We’re in Africa #1
Well, we made it.
With the soaring cost of fuel, we opted for the cheapest tickets possible for this trip to Mozambique, Africa. It required a red eye flight to London with a 12 hour layover there, then another overnight flight to Johannesburg, and then a short hop to Maputo. That’s 2 nights without any real sleep. I have come to realize that someone has spent a great amount of time trying to decide how to best create the most uncomfortable experience possible for human beings, and they named the finished product “Economy Class Airplane Seat.” (Those who run Guantanamo should take note.) Then the Head of the Sadism and Design Department decided that for the 12 hour over-night leg heading south over the entire continent of Africa, the seats should be made even smaller. So, sleep for me came oh so close, but never quite arrived. I had even uploaded a special “sleep sounds” CD onto my I-Pod to help me sleep on the plane. I tried it out and I swear I am not making this up™– it sounded just like the hum of a jet engine. It may have started to work but I tried to shift position (in an airplane seat that says loudly, “oh no you didn’t!”) and during the ensuing struggle, I accidentally clicked ABBA on my I-Pod and woke myself back up.
During our London layover our group of 7 (heretofore referred to as the Magnificent Seven) decided to take advantage of the fact that we were in London despite being exhausted and grumpy. Personally, I think we were behaving ourselves but one person did ask where we were from and then said, “Oh, Americans” in a very sincere and kind way, that is, there was no visible eye-rolling but I did get the feeling that it was said in the same way that one might whisper “aren’t they sweet” about overactive children who have finally fallen asleep. But we didn’t embarrass our country except for singing in the Underground just a bit (it was Mary Lou’s birthday) and maybe also by the fact that we don’t speak English very well. (Pub Manager: “We have homemade to-mah-toe soup.” Us: “Did you say, toe-made-doh?” Pub Manager: “Oh, Americans.”)
We hopped on board the Piccadilly line to Buckingham Palace and arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard. Now, I love any kind of ritual and ceremony. For a few moments, the veil that clouds our vision seems to become just a bit thinner. But even as I marveled at the history and the pageantry there at the palace, my extreme fatigue caught up with me causing the sudden loss of any common sense as well as the loss of any fruits of the Spirit (particularly self-control), and I swear the guards in the furry hats with arms swinging started chanting o-RE-o! OOOh- Oh! I may have seen a flying monkey or too. In fact I’m sure of it.
Later, after getting back to the airport to check in for the next leg of the journey I was told that I didn’t have the right pages for my passport and I’d have to go back into London to the American Embassy to get them added. Let me just say that I always check the expiration date of my passport when planning a trip and I also check to see that I have blank pages but these had to be visa pages of which I was fresh out and didn’t notice. One cannot stick a visa on a page that does not say visa. It is simply not done. It’s right out, as the Brits say. Bad form. So my husband and I paid 32 pounds each to get the express train back into London and a taxi to the Embassy, which as not as cool a place as I had hoped it would be. I guess I was hoping to see Jason Bourne running through it. But anyhoo, they were quick and friendly and we made it back to Heathrow with 10 minutes to spare.
On arriving at Joburg, we discovered that two of the Magnificent Seven did not have boarding passes for the last flight and had to go through check in again. They made it to the gate with about 10 seconds to spare. Finally, on arrival in Maputo, four of the Seven, including myself (feeling considerably less than magnificent), did not get our luggage. There’s another flight in from Johannesburg tomorrow so maybe just maybe they will come – please cross everything and pray. The cozy little lodge where we are staying for a couple of weeks was without water for a bit, and then we lost power. Thankfully, both are working again. As the saying goes, TIA – this is Africa.
But we are all safe and the flights actually went very well, especially after we realized that South Africa Airlines does not charge for wine in economy class. But the highlight for me was that I got to sit on the left (east) side of the plane, which meant I got to watch the sunrise over Africa before we landed. The very first time I saw it a few years ago I immediately prayed that I would return – and this was before the plane ever touched down. It’s transcendant – it starts with a thin band of orange separating utter blackness above and below it. Slowly the band widens and unfolds into stripes of lighter oranges and yellows, and for a few moments a thin slice of lime green is visible above the oranges and yellows just before the sky above it changes into blue and all the deeper shades of blues. As the sun rises higher, all the colors begin to brighten until they are all one in the light. What a perfect metaphor for why we’ve come.
More to follow – after we sleep and greet our friends…and as long as the internet keeps working. 🙂
™That’s Dave Barry’s line.