Where do I even begin?? I think I will start with Africa, yes? Yes.
In summary: Africa is my new favorite continent. I have a greater urge to return there than any other place I’ve visited, which is saying a lot because I’ve got a pretty persistent case of wanderlust. I would really like to go back and do the wine country in South Africa and check out Cape Town – I do love vino and Cape Town is supposed to be incredible. I’ll tell you – it’s the people who make it so wonderful. It’s definitely not the food and lack of standardized infrastructure that’s luring me back. In Malawi, where we spent 5 days, it is understood that the more white starches on your plate, the better the meal – a standard lunch/dinner was heaping piles each of white rice, potatoes, noodles, and nsima, which is basically very finely ground grits. I ate a lot of peanut butter. This is a hazard of travel, I suppose – in Thailand they kept trying to get me to eat bugs. Bugs are gross!!
Having an hour of electricity and usually just 15 minutes of freezing cold running water each day wasn’t my favorite thing, either, but that’s what headlamps and Neutrogena wipes are for. Every night I woke up tangled in my mosquito net – this was no way to live. It’s one thing to adjust for five days, but living every day in that manner is obviously very difficult to imagine. The latter part of the trip, 3 days in Johannesburg and outlying areas, was very luxe in contrast, and the safari was SO fun – I knew it would be cool, but I didn’t know it would be so fun. Riding around in an open Land Cruiser with our driver Godfrey, spotting animals and enjoying South African beers is, for the record, one of the most enjoyable ways you could possibly spend an afternoon. My only regret is that we did not see a lion kill, which is a bummer, but there’s always next time…
This will surprise no one, but the flight-related aspects of this trip did not go smoothly. Truly, I implore you: should you find yourself planning travel with me you’d be well-advised to just meet at our destination. Do not board an airplane if I am your fellow passenger – proven side effects of my companionship include: death, lost luggage, broken bones, interminable delays, leaking lavatories, etc…go on without me – save yourselves!
So, as I’d said, I flew NYC – ATL – Johannesburg – Lilongwe (Malawi). On the very first leg of the trip, from NYC to ATL, I was delayed three hours. Things were off to a great start! The flight from ATL – Johannesburg was leaving at 7:10, and we touched down at 7:05…assuming I wouldn’t make it, my mom and sister figured out that I could fly out the next morning to Dubai. Honestly, I was excited at the prospect of spending a night in ATL and I don’t mind (and might even prefer) traveling solo, so I had accepted my almost-certain fate. I was still going to move quickly towards Gate F14 from B6 but at this point I figured there was really nothing I could do.
As I made my way up the aisle, a man spoke over the plane’s loudspeaker: “Alexandra Baxter, are you still on the plane?” I raised my hand – that is my name, I am Alexandra. The gentleman beckoned me to the front and people began to move aside to let me through – clearly I was someone important; the most important people always sit in row 26, seat C. I imagine this was akin to the parting of the Red Sea. The Delta guy was waiting for me right outside the plane door and ushered me over to the exit that leads to stairs directly down to the tarmac, saying, “hurry follow me! We got you a ride!” At first I hesitated because surely civilians aren’t allowed on the tarmac at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (and I am a staunch follower of rules), but he was insistent, plus he had a Delta name tag and seemed legit, so I made haste down the stairs….down the stairs and into the Porsche SUV waiting for me on the runway.
My photo shop skills have improved significantly. In case you’ve never read BBT before – rude – this is the original…
And it gets better. Much like James Bond in Casino Royale, we sped from Terminal B to Terminal F, racing 747’s and dodging gasoline trucks, screeching to a halt at the plane in under a minute, it felt like. The pretty, surprisingly aggressive woman driving me was yelling, “GO! GO!” and I sprinted up the stairs and onto the plane – I’d made it!!! There was hugging and stuff, possibly some tears, but then it got a little anti-climactic because I had to deplane and go get a seat assignment, and I saw like 25 people still waiting in line to check in and board…so I not only made my flight, I made it with like an hour to spare, but it was still cool. Newsflash: taking a private Porsche between terminals is infinitely better than stupid underground mass-transit trains.
So, here’s the secret to a VIP escort: my sister had the genius idea to tweet @DeltaAssist and ask them to help me get to my gate. Both she and my mom had begged the flight attendant/pilot to please promise to not leave me, but they weren’t that concerned, so Char reached out to the internet. And good thing, because this dude in Air Traffic Control didn’t give a hoot if “the girl” made it or not.
My luggage, meanwhile, did not make the close connection, and it wound up taking the international equivalent of a short bus to Malawi; it finally arrived on Tuesday evening. I had left the Wednesday previous. My roommate, Mom, was a real sport about sharing everything, including underpants, and it’s not like I was in Malawi to wow them with my wardrobe…
Oh, and my flight from ATL – NYC on the return was delayed 3 hours because one of the bathrooms was leaking all over the floor of the plane. Sick. I thought about switching flights, but then what about my luggage…? It was cool, I went to Chick-fil-A.
So, the trip was awesome. I think the easiest way to do this will be to just share with you my Picasa album, which is in chronological order and has captions, and you can just have at it. These were all taken with my iPhone, so National Geographic it is not. For those who are too lazy, I attached some highlights below…but you should probably just click through – it’s Tuesday, it’s not like you have anything else going on. Plus, there are pictures of Hilary which are actually pictures of pigs and other unattractive livestock, and a lot of other cool stuff. Africa is an aesthetically pleasing place; there are many lovely vistas.
BBT HIGHLY recommends Africa for your next international adventure.
My plan is to write again this week to talk about everything else that has happened in the last month…ie, the Royal Babe, my A-list celeb sightings, summer reading, the best mascara ever, and other highly relevant things.
Know that I’ve missed you all tremendously.