South Africa a Personal Journey: On the Road to Pretoria

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While in South Africa, I visited many neighbourhoods and townships around Johannesburg as well as outlying towns. After our visit to Soweto, we waited until the next day for Pretoria. My personal journey was all too quickly coming to an end. My excitement during the entire trip was tinged with disappointment that the stay would end so soon.

But it almost got extended by a pretty significant amount of time.

After finding out a wealth of information from the first interview that D and I conducted, I realised that this part of the world, besides being a fairly dangerous place to live if you didn’t know the rules, was fascinating enough to give me material for several news stories. I relayed that information to the paper and they agreed that perhaps I should stay longer. DiMarkco just needed to check a few things out.

He left the issue open and said that we would talk about it after my second interview, which was scheduled the next day.

The second interview, revealed even more things that were fascinating and opened up many other avenues of interest. After that day had finished, L and I rang the paper on Skype to report our findings.

Speaking to DiMarkco, our boss, he asked about the possibility of extending my stay. Did I have anything to stop me from staying longer, he asked. I replied that the only thing necessitating a return would be my heart medication. But first I needed to see if I could extend my ticket. After trying to do it over the internet, I gave up and finally called the airline.

The answer was a straight forward no. There was no room for negotiation, you flew back on the original day of booking or you bought another ticket. Buying another ticket was an option that DiMarkco had thrown out there so I checked prices and found that a one way flight from Johannesburg would cost more than the paper had paid to fly me out and back.

I relayed the information to the big guy and he asked if I could stay till the middle of the month. By that time we would have our money in from advertisers to fund the ticket back. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t bring enough heart medication with me and I couldn’t afford to go to a private doctor and purchase the replacements in South Africa. I would have to leave and then come back.

That meant that I had one more day to see everything I’d been sent to see. It also meant missing out on one of the biggest interviews that had been set up. But that was my fault as I’d incorrectly said I was leaving on Tuesday morning.  I was woefully out of practise in the world travelling department.

For someone who had, at one time, travelled quite frequently; I made a few errors. One was reading my return flight information incorrectly. I had decided in my infinite wisdom that I would be departing Johannesburg  on the Tuesday, but, I was departing Monday night and arriving back in the UK on Tuesday.  Then I misread the ticket again, and decided I was leaving in the morning and not at night!

There were two incidents that gave all  those around me (and me especially) abject heart failure. The lovely people who put up with me for the four days I was in South Africa, C and L, had planned a couple of special events for my stay. A South African barbecue one evening and a traditional stew the next. I wound up missing both due to the long days D and I were putting in. I did get to sample some “left overs” from the barbecue and it was delicious, even after being warmed up in the microwave!

One of the heart attack inducing moments took place in these lovely people’s home. I decided to get all my things organised so that when I packed up, I didn’t inadvertently leave anything behind. As I gathered medication and toiletries, I decided to clear out my wallet except for some Euro’s that I’d purchased in Amsterdam.

My room during my stay.
My room during my stay.

As I went through my wallet, I noticed that my credit card was missing. I stopped and immediately started searching my luggage. It wasn’t in my suitcase or my toiletry bag. I checked my wallet, trouser pockets, shirt pockets and even sifted through my dirty laundry pile. I then remembered that C had offered to wash my travel clothes.

Eureka! I just knew that the card would be in those two items.

Wrong. They were not. L was getting very concerned, he told me if I’d dropped it anywhere whilst we had been travelling around, I needed to get it cancelled immediately, if it was not already too late.  My anxiety level cranked up another notch or two and I began another close scrutiny of all my clothing once again. It was when I bent down that I remembered one place I had not checked.

I have a place where I keep all my important things when I travel. Passports, driving license’s and credit cards. I checked and sure enough, that was where I’d put the card. it had been so long since I’d travelled that I forgot to look there when I couldn’t find it in my wallet. Calling myself many very uncomplimentary names, I went out to inform C and L that the daft old bugger had found his card.

The relief I felt was shared by all.

The second thing I messed up, as I mentioned above, was the departure day of my return flight and then the times that I needed to be at the airport. All in all, I think I impressed everyone with my overwhelming ability to be an idiot!

Luckily, my newly discovered idiocy did not extend to my work and that was done reasonably well. I went to all the places I was meant to and took well over 1,600 pictures. Some, I have used on my blog posts, and many more are being lumped into places and shared with the writing team.

On the last day of my personal and professional journey to South Africa, I packed my bags, said goodbye to one of my hosts, C as L had gone to work already. I then took myself and my bags out to the vehicle and we started on our way to  Pretoria.

To be continued…

View of Pretoria from the Union Building.
View of Pretoria from the Union Building.

Revisiting my Past

I wrote the other day about being “re-born” on the 4th of July. While I pondered over our trip, my daughters and mine, I thought about how eventful the whole thing was. I started with our day of departure and our final packing for the flight and came up with these thoughts.

24 July 2011. We packed our bags (I know, it sounds like a song lyric), not sure of what to bring or to wear on the flight, Then a friend dropped us off at London Heathrow Airport. Midway over the Atlantic ocean, it finally dawns on me that we are going to visit our home for the first time in eleve years. Emotional moment.

The clouds that have been following us from London Heathrow have turned into a storm that the pilot has to avoid. He does a great job as we arrive at Atlanta Airport early. The elation at arriving early soon disappears when we find out that due to lightening striking the runway repeatedly all flights have been delayed.

After an eight hour layover in Atlanta, we finally take off and arrive at Bentonville, Arkansas. It is two in the morning. We disembark to a hot and muggy morning with a temperature of 89 degrees Fahrenheit. It was like walking into a wall of heat. I had forgotten how hot Arkansas can get in the summer.We are both tired, sleepy and sweaty. Welcome home.

Zombie-like we shuffke off the tarmac and enter the terminal. Luckily everything is easy to find and we locate our luggage and head to the car rental desks.

After picking up the car, I have a moment of unease when I realise the car is registered in Ohio. Great, I think, out-of-state plates and it’s from the north. They might as well put a big sign on it saying, Mr Policeman please stop me and give me a ticket.

Driving out of a town, that I’d never really even visited when I lived in Arkansas, and on wrong side of the road and on a road that had not even existed eleven years ago when I had last driven a car state-side and in the wee, very dark, hours of the morning, did not really equate to a calm relaxing drive.

My daughter was so tired that she began to hallucinate and she swore that an English double decker bus had just passed us on the road. I saw police on every corner and by every sign-post. The nice chap I had gotten directions from at the airport had helpfully pointed out that every town between us and our destination (about three in total) was a speed trap.

Miraculously we do not get lost and find our hotel. We had a momentary panic when we decided that the entrance door would be locked.  I had forgotten that hotels in America don’t lock their front doors like the hotels in England do. We pull up in front of the entrance and leaving my half asleep daughter in the car, I check us in. It is about four in the morning and I don’t feel exactly human or like I am tracking anything very well.

Luckily for us the room is right around the corner from the registration desk. My daughter has now gone beyond exhausted so I deposit her in the room, unpack the car and re-park it in the lot and put everything in a big pile in the room. I then turn up the air conditioner and crawl into bed. I am asleep in seconds. I do not even dream.

25 July 2011. We call my parents,grab a few biscuits and some bacon for breakfast and start packing the car up. Even though it is only about eleven in the morning the temperature is already over 104 degrees.

In the daylight, the area now looks more familiar despite the fact that the road has been widened, added to, and built-up with buildings either side of it. We both still feel tired, sleepy and too hot. We also feel very excited. I have not been here in over eleven years. The last time my daughter was here, she was nine months old.

We get in the car and drive to the farm.