2019 Spring Aubrey Haggerty Australia External Programs IFSA

Lessons from a stranger’s van

Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this you may want to skip to the last sentence first. Shannon, if you’re reading this, you may want to stop. Last Sunday may or may not have marked the second time I took an Uber to a giant, lonely, national rainforest…

Australian mothers are wonderful people. Observing them reassure and calm their distraught children on the train is like witnessing a miracle. They are strict but gentle. They talk to their kids like tiny humans, as if they are equi-intelligent as adults.. Their children are allowed and encouraged to take risks, but if the situation should get out of hand, Australian mothers raise their voices to just to the right level and perfect pitch. “Stop right there mate!”

They also happen to be lifesavers. After Sunday, I would venture so far as to say heroes. The adventure that brought me and my roommate to this conclusion started with the empty train station in Nerang on a Sunday afternoon. That empty train station led us to an Uber that led to a far off place called Springbrook National Rainforest. After a ninety minute drive along rugged cliff-lines and disappearing civilization, my roommate and I walked into the visitor center. We heard a voice come from the other side of the log cabin. “Alright girls, where’s your car?” The old man tending the information desk must have seen us arrive. We turned our heads to the window where we saw our frightened Uber driver put away in the distance, her hands still sweating from the perilous drive up the side of a cliff. “You ladies can’t stay here. You’ll need a ride home by the end of the day. You’ll get lost or something in the night.”

Or something?

Another visitor was waiting patiently in line behind us. We didn’t have a plan. We opened the Uber app. No service. A blip of service. No Ubers Available in your Location. “Girls, I have a van. Come with us if you’d like.” My roommate and I looked behind at the woman and then looked at at each other. We hesitated. “Don’t worry, I have three kids and a Brazilian exchange student in the car right now. I mean do whatever you want, just don’t hitch-hike home please.” The mother of three waited for us to make a decision. With a hint of embarrassment and a twang of guilty pleasure for doing the thing we were taught since birth never to do, we proceeded to get in a car with strangers.

Okay in our defense, there really were three little children in car seats, a Brazilian student, an exhausted father in the driver’s seat and Cheerios all over the carpet in the car. Seemed legit.

Such began the day we hiked with a lifesaving Australian family. They were wonderful. They entertained us, their children entertained us, and their Brazilian exchange student asked us questions about religion and our dreams and our souls. They offered us food. They showed us the waterfalls and took pictures for us. We saw caves and wild bees, crossed creeks and swung from vines. The mom and dad have traveled to over ninety countries in the world on every continent except Antarctica. Their fair share of heroes on their own journeys led them to offer us a seat in their van.

At the end of the day, they drove us an hour back to the train station. We held out the $25 cash we had as they closed the doors behind us. “No, girls, we don’t want your cash.” The remnants of our ten hour adventure drove off, all three children sleeping in the back of the light blue van we’ll never forget. I thought of all the things that happened that day that allowed us to meet this family that would get us home safely. Their car had been delayed three minutes by an accident on the way to the mountain. Our first Uber canceled on us and delayed us by (exactly) three minutes. At dusk on the train station, wondering what even had just happened, I wore a smile like one at the end of a movie, a long movie. I was reminded of the last sentence of the 1-million-word series, Harry Potter:

“All was well.”


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