This is very exciting b/c this is my first blog! I had a realization about Facebook and how short-lived posts are. Then, I started thinking I should have something more permanent regarding my time in Africa this year.
As you may know, I successfully made it to South Africa after a 33 hour journey from LA to Chicago to Frankfurt and finally to Johannesburg. I was on 3 different airlines and thus had to pick up my boarding passes at each city for the following flight. The 3rd airline I was on – South African Airways – was really interesting because I found that the entertainment options were more diverse than the 2 previous airlines – United and Lufthansa. S.A.A. also had the individual screen in the seat in front of you but there were a few interesting South African films being offered that addressed racial identity in So Africa. I watched a 60-minute documentary on the events leading up to Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. The flight from Frankfurt to Joburg was 10.5 hours and I probably slept 6 of them.
I completely forgot to call the airlines to book my seat and to tell them I was a vegetarian. So, I was in the middle seat on the first 2 flights. No big deal since I was still able to sleep! The 2 flights that had meals offered pasta dishes to everyone. So, I was able to eat no problem. 😀
Arriving into Joburg was unlike any other African arrival I’ve had because it was so fast and efficient!! South Africa does not require visitors to get a visa before entry. Going through passport control felt JUST like arriving into a major European city! The woman who stamped my passport didn’t ask me any questions and was yawning as she handed it back to me. I’m so used to other African countries where it takes at least 2 hours to get through customs… The luggage pick-up was also really easy. In other African nations, I get hounded by porters fighting each other to assist me with my bags but not one person did this and again, it felt like Europe. So wild!! The airport had really nice luggage carts for free and I grabbed one of these.
My host, Dan, was holding up a sign with my first name printed in huge letters and I could not miss it!! Walking back to his car, I could not believe the airport. I know I keep going on and on about this airport but it was HUGE and air conditioned and… I have landed into Niamey, Niger where it feels like they’re landing a giant jumbo jet in the middle of nowhere and the airport has one tiny building – no AC, 100 degree desert heat and 3 hours of passport control. So, the contrast is just so dramatic.
After picking me up at the airport, Dan (colleague of my brother-in-law) wanted to run some errands. We first stopped off at a store that was exactly like Home Depot. Again, I was astonished. We got some paint and paint brushes for the fence-painting project he has going at the house. Then we stopped by this huge grocery store. Let me just tell you, South Africans like their MEAT. This meat dept practically wrapped around the store!! We got tons of food for a “Braai” aka BBQ Dan had planned for Sunday afternoon.
Next post – the braai.