Getting our tickets!
Day one in South Africa and we're anxious to pick up our tickets! We arrive in Sandton
to find the ticket line stretching all the way down the street. Anticipating at least an hour or two of waiting, we start to head toward the end of the line when we're accosted by none other than the group of Nigerians we had bantered with on the flight the night before. They let us in front of them and before long we're clutching our precious tickets and heading across the road to the Village Walk shopping centre to take care of the important business of exchanging money and getting phones.
Both our U.S. phones were locked and refusing to play nice with the South African SIM cards and, as the first sign of how impossible it is for a country to anticipate how to prepare for an instant influx of 400,000 football-frenzied fans, the entire shopping centre was sold out of any phones less than US$200.
Sidlo generously gave me his phone to borrow until we could buy new ones... little were we to know, it would take almost two weeks before we were even near a shop and able to find ourselves phones... so I held on to the phone and we sent Fer off to the Argentina-Nigeria game, phoneless carrying my new number written on a slip of paper and hoping to somehow meet up with his friends in the crowd of 60,000 at the stadium (it turned out, of course, that his friends just happened to be sitting in the seats in front of him).
I headed off with Sidlo and Thapelo (Thapelo was actually the mutual friend Fer had met through Couchsurfing, who had referred us to stay with Sidlo) and had lunch at Nelson Mandela Square, featuring special inflated World Cup prices (when Thapelo asked for 'locals prices' the host joked with us to come back July 12) after which we headed to the Fifa Fan Fest to watch the game and were thrilled that at the commercialized, sponsor-plastered festival, the beer was cheap, cheap, cheap.
Watching the USA game
Wondering how I was going to find my kiwi mates in the sea of people, I received a text to look for the Algerian flag and sure enough, there was a huge green and white flag waving gracefully at the front of the crowd. As World Cup 2010 veterans, having been in the country four days longer than me, the kiwis informed us that the Fan Fest is great for watching the day games but the night games are best viewed at a bar. Sure enough, no sooner had the whistle blown on the Nigerian defeat, when the place was immediately emptied. We headed back to Village Walk to find a bar called FashionTV where we could set up camp for the England-USA game. As our day-one luck would have it, FashionTV was an official Argentinian bar for the World Cup so when Fer returned from the game we all drank the official Argentinian beer, Quilmes, which is about as popular in Argentina as Steinlager is in New Zealand, or Budweiser in the cosmopolitan cities of the U.S.