Thursday, March 31, 2016

Coming Home

          The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu
A journey of 18 ½ hours ends with both cheeks numb. Anon
So. Last Friday morning we got up early, finished packing, said goodby to the pets, and headed out for breakfast.  About 9:00 AM I took E to the airport with the luggage, and I went to get the car washed. We'd been on lots of muddy roads, including the one that Glen lives on, and we wanted to return it clean. The car wash we picked out was closed. Who closes on the Friday before Easter, eh?

I went down the road a bit to another place, and they were happy to do it for us. The whole process took about an hour with two fellows working inside and out with the vacuum, rags and a pressure washer. Looked very nice when they were finished. Total cost 80 Pula... a bit less than $8.

Back at the Airport, E continues to wait.

I parked the car in the agreed-upon place, left the keys where Glen could get them, and headed over to the airport. This means I walked across the street. With the airport in the middle of town, everything is easy.

No one was at the Air Botswana check-in desk until 11:00 but I made sure we were first in line by parking our bags at the desk. Since Glen's flight arrived just before ours left, we waited and were able to talk with him a few minutes before going through security. After security is passport control then the waiting room.

We walked out to the plane, boarded and all went smoothly until we got to Johannesburg.

We'd been trying for days to get hold of someone, anyone, at South African Airways (SAA) to confirm our seat assignments that we were sitting together. The flight from J'burg is 18 ½ hours including a stop in Accra, Ghana. We really wanted to sit together.

No one at CheapOAir or SAA would help us and kept telling us that we should talk to the next person -- when we check in, at the gate, on the plane,... No one would help. When we arrived at check-in in J'burg the SAA person made several calls, and it seems the system was designed so that no one can do anything.

By this time we'd been though another passport control. We headed to the gate. On the way E bought some water for us on the plane. That was a waste of money.

When we got to the gate, we were separated by gender for pat-down searches and a full inspection of all carry-on luggage. Water was confiscated, even though it was purchased right beside the gate and behind security. The people at the gate could not help with the seats, nor could we upgrade to business class since they could not handle money (!?!). This is when E started crying. She never cries.

We finally we got on the plane, E in row 40, me in row 58. When a fellow came to sit beside me, I asked if he'd be willing to swap seats with E, and he agreed. Yeah! We're sitting together. An important detail: E gave him her boarding pass, but did not get his since his luggage tags were stuck to it.

Roughly five hours later we land in Accra, and the people debarking got off. Those of us continuing on to DC had to get our luggage out of the overhead and hold it in our laps so each piece of baggage could be matched to the person.  Even sweaters in the overhead had to be identified.

Then a couple more folks came on and asked to see everyone's boarding pass. Remember the important detail above? So we faked it.  I showed my boarding pass and E's passport and said "she's my wife." This worked! We're good, and read to fly to DC together. Until, that is, a fellow got on the plane and wanted to sit in his assigned seat -- the one I was in (E was in my assigned seat). So, I asked if he would be willing to sit in row 40 and he agreed. Now we are home free.

From Accra to DC about 12 ½ hours. In the row in front of us is a two-year-old with very healthy lungs. Boy was that painful. Uneventful, but unpleasant.

When we finally landed at Dulles and got out of the airplane, it was a great relief to be able to move about and walk a bit. With our Global Travel certification, getting through immigration was a breeze, and when our baggage appeared on the conveyer, we snatched it up and hit the road.

Once we downed a bit of breakfast and caught up on email, we learned that we could not go home yet; the floors were still being sealed after the refinishing and would need another coat. We could not go home until Tuesday. After three nights in a hotel, mostly sleeping, we finally arrived home from our adventure.

Travel to and from the house sit is part of the adventure. While it is not a part that is always fun, it is a required part. Think of it this way: in between the starting and ending location is another "country" that exists only for a limited time and is confined to a small moving space. This country has its own rules and regulations and is operated more like an autocracy than the origin or destination (usually). Learning to cope with this temporary lack of personal space and freedom is also part of the adventure that teaches us about ourselves. We just sometimes would like the lesson to be shorter or more interesting.

We have some local sits coming up as we make final preparation for getting our house listed for sale. Three months until we hit the road with only what we can afford to check as baggage on an airplane.