Soccer….Family Style

Don’t Get Lost in South Africa
June 21, 2010, 10:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

You can get into trouble pretty quickly in South Africa. We somehow got off the road we were supposed to be on, and even when we stiopped for directions, we got misinformation, although in the guy we asked’s defense, he looked pretty shocked that a car full of white people was in his part of rural Africa, let alone asking him for directions.

By the time we stopped and asked again it was sundown and we were at least ninety minutes off course. We had a few moments of panic. as we tried to find someone to ask for help. We found a police station, but it was behind barbed wire and looked very closed up for Saturday evening. We drove a little further and found a gas station and decided to stop and ask for directions at our own risk.

It turned into a lesson in South African helpfulness. The gas station attendant was in appropriately dirty clothes with very crooked or missing teeth, and he spoke what initially seemed to be simple, heavily accented English. It looked dubious at best that we would get reliable directions from this guy, but we were out of other options. We showed him where we were trying to get and started working through the communication of where we were and where we were trying to get. It was at that moment that he did one of the most reassuring things he could have done: he pulled out a Blackberry.

I’m not sure I can describe to you how out of place a Blackberry looked at the roadside gas station with pumps I haven’t seen since the 1970’s and this man that looked more back country than techie. It was definitely a defining this is Africa moment for me, and a lesson in not only willingness to help but also how technologically advanced South Africans are, even in little Baltimore, South Africa.

We got ourselves some old school turn by turn directions, the kind you write on a piece of paper, bought some gas and headed off into the night. Driving in South African countryside is not really something I recommend you do, since it’s pitch black dark with no lights and very few places along the way that you could ask for help if you ran into trouble. We got to see an amazing porcupine getting back on the road, and arrived not too long after the rest of our group, but it was dicey there for a while.

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