Sunday, June 20, 2010

Revenge of the Zela!

The past couple of days have been a bit of a blur. We went on what was possibly the coldest imaginable African Safari, then to Sun City- a Vegas style oasis of gambling and hotels for some lunch and a game. Jim, Ryan and German all won a little cash while the rest of us just loitered around and commented on the number of pregnant women we saw hanging out in casinos which just so happened to be the only smoking sections in the place. In their defense we didn't see any of them smoking but they weren't playing either so I am not sure what the point of their being there was. By the time we decided to leave it was well past dark so we were left with no alternative than to do what we were warned not to do and that is to drive in the rural areas after dark. But we made it without incident but will try not to do that again as it was a little sketchy.

The next day we tried to spend as normal a day as possible by heading down to the gym for a workout and then to the mall to do some shopping- the staples of beer, wine, sandwich makings, chips and trail mix. Bought some local soy milk...interesting. After returning we all had some snacks, a shower and prepared ourselves for the evening. South Africa was playing Uruguay and this type of an event is something that must be seen to be fully understood. The day of a host nation game is a pretty special thing to be a part of. Everyone was decorated with small S.A. flag stickers or face paint on their cheeks or foreheads. Some have gone the route of full on fanatic face paint. The horns and flags are common sights too, but it is the energy in the air- the overwhelming feeling of anticipation that becomes the buzz. This game is being played at the stadium down the street so we don't have far to go to be a part of it all. When we left the house in the morning to head over to the gym we could here the unmistakable sound of the vuvuzela in the distance. We didn't have tickets to this game but in our experience thus far there have been ample amounts of tickets outside the stadiums- the question is always, how much will they be charging? Either way we felt confident that we would be getting into the stadium for this game.
When we arrived at Hatfield Square, which is the official Fan Zone for this stadium we say for what is probably the first time the type of environment that we have become accustomed to and honest have come to expect at the World Cup. Finally the streets were blocked off to allow for foot traffic only and the streets were full of the colors of the days teams. Perhaps things are different in the stadiums of the towns in which have not yet been but in Rustenberg, Jo-burg and here in Pretoria this is really the first time we have seen this type of atmosphere and it was long overdue. The World Cup frenzy was now obvious and the world is finally as it should be; happy, lively and anticipating great things. The shops are full, there are vendors lining the sidewalks and everyone is consumed in the festival-like atmosphere. People are smiling and laughing; posing for pictures and wishing strangers a good day. The World Cup should be everyday! But I suppose that such a thing would diminish how special it is and the effects of goodwill it is responsible for.

So off we go toward the stadium after a couple beers and a bite to eat. We have become pretty comfortable with the different routes to the stadium and where fishing for tickets is likely to be most successful. However, purchasing tickets on the street is frowned upon here even if the purchase is made at face value or cheaper. But we are left with little alternative as the only ticketing centers have nothing but the high priced premium seating, if any, and the stadiums here have yet to be seen, at least by us, at capacity. So there are tickets out there and we are going to find them! Even so it is a sellers market so we head to a corner at which we have been lucky finding tickets before and almost immediately we are approached by some white S. Africans and an Englishman with available tickets. They are asking greater than face but, as I said earlier, seeing the home nation play is something that must be done at least once. I was able to see Germany play Sweden in the knock-out stage of the last Cup at the new Allianz Stadium in Munich and it was simply thrilling. So 3 of our group decide that they are willing to pay the asking price which leaves 4 of us choosing to wait a bit longer to see if the prices fall as the start of the game gets nearer. Our groups part and the 3 with tickets in hand happily make their way toward the giant bowl of vuvuzelas. The sound where we were standing at this point, still 2 hours prior to kick-off and nearly 1000 yards from the nearest corridor that leads into the seats of the stadium was so loud it was almost laughable!
At this point the remaining four of us decide to return to Hatfield to enjoy a couple beers and the feel good vibes that were soaking the square. We found a nice little reggae bar called The Stone Lion Cafe which invited us in with live music filtering out of the darkness and into the street and a somewhat surprising "Joey's tailor" type of weapons frisk. WHOA! Actually for such a large man he was surprisingly gentle. So in we walked with wide eyes and honestly a little confused by what just happened. I think we need a beer! Not but moments later we find ourselves faced with bottle beers that are less than $2.00, very nice! Good beer, lively music, great company and it entertainment!

There is a young white S. African stallion with two young ladies on his arm who are obviously taken by his fearless swagger and noticeable unpredictability. They order 3 beers from the bar beside us. They turn away, then stop. He has had...wait, I think...yep, he's had an idea. The vuvuzela he has been carrying around blowing like an elephant trumpeting to potential mates, and like an annoying jackass oblivious to startled passers-by and patrons enjoying a conversation about the potential legal implications of an international incident involving a large plastic horn and the non-fatal placement of it in the only other place such a device could be inserted in the opposite end of this fledgling musician, looks as though it could be used as a beer bong. Yep! It's large at one end and narrows down to a little nozzle...perfect! Bottle up, vuvuzela down, flip it over, guzzle-guzzle-guzzle. Uh-oh, I've seen that face before. This guy is going to get sick. He's fighting it, but inevitably he is going to lose this battle. Eyes watering, short breathes and cheeks puffed out like Louis Armstrong he makes his way to the bathroom. I am once again a fan of the vuvuzela.

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