After a 15-hour flight where sleeping was sporadic, my 14-hour sleep on Saturday was magical. However, I seem to be paying for it now. It is 2 a.m. Monday morning in Johannesburg (8 p.m. in the states) and here I am – wide awake, eating cold pizza on the couch.
I thought I would make the most of my insomnia and catch you guys up on my first days in Africa.
The alarm clock buzzed at 2:30a.m (hmm, that was exactly 2 days ago) and we slowly crawled out of the bed. Realizing the time crunch, we rushed to get dressed and load dad’s truck with our luggage. We talked excitedly with my dad, who was nice enough to drive us to the airport at that ungodly hour. We turned on the radio and Toto’s “Africa” floated through the speakers and chills rushed up my arms. Our adventure had begun.
We arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport at exactly 4:05a.m. Perfect timing in my book, and way ahead of schedule in my husband, Jono’s. Being the planner and anxiety-ridden flyer that I am, I had to negotiate with him to arrive at the airport two hours ahead (as is specified on your ticket when you are flying international). Jono is quite the experienced traveler, hates waiting and insisted that we didn’t need to arrive earlier than 1.5 hours ahead and thought an hour would be plenty. I’d heard of too many stories of missed flights and had way too much anxiety to agree to that.
So here is what happened pre-flight:
20 minutes at the check in counter, 10 of which consisted of the clerk trying to get $150 out of us for our golf travel bags.
My husband politely explained that we had called both Jet Blue and South African airways regarding the baggage policy (our connection from Fort Lauderdale to JFK was with Jetblue and JFK to Johannesburg was with South Africa Airways) and golf bags were in fact included in the policy. Note: It literally pays to be 100% sure of your baggage allowance and to abide by it to avoid shelling out hard-earned cash because your bag is the wrong size, a pound overweight, or you have too many pieces all together.
30 minutes going through security.
Anxiety city. Take off practically all your clothes, place your plastic bag of liquids separately, electronics separately and avoid making eye contact with the TSA agents and pray they don’t do a full body search on you.
Wait 10 more minutes.
Jono’s bag was put aside for special inspection.
20 minutes: breakfast
I smile the smuggest little smile as I eat a bagel with lox. We made it through what I consider the most anxiety ridden part of the whole flying process with a 30 minutes to spare before we board.
Our connection went without a hitch, and our main flight was just about as good as a 15-hour flight could be. We read all of the notes that our friends wrote us at our going away party and a bittersweet feeling came over me. We have a lot of great friends, most of who I won’t be seeing for at least a year.
During the flight we mainly slept, and when sleep wouldn’t come we watched movies. The service was friendly and the food was decent.
Next thing you know we arrived in Johannesburg. It was 8a.m. Saturday morning, and our flight was EARLY! When does that ever happen? Without fail we spent 30 minutes at passport control. I passed through with my visa no problem and we collected our luggage pretty quickly (all 5 items! The possibility of lost or stolen luggage is always a stress point).
When we came to arrivals we were greeted by our own welcome squad: My mother -in-law and her boyfriend; our new roommate and Jono’s best friend, Mark; Jono’s brother Jason, his wife Tracey and my little nephew, Ethan. It was really special having such a nice South African greeting.
We drove straight from the airport to our new home. A three-bedroom apartment (flat) located in a golf estate outside of Joburg. I LOVE it. For an extra fee we were able to negotiate a furnished apartment (a rarity in SA) and it was so nice to walk into a set up apartment, where the furnishings are just as nice and modern as the place itself.
After admiring our new home, we decided to go up to the golf club house for something to eat and watch the rugby game South Africa vs. Australia. After a while of socializing and struggling to keep my eyes open, South Africa won and we came back to the flat for a nap.
Feeling refreshed we headed over to our roommates Mark’s, friend Michael’s place, who lives in our neighborhood too. We had a little barbeque or braii as they call it in South Africa, and we got a little out of hand playing some drinking games.
Jono and Mark played a round of golf and practiced. I slept and finally woke up an hour before they returned (sleeping a grand total of 14 hours), unpacked the rest of our suitcases and hung up and organized my clothes. With everything in its place I sat on the bed and soaked it all in.
This is home for the next 11 months.