When I reflect on this whole journey, I immediately think, "I really must be a mad woman. Taking two children on a 15 hour flight to Africa. Who does crazy shit like that anyway?!" Apparently despite acknowledgment of my insanity the answer to that questions is ME.... as well as a whole lot of others. I've never been on a flight with so many children in my life, and the ages ranged from infant to pre-teen. It almost seemed like everyone had at least one child with them. This made me a little more comfortable. Even though Zane and Dude are professional travelers in the event they have a break down mid-flight I'd like to think that other parents would have a greater sense of compassion. The plane was laid out with 3 rows of 3, as opposed to a row of 4 seats in the middle like on our flight to Tokyo. This fit us perfectly. In the row behind us was another African-American family, the two parents and their daughter who looked to be 4 years of like dude. In front of us was a white South African family who had mom, an infant in arms and 2 more children who looked to be around 3 and 6 years old. Apart from the infant crying a bit here and there all the children were calm, and barely made a peep the whole flight. Zane and Dude spent the first 3-4 hours of the flight watching movies, TV shows, and playing games on the touch screen tablets on the back of the seats in front of us. Dude really fell in love, and eventually asleep, listening to the KidzBop album. The best part was that he was passionately singing along with each child remix, then suddenly fell asleep mid harmony, which totally tickled me and Zane. He was mature enough to keep his voice low enough so that others couldn't hear is one man concert. After that Dude spread his little body out and slept for the next 9 hours, Zane went down next, also sprawled out. And mami Echo was next. If only I could have taken pictures of all the creative ways we were able to all lay down across those three seats. We were like a barrel of snakes. Each one of us taking a turn to have a limb or two under another body. Then rotating it on top. How we managed I have no idea, but I definitely saw the families in front of us and behind us participating in the same creative slumbering. The meals were decent enough and what whenever one of us didn't finish (or start) a roll, nutrigrain bar, pretzels, peanuts, cookie etc. I stuffed it in Zane's backpack in case we needed a quick snack for later. We were all fully awake for the last hour of the flight. This time it was me singing along to Bruno Mars' album that was provided as one of many options for inflight entertainment. Before we knew it we were gliding low over the motherland and boy is she a beauty. All my travels have taught me that our planet looks like herself from all angles, meaning no part of the world, that I've seen at least, is unrecognizable as Earth. Each place has it's own characteristic, some places may have more water, more trees, more mountains, but ultimately she always looks like herself. Africa is no different, but it's undeniable that in this case that unique characteristic is vastness. All I could see was flat land sprawled out until it once again touched the sky. I must have not been the only one because as we got closer Dude said "Woooow!"
We then deplaned and creeped slowly through customs. Before boarding our flight all airline employees are frantically checking each non-South African passport to make sure there is a full blank visa page in the booklet. South African immigration will deny you entry if you do not have a full blank page that says visa on top. A blank page with a number, will not do. In case you are wondering "denying entry" means just that, they say "no you cannot enter" they then sit you in a holding room, fine you, and put you on the airline's next fight out.
Knowing this shocked me when I saw the agent not take up a full page but instead chose to stamp one little square on a page that already had 3 stamps. I had to ask the agent why all the hoopla about the full blank page. He basically told me that they just way to make sure they have room to place their stamp properly, not take up an entire page. Ooookkkkk..... Well regardless, it's the rules and they can enforce them as they please. My reason for bringing this up to you, however, is to let you know as travelers it is our responsibility to know these things BEFORE we visit a place. There are countless entry and exit requirements for the many world governments. Before each trip I visit the US State Departments travel website and research the country we will be visiting. Some countries require 6 months additional time on your passport after your departure date, exit fees, tourist card purchases, etc. these are things that are vital for budgeting and unpleasant surprises during travel.
Once done with all the official stuff we changed our money to Rands ( South Africa's currency $1USD= 10 Rand) and exited the airport's international terminal. Front and center was our driver holding a sign with my name. His huge smile was contagious and he eagerly helped little Dude with his bag. He escorted us to his car and we were off to the 2B Happy Backpacker's Lodge!! In addition to his permanent smile he also played happy music in the car. It was a blend of acapella south-African Christian music in which each song had a happy message. After about a 25 minute drive we arrived at 2B Happy. This was all too happy to be fake. I loved it! Eagerly waiting us was the lodge director Patience and their 3 legged dog Scooter. The lodge is behind a big wall on a street that quietly hide under a stretching canopy. The courtyard in the middle was surrounded by cottages. One of those cottages was ours and it was love at first site! I can't believe we lucked out on such a nice place for such a great price! It was clean, well decorated, and had everything we need... Plus more!
Once we settled it the rain came, nice and easy. We enjoyed it and strolled to the main office/ game socializing cottage. While there we checked in and met another visitor from Germany who'd just washed and folded her clothes. I told Patience about my Christmas Eve surprise for the boys and that I didn't think it would happen since I didn't pay online by their deadline. She made a few phone calls and actually found a lower price for us on Thursday with another company. Things still aren't finalized so i will just keep ally finger and toes crossed.
After checking in with all my family and friend on viber and glide I updated Facebook and Instagram. Although we had a TV we chose to stay up and play monopoly (South African edition) provided by the lodge. Then I taught this little jokers how to play Uno, Dominos, and war.
We are all so excited for the sun to come up so we can see what's around. It's now 3 AM here (7hours ahead of home) we slept again and are now wide awake eating all those snacks and sandwiches I packed in the bag! The game plan for the morning is to walk to the grocery store to buy things to eat and cook during our stay here. Then to get out to Mandela square.