About the Author: Chelsia Hetrick serves as a Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The sound of vuvuzelas permeates life in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Whether you are watching a game on television and wondering if your set is broken, trying to get home from work in the evenings, or wondering what all of that noise is at 5:00 a.m., these South African horns remind you that this World Cup is truly African. While many foreigners cringe at the noise, the vuvuzelas bring a celebratory atmosphere to the country, from Polokwane to Cape Town.
We as consular officers cannot help but have this atmosphere permeate our work and lives as well. All consular officers in Johannesburg are spending time on the Joint Operations Center in Pretoria, answering consular inquiries from welfare and whereabouts cases to the state of the roads after the last game. Fortunately in the first few days of the tournament, which began on June 11 and will continue for a month, we have had only a handful of consular calls, (knock on wood, or as the South Africans say, “touch wood”). This means that if you are on the morning and evening shifts, you end up spending much of your time watching the games.
Vice-President Biden's visit to South Africa for the opening ceremony of the World Cup and the U.S. vs. England match on June 12 affected the entire Mission, and most people spent time staffing control rooms and hoping for a chance to see the Vice President. Besides welcoming Vice-President Biden, our Consular Section has also been busy helping U.S. citizens with their lost or stolen passports.
But it's not all work. Many of us also attended the vuvuzela-drenched U.S. vs. England game, arriving hours before the match and making a mad dash out of the stadium once it was over to avoid being in the middle of a rush of 38,000 fans leaving the sold-out match in the small town of Rustenburg. The June 18 match against Slovenia proved a little less chaotic and equally exciting, whether you watched it live, from the comfort of your own couch, or at the consulate-hosted viewing party.
At the moment I am writing, we still do not know whether the U.S. will advance to the Round of 16. South Africa looks unlikely to advance after a loss to Uruguay, but one thing is still sure: the vuvuzelas will continue. Although they have become a focus of international controversy for their noise and possible contributions to long-term deafness, and although they have officially been banned from the Wimbledon, they remind all of us who are watching the World Cup that we are in Africa for the first time in the history of the tournament.