This is the second in an ongoing series of posts that capture journal entries from my incredible trip to Zimbabwe in 1997. You can read more about my motivation for the journey and why I’m revisiting it now in the original post.
6/22/97 9:40pm, Johannesburg, South Africa
I am safely ensconced in a clean white bedroom in an affluent white South African suburb with Mark and Tony (friends of Francis) after a fairly hectic day. I slept most of the day before in Malaysia, going down for meals alone. Strangely, they always sat me at the same table, must have been a special place for unescorted women. I sent a fax to Jennie and put it on my credit card. Later in the evening I got a call telling me that my flight had been ‘retimed’ to 8am. I panicked for a bit, then left a message on Francis’s answering machine asking him to call Mark for me as I didn’t have his number. In the process my credit card stayed in my address book and caused me another panic when I went to pay the phone bill (about $3.00 US) and I couldn’t find it. I finally did get it back into my hands but for a moment there I was feeling pretty low. I got across the street to the airport in plenty of time to check in and find my gate. They let us all into the waiting room at 7:15am and we sat there for 1.5 hours, then they announced that the flight wouldn’t go until 10, when we finally got on the airplane we sat there for a while. We were not in the air until noon.
It took 9.5 hours to get to Jo-burg (1 hot moist towelette, several glasses of juice, 2 meals, 2 trips to the bathroom, 2 movies, a long nap, many games of solitaire, 1 letter and the creation of 1 friendship bracelet for Jennie). I sat next to a nice white South African couple who were very polite. The airport was not complicated, I got my bags and went right through. I guess they had a sign but I didn’t see it. Tony recognized me from a description and I was found. We drove in their BMW around the city center, stopped for a beer at an Irish pub (all the people in there were white), went to the grocery store which wasn’t much different than ours and came home to dinner and a shower. I’m now in bed. It’s dark and I can’t see much of the surroundings, definitely a suburb, strip malls and big malls all around. The black people I see here are walking along the streets and working in the grocery store. We passed by Alexandria on the way here.
Flying over Malaysia and Africa, looking down at a very different landscape. I mostly could see the areas around the airports; housing tracts, vegetation, dirt roads, mines or other manufacturing close by too. All sort of spread out, some paved through-ways to and from the airport. In Malaysia, there were vast tracts of what looked like palm trees from above, growing fairly neatly. From above it looked like a carpet made of green stars squeezed out of a frosting tube, a very dark green. Maybe they just grow that way. On both the South African and Malaysian coasts, there didn’t seem to be much transition between the sea and the land, there were no waves and no beaches (no surfing?). The flat blue of the sea met the flat green of marsh, only extending shiny tendrils of water into it. Once above the ocean it was flat and only slightly textured with tiny ridges. I thought it would be choppier I guess. The sun was dazzling and the small puffs of clouds cast shadows on the blue water.
Continued in Part 3