Scariest Moment in South Africa

My scariest moment in South Africa may surprise you.

A girlfriend and I, along with my three children and her baby, were headed somewhere in my Volkswagen and became miserably lost on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere. This was BC, before cellphones.

Our directions had been clear enough, or so we thought, but in a split second, the car died with no warning on the dirt road on the dark continent with no streeet lights or even ambient light anywhere.  No way anyone would ever find us. Our only options were to spend the night with four children in a beetle or go find help.

I instructed my friend to stay inside the safe car with all the children, lock the car doors, roll up the windows except for a few inches.

As I stepped out, the ground seemed dry. I made a 360 degree sweep and saw nothing. Then like a tiny match in a pitch black forest, I saw a light far in the distance. It was our only chance.

I could not see my hand in front of my face. I walked until I felt a fence and climbed over it easily enough. Then this city girl continued on, praying along the way.  As my feet felt the ground in front of me, I hesitantly stepped forward.

Suddenly, from a distance I heard barking dogs. At first, it seemed nice. Surely they had an owner. Thereby a phone. My reasoning seemed solid until they surrounded me. Viscious, snarling dogs that seemed to be different sizes and breeds but I couldn’t see them to be sure.

I kept my hands by my side and inched myself forward speaking an octave higher. “Hellllooo little doggies, hello little doggies,” I said, as I moved forward at a snail’s pace. Knowing they could have ripped me apart, I figured it was my American accent that bewildered them.  Anyway, in ten minutes or so we approached  a farmhouse. A  woman came out screaming at her dogs and pulled me inside her house.

Explaining what had happened, I asked to borrow her phone.  She walked me back to my car while we waited for my husband. It was thirty minutes until he arrived. We profusely thanked the woman and all said goodbye.

Those solitary moments on that dark moonless night in deepest Africa left me feeling brave, like I’d earned a badge of honor. That was my scariest moment, but I’ll try to share a few more that could compete for the title. Another day. Another blog.

Signs Stir the Spirit

Yesterday a series of strange and amazing moments filled me with wonder.

Thanks Pinterest!
Thanks Pinterest!

Standing in the US Post Office in Colorado while attempting to mail three of my MIDNIGHT IN MALAMULELE books to a friend in Nigeria, I anxiously awaited to hear how much it would cost. (An earlier quote from FEDEX was $121.)

A delightful young man worked feverishly on his computer to find the cheapest way to send my package overseas. His total was $31. I was delighted.

As I was about to leave, I spied his name tag.  Vince. I must have looked astonished as I explained to him, “That’s the name of a character in my book.” As I left, I thought about that. Of all the personnel, of all the days and schedules, or all the minutes in the day, how could he have been the one to be waiting on me? To help me. To be there at that particular moment.

Next, I went to Pier One looking for a stable tray to put on my coffee table. A petite dark-haired sales person became energized, explaining she’d just seen one and she began looking throughout the store, then researched it online. She’d been so helpful that I asked her name so I could find her later when I was finished shopping.  You can imagine my shock when she said her name was “Ella.” Yes, you guessed it. Ella is the Nana to Baloyi in my MIDNIGHT IN MALAMULELE.

Two situations, two names from my book on the same day, the same hour, consecutively? What are the odds? I stood there in amazement explaining it to her. She mentioned something about good luck.

At 2:30 a.m. I opened an email sent yesterday to discover that my first book MIDNIGHT IN MALAMULELE was listed under general fiction as an honorable mention in the San Francisco Book Festival.

What are the chances? I don’t have an answer for why all of this happened on the same day. But it was strange and I will dwell on that for a while. Motivation? Encouragement? Absolutely.

Paying attention to signs is important. There are signs all around us. It stirs the spirit.