Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Driving in Joburg

This post does not have anything to do with international development or affordable housing issues; it’s purely a personal narrative.  You have been warned!

Last week, MHA got their company car fixed so I could lease it.  I was so excited to finally have mobility in the evenings again.  It felt like I could take charge of my life just by having a car.  Honestly, it felt like freedom!

But I hate driving.  I hate driving a well-running automatic in Vancouver where people (usually) follow the rules of the road.

The thought of driving in Johannesburg terrified me.  Left side, manual transmission, lots of hills, tons of traffic, no grid pattern, no landmarks like mountains, crazy taxis swerving everywhere, pedestrians all over the roads, people trying to sell me something at each intersection, terrible lack of signage – the anticipation has been my number one source of stress since moving here.

But once I started, it wasn’t so bad.  It took me a while to get used to manual transmission.  I still stall sometimes – especially if I’m stressed out – but after a week I feel like this car and I are finally on good terms.

Except for one thing: its radiator is broken.  That’s one of the reasons why MHA had to service it (also it had no second gear, but that’s fixed now).  So I have to keep a 2L bottle of water in the back and check the radiator level before and after each time I drive it.

A week ago, I didn’t even know how to open the hood of a car.  Now I look under the hood and recognize some of major parts: where to check the oil, the window washing fluid, the fan belt, and – most importantly – the radiator level.

For anyone who has ever been stressed about learning to drive: I feel your pain.  But, believe me, if I can do this then anyone can.


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