Susan Travels - Day 1

The last days were a real rush but I think I got just about everything done. I need to make a couple of calls once I am at Mick’s.

Susan was kind enough to take me to the airport on Wednesday afternoon and I had booked a room at the La Quinta Inn right near the airport as my flight was at 6:30 the next morning. On of the things that I was working on, dockside deadline, was taking up a lot of my time and I knew I had to do some proofing that night. But the hotel’s internet was not working. Fortunately we didn’t get settled in, and moved down the street to the Comfort Inn, where the internet was working but the workmen were cutting tiles right below the window – Susan finally had had enough and called downstairs at 9:30 and the workers quit!

I didn’t sleep well – I never do when I have an early flight so kept waking up to check the clock. Wake up call was at 3:30 but I was up at 3 and onto the first shuttle to the airport.

The flight was jam packed and they really pack people in now – no leg room, no food, indifferent flight attendants.

JFK is enormous and I hopped on the Airtrain to the South African Airways gate. It is a very cool terminal – reminded me of Charles de Gaulle in Paris. But the transfer was going smoothly until the check in girl couldn’t find my bag listed on the manifest. I checked right up to the time I boarded and so left not knowing if it made it.

The flight was full of screaming kids. I had an extra seat beside me but the lady one sea over commandeered it for all the baby stuff. I could tell by the passengers that I was going to Africa! Lots of colorful clothes and several of the men going to Dakar were wearing traditional clothes – the long, colorful caftans and women in the great dresses with their head wrapped in turbans.

But the poor girls at the boarding gate had their hands full, trying the get people to board in an orderly fashion, which is not the African way. Finally the one girl just said let everyone board! Mass crush and jostling. I waited, I wasn’t ready for that.

I didn’t sleep much that leg, and we had an hour on the ground in Dakar. I almost ended up with a full row but this guy comes by and wants to take all three empty seats! I couldn’t believe it! I told him he could have two but he was pissed off. But I still didn’t sleep much even though most of the babies got off in Dakar. I think I got a couple of hours.

With the swine flu panic, there were people wearing masks on the plane. I took some antiseptic wipes and wiped my area down and also did the antibiotic ointment in the nostrils routine. I expect I will be just fine.

As we prepared to disembark in Johannesburg, I couldn’t help noticing this one young woman with a baby (one of the few left from the last leg). She was dressed in Western-type clothes but she took out her long cloth, hoisted the baby on her back, tied him on and off she went. Old traditions die hard.

Customs and Immigration went smoothly – entered on my South African passport. Then I went to Baggage Services and still my bag didn’t show on the manifest and I’m going shit! I might as well kiss that off. Fortunately I always carry my camera and laptop and real valuables with me, so though there were some things in the bag that I would miss – and need, like my medical records – I wasn’t too worried. But just to make sure it was not there, I went to the carousel, and lo and behold, it was one of the first bags off. Whew. So that was relief.

My flight scheduled gave me a lot of time between flights here, probably because of Customs, so I had plenty of time, checked in and found a café. This can only happen here. The servers there were all very young black guys, and every time a young woman walked by, they would hoot and holler, lots of laughter. When I placed my order, the youngster called me Mama! And then as he called the order to the barrister, they all started chanting a thank you!

But I’ve already noticed a more western atmosphere. Most of the young people are speaking English rather than Zulu or their native tongues. But the people are still much louder than in the US, calling out to each other, not concerned how it affects anyone in their vicinity! The one guy just walked by, singing away, then texting on his blackberry. What a mixture.

So I am sitting in the departure lounge, people watching while I wait for my flight. I probably could have changed to an earlier flight, but then it would have meant Mick and everyone changing their plans to pick me up. So just let it be.

I think I will sleep well tonight – it is now 6pm here and 9am on the west coast, a nine hour difference.