Jolly sardines

I had hoped to be able to exchange some of my many miles for an upgrade for the 15 hour flight to Jo’burg, finally having the required fare base, but I was out of luck because every seat was taken. And so I sat in the back of an overbooked plane.

A mother with a four month old baby sat in back of me, with the baby kicking against my back while I was trying to fall asleep. He had a few crying fits in the beginning of the flight. I was dreading the next 14 hours but he fell asleep as did I.  At the end, when we left the plane, everyone sitting around the baby complimented the mom about his good behavior. It could have been a lot worse.

I don’t know why so many people go to cold South Africa from warm Atlanta or other parts of sunny America. The flight was full of kids, from babies to teenagers. I was curious about their stories but only got the one from my section, a film crew, two missionaries and an oil man.

Everyone was in a good mood and no one seemed to mind the fact that we were packed in like sardines, even the big guys and heavy ladies – I did not hear one complaint.

I passed the hours, sleeping a bit, reading a bit and watching an entire series of TED videos, more satisfying than the few films I tried but gave up on. I actually like to watch other peoples’ screens; I don’t care about the sound when the movie is of the action or violent genre. My neighbor watched several Rocky films and on the other side of the aisle a young kid was watching a whole bunch of destructive transformers at work while the beautiful heroine in the white blouse remained spotless despite buildings, cars and flying objects crashing on or around her.

It was still light when we landed in Jo’burg but by the time I arrived at my hotel in Pretoria it was dark. Charles the office driver picked me up and he filled me in on what’s happening in South Africa: the election of a South African woman to the African Union’s presidency, schoolbooks that, half a year into the school year, have still not been delivered in Limpopo province and winter weather in the Eastern Cape with passes closed due to snow, and flooding further down. It’s weird to see snow ploughs at work in July.

The hotel is a block from the office and across the street are liquor stores and fast food joints.  Finding healthy food is going to be a challenge once more.

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