South Africa is the most amazing place to visit. It took about 15 hours to get there from New York City. Flying over, I marveled at the sight of the city of Johannesburg. We were staying in Cape Town. Since it was winter in New York, it was summer in South Africa because it’s located in a different hemisphere.

The next day, we went on an amazing tour that took us through the poor shantytowns. A shantytown is a town with really poor people and horrible living conditions. Some of the houses in shantytowns are literally scrap metal put together to form a large box. It was really hard to see how difficult life is for many people. One of the local boys asked me to play soccer.

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Our tour guide also took us to a wall that is known famously to the locals but not to tourists. It had a giant picture painted on it. The picture had the numbers 90, 80, 70, and 60 all mashed together. This pictured represented the different decades of South African history. In the ’60s image, there was an image of African people lined up with dompa, or “dumb passes.” Citizens had to carry pass books when outside their homelands or designated areas. Each decade had pictures right up to the ’90s, which showed Nelson Mandela holding the South African passport with the new South African flag.

We went to Johannesburg for our safari. We saw elephants, giraffes, monkeys, and zebras out in the wild. An elephant crossed the road in front of us, which was both scary and mesmerizing at the same time. The next day, we continued our safari and went to see lions and other animals. Finally, we got to spend the day at the lion park. My favorite part of the trip was that I got a selfie with a lion!

After that day, our luck ran out and it was time to go home. If you haven’t been to South Africa yet, buy a ticket and hop on a plane right now.