It’s ‘plane’ and simple. Traveling is easy…

He said.  That’s what my dad told me on the way to the airport.  “Traveling is easy, you’ll be fine.”  While my trip wasn’t that bad, “easy” isn’t the word I would have used.  First of all, my dad hadn’t been spending the last five months preparing for this trip, doing chores for DU, UKZN, Interstudy, and Daniels Fund.  I had to email people like crazy and go to so many places.  The to-do list was crazy, and that’s not normal for simple traveling (although it is normal for study abroad students).  So, let’s just take a run through of my travels, shall we?
July 12th 2012:  11pm
Goodbye: United States of America.
Hello: South Africa.
I am currently sitting in DIA.  To my right is a cute young man, in a white polo, a few years younger than me on his phone.  In front of me there is a couple, both silent and on their computers (ouch).  A different couple on their phones, eating McDonalds (at least they’re talking).  And a woman with a carry-on bigger than I knew was allowed.  I found that I still fear airports.  Everything went smoothly, it took under fifteen minutes to get to my gate from the time I left my family.  But my soul is crinched sitting here.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because it feels like limbo.  I know where my past was and where my future lies.  The airplane takes me to my future, but then there is this place.  The place where you just sit and wait.  It’s like limbo; and I don’t like it.
Everyone keeps asking if it has hit me yet.  I mean, I’m going to Africa for goodness sake.  In theory, it should be hitting me about now.   It’s not.   It just feels like another step to take.  Change happens and it’s happening now.  That’s all.  I wonder if it’ll ever hit me.
Flight 1:
July 13th 2012: 1am
I’m awake.  I’m on a plane, and I’m awake, and I will remember it this time, unlike any other plane ride I’ve been on.  It’s really pretty.  It’s dark and the lights are out.  Jet Blue is has nice planes.  It has decent legroom and plenty of snacks and water coming around.  Plus a personal TV, which is always nice.
The landing is fun.  As the sun was comes up in New York I get to see the city from above while watching the sun rise.  =)
JFK Airport:
I’ve spent five hours in this airport and have nothing to say.   It’s not very ‘New York’ ish.  I went straight to the gate and stayed there.
Flight 2:
17 hours.  I have to be on a plane for 17 hours.
I fell asleep during the take off.  Now they’re feeding us a full meal.   The food is wonderful.  Their TV’s have over forty movie choices and most musical artists I can think of.
Seriously, every single time my stomach says “mommy, I’m hungry…” the flight attendants come around with food.  It’s like South Africa Airways understands the way the human stomach operates on a plane.  And all of their food is really good.  I’ve also slept through basically the entire flight.
My favorite feature on the plane is the flight map.  It shows us the temperature outside at our landing destination, the time at our landing destination, how much time we have left on the plane, and how fast we’re traveling.  Also, it has a nifty map that shows us the world, our travel path, and where we’re located on that path.  So you always know where in the world you are.  And it has what I call “the black whale.”  It’s really just showing where the sun is up and where it is down throughout the world… but it looks like a whale.
Never again.  I never want to sit through a 17 hour flight again.  I’ll walk and boat back to the US.  I am so bored the entire time.  Just sitting there drives me insane.  I never even watch a movie.  Although flying above the clouds and going through them is pretty.
Joburg Airport:
Welcome to South Africa, may we have your passport?
Dear US government… you can’t issue me a passport in 2015 when it’s only 2012.  And thanks to your little mistake they red flagged me, sent me through security, and scared the crap out of me.  One of my biggest fears through out the last few weeks have been airports.  For no reason I can explain, I have nightmares about them.  Needless to say, this little endeavor put me into tears.  The men in the room kept saying, “You shouldn’t cry.  It’s okay.”   It was cute (and also the only thing I could understand because their accents are so strong), but it just made me cry more.  I knew I had no reason to cry and I couldn’t stop.  I feared not being allowed into the country and losing my scholarship and not knowing what to do with the rest of my life.  And on top of it all, I couldn’t understand them, so I just looked like an idiot.  They just passed it off as a human error, and I have to find someway to fix it soon, before someone else official needs my passport.
At this point, it hit me.  Mainly because I really wanted to call my friends and family and have them support me.  I wanted to tell them the VISA story.  And I realized that they’d be reading it somewhere or they’d hear it in four months.  It took a while for the tears to stop. =(
I bought myself an ice cream treat after that.  And coffee.  The ice cream was good, and the chocolate bar in it was really good.  The coffee was crap.  No amount of creamers or sugar could make it taste better.  Oh, and they have coins that are 2 Rand.  The currency here is fun.
I fell asleep waiting by my gate.  I know I said I didn’t want to fly again, but I just want out of this airport so bad that I really want to be on this next flight.
Flight 3:
Short is an understatement.  By the time we’re seated and SAA hands out a full meal and cleaning up, we’ve landed.  I tried the plane’s coffee.  It’s just as bad as the airport’s coffee.  Maybe South African coffee is just bad.
Durban Airport:
Seven hour wait.  The rest of the Americans will show up and then we have an hour trip to the school.  Then my traveling here is over.
I went to the ‘toilet’ (they don’t call them restrooms) and hit my head really hard on the door.  Ouch.  I made a friend though!  He also goes to UKZN, but on a different campus.  He was picking up people for a conference.  After a little while I started understanding his accent.  He says it’s hard to understand American accents because they’re fast.
I slept during most of this lay over.  I just slept sitting down, laying my head on my luggage, which was sitting in front of me.
Interstudy finally showed up.  I was worried when they weren’t there at 8:10 and the American I knew coming here hadn’t gotten off the plane yet.  They were there a few minutes later.  And we were on our way!  Let the adventures begin.
Sarah Caulkins, DUSA Blogger

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