Today we had to get up at 4 a.m.. When I woke up at 4 a.m. to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat, I was cheerful. When I woke up to beat the crowds to the Taj, I was ecstatic. When I woke up this morning in cold South Africa for 13 hours of travel, I was not. But I knew at the end of the day I would be in ZAMBIA, so I drug my body out of bed for my morning workout, cursing the macchiato and starry night sky that kept me up far past midnight last night.
But I love macchiatos and starry night skies.
Our driver insisted on cranking up the AC because of the heavy morning fog on the Eastern Cape. I was already shivering, but the wall of white outside my window and occasional massive truck careening by on the “wrong” side of the road convinced me to keep my complaints to myself. I value my life more than a few fingers lost to frost bite.
We arrived at the airport after two hours and I stumbled into a breakfast place. I thought my eyes were messed up, but the menu really did say “macon and banana French toast.” At the moment, I felt equally up to eating a mid-sized city in Georgia as about anything else, so I ordered it. I later learned that macon is basically bacon made of mutton. This was a troubling revelation.
The next ten hours of travel were uneventful. Planes are much the same the world over. The only significant difference is the language they announce the rote seat belt and emergency exit script. One strange thing in South Africa is that they take the exit row seats VERY seriously. They had Dr. B. leave her exit row seat and go up to the main door to practice opening it and receive drilling on how to check for flames:
“Look outside. If you see smoke, do not open. Cross your arms on your chest and say ‘blocked exit.’”
Why is it that you feel much less safe after someone has taken obvious pains to make your safety a priority?
Arriving in Zambia was terribly exciting. For the first time, I really felt like I was back in Africa. I love it here. The airport was hot and crowded with people waiting to pay $50 for a visa. There was the distinct body odor of lots of heat and little deodorant. Everything was slightly dusty and slightly dated in the late afternoon light. There were long lines and a massive amount of people waiting in the diplomat line who were clearly not diplomats. I felt like I was coming home. My bags looked like they had been through it and were ready to go home.
We walked out into the hotter heat just in time to see our shuttle pulling away. I dropped everything and took out after it like I was a teenage girl who had just spotted Justin Bieber’s tour bus. No use. Feeling absurdly happy for someone who had just missed her ride, I got into a light blue taxi that agreed to take us the 30-some minutes to our hotel in the government district of Lusaka. We rolled down the windows for A.C., and I promptly got dust and at least one small insect blown forcefully into my eyes. Sunglasses. Oh! Here is Zambia!
Double bikers (Zambians are by far the best I’ve seen at this. Some can swing three to a bike. I want lessons), lavender jacaranda trees, street vendors–heaven. When we arrived at the hotel, we went to the bank to convert dollars to kwacha since very few ATMs take Mastercard here. The current exchange rate is roughly 5,000 kwacha to a dollar, meaning I left the bank feeling like an heiress.
After grappling with my air conditioner for about 30 minutes, it made a lovely purring noise and came to life. I got to Skype home, which was wonderful. I also got to go downstairs for some dinner. To Westerners, everything about this hotel would seem normal except for the fact that you eat around a pond with little baby crocodiles in it. I admit to checking around my ankles several times during my meal.
I was thrilled to find a workout room and beautiful pool, as well. Opting for a run, I felt like Supergirl for about five minutes until I remembered that everything was in kilometers. Oh well. Back at the hotel room, I began to break out in rashes on my arms and legs. This happened to me once before. I’ve learned that I sometimes react to my malaria meds with rash and nausea. Lovely, right?
All things considered, however, a day that I began shivering on the tip of the continent and ended roasting in the interior wasn’t half bad.
I love Africa.