As my daughter drove me to the airport, I was suddenly reminded that I was leaving my comfort zone. What have you forgotten? my cramping stomach asked. What all-important detail have you let fall between the cracks? Usually my husband takes care of travel logistics; I am notoriously bad at them. But he was already in Africa. And he would not be meeting me in Johannesburg to pick up the pieces either. This time I would be the one to pick him up when he arrived at Oliver Tombo International from Mozambique on Saturday. I was on my own to pick up the rental car and find my way to the mission guesthouse.
I had a pleasant enough flight (all fifteen hours of it), watched The Last Song, slept more than usual and worked on edits to a short story thanks to a bulkhead seat with enough space to actually open my computer. The only gaping hole in my preparations that I have discovered so far is neglecting to write down the address of the guesthouse. I could have given them directions for finding it, but the arrival form wanted a street number. I made up something that was at least in the same block and hoped they wouldn’t throw me out of the country for falsifying information if I got caught.
Arriving in Jozi I was again plunged out of my comfort zone at Thrifty Car Rentals. The steering wheel was on the right. Oh, yeah. I forgot about this part. My husband usually does the driving. After reminding myself how to use the key (our Prius has a smart key that stays in my pocket), I also had to remind myself of how to use the clutch. I eased out of the parking ramp, jerking occasionally and chanting the mantra, “Drive on the left. Drive on the left.”
Oliver Tambo is at the conjunction of two major highways giving convenient access to several areas of the city, but exiting in the right direction is challenging to say the least. I took the Pretoria/Johannesburg exit, avoiding Boksburg, and reminding myself not to head on autopilot for old house in Kempton Park but to take the R24 toward Johannesburg. Success!
As I took the exit for the mission guesthouse, the Johannesburg skyline spread before me in the distance. I have used that view before to teach how description can set the mood for your story. Does your character arrive on a clear morning when purple-blooming jacaranda line the streets, sunlight sparkles from her towers and Jozi bustles with life and the promise of a fresh beginning? Or does smog settle on the slag heaps from the overworked gold mines that surround the city? Tonight her skyscrapers showed like blue-gray cutouts against a line of haze with a pink and blue sky, fading to night behind. “Welcome back,” it seemed to say. I no longer felt out of my comfort zone.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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