World Cup #3 – Arrived safe and to the sound of the vuvuzela

Arrived in Johannesburg Wednesday morning. Currently sitting in the media centre in the shadow of Soccer City stadium.

The flight from Doha, the final leg of my trip, was full of fans from various countries, most of who were sporting some form of clothing indicating their nationality. Sitting next to me were to guys from Algeria. Like many of the passengers they soon fell into a deep sleep. Their strong breath betraying the fact they had probably had a pre-journey send-off party the night before.

Across the aisle sat a boy of around 10 years of age with his father. Wearing the green jersey of Mexico, he slept on the lap of his father, periodically rising to put pen to paper in a pocket book. I caught sight of the cover. In capital letters it read, “WORLD CUP 2010 JOURNAL,” with a smiley face in the first O. Gave me a smile.

There were also Germans, English, Spanish, Americans. Amongst the fans I spotted a weathered 1990 Irish jersey wandering the aisles. Perhaps it’s wearer refused to accept that his side had been cheated out of participating in South Africa 2010 by the French during qualifying and decided to make the trip anyway.

After landing at Tambo International Airport shortly after 8am, I slipped through the fast line at passport control, the benefits of being an accredited media. Picked up my luggage and walked through customs and out into Tambo airport, avoiding the local media sent to pick-off fans as they arrived for the big show. Went in search of a phone rental booth.

Despite booking the phone weeks ago I had to endure the mass of customers competing with eachother to get service in the compact sales centre. There was a look of panic and terror on the face of the female salespersons I eventually made it to.

“Busy today, huh?” I asked jokingly, expecting at least a polite grinned response.

“Yes! Of course it is,” came the straight, honest answer. My attempt at humour apparently falling flat.

Despite the chaos of the booth I managed to walk away with a phone. A quick text and an expensive three minute multi-hemisphere conversation with my girlfriend back in Canada made sure it was working well enough to proceed.

Phoned the landlady of the place where I’m to stay and was told to stay put. She would phone me back soon. I had expected to grab a cab to the home that I’m chipping in on with a few Canadian freelance journalists, but received a phone call from a young man calling himself Ruben who told me he and his brother Jeffrey would soon be at the airport to pick me up and drive me down to the house.

The brothers are the landlady’s grandsons and have been assigned to make sure we all get to the place safely. Got my first look at South Africa during the ride. Passed a couple of informal townships on the way to the single level multi-bedroom gated house where I’ll be calling home for the first few nights.

From the property’s patio vuvuzelas, the horn used by many South African soccer fans, can be heard throughout the day. Even at 6am the faint sound of the horn can be heard coming from the distance.

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