Lack of sleep and my emotional morning meant that by the time I had dropped Sampson off at the train station and found my way to the airport through Cape Town traffic, I had a splitting headache and felt totally crappy. It was not a good way to be starting off my journey and I knew it was going to be a long day … night … day … Nevertheless, I can turn just about anything into an adventure and I was determined to shake off the doom and gloom and enjoy the ride. I took a couple of Aspirin and hoped that I would sleep on the plane, although that would be unusual for me.
For several reasons that I won’t bore you with I had booked a flight back through Johannesburg with a short one and a half hour stop over. Now, normally, a one and a half hour stop over is just about perfect … unless you encounter an overly conscientious airport official who questions whether you are actually the person pictured in your passport because you look so different than the picture. By the time she pulled me aside, grilled me about the who, what, when, where and why’s of my time in South Africa, I showed her enough ID (all of which have pictures of me that look just like my passport photo), and convinced her that despite whatever she might think I was no threat to national security … I was lucky to make my connecting flight to Amsterdam. That was only a harbinger of things to come.
Still feeling desperately sad, I found a quick minute to check my email before boarding. I was absolutely thrilled to find a message from Katja and a message from Monica in my inbox, both of them filled with cheery words and assurances that we would keep in touch. Once again, my friends in South Africa had managed to say exactly the right things at exactly the right time to lift my spirits.
I am always pleased when I find myself seated with interesting people on a plane and it constantly amazes me how lucky I usually am in this regard. This trip was no exception. All of the people I was seated with on all of my flights were interesting but none more so than Francois. This cheery South African who lives near Johannesburg was great fun and we passed the eleven and a half hour flight discussing the social and political history of South Africa. Francois is of French Huguenot descent, yet another example of the cultural diversity of this country. (The French Huguenots fled France by way of the Netherlands due to religious persecution, eventually settling in South Africa during the 17th century.) Very interesting man to talk to and a brilliant conversationalist as I have found most South African men are.
Thursday, August 24 was a really bad day for KLM Airlines. Not sure what was happening with their fleet that day but Amsterdam was plagued with flight delays and my Amsterdam to Toronto connection was no exception. Already a less than ideal connection, the flight was further delayed by several hours resulting in a 10 hour lay-over.
I set out to explore Schipol Airport laughing as I thought of the Tom Hanks movie, “The Terminal”. That is exactly how I felt … as though I was living in the airport, trapped inside the building. If any of you need to know anything about Schipol just ask me. I am sure I discovered every corner of that place, eventually settling in just to people watch. You can learn a lot about peoples’ character when you study them under the stress of travelling. It’s a fascinating study in human nature.
Finally we boarded for the final leg of the journey. Although seven hours is usually a very manageable flight, after already travelling for 15 hours plus a 10 hour lay-over, it would be 32 hours travelling in all by the time we touched down in Toronto and I must admit to being really, really tired. Still, there was one more adventure in store for me.
Now, I’m not sure if it was the fact that this was my second trip to South Africa in six months … or if I just looked suspicious … but for the first time since I was a teenager I was pulled into customs to have a baggage search. Now, you all know that I can be more than a little bit silly from time to time … okay lots of the time … and as is my way, I was enjoying some lighthearted banter with the customs fellow … asking him if I looked like a diamond smuggler, drug dealer, that sort of thing and we were having a few chuckles, but when they brought out the sniffer dog I just absolutely dissolved into fits of laughter.
I’m not sure if it was because I was so tired, or because I was emotionally exhausted, or just the absurdity of it all after 32 hours of travelling, but a funny comment that a friend had made about sniffer dogs at Heathrow airport during the Olympics suddenly came back to me and I laughed until the tears were streaming down my face. Too, too, too funny!!! Finally the guys started laughing too, zipped up my cases and sent me on my way totally convinced I am sure that I was either insane or that yes, I had been smuggling drugs but clearly had ingested the evidence because why else would I be acting so totally silly.