Friday, March 11, 2011

Divine intervention

Whenever I hear about my friends making stupid decisions (for instance, running alone down a secluded mountain path topless in the middle of the night), I can't help but be reminded of all of the quite insane and thoughtless actions I have taken over my years, especially before I got married and had a child and became rational. Most of them occurred in South Africa, when I was there on my field study. How stupid these decisions actually were became more real to me when I did my capstone paper on prevalence of rape in South Africa, where I read slews of academic papers and news articles on the prevalence of sexual violence in the country.

When I first arrived in East London, I was totally smitten with the gorgeous nature area near the beach. In order to get onto the beach, you have to walk through this secluded forest on a boardwalk. It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere even though you're actually just out of the neighborhood, and it was close enough to where we were living to go past on my morning runs before I went to the AIDS clinic to work. I ran down there quite a few times before I wrote home about it and was admonished to never do so again by my facilitator, Julie. I knew she would not tell me what to do unless she was really worried about it and I respected her enough to listen, so I never went down there again without Eric or Adam. I honestly did not realize that the beaches were so dangerous, but looking back it's like DUH. The last time I went (and I think the reason I wrote home) was because I left my running shoes by the boardwalk, and even though no one was around, they somehow got stolen in the 10 minutes I had run down the beach and back. That should have been a clue.

Safely on the beach with Adam

Another time I ended up at the AIDS clinic well after dark doing some paperwork and grant-writing, thinking that I had a ride home with the female doctor I always rode with, but she ended up having some kind of extra meeting at another place and couldn't take me (I can't remember why I couldn't have just waited/gone with her). So, I had to take a taxi home... and most of the taxis going to Beacon Bay where we lived didn't run after dark. I left on a hope and a prayer that one would be left in the taxi rink and would get me home. I started walking down the road to get to the taxi rink and was picked up by a taxi heading in that general direction. I hopped in and found a group of women in the back seat, to my relief. They dropped me off on the corner but I still had to walk the scary and (very) dark alleyway to get to the taxi rink... usually there were lots of fruit sellers and barbershops on the way but everyone had gone home for the night. I somehow made it alive and said many prayers of thanks when I saw that white van parked in the "To Beacon Bay" spot. Couldn't have managed that one without a little help from God.

Probably one of the most irrational and stupid decisions ever, was when my fellow field studier, Stephanie, and I arrived in Johannesburg after a very long bus ride from East London. We were supposed to fly out to Zimbabwe as soon as we arrived but our bus was delayed 20-something hours because we got stuck in some ice in one of the "mountain" passes near Bloemfontein, so we ended up getting booked on a different flight that left in the morning.

South Africa was not prepared for a little bit of cold weather

We arrived in Joburg that night with nowhere to stay, so Stephanie called a friend of hers (a male friend) she had met at Church a few weeks before when she was up there to go to the temple. He arrived with this other guy and they took us to their apartment to spend the night. Now, besides the fact we were spending the night with two men we didn't really know (STUPID), we also spent the night in downtown, ghetto Johannesburg... probably the most dangerous place in the world outside of a war zone (DOUBLY STUPID). And it turned out that the friend of the LDS guy was a police officer, so we slept in police barracks. So, that was a little safer... I suppose. But looking back, I don't remember ever doubting my decision or thinking it was not smart.

With Leonard, the LDS guy, on the way to the airport

On the way back from our trip, we were picked up by a woman in the ward and spent the night with her and her two daughters. So, at least we redeemed ourselves somewhat.

Made it to Victoria Falls relatively unscathed

And looking back on these memories of South Africa, I am amazed that I didn't end up some kind of BYU Daily Universe headline. When we went to Cairo and were drilled about the rules (like women must be accompanied by a male at all times at night and must walk in groups during the day), I realized BYU international study programs have strict rules for a reason -- so silly 20-yr-olds like myself don't end up raped/killed.

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