Goodbye, Botswana!


It’s dusk and we’re racing through the African Bush on a gravel road toward a village called Mochudi. I’m dozing off in my seat, thinking about the trivial things that occupy the minds of every person living her daily life: I wonder how hard my finals will be; What should I have for dinner tonight?; I think I’m getting sick. Where can I get vitamin C tomorrow?

I am jerked into the present by a load of cuss words and arms flailing out to hold onto something. My eyes pop open and we are already swerving off the road.

It really does happen in slow motion like everyone says, maybe because the flood of adrenaline heightens awareness, and every small detail takes up a big space in the memory.

I remember the driver’s calm face as we swerved. I remember recalling that I had pictured this moment a thousand times, fearing it while riding with speedy and clumsy drivers. I remember the first roll of the car. It rolled one and a half times and landed on its side.

The whole semester, every international student in my Setswana class had been begging our teacher to take us to a cattle post (the place where Batswana keep their cows). With only two weeks left in our Botswana experience, Itumelang, the lecturer, got permission to take us in one of the university’s vehicles, a 5-seater truck with an enclosed bed so more people could squeeze in the back. Three other exchange students and I went, and on our way out, we picked up the owners of the post along with some of their friends.

The day was hot, but fine. We spent all afternoon examining cows and cooking traditional foods over fire. We stopped by the Limpopo River and saw the Botswana-South Africa border. At the end of it, we loaded up– five in the seats of the cab, five in the truck bed– and sped back toward civilization in Mochudi.

Itumelang was driving. A car appeared out of the dust. She spun the steering wheel to avoid it. Just as we cleared the car, a cow appeared, and we swerved again, this time off the road. That’s when we flipped.

I don’t remember hitting my head or face or leg or ear, and I don’t remember the guy next to me breaking his arm. I just remember with each motion of the car thanking God my father, who for some reason continually preserves my life, that I was okay up until then.

It wasn’t real; I felt as if I were watching a movie or having a dream—one of those ones where you hit the brakes but the car doesn’t stop in time, or something so terrible and out of the ordinary happens that you figure it can’t be reality, so you wake up.

Throughout dangerous situations, I’ve always stupidly believed the idea that “I’ll be okay.” For some reason though, during the accident I didn’t expect to come out okay. This may sound pretentious, but really I didn’t even expect to come out alive. So when I realized that I wasn’t even seriously injured, I thanked God all the more. My priorities have never been more in line than those moments after.

When the metal beast settled on its side, I panicked for the people in the back, two of whom were my friends. Itumelang and I started yelling frantically for someone to “check the back!” When I heard their “We’re ok,” I climbed out of the car with the help of a very brave, selfless man, lay on the Bush dirt trying not to pass out or vomit, and thanked the Lord for His miraculous grace over and over again.

To me, God’s hand at work throughout the crash was incredibly apparent. Far too many things could have gone wrong that didn’t; I don’t buy the explanation that it was luck. Neither did anyone in the accident.

I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Five people weren’t even in seats, and the worst our group experienced was a broken arm and a few minor concussions, bruises, and cuts. None of us even lost our possessions. The Lord is miraculous.

The aftermath of the accident was almost equally as terrifying as the crash itself. Once the shock waned, we realized that we were in the middle of the Bush, which has no cell service and little traffic. It was getting progressively darker and colder, too.

About an hour passed and a car drove by. It picked up the guy whose arm was broken and drove to town to call the police for us. When we remembered it was a holiday (Worker’s Day, like Labor Day in the States) though, we realized it would probably take the police hours to come, so we flagged down the next car and hitched a ride, huddling in the back of the truck to stay warm and cringing every time the vehicle turned or jerked.    

My friends and I spent most of that night at the hospital. It’s been almost a week since the crash and I am still in awe of the Lord’s grace. God surely is good.