University of Minnesota assistant soccer coach Jerrod Roh was in South Africa last month as one of the 3.18 million fans that flocked to the country for the 2010 FIFA World Cup - the first-ever World Cup to be hosted on the African continent.
And yes, he came home with a vuvuzela.
Roh, attending his third World Cup in a row (he also traveled to Germany in 2006 and South Korea/Japan in 2002), spent just over two weeks in South Africa, where he observed everything from international soccer matches to African wildlife to Nelson Mandela's former prison cell on Robben Island.
"The trip was awesome! I had been planning it since I heard that South Africa was announced as the 2010 host, and I thought I just had to be there for the first African World Cup," Roh said. "I had never been to Africa before, and being there when the energy is so alive like that is certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity."
The Omaha, Neb. native took in five World Cup games during his stay including the United States' 1-1 draw with England in the opening round. Roh was also in the stands for Brazil's matchup with the Ivory Coast and three games featuring Cameroon (against Holland, Japan and Denmark).
He very nearly predicted the Netherlands to win the cup, although a 1-0 loss to Spain in the finals squashed his prediction at the last second.
Along with the World Cup events, Roh was able to tour much of South Africa. Roh spent one of his first days in South Africa touring the Cradle of Humankind just outside of Johannesburg. The Sterkfontein caves found in the Cradle of Humankind has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years ago - and excavations in the region are ongoing.
Roh also made several ventures into the South African wild during his trip including the Pilanesberg National Park, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park, and the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, where he was able to witness nearly all of the famous African wildlife (elephants, crocodiles, zebras, giraffes, baboons, etc.) and even had a near-run in with an aggravated hippopotamus. "They're the No. 1 killer of humans for mammals over there," Roh joked after he had safely returned home. "I learned the hard way that when they are staring at you when you are taking their picture that they are not simply posing for the photo."
He also had a chance to take in some of the culture of South Africa's indigenous people. While in St. Lucia, Roh visited a Zulu tribe cultural site - "very friendly, very nice people," Roh said of the tribe. In his last few days in South Africa, Roh toured the Apartheid museum and visited Robben Island, where former South African president Nelson Mandela was for 18 of his 27 years in prison. "One of the biggest things was just learning about the history...the apartheid and the racial tensions that still exist there today," Roh said. "They have come so far in such a short amount of time. They still have a ways to go, but they are working at it. Truly amazing people!"