So it all started with a very nervous Eugene about to leave the country for the first time in his life during a massive rainstorm that seemed to have arrived out of nowhere. This was to become a theme in my journey, I left a cloudy, rainy South Africa, flew to a cloudy Frankfurt, took a connecting flight to a slightly less cloudy San Fransisco and from there took a small plane to a cloudy and snowy Reno. It felt a little bit like being an Israelite during the Exodus though thankfully there was no pillar of fire at any point.
One thing this journey gave me was a renewed sense of appreciation for my homeland. It's very easy to get negative about South Africa, especially when you live there. However I got to see first hand that we actually have a lot to be proud about. OR Tambo International is a beautiful airport that compares favourably to every international airport I traveled through. In fact, I had a smoother, more professional travel experience in "3rd world" South Africa than I did in "1st world" Germany. I flew Lufthansa both times but the flight from Johannesburg boarded on time in an organized fashion (by row number) and departed exactly when it was supposed to with zero hiccups. I could not say the same thing about Frankfurt. Not only did we start boarding late but when we did it was just a rush to the gate by everyone. Then, once we all got seated we learned that 2 wheels needed replacement causing a delay. Then while waiting for the wheels to be changed the electrical systems failed and that needed to be repaired and then the on-board computer needed reprogramming resulting in us taking off well over an hour late. Not saying all this to dump on Lufthansa, they are a great airline, they were friendly and professional and I am certainly glad that all got taken care of before we took off! All I'm saying here is that I learned first hand not to be so quick with the "first world/third world" labels.
|A cloudy but rapidly clearing San Fransisco|
Now the time difference between Germany and South Africa was not so much so it was only on the journey to San Fransisco that I learned the hard truth about time travel. See we left Frankfurt at about 11 am, traveled for over 10 hours and arrived in San Fransisco at 1 pm - 2 hours later the same day. Honestly I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around that. I lost all sense of time as a result, in fact I still have trouble figuring out when I am. Oddly enough, the dreaded jet lag I had heard so much about seemed to not affect me at all. I've been on a normal schedule since arriving in Reno and have had no trouble adjusting at all to living in a new time zone. Just don't ask me to guess what time it is because my sense of temporal awareness is still shot to hell.
|Reno Airport, cold and snowy on the outside...|
So here is what my long journey to the US taught me. First off, don't buy into all the stereotypes. Things can run like Swiss clockwork in Africa while running like Zimbabwean clockwork in Germany. Similarly, while they get a very bad rap all over the world, my experience of the American people have been overwhelmingly positive. As for the dreaded security, my entry into the US was professional and pleasant and I did not feel violated at any point, despite all the horror stories I've heard. Germany on the other hand was a different story. They had all these beefy and extremely aggressive looking security personnel sporting Mohawks who looked ready to snap at the slightest provocation. Due to a mixup regarding my boarding gate I had to go through security twice. At the first one my bags made it through without a hitch but I got a really invasive pat down and every stud on my denim got checked. Meanwhile at the second checkpoint I got through without a hitch but then someone decided my camera charger looked suspicious and it had to be checked for explosives. Like I said, I learned not to believe the hype, reality tends to be a lot different.
|... but bright and entertaining on the inside!! (Yes that really is the airport)|
Another thing I learned is that of all the airports, San Fransisco definitely has the prettiest girls. Admittedly at that point I had been travelling for well over 24 hours so I barely had the energy to notice or care but still, it was worth the mental note. The most important thing I learned however was this. When you are flying Lufthansa and the stewards come by after a meal offering you coffee, tea, Baileys or brandy - take the brandy!! Trust me on this, that stuff is amazing! I only wish I knew what the brand name was, I suspect it was a cherry brandy of some kind. I may never be able to drink Klipdrift again!