First impressions of our home country
We were blessed with a humorous chief flight attendant on the leg from Bradley to Atlanta. One example: as we touched down in Atlanta, instead of the lifeless "Please open the overhead bins with care as luggage may have moved position during flight", he announced "Be careful when you get your luggage because as we all know - shift happens".
This same flight attendant checked the passenger list in first class when we left Bradley airport, presumably to confirm that passengers belonged in first class. Then he checked the list again just before landing, and one wonders if he thinks that someone disembarked during the flight?
The 15-hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg was pleasantly tolerable, despite the painful lack of leg room. The personal media entertainment centers for each passenger and the increased headroom on the B777-200 made it a far superior trip to the aging 747's that KLM operated on our last visit. My wife and I commented this morning that we feel less tired than on any of the previous trips to South Africa.
I am in awe of the modern flying machines. A singled 15-hour flight is a very long time to sit in a metal tube at 37,000 feet, yet I marvel at the technology that allows 250 people to travel 8,400 miles in only 15 hours, non-stop. As a good friend told me before we left home "It sure beats walking".
We flew in over South West Africa. I got chills as I realized that the first time I flew over South West Africa in 1984, it was for a different purpose, namely my first trip to the operational area in the South African Defense Force. It has been 25 years.
This time I flew with my family in a B777-200, listening to MP3's from www.NYNSA.org, instead of holding a rifle, dressed in military uniform, hanging on to webbing in the cargo hold of a Flossie (C130-Hercules). Times have sure changed and wanting to pass on the memory and a learning lesson to my son, I shared the facts with him. He looked at me as if I was from a different planet when I told him that I first flew over South West Africa 25 years ago.
My wife and I went shopping this morning, to obtain local currency (South African Rands) and purchase local delicacies - biltong and droe wors (Dried sausage). Security fences have been erected, with gates, around all malls and shopping centers. We had forgotten the double security doors that you must pass through to enter the Standard Bank. Security guards are on patrol inside the malls now, due to holdups inside malls in the recent past, including one incident where 15 criminals sealed off a mall and forced all shoppers and shop keepers to empty their wallets.
On the ride from the airport last night, we were stunned at the amount of new shanty towns that have sprung up. More people than ever are living in poverty, without water or electricity.
I am connecting to the Internet via MTN with a 3G cell network modem. Surprisingly, the Internet access speed is comparable to my cable highspeed Internet in Connecticut. Time will tell how feasible this 3G connection is for our visit in South Africa, because we are paying by the Megabyte of data transferred. So far, the 3G connection is light-years ahead of the dialup modem connection that we normally tolerate on these visits.
We are about to experience a Highveld afternoon thunderstorm, and look forward to a BBQ with juicy steaks and fresh boerewors for dinner.
Labels: South Africa Trip - Fall of 2009