Friday, August 13, 2010

Anecdotes on the way to Oliver Thambo

We have flown from Seattle --->  Washington (Frost was disappointed that he did not see the White House from the window) ---> Senegal and the kids have not yet slept.  Why are they not sleeping?  Why?

The new pilot, fresh from sleep somewhere in Dakar (we hope), tells us that "as you may have noticed the runway is a bit rough.  Its fine but as we take of it may feel like riding a horse."

The lady in the row behind me is a wit.  "I have never ridden a horse," she says.  She is on the way to Madagascar with her husband.  I think it odd that she is going to Madagascar but has never ridden a horse.

As we take off (without too many bumps) I notice a bright winged bird alighting on a bush.  Its these intimacies with places we never visit that fill me with an ennui as I travel by plane.  Its an expedient but cruel way to travel.  I have never been to Senegal and this blurred staring from a plane at dawn certainly does not count.  

I happen to know that on our flight is a group of avid ornithologists, heading to South Africa with an exhaustive bird list.  If they saw that bird through the plane window for the first time and managed to identify it, would it count as a 'lifer' or something seen on a television screen?

Dakar at dawn.   The city was yellow-ochre from the air.

Breakfast at dinner time
Apparently SAA thinks vegans live on pineapple.  I get hysterical at the third meal of pineapple.  The first one was raw pineapple as a side dish, with cooked pineapple stirred into some kind of lentil bulgur mash.  We get the same lentil-bulgur pineapple mash for dinner and lunch.  Breakfast is the cooked pineapples with cooked apples and a side of some unidentifiable carbohydrate shaped like an egg.  I honestly could not figure it out.  It was like gulab jamun made of semolina covered with... wait.... PINEAPPLE JUICE sauce and flaked coconut!

I eat almost anything (not meat) and so I ate some of it.  However, the kids had the same meal.  Frost and Wren at the lentils out of the mash but I had to forage some cream cheese from a non-vegan child to give him something to put on his vegan (ie high fibre lump of dough) bread.

I send Joshua an urgent email to change his meal preference to EAT ANYTHING EXCEPT VEGAN.

Breakfast - note the egg shaped starch to the left and the extra
pineapple fresh for 'desert'.

4 hours to go
Somewhere over Angola my coccyx becomes bruised by the rigors of sleeping sitting up and I haven't had any sleep since then.  The kids are doing well.  Frost can't sleep sitting up and so spent a few unhappy hours trying to sleep with his head hanging over the handrest into the aisle.  The attendants kept bumping him on their water runs.  That was before I switched seats with him to give him the window and wall.  After that, he and Wren slept for about 6 hours of god-given peace with their necks drooped at weird angles.

2 hours and 20 minutes to go
The people on this plane seem to take an inordinate number of pills.  As the flight winds up people wander the aisles with pill-boxes of various shapes and constructions.  One woman works her way down a pile of 10 little boxes.  A man with a box of surgical swabs waits for someone to come with his medicine.  Is it a shot of insulin that has been 'contained' as weaponry?  What happens to insulin dependent diabetics on long-hauls in the post 9/11 world?

2 hours to go.
The kids are woken from deep sleep for another meal of stewed pineapple and lentils.

Wake up, its time for pineapple

We make it only 10 minutes late.  The landing is eventful.  As we are on the approach the pilot announces:

"Coming up on our final approach.  If you feel a bit of a bump on landing, it is because we are doing a FULLY AUTOMATIC LANDING."

We share apprehensive glances.  The landing is smooth but there is a jolt and a few corrections after touchdown.

"Touchdown!" says the pilot after a few minutes.

He adds "All our pilots are extensively trained and maintained at level X#!$# at great expense to the airline but we also have to make sure we can do totally blind landings so from time to time we check the totally automatic landing equipment.  The test was successful."

The plane is swept by a buzz of indignant murmurs.  Nobody wanted to be part of the equipment test.

In Jbg we have to rush.  We have only 1 hour and 15 minutes to make it through passport control, customs, recheck luggage and transfer terminals.   With some drama (running, pushing Wren on the luggage cart, praying indiscriminately that our luggage actually appear in a timely manner, threatening Frost to stop him fighting to have a turn riding on the luggage cart instead of pushing the second one, praying indiscriminately that the sniffing-eye beagle not detect the boiled egg crushed somewhere in our hand-luggage) we make it onto the next flight.

A weird thing happens as I try and check my email in the 10 minutes before boarding.  When I power up the laptop for the first time since 35 000 feet, the login screen appears in a gothic font.  My password login sends the computer in an endless loop of failed startups.  I reboot to the same result.  I have a sense of dread only alleviated in Dad's kitchen when I turn it on again and the font, login and startup all proceed normally. 

Now the only blip on the radar is that I brought the Australian converter plug.   

You shall have me for the remaining 63% of the laptop battery life but then I shall be silenced unless a technological fix is found.  

Dad does not have wi-fi but has some lan ports.  Here is my laptop hooked up (45% remaining as I dedicate my battery to the iPad).

Note the lan cable coming from the ceiling.
Dad had to climb around up there to install it.

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