This post was written about a travel experience on 14-16 November.

So, there’s this thing in my family. We refer to it as the “Henderson Travel Curse.” In case the name isn’t obvious- we have horrible luck when traveling, multiplied exponentially when we travel together. Rarely does a Henderson make it through an entire journey without something going wrong- cars breaking down, flights being cancelled, houses flooding, you name it. (The most poignant example would be when we missed a connecting flight in Vegas and ended up having to fly to Puerto Rico to meet up with a cruise ship we were supposed to board in Miami, only to discover our luggage was in South Carolina. All five of us flying together=exponential curse).

Well… turns out I’ve brought the Henderson Travel Curse to South Africa. Here’s the story:

 

As y’all know from my previous post, I recently did some traveling. The first leg of my journey was to board a bus in Cape Town at 10:30 AM on a Thursday, disembark said bus in Johannesburg at 4:30 AM on Friday, and catch a 7 AM bus from Johannesburg to Zeerust, a small town in the Northwest Province near Botswana, arriving before noon on Friday. Simple, right?

That is- until I somehow ended up on the bus from H-E-double-hockey-sticks. My bus to Johannesburg had problems with the tires. And, there was also roadwork all through the night. So, my bus was running 3 hours late as we were approaching Johannesburg. Meaning I was going to miss my connection.

My bus arrived at Park City Bus Station in Johannesburg at 7:05 AM. I know that in South Africa, nothing ever leaves on time, so I took off running through the bus station, trying desperately to find my next bus by asking every bus driver and security guard (I’m sure I looked totally inconspicuous). I was directed to a curb on the opposite side of Park City, where I waited for about 45 minutes before a friendly woman informed me (through a combination of Zulu, English, and hand gestures) that the bus to Zeerust had left early that day.

Okay, so I missed my bus. Surely I could catch the next one, right? I walked inside, waited in line to speak to an attendant, and asked when the next bus to Zeerust was leaving. Here’s how that convo went:

“Zeerust? The bus to Zeerust leaves at 7 AM.”

“Yes, I know. I missed that one. But I’m hoping to catch the next one. What time does it leave?”

“The next bus to Zeerust leaves at 7 AM. Tomorrow.”

By now, it is nearly 9 AM. I am in Park City Bus Station in downtown Johannesburg. I am alone. I spent the night mostly awake, and essentially ate only candy and granola bars for 24 hours. I’m dehydrated. I look, and feel, like a fish out of water. Which reminds me, I haven’t brushed my teeth since leaving my host family’s house in Cape Town…

This must be the Henderson Travel Curse, and it seems to be prime time for a super public meltdown.

And yet… I’m really not stressed. I’m quite calm as I make my way to a bathroom where I brush my teeth, splash water on my face, and say a prayer for patience. I find a place to sit and call my country coordinator, Tessa, to talk through next steps. I send an SMS to Emily, a fellow YAGM who stays in Soweto (a township outside of Johannesburg). She responds to say I can stay with her for the night. But now it is the waiting game- I have no idea when Emily gets off work and can come meet me.

So, I calmly find a Wimpy (South African equivalent of Denny’s) where I order a cup of real filter coffee (it’s a splurge on my stipend, but sometimes caffeine is my top priority). A young white woman approaches and asks me to have lunch with her. It turns out she is from America, living in Bloemfontein for a year teaching English with the Fulbright program. We talk politics, social relations, culture differences, religion, travel stories, and ‘Murrica. She asks me about being a “missionary,” and is shocked to hear I’ve never actually read the Bible cover-to-cover. I’m shocked to hear her say that she loves living in South Africa because of how far her money goes- I’ve been living on a stipend in Rand for so long that I’ve forgotten the US Dollar has so much power. It is enlightening for both of us in so very many ways, and I find myself not worrying about the rest of the day.

 Suddenly, I look up and see Emily!

My very own Knight in Shining Armor is actually a YAGM in Chacos.

I spend the night at Emily’s in Soweto and catch the bus to Zeerust the next morning, where Keenan (another YAGM) is waiting for me at the bus stop. My travels continue smoothly, all things considered.

 

South Africa has this way of forcing you to realize that your plans probably won’t happen, but you’ll be okay in the end.

My plans didn’t happen, but I was okay in the end.

I would even hasten to say I’ve broken the Henderson Travel Curse. From now on, it will be known as the Henderson Adventure in Traveling.

 

FYI- On Saturday, when I showed up on time for the 7 AM bus to Zeerust, it left an hour late at 8 AM. Praise the Lord for having a sense of humor!

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