Travelling to various countries can impact a person in numerous ways. Not only does it open one’s eyes to other cultures, but it can cause one to contemplate their gratitude of their own nation. For me, travelling to Africa accomplished just that. Instead of the stereotypical “tribal” Africa many believe to be associated with the continent, I witnessed a beautiful culture, far different than many people expect.
Although taking a trip to Africa had not been on my “to-do” list, the moment I met my best friend, born and raised in South Africa, my aspirations changed. On her arrival during my 8th grade year, my best friend essentially became the “talk” of the school, many people wanting to learn what life was like in Africa, imagining grass skirts and lions. As our friendship grew, it became obvious that such notions were false. The description of her homeland intrigued me, and a year later, what had been a hope of mine transformed itself into a reality, I was travelling to South Africa.
After copious amounts of planning, with my best friend and her family, I was at last on my way to Africa. Instead of a decent length vacation of around two weeks, I was going to be living in South Africa for two months. As I arrived in South Africa, I was welcomed by my best friend’s granddad and family friend, handing us “welcome home” balloons and many other trinkets. Despite being a shy person, the warm welcome of my best friend’s family, immediately made me feel somewhat at “home.” Overcoming jet lag took about a week, but within that week, my African adventure began. Not only was I able to witness all the aspects of South Africa that had once been described to me, but a lively buzz existed within the country, due to the World Cup. Flags of the world were placed along the road, and various signs of the FIFA World Cup were scattered everywhere. As my trip continued, I was able to go places, such as Gold Reef City; a popular theme park, St. Lucia Wildlife Reserve, Sun City, and even tour the Durbin soccer stadium. In every single way, I had been spoiled.
Despite the amazing experiences, there were many differences within South Africa that has increased my appreciation of the United States. Upon my arrival in South Africa, it became apparent that certain liberties, such as jogging alongside the road, or sleeping under the stars, would be far too dangerous within such a country. The home I stayed in was located on the outskirts of the city of Johannesburg, in a neighborhood called Alberton. When thinking of suburbs many people within the United States imagine the classic American setting; however, within South Africa the suburbs are much more different. Instead of small picket fences, homes are surrounded by large brick walls with barbed wire curled along the top, and wrought iron gates. Unfortunately, the apparent beauty of South Africa is tainted by the high crime rate. With the realization of the dangers that exist in South Africa, caused me to appreciate the stability of the United States government, as well as what sacrifices had been made in order to ensure such privileges.
Ultimately, my “journey” to South Africa was an experience of a lifetime. I never would have dreamed to be so blessed to spend two months with such an amazing family. Living and learning about another culture enables one to see the world in a whole new way, as well as respect freedoms otherwise taken for granted.