Saturday morning I awoke to my hostess bursting through the door at the woman’s home at which the prayer meeting was held. I discovered a flurry of frantic texts from all members of my family to contact someone in order to find out the new location where I needed to pick up my ticket. I will spare you the details-but in a nutshell I accidentally and embarrassingly woke up the USA team manager at the team hotel, and spoke with several others before discovering my ticket was with the unknowing mother of a team member. Really, who wakes up the USA soccer team manager before 6am on the morning of a World Cup match? Me! I like to pretend that didn't happen. I had to go to the USA team hotel in Johannesburg in order to pick up my ticket to the match. Quite the place—I felt like an intruder amongst all of the family members of the team. Due to some mistake there was an extra ticket to the match, so my hostess (Naniwe) ending up being able to attend the match with me.
We had to drive back to Pretoria, the city where Naniwe lives, before making our way to Rustenburg the place where the match was to be played. I fought sleep all the way there, even as caravans of team fans honked car horns, blew vuvusellas and flew their flags proudly. Naniwe had not slept all night and therefore requested I not sleep in order to keep her awake. This made me a bit nervous for our return trip that would happen later that night (and such fears were incidentally well founded). The parking lot was as festive of a place as any. Fans were putting the finishing touches on their supporter gear and collecting their warm clothes for the match. We joined the park and ride shuttle with the rest of the fans streaming into the lot.
The stadium was abuzz with festivity. Outside the stadium were tents set up with various fan gear, entertainment, and beverages. I walked around just soaking up the atmosphere before going to find my seat. Sure enough my seat was right smack in the middle of the USA team family members. It was up higher than expected, in the far right corner of the field-a great view though. I was sitting next to Tim Howard (the USA goalie)’s mother. We made small talk throughout the match. I thoroughly enjoyed her company, and insight on the team. My stomach was in knots the whole time. Naniwe laughed at how intense I was throughout the game. It was all quite surreal. The score board/replay screen was not working-so we didn’t even know the official time which was strange. I could hardly contain my excitement throughout the match. The families seem satisfied with the tie, of course everyone would have preferred the win, but felt good about it. I didn’t want to leave the stadium after the match. The atmosphere is just so electric.
We ended up having to wait an hour and half out in the cold for a shuttle bus back to the parking lot. There were thousands of fans waiting and it took that long for us to get on one with space available. It took at least 30 minutes to reach a parking lot that could not have been more than 3 miles away (traffic). My hostess had been dozing off on the bus, I wasn’t sure if that was a good plan or not. Once we reached the parking lot to unload, she was disoriented and was unsure of which direction the car was and which was we needed to exit the parking lot. I felt quite certain we were in trouble. I knew where the car was, and which was to exit- though she was not confident in my directions. She was dozing off in between chances to pull forward in our line of cars to exit the lot. I asked if she was okay to drive, and she told me she had slept in the bus so she was now ok. I beg to differ. The next 2.5 hours were possibly some of the most miserable of my life. She did not know how to get back to her hometown, to read the road signs, and was half asleep the whole time. I thought for sure that is how I would die. I was again not allowed to sleep, which was the worst part. I was trying everything I could think of to make myself stay awake. She had the windows rolled down to attempt to wake herself with the cold air. I was freezing, and SO tired and frustrated. She kept asking me for directions, and then didn’t listen to my advice. We were in the middle of nowhere, and she decided to stop at a farm house (at 2 am) and honk for someone to come out. Thankfully no one did. Then she drove us all the way back to Rustenburg to start over and orient herself. Once we found the correct freeway, she didn’t want to drive full speed because she was tired. So we slowly made our way the 100 kilometers to Pretoria. Everytime I looked at her I was not sure if her eyes were open or not. I suggested she pull over and sleep, since it was better to be safe than dead. She thought that was funny, but not safe. So she drove on. The only few minutes that I was wide awake during that drive were the seconds after a cow ran into our lane of the highway. I shouted to alert her, and she swerved just in time to miss the bull. It was seriously close. My head kept hitting the headrest or my hands in sleep. I could barely keep myself from succumbing to it. I had slept about 5 hours between the previous two nights. The miserable drive finally ended at 3:30am when we arrived back in her driveway. I was so cold I slept with gloves on my feet, and fell asleep seconds after my head hit the pillow, having enjoyed the game of a lifetime and somehow surived the drive back.