They start at five a.m. and I am immediately awake, watching the sun come in through the stained curtains.
VOO VOO VOO VOO-VOO-VOO
They’ll persist until the night folds into morning, when sirens yell through the streets and fans finally turn in.
It is a constant hum. On TV it sounds like the accented announcer is screaming over giant pestering buzzards. But up close they’re sharp and catch in your ear until your head shakes.
On the street they come up behind me, blaring in time until a response sounds deeper from someone else a few meters ahead. When the two meet, the call and response continues and everyone dances around on the sidewalk. It carries on for several minutes then the group splits apart, carrying on down the street until each meet another.
In a moment of quietness I smile at a car guard who is beaming at me through white teeth. “It is here,” he says.
On the train to the fan park there is a baby next to me, pressed against her mother’s chest. Orange earplugs are bright against her skin and she is oblivious to the party in the car.
There is no point in talking; all words are overridden by celebration.
The women, draped in flags are seated and singing in Zulu, the men blow their horns echoing the women's voices. Everyone is swaying, stomping, a mob of green and yellow whistle wildly, their faces painted with the flag, hair covered with Mohawk wigs. Mobs of people press in to the cars blowing red horns and small whistles. The doors open and the party spills out into the streets.
The Central Business District in Cape Town is tame compared to Johannesburg, but we get out, following the instructions of a disheveled passenger in yellow pants. He said to find the waterfront. He turns to disappear in the crowd, on the butt of his pants in scrawled sharpie it reads: SA: 2 Mexico: 0.
Flash forward to the first goal scored by South Africa; the first goal of the World Cup. I am crushed in a mob of people that fill a tiny bar. On my tip-toes, I peer over the shoulders of a stranger, pushing against him so I can see the game projected against the wall. I turn my face to the ceiling, struggling to get clean air not tainted with body sweat. When South Africa scores I lose the screen, united in jumping madness. The blaring noise pounds in our ears; the sound of the entire country celebrating. I imagine the African ground below us, pounded with the feet of millions, the air carrying the vibrations of celebration.
We will tie Mexico, but the party will go into the night—filling the streets and blocking traffic. The South African rhythm will be the backdrop until dawn, blowing, humming and reminding every foreigner on this soil: it is here.
Video From Game Two in Jozi: