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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: -26.1951, 28.0339
I have no sense of what time it is, although my adjusted clock says it's 8:10PM, South African time. After spending the last few days travelling halfway around the world, the better part of today and yesterday in planes, I am again on the ground, almost ready for sleep, and most definitely ready to begin a real African adventure. I've been to this continent before, my youngest daughter and my exploring Egypt and Morocco on our own, but this adventure will be seeing some of the real Africa, with safaris into the wild national parks and private wild expanses in the bush in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
I almost didn't make it here to Johannesburg today. A massive snowstorm sprung itself on Boston early Thursday morning, the morning of my departure. Bill and I had driven down on Wednesday to comfortably get to my morning flight on time, but that evening all the news was about the approaching storm. There was nothing to do but wait and see; everything in Boston was cancelled by Wednesday evening, schools, government offices, the majority of flights, but not mine, and Logan International Airport had not yet closed, so there was still hope. Surprisingly, I slept well that night, not knowing what we'd find in the morning, but certainly knowing we'd handle it one way or another. I really wanted my flight to go, but I also wanted Bill to be able to drive home safely, usually four hours in good weather.
We awoke to clouds, no precipitation yet at 6AM. Bill checked the flight departures, and every flight was cancelled (a very sad sight to see), except for two Emirates flights, the last of which was mine. So we left for the airport earlier than we had planned, reasoning that if all the passengers paid attention to the weather reports and also arrived early, maybe the plane could take off before its regularly scheduled time.
By 7AM the serious flurries started. By 8AM we were socked in. I had already gone through "security" and said good-bye to Bill, and was just pacing the corridors in the airport, hoping we'd be able to leave. By 9AM it was a whiteout, and the wind had picked up, throwing snow furiously, sideways, at one side of the airport building. But apparently Emirates rarely cancels flights--even in terrible blinding sandstorms in Dubai, so 40 minutes early we started boarding the plane. I was hopeful this was a sign we'd take off.
The airplane that pulled into our docking gate was a monster, the largest airplane I had ever seen, except that I knew I had flown on these giants in SE Asia. It was enormous! A 777-300, with seat configurations of 3-4-3 across, going back 49 rows. When full, just about 500 souls can be carried in this plane! And after de-icing the wings, and watching a parade of snowplows clearing our way, we did indeed take off, the last flight to leave before Logan was closed. It was a bumpy ride for an hour or two (which I love), but then there was a lot of smooth sailing, interspersed with turbulence, most reminiscent of life in general. But, happily, we were airborne and flying away from the storm. I was on my way.
I rather like long-haul flights. Boston to Dubai is 12+ hours, 14+ on the way home because of headwinds, but when you are sitting there, plugged into the screen on the seatback in front of you, it feels like a parallet universe, ongoing, never-ending, a movie marathon interspersed with gentle sleep and occasional food and bathroom/stretch breaks. It is dark, and warm, and quiet, womb-like, lulling one thoroughly into the story of the movie, On this first leg I watched four movies. Such a delight! Headphones on, one is isolated, removed from social contact, becoming a part of the story of whatever movie one is watching. Then the attendants come and offer food and wine, and afterwards, in the darkness, it's easy to slip off to sleep again, to awake wondering what was missed in the movie's story. But that's easy to fix, to back up. I really enjoy these miles and oceans long airplane movie marathons.
And I always meet interesting people on planes or at airports. Today I met a young man travelling with his wife and 15 month old daughter, heading to Sri Lanka to see his family and let them meet his little one for the first time. And, while stretching in the back of the plane, I met another man, older, who was travelling to Bangkok with his Thai wife and son. Lucky them; they go to Thailand frequently because her family lives there. And I talked quite awhile with one of the lovely Emirates attendants. She is 25 and lives in Dubai, but is originally from New Zealand. She has been to New York and Boston, but wants to go to LA and Miami and Toronto, and also wants to have children someday. We chatted for maybe half an hour, and then she gave me two bottles of wine, one of which came in very handy this evening here in my room in Johannesburg.
I don't mind flying alone; I meet so many very lovely and/or companionable people. But it's fun to know I'll be in a group of travelers tomorrow, not having to handle anything, just going along with the flow of the tour. Summer camp for grown-ups. I feel the anticipation of exploring the wonders of Africa thumping in my chest, but I think I'll try to sleep now.
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