Friday, October 16, 2009

Airport Driving Lessons

The big thing Anna and I are going to be working on is expanding GRS programming from its base in Richmond (which has had the GRS curriculum in its schools since 2007) to the larger towns of De Aar and Colesberg, each about a 1-1.5 hour drive up the N1 highway from us. In South Africa, though, driving 1-1.5 hours up and down the N1 actually means driving stick 1-1.5 hours up and down the N1 because they don't believe in automatic cars out here. All the interns received an email telling us to learn stick before departing for South Africa, but it came literally a week before my flight out and I was already on the East Coast, on Manhattan island, sleeping on the floor of the apartment of impoverished recent college graduates. So I didn't learn stick before getting out here.

Circumstances have allowed for me to begin learning just in the past few weeks. Scarcity of practice vehicles has meant that Anna and I have been learning on a range of makes and models: from a brand new rental 12-passenger Quantum van to a slew of beat-to-shit farm trucks (or as they call them here, "bakkes.") My favorite part of the whole ordeal came yesterday, during a lesson with Johan, a kind elderly man who lives in town. Johan drove us out of Richmond on a country road and turned off onto an even more country road which led us out into a large clear prairie. "Lot of space out here, yeah?" remarked Johan as I quickly realized where we were: the Richmond airstrip. 30 minutes later, after working his old truck through 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th and blasting up and down this strip of dirt, I was feeling pretty good about my stick driving skills.

We've just secured a vehicle for Anna and I to use, and the expansion begins in earnest on Monday with a meeting in De Aar with a rep from the Department of Education. We'll be driving ourselves up there. If I don't post to this blog within a week, though, start looking for the black box.

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