Not much to do except pack up and go. So that’s what I do. First thing in the morning I fit everything I’ve needed to live comfortably for the past six weeks into one medium-sized backpack, a computer sack, and a guitar bag. I give the tiny room the once over, and take my stuff out to the car.
I meet Evan outside as I’m putting stuff in the trunk. I explain to him the situation and tell him I’ll be taking off. The timing works out perfectly with our week-to-week payments so we’re all squared up. He asks “so, I was wondering, are you here with your church group?” “Oh, no, it’s just my uncle, aunt and me. No reliious affiliation, we’re just here to help.” “Ah,” he seems surprised, “well that’s really wonderful… I think it’s a great thing you’re doing here.” I sense Evan has a legitimate compassion for the people and the country. “There’s just so much that needs to be done,” he says.
We chat a bit about the future of this place and then he bids me farewell.
I stop by Dundee Cellular, and Peter is willing to buy back my used USB modem for a fairly good price. All told I feel it was well worth the money. I can admit it now: I am addicted to my intenet connection. I think I would have enjoyed my trip less if I wasn’t able to post and interact with friends back home during my visit.
I have an especially good breakfast at the little cafe near Dundee Cellular. Sophie and I had breakfast here one day when she was visiting and they made about the best omelette ever. I have another one this morning and then I head over to Dundee Primary School for goodbyes.
Alan meets me outside. Before we head in I thank him for including me in this adventure. He says that they’ve enjoyed having me as well.
Inside Donna and Zenzo are working away. I greet them and give them each a big hug. Zenzo hands me a little slip of paper with his address, and I give him an MP3 CD of music that I like and think he might enjoy. I also give him an American dollar bill as a souvenir. Now that’s a cheap gift, but he liked it.
Alan buys my cell phone off me and I exchange some rands for dollars. Then we say our final goodbyes and I’m off.
As I drive out of town I get a distinct sense of leaving home. Even though it has been a short visit, I got settled and attached to this place. It’s a five hour drive up to Joburg, and I listen to a mix CD I made, and I let my mind wander.
Mostly I think about this place, South Africa, and my life. I think about Human development — on the social level and on the individual level, and how little we really understand about either.
Nothing special happens on my drive up, or in dropping off the filthy rental car. I check in no bags and give a fax from my mom’s doctor to the attendant so as to avoid the ticket change penalty. Then I sit at a cafe and have a little late lunch before boarding the plane.
The plane is delayed leaving by over an hour because the crew is stuck in Joburg traffic. When they do arrive we take off quickly and are on our way to Dakar.
The in-flight movie projector is dead, so we get no entertainment. I read and write a bit, and I talk to the lady next to me. She’s a whilte lady from Botswana, and tells me about her farm style home there. She went to school in Texas and is going to the US for a visit, but she prefers Botswana. She has several kids, and she has hired help around the house to prepare meals and keep things tidy. She says she could never afford that in America, and it’s nice. She also mentions how she feels so strange in America, when walking through a Wal-Mart, and seeing the endless aisles of goods, a whole-Botswana-store-sized section of just baby food. She says that after a couple weeks she usually can’t wait to get back home. She says I’ll probably experience a bit of culture shock on my return.
Dakar, like on the flight over, is just a stop without us getting off the plane. Only a handful of people actually disembark here as their final destination. Also like on the flight over, a team of Senegalese workers come through the cabin and verify the ownership of every single luggage item. This takes a good long time: they look under every seat, every back seat pouch, every bag in the overhead compartments, and ask around until someone claims ownership. I suppose this is to make sure that nobody who got off the plane left behind an unfriendly package. The lady from Botswana has never seen this before. I’ve only seen it on the flight over.
Looking out the window there are shantytowns around the runway. It’s misty outside and the earthy huts look a bit creepy and cold against the gray backdrop. I can’t tell how far the dwellings go, as the thick fog obscures all but the first few rows as they recede from the airstrip.
After nearly an hour of security we take off again. It seems that the Dakar airport did not have any technicians who might have reparied the in-flight projector. So there’s no entertainment for the second half of the twenty hour flight either.
I read some more; a book I picked up in the Joburg airport: The Battle For God by Karen Armstrong. It’s about the rise of extreme fundamentalism in three of the world’s largest faiths: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I find it educational and fascinating, and probably a good bit more enriching than an in-flight movie would have been.
I also get some sleep, on and off.
We arrive in Atlanta an hour late, which means I’ve missed my flight to Boston. Which furthermore means I’ve missed my flight from Boston to Tampa. Why would I go from Atlanta to Boston to Tampa? Because that’s the only way Delta would let me do it. They wouldn’t allow me to change the original flight to end up in Tampa. Of course, now that they’ve missed the connection, they’re able to fly me directly down, but they force me to buy another ticket on the spot, and suggest I write in to Delta customer service to see if I can get a refund on the two flights they just made me miss. Delta has given me this kind of runaround before and I have to remember next time to skip them even if they have the lowest price. Bah.
But in the end I get to Ft. Meyers, my sister graciously picks me up — it’s a two hour drive from Bradenton, where my mom lives. But we have a blast catching up on the ride home, so the last leg of the journey goes by quickly.
And then I’m home.