Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 1995 South Africa trip

I discovered right after posting the last entry on my 2008 trip to South Africa that I had just typed up my last real journal entry! After that, I more took notes in my journal rather than writing stories. I may still try to turn those notes into stories some time--we'll see! In the meantime, I am cleaning off the top of my bedroom dresser today. It is where I keep a lot of paper. It has gotten a little out of control. I found this in a notebook, and wanted to record it so I could throw away the paper... 

In 1995, my sister and I went on a trip to South Africa together. The getting-there part was a bit of a nightmare. Here're my notes:

~April 1995: decided to make trip; ordered tickets

~May 1995: planned Autumn 1995 class schedule so that final exams would be before the flight [G and I were undergraduates in Seattle at the time, and we specifically planned our Autumn quarter schedule for the final exams to be finished as early as possible, to give us more time in South Africa before we had to be back in Seattle for the beginning of the next quarter; I took an 8:30 am physics lab (I found that to be a bit early for 3 hours of physics) because the final was earlier for that section than for the 11:30 am one]

12 December 1995 [the day my dad was going to pick us up in Seattle to take us to my parents' house, so that they could take us to the airport the next day]
8:30 am: final exam in Physics 122
10:30 am: to work; Noel's birthday; presents from Sally and Terry [I was working as an assistant in a Toxicology research lab... Terry was my big boss and Sally and Noel were graduate students]
12:30 pm: to Ave [street in University district]... cash paycheck, buy shoes and leotard and aerobics pants and waterproof shoe spray at Big 5 [a sports store; I was a big aerobicizer back in those days]
2:30 pm: get to apartment, fire alarm going off [this was a bit of a problem as my dad was supposed to arrive at 3 pm to pick me and my packed luggage up... I needed to get in so I could pack!]
4 pm: phone call from mom... dad has been in an accident, but would pick us up at 5 pm [this was the accident that turned his Honda Accord into his Honda Accordian... he was hit from behind while stopped at an offramp light... he hit the car in front of him, which hit the car in front of it, which hit the car in front of it (that's 5 cars total)... his car was a bit crumpled, hence its new nickname, and was later deemed a right-off by the insurance company, but he bought it back from the insurance company for $150 (in addition to getting the $2000 for it's value when it was written off) and that car kept going as my sister's car at least until she sold it when it had >250,000 miles on it... quite the car]
4 pm: wind really starts blowing... "Windstorm of 1995"
5 pm: dad picks us up in damaged car; traffic good to Olympia
6:30 pm: arrive in Tumwater [where my parents lived]; power is out [due to wind storm], can't do 2.5 weeks' worth of laundry
That evening: pack my dirty clothes by light of torch and propane lantern

[Perhaps we should have given up here?]

13 December, 1995 [day of flight]
5 am: rise and shine
9:30 am: take off half an hour late from SeaTac for New York... in Business class though [about the only thing going well!]
2:15 pm Seattle time: get to SAA desk in New York [we hadn't been given boarding passes for the New York to Johannesburg leg in Seattle so had been told to go to the ticket counter when we got to NY]... a big crowd of people there that got smaller as names were called and people were given boarding passes... wait and wait to get our boarding passes
-->plane takes off without us because the flight was overbooked [never mind that we'd got the tickets 8 months earlier]
-->get $400 voucher [the tickets were about $1600 each, I think]
-->get $15 meal voucher: one sandwich, two waters, one cran-apple juice, one pecan roll, 1 banana =$14 [and a very rude cashier--I understood then what people said about New Yorkers being gruff]
-->told our luggage has been lost, presumably left on the tarmac in Seattle but they have no record of it after we checked in
10 pm: plane to São Paulo, Brazil [the airline rerouted us through Brazil and Argentina to get to South Africa... we were supposed to be on a direct NY-Joburg flight]

14 December 1995
11 am Brazil time: arrive in São Paulo (11 hr flight). In transit lounge until 6 pm

15 December 1995
11 am South African time: arrive in Johannesburg from Brazil via Argentina (~11 hr flight with ~1 hr in Buenos Aires). That's ~7 am Brazil time.

Well, we made it to South Africa (a day later than planned), and our luggage did make it a couple of days later. We got to see the Amazon jungle (and its destruction) from the sky and breath South American air for the only time (so far) in our lives. There were 16 people who were re-routed through South America, and all of us had our luggage lost, so G and I weren't the only poor saps. There was no SAA representative in the airport in Brazil for the first ~4 hours we were there, so the 16 of us banded together and managed to get a cafe in the airport to give us as much free food and drinks as we wanted... and before that, since cans of Heineken (beer) was the same price as cans of soda (US$2), G and I bought Heinekens to drink (we were both legal drinking age in Brazil, but not in the USA). There's a photo of us in the lounge with a can of Heineken somewhere.

Let me recap the things that went wrong:
-fire alarm kept me from my apartment for a while when I needed to pack
-dad in car accident on way to pick us up in Seattle
-power outage due to wind storm=no laundry, had to pack by lantern
-8 hours wait in New York, diverted through South America, 7 hours in a transit lounge in Brazil, 1 hour sitting on tarmac in Argentina while they cleaned the plane
-our vegetarian meals were on the wrong plane, so I actually ate a bit of chicken (last time I intentionally ate chicken; I had been a vegetarian for over 7 years at this point)
-luggage misplaced for a few days

But most importantly, over a day of our precious holiday time was lost! We also had to go shopping for underwear etc. when we finally arrived, since we didn't have our luggage. I think our holiday was supposed to have two weeks in South Africa total.

We had a good time in South Africa at least. And the flights to and out of South America were fairly empty, so G and I had a few seats to ourselves.

Perhaps some other time I will write down the story of how I got 2 hours of sleep before my Wisconsin graduate school interview because of another travel horror story.

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