4am Wednesday…Leftover coffee, shower, throw out perishable and do not leave a cup of coffee/milk in the microwave. When you return the pungent odor of sour milk still lingers. As usual I swear never again to make travel plans that include early early mornings but of course I will. Unfortunately to get anywhere from Albuquerque you must start in what is the dead of a summer/winter night.
6am Steven picks me up. Airport. Pleasant check-in with United. Check-in person wants to know where to stay if she gets to Johannesburg. Prepared to hate United, the hungry python that swallowed Continental, but so far they’ve been okay…helps if you are some rung on the precious frequent flyer ladder…even on the lowest rung you get to board early and have extra legroom.
8:55am Off to DC. Does it really have to be this cold in here? Good thing I’m prepared for this. Two shirts, a sweatshirt, a big warm hoodie, socks with my sandals, my best Walgreens scarf and purple airplane blankie. New Mexico is beautiful in the morning light.
2 something-5:40pm Dulles airport. Wine and a po’boy. I’m re-reading Cloud Atlas in preparation for the movie. Should get me through the 15+ hour flight ahead. OFF TO JOHANNESBURG BY WAY OF DAKAR.
5:41pm Wednesday (EST) to 5pm Thursday (Jo’burg time—which is 9am MST) or, in layman’s terms, quite a while. Cabin freezing. Food bad. Stomach hurts. Then feet legs back neck shoulders wrists hips knees hurt. Oh it’s not that bad. Like childbirth you forget the pain because the reward is so great? Fortunately Cloud Atlas is strange enough to preoccupy one for long stretches of time.
Then there’s the ugly American behind me who in the dark and quiet of the big cramped bedroom-in-the-air goes to the bathoom and upon returning decides someone has stolen his headphones. Causes a bit of a scene only to discover them under his seat of course. The soft soothing South African accents of the airline staff let him go on longer than a sharp-tongued American attendant probably would have. What asses people make of themselves.
The plane is full of oil workers, returning vacationers, and, most happily, 57 bright-eyed earnest smart good-looking healthy Peace Corps volunteers. Love them. Their intentions are almost pure. They’ll learn languages, try their damndest to help, have love affairs, get sick, get well and come home to write books about it all. In my next life I am going to be a Peace Corp volunteer.