Tuesday, July 26, 2011
We ate breakfast with Blair, and with tearful (Mom and Dad) farewells, saw her off on the bus to Lusaka.
Dad spent an hour at the Livngstone Museum (only two blocks from JollyBoys) while the others finished packing. They had seen the museum on the previous day while Dad was at the Gorge Swing.
At 11:00 AM Zam time (4:00 AM Kennett time), we got in the taxi to the airport and began our journey home.
Security was a lot more involved when leaving the Livingstone airport that at any time since leaving the U.S. Apparently this was because we were beginning an itinerary that would take us back there. It was the first time since leaving the U.S. that we had to remove our shoes in security.
Our flight from Livingstone to Johannesburg left on time, and was pleasant. We had a scheduled 8-hour layover in Joburg. While we knew it was winter there (in the southern hemisphere), we didn’t realize that it would be cold inside the whole terminal, shops and all. The temperature was in the fifties inside. Shop personnel were wearing coats. I’m not talking the magazine and candy kiosk, either. These were upscale shops like Ferrari. We were a bit underdressed and it was not a pleasant wait.
In Johannesburg, we encountered an increased level of so-called security checking. This is apparently required of flights with a U.S. destination. Even though all our belongings had previously been X-rayed, all passengers were required to undergo another check ninety minutes before the flight boarded.
This time we were required to take off our shoes again, and the agent put his hand inside the shoes and shook them. Then every single passenger got the full-body pat-down treatment. This was absurd, as the guy noted that my pockets were full, but just patted around the junk like it wasn’t there. I was bulging with camera, wallet, passport, chapstick, Purell, change purse, pocket watch, pill bottles, gloves, keys and so forth. They never asked to see any of it.
Then another agent “inspected” my carry-on pack. He didn’t dump it, just sort of picked through it randomly. He required me to move my toothpaste to a ziplock bag, but never even noticed my first-aid kit, medicine bag, etc. The whole thing was a farce.
When we finally boarded our flight to Dakar, it was a very nice change to get warm again. We had our same bulkhead seats again, which was good. Other than the length of the flight and difficulty sleeping, it was a great flight.
When we stopped in Dakar to refuel and re-crew, everyone had to claim all their carry-on luggage from the overhead compartments and beneath the seats. Then an inspection was made to see if any unclaimed items were on board.
All this unaccustomed brouhaha made some of the first-time travelers (like us) think that there must have been some international incident, disaster, or terrorist threat. However, a frequent traveler from South Africa informed us that this was standard procedure for international flights into the U.S.
On leaving Dakar, the flight attendants fogged the airplane with insecticides, presumably to prevent the transport of disease-ridden insect pests out of the country. “The World Health Organization has determined that these insecticides are safe for use on the airplane. If you find them irritating or unpleasant, cover your nose and mouth with you handkerchief.” We did; it was like being behind the mosquito-fogger truck.
South African Airlines fed us very well again, both on the flight to Dakar and on the Trans-Atlantic leg to Dulles.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
We felt pretty good when we landed at Dulles around 10:30 AM, and looked forward to getting home again. While we had nothing to declare, and no contraband, we were delayed considerably at Customs. More than one planeload of passengers entered at the same time. Fortunately, Melissa had gotten into one shuttle ahead of us and she did make her connection. With three inspectors for about 500 people, it did not go fast. It went so slowly, in fact, that we missed our flight to St. Louis. Ninety minutes was not enough time to clear Customs and reach our gate, even though we had stopped for nothing and skedaddled as fast as we could.
Having missed our flight, we headed to Customer Service (about a quarter mile back the way we had come). There we found that the only confirmed seats available to St. Louis were on a 10:00 PM flight – a ten-hour layover. This would get us home at about 4:00 AM Thursday, instead of Wednesday at suppertime. This was not so good for getting to work on time Thursday, as we had slept only about six hours out of the last thirty since leaving JollyBoys in Livingstone.
We confirmed those seats, but also decided to try for “stand-by” on the earlier flights at 3:28 and 5:20. We would just have to hope that several other folks had suffered the same misfortune as we in order to make some seats available. It would also cost an extra $75.00 apiece if we made it, but we decided it would be worth it. We gave the lady our credit-card number and headed back to the gate to await the next chance for a flight.
The 3:28 flight appeared to be completely full, but we decided to wait and see what transpired. At 3:20, I called my office to tell them that I would not be making it back as planned. At 3:26, as we were gathering our belongings to move to the 5:20 gate, the clerk called out “Mobley, party of three”. I sprinted to the counter. “We have two seats available”. No good, we are three. “There is one more seat whose owner has not appeared. If he is not here in one minute, you can have it.” He wasn’t, and we did.
The flight to St.Louis was uneventful, as was the drive home. We got out of the car in Kennett after 41 hours of grueling travel, and ten amazing days in Zambia. What a ride!