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Welcome back, y’all! This post is going to wrap up the South Africa picture posts (click here to see parts 1-4), but I’ll probably be sharing another post next Saturday with some of my takeaways from the trip. In last week’s post we were camping at Bakgatla, giving school programs in the mornings and driving through a game park in the afternoons. Now we’re nearing the end of our stay in South Africa, and we’re heading back to the Samekoms Conference Center (where we spent our first weekend). As usual, we’re going to take a few detours along the way. 😉
We left Bakgatla Friday morning. Somewhere along the line we were incorrectly told that it was a 2-hour trip to Samekoms, but it was actually supposed to be a 4-hour trip. “No problem, this’ll be a breeze,” we thought. Not quite. Our caravan of four vehicles got split up, so we were traveling 2 and 2. The girls’ van was following Roy, who had the GPS. Samekoms is located in Middleburg. There happen to be two Middleburgs in South Africa. The GPS took us to the wrong one, and we went 2 hours out of our way before we realized the discrepancy. So what we originally thought would be a 2-hour trip ended up being an 8-hour trip. But the story doesn’t stop there!
Dusk had fallen and we were traveling along a main highway – a vanload of eight girls pulling a trailer with our luggage. A vehicle in front of us starting acting strangely, pulling over onto the shoulder flashing its four-ways. After we drove past, the vehicle pulled out behind us, then alongside us, still flashing. In America, a vehicle’s flashing its lights at you is usually an indication that something is wrong with your car, so immediately we girls checked on the trailer (as well as we could in the darkness), listened for strange sounds, and told Bro. Lawrence that maybe we should pull over. He kept driving calmly, but then he told us, “I don’t like the looks of those guys. Maybe one of you had better pray.” (We found out later that the area we were in was known for hijacking.) One of the girls prayed, then Shavonn started singing, “The Lord is My Light and My Salvation.” We all joined in, and before we had finished singing the first line, the vehicle beside us drove off and left us alone. Praise the Lord! Bro. Lawrence stopped at a garage (gas station) a few miles down the road and checked on the vehicle and trailer, but everything was just fine. We believe that God protected us!
Of course this experience shook us girls up a little, so when we finally arrived at Samekoms an hour or so later, we all piled into the living room where the guys were practicing a song and just sat there, dazed. Most of the guys had gotten there several hours before we did. It was so good to be back together as a group in a safe place!
Side note: most of the pictures in this post are cellphone pictures, and not all of them are mine.
Saturday morning some of us went food shopping while the others stayed at the conference center and worked on some music. (Below: Boerewors are a typical South African sausage.)
As I’ve mentioned previously, we ate a lot of bologna sandwiches. (The South Africans actually call it “polony.”) We had bought bologna in this packaging before and it wasn’t too awful as far as bologna goes. This time…well…you’ll see that in just a bit.
We did some laundry, but it was raining outside so we improvised our drying facilities.
We did some rehearsal and recording in a cute little chapel at the conference center Saturday afternoon.
While we were recording, Sister Nelaine made supper. We had baked potatoes with an improvised mixture of ground beef and baked beans on top. 🙂 And salad! A good salad was always welcome.
Saturday evening was a nice time of relaxation and fellowship. Oreos had become the Aspire Ensemble Official Snack, so we polished off a few packages (brought from the USA, by the way) and washed them down with milk and hot custard.
Me and Leah (scuse the watermark…ugh) + Shavonn’s hand reaching in from the left 😛
Ah yes, the polony. Late Saturday evening found us prepping food for a packed lunch and supper for Sunday. We opened up the polony – and found a BRIGHT PINK Play-doh-like substance that was unlike anything we had ever seen or eaten in our lives. It made history.
Sunday’s schedule was packed with 3 programs! Our first was at a very liturgical Dutch Reformed church. They gave us a warm welcome!
The view from the choir benches:
After the scary experience Friday night, we girls decided that we didn’t want to travel by ourselves anymore, so we split up among the different vehicles. Since we had quite a bit of traveling to do between programs on Sunday, we occupied ourselves by playing games and singing.
Monday morning brought the sad realization that this was our last day in South Africa! We traveled to the Johannesburg airport in the morning and said goodbye to our faithful drivers (who were anxious to get home to their families!). We spent most of the day at the airport since our flights didn’t leave until the evening.
Some of us wanted to go souvenir shopping, so since Wian was still with us, 13 of us piled into his 7-passenger vehicle! It was extremely squished, but we survived and made lots of memories. We found some neat beadwork at roadside shops, so the temporarily cramped conditions were worth the pain.
3 in the front, 5 in the middle, 5 in the back. Yours truly is located in the back seat, bottom left. 😉
We had a 16-hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, and pretty much all of it was during the night since we left in the evening, then ate up 7 hours worth of time change. We arrived in Atlanta around 6 am Tuesday morning and had several hours of layover there. The time passed quickly, and we completed our trip by making a quick flight from Atlanta to Dulles.
In Dulles, we stood around for quite awhile talking, signing things for each other, and just generally postponing our goodbyes.
Eventually our rides came to pick us up, and the northerners left in one van while the southerners left in another. (Our Oklahoma friend, Stephen, had another flight to make.) From there, we kept branching out, parting ways. I drove to Stuart’s Draft, VA, with Vincent, Abigail, Matt, and Carolyn and stayed the night there. Matt and Carolyn and I left Wednesday morning to head further south. From Matt and Carolyn’s place in North Carolina, I drove 3 hours southwest and arrived home Wednesday afternoon.
The southerners (plus Stephen) from a northern perspective:
When I came home, I found a sign on the door: “Welcome Home! To an african traveler! Love, Birdy” (My little brother Josh calls me his “Nest” because he liked to crawl into my lap when he was younger.)
Upon stepping inside the door, I found a sign that my sister Nicole had drawn:
Reunited at last! I was so glad to see them again!
Tuesday was actually Josh’s eighth birthday, but he waited until Wednesday to celebrate so I could be there. He decorated his own birthday cake with a safari theme – but not just any safari! Here you see the rhino roadblock from Vlog 11.
Next week I plan to write some of my broader takeaways from the trip to South Africa. Hope to see you then!