Before my trip I thought to myself, there is no way I’ll need to drive while I am in Zimbabwe…Miss J said there was a week I would be on my own though, so I was prepared for the potential experience of driving at least once if I could not find a ride to Celebration Centre. I figured it would be a one time thing for me to experience driving on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road, and that would be it.
Apparently, I forget how independent I am. I was itching to drive and practically begging Miss J for the experience some days after I arrived. Within three weeks of being in Zim, I was behind the wheel.
There are a few things that were potential problems though: I only vaguely knew how to get to the Centre, and if I took a wrong turn, I would have no way of looking up a map or calling someone to find my way back. Did this stop me? In true Lauren fashion, no, it did not. Road signs are not the most reliable things to look for here either. Sometimes they are visible and printed on one of the brick walls, but sometimes the sign has fallen over. Other times the sign is not even there because a person decided they needed that metal to sell. And at night, it’s rare that street lamps are working except for in specific areas. I have survived driving by remembering landmarks.
I thought it would be difficult to get used to driving on the other side of the road, but it’s actually been very easy. (Thank You, Jesus.) I think it’s been a good work out for the brain, switching things up…It will be interesting when I return to the States to see if I have a hard time switching back.
The good thing is that I grew up in Johnson County, Kansas where everyone drives fast and you quickly learn how to weave in and out of traffic lest you find yourself cast off the island like all the Missouri drivers. I fit in quite well with the way people drive here. Rules are set in place for the most part, but if someone is going slow, pass them….even if it’s a one lane road, you make another lane. This also happens in the situation that there are potholes or drop offs on the sides of the roads, which happens quite frequently. The conditions of the roads here makes me more grateful for rather than annoyed by the road construction that happens every summer in the States…in every state.
In the back of my mind is the police. They appear in random places, set up road blocks and stop people coming through, checking for anyone who has not: paid their tax on having a radio in the car (really), registered their car, got a license…all that. It’s smart, but so unlike how the cop do things in America, where if you are following the traffic and speed laws, you can go years without being pulled over. Sometimes the police in Zim are incredibly nice and fair, but then there are those looking for a bribe. It’s understandable because they do not get paid enough but so incredibly corrupt. Thankfully, whenever I have been driving, I have had the protection of God over my car and have not been stopped. There were even a couple times when I should have been stopped because they were targeting people going into the Centre, but they were busy with two or three other vehicles at the time. Legally, I should be fine, but if I can avoid dealing with them, I will…even if that means going on an adventure to find another way to my destination.
Today I had an adventure of a different kind. I needed to get to a specific gas station on an empty tank in order to use a coupon that is well worth the drive. I had never been to this gas station, and I was referring to a hand written map (beautifully drawn by Miss J) to guide my way. By myself. Now, in America, Monica and I are both known for getting bored with certain routes and finding new ways to get to a place. I call it going on an adventure, as I mentioned above, taking roads…side roads, main roads, whatever as long as it’s new. All a person really needs to know is what general direction s/he needs to go, and s/he’ll be fine. Because the light was already on at the start of my trip, there was no room for error in my adventure, so I spent the time talking to God, asking Him for directions and such because some of the landmarks I had been given I could not see from the angle I was coming…One of the landmarks written on was turn left at the “Nazarene House.” The sign for the “Nazarene House” was on the road I was supposed to turn onto, not the one I was on…so I looked to my left after a while and saw a giant salmon colored building with an interesting roof, so I thought to myself, “That looks Nazarene-ish. I’ll turn here.” Turns out, it was the correct road. I was rejoicing the whole way to the Redan gas station where the nice man filled up my tank (they still do that in Zim. It’s really nice! Imagine not having to get out of your car in winter!) When I left, I was still in a state of euphoria and thankfulness for the Lord, but also a little proud that I hadn’t gotten lost. I think the euphoria blinded me because I completely missed the Salmon Mansion “Nazarene House” and ended up treading onto unknown territory.
It was adventure time and trust in the Lord for protection yet again. I took some turns, saw some police who I was fearful of for a moment before I realized they just wanted to cross the road, and then ended up on a road that looked vaguely familiar. Miraculously, I ended up on the exact road I needed to be on in order to get back to the Centre. He is faithful indeed. I have a phone to call people now, but I don’t know how I would have described where I was to get directions back. I walked into Connections (Celebration Centre’s café) with a kick to my step and extreme thankfulness.
In some ways I feel sixteen again, experiencing independence and the world from a new perspective.