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Germany trip proves preparations aren't enough

Image: Stock

"There are ways of arriving in a new country: You should know where you are going, have your first few nights' accommodation booked, be able to converse in the lingua franca and have a bottomless bank account - or enough saving to make cash the least of your problems. This is the way of the well-organised and cash-savvy."

This is the opening paragraph of Lerato Mogoatlhe' s Vagabond: Wandering Through Africa on Faith, published earlier this year by a South African publishers BlackBird Books (Mahlape owns Black Bird Books).

When I arrived in Germany almost two weeks ago, Lerato's words came to me. Despite the many google searches of weather conditions, I am shattered by the grey thick skies that envelope us as we descend into Germany.

Despite my best to prepare for this trip, I had already fallen apart in Istanbul where I was connecting flights. No amount of research could have prepared me for the long walk I had to endure from the arrivals terminals to passport control and then back to the departures terminal. Here's a free tip, if you are overweight, and planning a trip to Europe, it may be a good idea to lose some weight first. These people walk! And they walk everywhere.

When I boarded in SA, the lovely check-in lady had given me a boarding ticket for the second leg of my travel, I only discover after I have unpacked my bag at the security gates that I have lost it. The Turkish lady is unsympathetic and merely points me to a counter to go pick up a new one, all the anxieties I had been feeling about the trip suddenly threaten to fill my eyes, I manage to stop them before they fall, gather my stuff and walk to the back of the line. I had kept checking on it so many times, only to lose it at the last minute. I long for the familiarity of home, immediately.

At that moment I think about how we leave home every day prepared and with plans, not just for where we are going but for after as well. We try to prepare for the things that could happen and or go wrong, but sometimes our planning is nowhere near a match for what can follow.

I seem to have stayed in that mood of feeling inadequately prepared for life and the world despite our best efforts. A lot of it has to do with watching in horror the constant daily news from home.

The sentencing of child rapist Nicholas Ninow was a horrific reminder of the harsh reality of how life always has one up on us.

When you leave the house with your small child to go to a food outlet where she can play and pass some time, you make plans. Maybe you will do groceries thereafter, maybe you'll hurry home to cook or maybe pass by a friend's house thereafter.

You don't plan to have your life thrust into the public eye or that you will spend the next year of your life seeking justice because a vile human decided that your child was the perfect outlet for the horrors that play out in their heads.

When you are that mother, despite everything that you have done to prepare for your child's life a moment like that will derail you.

When you are a 19-year-old girl who has quickly dashed into the post office and had enough foresight to ask the Uber to wait for you, you never imagine that you need not have made those plans.

Life is a trip, we prepare for it but we don't know what lies in wait. I wish it were as simple as Lerato's summary about arriving in a new country. There is no currency you can buy, no language you can practice and there isn't a day you could plan for that you can guarantee to show up whole in exactly the same way you had planned.