I would do anything for love…
I decided to go back to Cape Town for a boy. This is something I haven’t done since… uh…. Highschool? I guess you could say that the week-long romance (and communication afterwards during my overland trip) was good enough I wanted to see where this would go. So when I arrived in Vic-Falls I booked my flight with frequent fliers using united.com’s (star alliance) website. I checked several options- and finally decided on the most complicated (and least expensive) option of going from:
Kilimanjaro – Addis Ababa – Nairobi – Johannesburg – Cape Town. 4 flights, 2 carriers, 1 alliance, 56 hours of airport time. Total cost to me: 52$. If nothing else, I would get a lot of reading/work done.
I got a ride to the airport from a great friend (Praise Nygene– who I also booked my Kili trip with) along with another American girl who was flying to Rwanda. She checked in and left with no problems.
I get to the counter, after standing in line for 55 min, to find out that my ticket has been “flagged” and I needed “to go to the office”.
I felt like a school kid who was in trouble…
I went to the office and was told that I would be rerouted straight to Nairobi. Great!
6 hours later, I get my new itinerary (I hope it works out!!!) and I’m sitting down at dinner in a really posh lodge that the airline put me up in “for my inconvenience”.
I need to explain something:
I have been camping for the past 52 days. I have been in every climate in all of the southern African horn: desert, rain forest, high altitude, volcanos, snow, sleet, rain. Having people snore next to/below you. Sharing tents with people who talk/moan in their sleep. Having to get up at crazy hours for heaps of reasons (taking care of drunk people, domestic abuse, hippos eating outside your tent, climbing a dormant volcano….)
This was the first night, in 52 days, that I got to:
1) Sleep in my OWN ROOM
2) with clean sheets!
3) NAKED! (if I wanted)
4) while drinking the free bottled-water!
5) jumping on the bed
6) with a mosquito net!
7) WITH MY OWN BATHROOM! ATTACHED! TO THE ROOM! I didn’t have to get dressed/shoed to pee in the middle of the night!
I also got free dinner (and dessert! and breakfast!) which was a huge spread and I stuffed myself silly.
Tangent: there have been several times when re-booking was a great idea… Like the time when I was re-routed to Denver and missed my flight. That night I decided “either I’m going to get a hotel or watch the opening of Batman. Luckily, I got a hotel room- as the closest theater to the airport was in Aurora.
I got into Nairobi. It’s kinda like a shitty little airport- Strike that. Not kinda. It is a shitty little airport. The hallways are way too small and loud people with roller bags stand in the middle of the 2-butt isle screaming on their cell phones.
I search for a lounge. There is none.
I search for comfortable chairs. There are none.
There is nothing that isn’t metal or tile in this entire airport. (Believe me- I had 13 hours to kill… I searched!)
This all surprised me because it’s supposed to be “the airport hub of Africa”- and yet… It’s so unfriendly towards passengers. I mean, when you have a options to fly through certain cities, why would you ever choose to fly through Nairobi? I couldn’t find a single one.
I eventually settled for an over-priced cafe that has ugly orange plastic-coated booths and electric plugs and I plopped myself down for the long-haul.
The waitress startles me when I’m informed that they are closing. Good! 2 hours left in this gawd-forsaken place. I pay, get up and go towards the shitty tiled terminal to wait -in my sleeping bag, on the tile floor- for my flight to begin boarding.
I get on the plane. It’s empty. I would have gotten a row to myself except a Kenyan decided to sit in the middle seat and hovered over me while I fill out my Ebola health form.
I tell him I’m switching seats and get up and move behind him- only to be woken up by the flight attendants who wanted to give me breakfast. At 3am…..
“It’s ok,” I breathe. “I’ll be there soon.”
By this point, my cheerfulness was waning from the long hours of doing nothing. I was exhausted, circling around angry/pissed off- but I needed to look refreshed and flirty for the customs guy at Jo’berg.
You see, South Africa has this weird law about Visas. They give you a 90-day visa with an option to extend (but that takes weeks). Normally, (free) visas are “refreshed” every time you cross a boarder, but SA has had problems with “boarder-hoppers”- so they changed the law, but didn’t really post it anywhere. When I emailed the embassy and explained my whole situation, their (oh-so-not-helpful) reply was simply: “it varies from custom official to custom official. Good luck!”
So, basically, I had to show off my persuasion skills (which is really difficult since I’ve been traveling for 54 hours, in shitty airports, all my clothes are dirty, I don’t own any mascara, AND my next flight leaves in 20minutes). I approached the customs window and gave a huge smile. I told the guy that my future relationship depended on him. He asked me to explain and so I told him the whole story… How I met a boy, we want to continue our relationship, I left on an overland tour, I just summited Kilimanjaro, and now “I’m coming back to see him… Please! If you believe in love, you will give me a new visa.”
He told me “Sorry. You need to go back to your home country. To America.”
“But I don’t get stamps from America. How will you know if I’ve been back there or not?”
“Well, you just told me you came from Nairobi from an overland tour.”
“So, you’re penalizing me for telling you the truth?”
(back and forth for about 10 minutes… My flight is boarding now…. Finally…..)
“… I can see how that is frustrating. Ok. This once. In the name of love, I will give you your visa. But if you plan on staying, please allow 1 month to extend your visa!”
Breathless, I ran (until I was really/for realz breathless) to my gate and was the last one on board.
I arrived in Cape Town, bought airtime, called my boy, squee’d a little, rode the bus back home– where the boy and I had a week and a half of romance-followed by a week of frustration from jobs and lack of money and other things, followed by an epic breakup on Halloween.
………Oh well. It was an educational experience, at least.
Are you an editor? I’m trying to put together a book of short-stories. (basically, more of these blog posts.) They’re funny! They’re moving! They’re 90% true. If you’re interested in being an editor (cutting out the crap, challenging me on stuff that doesn’t make sense, etc) and have time/interest, let me know!