Ever since I can remember, my family, especially my dad, has been obsessed with soccer. So when he told us he bought tickets for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, it was a dream come true. The whole family was thrilled. My sister and I had both played soccer since we were little, and when we found out that we were going to see Lionel Messi play live, right before our eyes, we were ecstatic. We were to go with our family friends who were actually from South Africa and had family there.
I had been to soccer games before. I could predict the enormous stadiums and the roaring crowds of all different colors and backgrounds. What I was not expecting; however, was the rest of the country; the landscape and the people once you were far enough away from the rich, white, American tourists in their fancy rental cars and clean t-shirts.
When I got to the stadium in Johannesburg, I thought that I was going to remember that game for the rest of my life. After all, I was at the World Cup! But for the life of me, I can’t even remember the score, or even the outcome at all.
I remember the people and the landscape and the animals. And the tiny African church we went to that was more lively than any church I’ve ever been to in America, even though I’m positive of the poverty of the congregation. And the women, spending their days along the sides of the road, selling beautifully ornate handmade statues for the equivalent of about a dollar fifty. I bought about eight of them.
It was amazing to me how you could go from the city of Johannesburg (where we stayed in a gated community because the crime rate was so high) to a shanty town right outside the city. People were using cardboard boxes as homes. Their children were running around naked. The women carried their babies on their backs so they could still work and had perfectly balanced baskets on their heads.
That was the city. And then we got further and further into the middle of nowhere. After the games, we went to visit Kruger National Park where we went on Safari. And as we drove into the country, there were still people just scattered everywhere. They seemed to live wherever they could find a nice grassy hill near some sort of fresh water. Some people had animals. At one point, we got stopped in the middle of the road because of a traffic jam… of cows. They just would not move out of our way. Every time there was a place in the road where you could pull over to see a particularly lovely view, it was guaranteed there would be at least one or two people sitting there selling statues. My sister and I got out of the car eating a piece of bread we bought at the last stop, and one of the men was eyeing it, so my mom gave him the rest of it and he thanked us graciously.
Africa was fun. We got to stand 10 feet away from lions and hyenas. We tried lots of new food, including beef jerky made from ostrich. We saw prettier landscapes than I have ever seen in my life. And we saw the World Cup! Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing trip. But it was also incredibly sad. I remember my mom crying the first time she saw a shanty town. It made me realize how lucky I am.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.