Final Day in South Africa

27 July

We wake in the patient room in Elna’s clinic this morning having slept downstairs instead of in her bedroom because she had been sleeping the evening away before she came to fetch us and wants us to take over her bedroom tomorrow with all of our packing. However, with the clinic opening we get everything upstairs fairly early, and both Alisa and I shower since leaving Cape Town two days ago.

Alisa starts to unpack everything, and get her stuff that she needs washed organized while I post all of our Botswana reports and start to organize Alisa’s electronics for Kenya. She has decided to take the iPad to Kenya instead of her Macbook Pro, as she hopes that she’ll be able to get a 3G Sim card from either Safaricom or Zain, whoever has a shop at the airport. Both seem to have reasonable prices for data bundles, and Safaricom recently extended the life of a bundle to 90 days, just in time for Alisa’s stay of three months!!

In trying to figure out which bag Alisa should take, we check SA’s baggage policies to Kenya, and find that she’s allowed 30kg. We call SA to confirm and they do so. However, we realize that the website doesn’t specify how many pieces of luggage, so Alisa calls back to inquire, but is told that it is 20kg total, no matter how many bags. This now makes a big difference in what she can take, as she had brought lots of supplies for the children she would be working with, and Elna offered for Alisa to take as much of the World Cup stuff that she had been given that Alisa could manage. This is now complicated a bit by the 20 kg limited and a R90 per kg overage charge. I now call back a third time to see what the problem is, and I’m told that the NEW regulation is 30kgs, but if you booked before 2 July under the old regulations, you were limited to 20 kgs. I protest polietly, but am told that I would have to rebook my flight if i want to fall under the new regulations. I follow up with their reservation desk and find that a new booking would cost twice what Alisa payed, so that option is out the window. I call DHL to get a quote on what a .5x.5x.5 metre box weighing 15 kg would cost to ship to Nairobi. The cost: R3600 (500 USD). So that is also out. Alisa decides that she’ll just take her new large backpack and pack everything she can into it. I figure that we can pack the rest in the Bedouin bag that my mother gave us to come with, and then plead ignorance at check in and play the ‘orphanage card’.

We head off in Elna’s white bakkie to Sandton City, with Alisa remarking that my driving has now become ‘proudly South African’ as I weave through traffic with the newly repaired bakkie. We get Alisa’s necessities from Checkers, and stop in at Quicksilver, TotalSports, the Nike Store and Exclusive Books to see if any of these July sales make anything worth buying. Even though there are nice tshirts at Quicksilver, we both keep our wallets closed and find that every other store’s ‘sale’ prices are still more than what we can get it for the in US. Notably, the prices that Nike charge for their apparel in ZA is outrageous. R799 (~113 USD) for the track jackets for the club teams, and even though the USA jacket that I had been wanting is now on sale, it still comes to over 75 USD, now on par with US prices.

We stop in the Apple store to check the Apple website to see if the rumored iMacs had been released but when I try to use one of their Magic Mice on their iMac, I find that the batteries have died. As I look around for another computer to use, one of their wanna-be Mac Specialists approach me and ask if he can help. I tell him that the batteries on his Magic Mouse are dead, but he replies, that “We’re actually out of batteries right now…” He asks if I wanted to use the computer, but I walk out in disgust. This comes on the heels of trying to send an email at the Cape Town iStore, but when I find that their Mail preferences haven’t had a password inputed and ask if there’s a computer configured, I’m told that none of their computers have the Mail configured. Quite an unsatisfying experience, these South Africa iStores. I truly hope South Africa gets a proper Apple Store, and gets the rich experience that they can provide, rather than these second rate iStores.

We hurry back so Alisa can continue packing, and eventually we get all of our souvenirs and trinkets into my two bags. We a little creative packing, we’re also able to cram all of her belongings (though she did have to trim from her original pile) PLUS all of her supplies for her three villages! She’s pushing the 20kg mark, and while I think the bag will be just under, the backpack itself is significantly heavier than what we took to Cape Town, when I as the one carrying the pack. So while the bag should have no problem getting there, Alisa will have to really develop some muscles over the next three months to move this bag. Fortunately, many of the supplies (pencils, markers, beads, etc) will be left at the villages, plus some of her old clothes, so coming back should be a much easier prospect.

We take Elna out to eat at Bangkok Wok in North Riding as a thank you for the two months of hospitality that she has shown us. One dinner can’t possibly be the appropriate thank you for all she’s done for us, but it’s all we can offer at this point. The next time either one of us comes we’ll have to bring something special. Though the amount of travel Elna does, it would be hard to find something she cannot get herself. Being old school, I’m sure she would tell us that simply our thanks is good enough, but we still feel rueful that we can repay her more.

We return and finish packing, though our late dinner out meant we missed Elna being interviewed on ENews. Everything is under weight and packed tightly in. Tomorrow we’ll head to OR Tambo around 930 with Elna dropping us off at the Gautrain station in Sandton and then we’ll try to cash Alisa’s grandfather’s VAT check from Namibia and then process our own VAT before going through security. Alisa’s flight is at 1400 while mine is at 1800. Alisa will try to get a calling card upon her arrival along with a 3G sim and then call our blog to let everyone know that she has arrived safely.

It is almost two months to the day since we have arrived in South Africa, and the amount of memories we have compiled have been numerous. We have nearly 80 Gigabytes of HD movies and pictures from our two months and over 80 blog postings of our time. We’ve been very fortunate to have been able to make this our most documented trip of our lives and hope that this will enable us to look back on our World Cup Safari with great fondness in the years to come. For me, the experience of my first World Cup, and seeing a country that I have come to love so much fulfill most of the world’s expectations, was something that will always be one of the highlights of my young adult life. However, the disappointment of the United States bowing out so early in the competition when there was such an opportunity for more (plus being able to go to Soccery City, and potentially Green Point in Cape Town), still puts a slight damper on the experience. The high that a World Cup run created was dashed so quickly, like having a favourite animal or blanket ripped from your clutches just as you had started to love it, is the closest I have found to be able to describe the emotions of the finals days of our World Cup. However, that did not stop me from continuing with Alisa to see some of the most magnificent features on this Earth, from Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, to the Okavango Delta, and finally up to Table Mountain. These two months have been extremely taxing to be constantly on the go, but fortunately Elna’s house in Sandton gave us a foundation that made much of our journeys possible. However, returning home has never seemed like such a kind proposition as it does now and to be able to finally rest and mentally recover from 60 days in some dangerous places but also the fast pace of traveling this part of the African continent. I’ve also been able to see a soccer lover emerge in Alisa, an evolution that I could not have foreseen 3 years ago when I went with her to her first professional soccer match of her life in Durban. This time in Africa has allowed us to come full circle and now allows us to follow new adventures in two different parts of the world. I greatly look forward to returning to South Africa and hope that my time away will be shorter than the three years in between my last visit. There is so much change happening in this country, on a political, social, and cultural level that it is exciting to witness and engage in. I hope everyone back home has enjoyed our writings and that we did our best make you feel like you were part of the journey. Alisa will surely have her own feelings on the trip, and will post them as soon as she is able to compose them.

The next blog postings will be from the United States and Kenya!

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