South Africa is an interesting place; it has cultural influences from many places that has lead to a complex history. One of my favorite things about South Africa is its diversity. Along with talking to locals, I have taken two classes this semester which have given me a greater understanding of the political history and the current issues that all South Africans face.
Like anywhere else that has seen diversity, it brings adversity. I enjoy listening to the different perspectives from a wide array of people. In the beginning of my trip, I did not offer my personal opinion because I did not feel that I was educated enough, but now I am able to engage in conversation and feel confident in my perspective. You can do plenty of research online about issues that revolve around a culture, but there is nothing like experiencing it first-hand. I have been in South Africa for over three months and I am still learning. With each new experience I learn even more and am exposed to more of the real South Africa.
I was recently invited by a friend from Botswana to go to a local soccer match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium which was built for the World Cup in 2010. The match was between Chippa United (the local team) and the Orlando Pirates. Our team (Chippa United) was the underdog. Before going to the match, it never crossed my mind what type of people would be attending. Soccer is the most popular sport internationally and I knew that South Africans took their soccer very seriously – the energy would be great!
Our group consisted of 12 people, international students from the U.S, Switzerland, Botswana, Malawi and South African students as well. We sat surrounded by South Africans and cheered on our team, danced and chatted about school, sports and upcoming trips. It was a great game, we came out on top with 2-0 win!
At the end of the game, a family came up and asked to take pictures with us, of course we laughed and said yes. As we were walking out, we started to laugh at the silly situation. Our international friends started to explain why they were so amused with us: the color of our skin. I have become so accustomed to diversity wherever I go.
But here we stood. During the game we all cheered, yelled, and laughed together, when we scored, high fives were exchanged. We were united, like our team. I am thankful I had this experience; it taught me a lot about myself and a lot about South Africa. South Africa has come along way since 1994, when they were still segregated. This experience reinforced my belief that your skin color doesn’t matter and that we are all in this world together, united by humanity.
Taylor Farro is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She is currently a junior at Stockton University in New Jersey.