JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 09: Local fans celebrate in front of Velmore Grande Hotel on June 9, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images)
I was startled, until my American friend who has been living in Cape Town for the past year promptly advised me to "get used to that sound." The vuvuzela is deep-rooted in South African football (soccer) tradition, and for the first time is getting international exposure.
At first the vuvuzela sound was just background noise, not a very prominent sound during my days touring the city and getting a grasp for the flavor of the town.
That was until yesterday, when a rumor turned into a big movement to shut down the city at noon and send everyone out to the streets. When 12 o'clock struck, the entire city of Cape Town erupted into a symphony of vuvuzela horns, some melodiously being blown to sound like the popular soccer chants and others just a long, loud, somewhat obnoxious long horn sound.
The streets and even bridges crossing highways were lined with people dressed in soccer fan gear, chanting "Bafana Bafana," or "the boys, the boys," which is the nickname of the South African national team. And of course, they were armed with their mighty vuvuzelas, ready to attack any team with their deafening racket.
Bernice Peters, 37, owner of local hair salon “Five on Main” in Sea Point, a wealthier beach neighborhood of Cape Town, closed down her salon at noon and joined her staff, vuvuzelas in hand, with her fellow Cape Towners on Main Road to blow off their excitement for the games to begin.
"I've never really been a soccer fan," she said, "but this is so exciting!"
For someone not originally a soccer fan, Peters has gotten into the spirit of the games by appropriately decorating her salon with the flags from every competing country lining her ceiling, along with official World Cup mini soccer balls hanging alongside the flags.
The vuvuzelas vary in color and pattern, but all share the long horn shape. The sound is about the same, but the stronger the lungs blowing the horn, the deeper and longer the noise. There are mini vuvuzelas with a slightly squeakier noise, more popular among children.
Vuvuzelas are part of the South African eclectic style of celebrating "football." Once the games begin on Friday, the varying ways Cape Towners show their support for their teams will come to light on an international level and, who knows, perhaps will adopted in other parts of the world as well. However, it's definitely a word that does not roll comfortably off the tongue, but if you're having trouble, think "Venezuela."
If you're interested in celebrating this summer's World Cup games local South African style, you can find fan gear by clicking here.
Suzanne Kianpour is a soccer fan and desk assistant at NBC News in Washington, D.C. She'll be filing reports from South Africa throughout the tournament.