Published: June 2nd 2012June 2nd 2012
I saw an osprey and a bald eagle among other birds on my drive to the airport. A pleasantly uneventful flight from Portland to JFK, flying in over the still-weird absence of the World Trade Center towers, which always looked so out of scale and out of place. I watched from my grandparents' apartment as they went up; now they're gone, and with them my college friend Jonathan. Certainly this trip makes me think of friends who have died, of AIDS or otherwise.
I was unable to find the theoretical free wireless for JetBlue customers at JFK, so I read instead. I finished Tinderbox
yesterday afternoon. I wanted to read it before the seminar and didn't want to schlepp a hardback to another continent. From home to just before landing I read Agent to the Stars,
a humorous, or perhaps silly, first contact novel. Since my gate wasn't posted at the time, I hung out in a rather gloomy food court and read travel fluff (There's No Toilet Paper... On the Road Less Traveled).
Security at JFK's international terminal was chaotic and not what I'd call culturally sufficient. Lots of yelling by TSA, including at people who clearly don't speak English. The line was slow, the staff lackluster, joking with each other about working for the government. I saw a group of young Israeli women. One, whose bag went into the x-ray just ahead of me, was still waiting for the bag 10 minutes later, practically hopping in distress as she couldn't find her bag. It was in the tunnel (down which TSA has crammed a stroller that they were now having trouble extricating), but when she describds it, a TSA guy starts asking around for an "unattended bag." It wasn't unattended, of course--she was separated from it and made to walk through the metal detector, there to wait helplessly for her bag while her plane was boarding. I said to her, "Shachor, nachon (black, right?)" She nodded agreement, "It's in there" I said in Hebrew, and "It's in the machine" to the TSA. She spoke English, but it was fun to speak Hebrew. She didn't seem surprised, but then, we were in New York.
The seats on South African Airways were tiny, which is saying alot since I often travel on Asian planes. The person next to me was just too big for her seat, so I wound up crammed against my armrest all night. I read Beetles and Angels
Eritrean/Ethiopian refugee makes good) and most of The Ghost Map.
It's about the discovery of the ways cholera is spread, which was an early example of systematic epidemiological inquiry. It was mentioned in Tinderbox,
but I'd already downloaded it before encountering the reference. Dinner was a pretty good lamb curry; breakfast was an unpleasant egg-like mush.
The International Transfer hall in Johannesburg was a surprising developing nations-style mess with people pushing their way forward and worming through the crowd, not unlike the Who concert where people were trampled. It seemed ideal for picking pockets, groping, and extricating stuff from people's bags. The airport itself was very nice, however.
Taxiing at the Johannesburg airport I saw a couple of birds. There were two herons, which from my books look to be black-headed herons, and a few that may have been spurfowl or guinea hens.
The flight to Botswana was a brief hop, and I met two faculty members from another Oregon college who were also arriving a day early. One of them has set up a trip to a nearby park and I'll join her group tomorrow. On the van ride from the airport to the hotel, we saw cattle egrets, and on a dazed and sleep-deprived walk to a grocery for water and a snack, a common myna.
And now I'm going to shower and sleep until morning.