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An American takes on a manual transmission.

Uprooting your life and moving nearly 10,000 miles from home is a lot easier said than done. I have had plans to join Bushwise for two years now and the anticipation for this adventure was at times torturous. Now that I am here I feel like I am finally where I am meant to be, pardon the cliché. Despite this new found comfort I have also discovered that coming from so far, Denver, Colorado to be exact, has come with many challenges. The obvious being that I miss my family and friends back home, but the worst challenge of all you may ask? Well let me tell you, it has been figuring out how to drive stick. On the wrong side of the car. On the wrong side of the road.

Game drive with Mara

Upon our first driving exam I was shaking in my boots at the thought of driving the monster sized trucks we work with especially being the only American on the course I felt I had something to prove. I am the only student who has no real history with manual transmissions. America likes to be different from everyone else I suppose. Hands sweating and knees wobbly I passed the initial test by the skin of my teeth but no relief was felt as I was the first student up for game drive. Stuck with the landy for my drive as well I was petrified.

Night drive

Over the course of this drive I nearly beheaded half of the vehicle on stray branches, stalled maybe 10 times (this number is actively up for debate among my drive group), said “I am so sorry” more times in three hours than most humans do in their entire life, but powered through none the less. My review sheet filled out by the lovely Ed simply read, in bold and loud handwriting, “PRACTICE”. As I was told I practiced every chance I could stealing, with permission, my classmates “bakkies” (trucks for any non-South Africans reading). As I prepped the car for my second drive the occasional joke about stalling was thrown around but I was determined to stay calm. Sweaty palms still a staple in my life I drove through Makalali, reversed, traversed, avoided branches, the whole nine yards. I would be remiss to neglect mentioning that I did stall once..in the final moments of the drive which sparked laughter and rosy cheeks. I felt proud of my progress but what really made it special was having everyone of my classmates congratulate me and greet me with a smile or “well done Mara!”.

Looking into our fourth week I am so excited to keep growing as a guide among people who I have grown to love in such a short time.

Blog by Mara Vinnik