How Not to Drive Abroad

December 11, 2017

I wish I could say that driving abroad is the explanation for the various mishaps I’ve had. Whenever anyone hears of my tales the conversation usually goes like this…

Person (murmuring sympathetically) Yes, it is hard driving on the left here.
Me: (laps up the sympathy for a few seconds before a pang of honesty kicks in) Well, actually we drive on the left in the UK too.
Person: Oh….. Well, you know, these drivers in South Africa can be a bit crazy on the road. It must be very different.
Me: Mmm. Although most of my problems happen on the drive way. Kinda far away from other drivers.
Person: I see, I see (starts to clutch at straws) well, er, I suppose you’re used to automatic cars, right?
Me: Umm no, that’s America
Person: (A few seconds of awkward silence before changing subject realising that I am a lost cause)

I may still have a lot to learn on the art of driving, but through the rather gruelling process of getting on the road here, I have learnt a thing or two about my new surroundings….

At first I tried to hide my dubious driving skills as I started to get involved in Ocean View. This lasted all of about two minutes, utterly failing the day I bumped into a bakkie (a pick up truck) with a friend’s car. Within seconds the whole community seemed to have gathered around the car to inspect the damage. Somehow the car had got entangled into the bakkie’s tow bar and had to be lifted out by the many willing volunteers surrounding the scene. After extricating the car I tried to drive out as quickly as possible, except my sense of direction is almost as bad as my driving and I ended up looping around the streets for the community to get a second look. And a third….
From then on, there was no hiding. Part of the daily chatter in the community was now related to my driving skills (or lack of), and when I was getting my own car… One afternoon hanging out with the kids, I left early as I had a chance to buy a car. As I left, Celina gathered the kids together to pray that I’d get the car. The next day when I reported I was successful, the kids were very excited that their prayers were answered!

I realised that for me to get to know the community, it involved them getting to know me as well. And that we need each other, whether it’s small kids praying for me, practical help for my car, or the very gracious response of the bakkie owner who didn’t bat an eyelid at the damage done!

I’ve also experienced the value of my new family in All Nations. I’ve been helped so many times to get on the road – and get off the road… When the bonnet decided to come off my car while I was driving, within the hour, half a dozen people had stopped at the road, assessed the damage, driven with me to a garage, and then given me a lift to where I needed to be. When I drove the car I had just bought into a ditch, 6 guys (including one who was meant to be leaving the country permanently the day after) spent an hour trying to lift it out. And the Witthöfts, who had the misfortune to live with me the last month or so, gave me daily advice for my myriad of questions and problems, including Ewald suggesting in the nicest possible way “you know you have side mirrors.. maybe try using them”.  #thingsyoulearnatthirty

Cars excepted, this last month has been one of soaking up information and figuring out simple things about culture that you can only learn through experience – such as at a sleepover with the Ocean View girls, I learned that the application of nail polish is totally different to how you’d apply it elsewhere. Who would have thought ? If you want to see how, quick come and look at my nails before I get the nail polish remover out………

Doris as she saw what was happening to her nails….

Or that cleanliness is such an important issue. At the sleepover, Doris and I had no intentions of washing. It’s a camp – you grub it up till you get home and then wash. Especially for only one night. However the girls were horrified that we weren’t planning on washing. I tried to explain . ‘Look, we’re sleeping on the floor.. there’s dirt, there’s creepy crawlies… we’re roughing it up.. and there’s a drought!’ and they just looked at me askance and inched their sleeping mats away from me… while Doris and I compared tales of childhood camps of who had gone the longest without showering (I think a week was the record!)

At the beach – sea water clean enough for Doris and I!

I still have a lot to learn. I’ve only just started to build relationships and get a glimpse of what the community is like, and they’ve just started getting to know me. I know I’ll learn a lot more as we walk alongside each other. It’s also a timely reminder to me this month in the lead up to Christmas – that I have the example in Jesus to follow. He chose to leave all that was familiar to him, and enter our world, and walk with us.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man.

I’m so thankful for this. And for the community I’m in and the road ahead. And the car for it….

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