The Penn Women’s Squash Team

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On Sunday night, December 30th, we boarded our Boeing 767 plane sporting our Penn track suits and brand new racket bags. We anxiously took our seats in preparation for the 25 hours of traveling ahead that would lead us to a tour of one of the most beautiful locations in the world, Cape Town, South Africa. We passed the long travel time with movies, naps, conversation, books and tabloid magazines. Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, a movie about the illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone, was a flight favorite amongst the players.

The first of what wouldsoon be manyencounters with a member of the global Penn familyoccurred on the flight from London to Cape Town. We met the husband of Rena Barnard, an English professor at Penn, who taught Emily Goodwin C'09 last year. Barnard, on leave from Penn, is teaching at Stellenbosch University, and was at the arrival gate to greet her husband, also enabling her to coincidentally welcome Emily to South Africa with an enormous hug.

We were lucky enough to get tremendous views of the coast line on approach ; we landed smoothly in the Cape Town airport at 6:00 a.m. on January 1st, just as the sun rose over Table Mountain. Fortunate not to have lost any checked luggage, the team made our way to the Breakwater Lodge Hotel, located at the waterfront. As we stepped out of our mini-bus, a tour guide named Trevor Davies greeted us with a large grin and an excited introduction. Trevor gave us a quick walking tour of the waterfront, which was quite desolate at 7:00 a.m. on New Years Day, but nonetheless provided us with our first essential series of photo opportunities.

Following our brisk walk around the waterfront, we got right to business and headed to our first training session of the trip. A medley of running, biking and squash in a state-of-the-art fitness center was a great fix to our travel fatigue. While finishing up our session with a few sets of sit-ups and push-ups, we had our second encounter with Penn family.A very nice man from Cape Town introduced himself and informed us that his son (Jeff Fisher C'12) would be attending Penn next fall. It's absolutely amazing to truly come face to face with immense extent of Penn's global network.

Exhausted from our morning activities, we drove straight to the beach from the fitness club for some much-needed relaxation time.Although the strong wind (which we have found is a trend in the South African summer) slightly interrupted the sunbathing attempts of the team by blowing sand in every direction, we still enjoyed the 80 degree sunshine as well as the gorgeous view of Cape Town that outlined the scene behind us.While some of the team members were brave enough to go for a swim in the frigid water, others chose merely to dance their feet in the tips of the vivacious waves. We then headed back to town and spent the rest of the day walking around the waterfront and resting some before a team dinner at Santa Ana's steakhouse, South Africa's equivalent to Applebee's-mmmm!

Wednesday morning we woke up at 7:30 a.m. for a morning training session at Western Provinces Cricket Club.We stuffed our sun-kissed faces with the likings of a delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel complete with eggs, oatmeal, muffins, breakfast meats, cereal and fruit. In the midst of such a feast, we had our third encounter with Penn family, meeting Dr. Robert Borer C'59 who rowed for Penn over 45 years ago. Earning a degree in medicine and then moving to Australia for the relaxed lifestyle with which it provided him, he was visiting Cape Town with his wife and happened to be staying in our hotel. This third encounter proved that PENN IS EVERYWHERE . . . and we LOVE IT!

On the way to the WPCC, the bus driver kindly showed us a video about South Africa's most well-known locations and characteristics.After a great practice consisting of deep length, attacking boasts and abundant nicks, we rushed back to the waterfront to make a 1 p.m. ferry ride to Robben Island, the location of the prison that housed Nelson Mandela. We literally ran through town to make it to the ferry on time, only to find that it was cancelled on account of windy conditions at sea. Disappointed for only a few, short moments, we immediately bounced back with another plan. Thanks to Mary DiStanislao (Penn Associate Athletic Director) and her guide book, we decided to go to a flea market in the city to test our bargaining expertise.Filled with copious amounts of jewelry, paintings, crafts, clothing, instruments and a hodgepodge of other widgets, the huge market was a perfect place to redirect our touring energy towards the search for the perfect African souvenir. One of the best finds of the day was a bongo drum, which Allie Friedman C'09 skillfully tested out, beat after beat, at the seller's tent. Unfortunately for her roommates back at school, when she realized the difficulty in packing up such a belonging for the trip home, she decided to pass on the purchase.Later that night, we found an incredibly delicious Italian pizzeria, a great improvement from the previous night's meal.Mary and Chloe Wynne C'08 savored every bite of their ostrich ragu covered pasta. Stopping for hot chocolates to warm our hands during the windy walk ahead, we strolled back to the Breakwater Lodge Hotel to get a good night sleep in hopes of a long and full day tomorrow that, fingers-crossed and weather-permitting, will include a visit to both Robben Island and Table Mountain prior to an afternoon training session, as well as a visit to Camp's Bay beach afterwards. Talk about making the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! With eight more days to go, we can't wait to continue exploring this incredible city and to put our hard training to play in our upcoming match against WPCC on Friday.

Elizabeth Kern C'08, Anita Sellers C'09and The Penn Women's Squash Team