"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 3, Terror Strikes at the Gate

The Africa Journals

Chapter 3
Terror Strikes at the Gate
(probably not the best thing to say in an airport terminal)

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

In Seattle, I overnighted again because I had a very early flight to Dulles Int’l. in Washington DC.  In my room immediately across from the SeaTac terminal is where the first calamity occurred.  

Where was my special Vantage name tag?  I searched my suitcase.   Nothing.   Its duplicate was on my hand carry backpack like an ID tag.   I found a makeshift lanyard to attach it and hung it around my neck.   Solved.  Awkward, but solved.  Perhaps the tour director would have a proper lanyard.

My room at the Radisson Hotel in Seattle, directly across from the airport.  Very nice furniture arrangement.

Quite the shower head.   I want one.

In the Sea-Tac airport.

Once in DC, I was pleased to be greeted at my next gate by a woman representing Vantage travel.  She checked off my name on the list and gave me advice on the best place to grab a sandwich.


A cookie on my straw.

Then came boarding the South African Airways Airbus 300.   My stomach fell to the floor as I handed my boarding pass to the gate agent.

Wingtip of South African Airways jet.

My yellow fever card, the one I had dared a deadly side-effect for, had made a $350 doctor’s visit for, had paid so dearly for?   Where was it?    Think, think!  

Oh, yeah, it was in the new scan-proof wallet.   Had the wallet survived the numerous purges?   My passport and credit cards and travel itinerary were in a secret vest pocket.   I really didn’t need the wallet.  But the yellow fever card?  How could I have forgotten to make sure I had it?

 How?   Once in the special wallet, it was out of sight and out of mind.

“I don’t know if I have my yellow fever card with me,” I blurted out to the gate agent.   Looks of consternation all around.

“We might not be allowed to let you board…”   .   Phone calls, and then, “South Africa doesn’t require it, but you might not be allowed entry back into South Africa after visiting some of the other countries on your itinerary… "

And so began one of the longest 24 hour spans in my life.   My suitcase—in which the scan-proof wallet and the yellow fever card might or might not be—had been checked in Seattle all the way through to Johannesburg, South Africa.


  1. Jeanne, I'm so nervous just reading this, what a bummer at that moment.

  2. I think to myself .. "What am I missing here?!" ..In all of my world-wide international travels going back to day-one a LOT-of-years-ago .. say back to July of 1974 when I set-sail-for-Europe or even earlier .. I have NEVER had this requirement for a Yellow Fever Immunization and proof-thereof!" Actually I have on-occasion actually gotten an immunization IN the country for which I wanted protection. VASTLY LESS EXPENSIVE!

    OH YES! OH YES INDEED! I have had many of those terrorizing moments or minutes or hours when some drastic calamity loomed-directly-in-front-of-me .. where-on-this-green-earth is my (Passport .. Ticket .. Medicine .. etc) but never over an immunization and/or proof-thereof. Smiles from Cap and from Patti ..

    1. I was in yellow fever countries and proof of immunization was requiried for re-entry into South Africa.

  3. Actually this drama just shows-to-go-you (goes-to-show-you) that no matter your traveling experience .. be it Days or Months or Years or DECADES or MULTIPLES thereof .. you MUST be-on-guard-for-the-unguarded moment. It WILL COME INSTANTLY! We are all lilterally hanging-by-a-thread. The risks are phenomenal. Illness caught merely breathing the air .. Accidents of every sort imaginable .. Joy from Cap and Patti ..