Barbara's Random Thoughts

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The journey home

I've got several other posts in the works--I'm finally writing about my thoughts on some of my South Africa experiences. I have one half-finished post of reflections from visiting the Apartheid Museum, Soweto, and Kliptown. I was going to finish it tonight before heading to small group, but was derailed by some emails I needed to send for my own mental well-being, if no other reason.

So you get this other post. It's not very deep.

I left Pretoria at about 5:00 p.m. in order to get to the Jo'burg airport by 6:00-ish, as my flight was around 9:00. I hadn't thought about it before, but this meant eating dinner in the airport. They serve dinner on the plane, but that wouldn't be till at least 9:30! And so I was confronted with a quandary.

My best friend had given me strict orders not to eat anything served at the Jo'burg airport, because of a story she'd heard of a friend of ours getting really bad food poisoning from a hamburger he ate there. I had heard the story firsthand and it wasn't pretty. The mental image of a green-faced Pete puking all over the prayer chapel didn't make me want to go off and chow down on a hamburger. On the other hand, it wasn't like the food establishments looked sketchy. I was very tempted to get food. I refrained and bought candy instead. I couldn't resist these Cadbury chocolate bars that had questions printed on the wrappers, things like: "Will you be my date?" and "Do I do it for you?"

Then my flight didn’t board for about an HOUR after it was scheduled to. Oh, for food.

It was interesting to observe the quite obvious cultural differences between Jo’burg and Heathrow. I sat in line, on the floor in a small hallway in JNB, for over an hour. No announcements were made at all about my flight being delayed. For an hour. Everyone in line pretty much took this in stride, joking about it a bit, and settling in to wait, unconcerned. This was an occasion when the African concept of “abundant time” became quite evident. When we finally did board, there was no actual announcement; the line just started moving ahead, and I filed onto the plane with the flight attendant casting just a cursory glance at my boarding pass.

Then I got to Heathrow. Oh, what a world of difference. “I don’t think we’re in [Africa] anymore, Toto.”

The international departure lounge is rather tightly controlled at Heathrow (annoyingly so, actually). Announcements are made regularly about any change in schedule, and you are shuttled off to your gate with appropriately timed boarding announcements and a “boarding now” note flashing on the many monitors throughout the lounge. We boarded the plane in preassigned groups, and heaven forbid if you tried to board before your time, because they would scrutinize your boarding pass and DENY you. Not that I tried.

I’m afraid of airport personnel at seems I ALWAYS get pulled aside for frisking when I’m going through security there. (I feel like a scolded child when they pull me aside. Do I look suspicious? What did I do wrong?! Don't touch me!) I attempted to be very pleasant and keep a low profile, and I didn’t get searched this time. Woo! Or maybe I just looked so tired and haggard that they took pity on me.

It was while on one plane or another at Heathrow that I looked out the window and briefly wondered which country I was in. I concluded it must be England, since the grass was green instead of brown. And then I realized I was definitely ready to go home.


| posted by Barbara | 3:23 AM