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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 4, But, What about My Mandarin Oranges?

The Africa Journals

Chapter 4
But, what about my Mandarin oranges

Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers.” – George Carlin

And off we went on the wings of South African Airways.  I pulled the company magazine from the seat pocket.   A tribute to Nelson Mandela was on the cover, a striking black and white photo and the words:  May you rest in the peace you gave us.

This was a long flight, more than 17 hours, though I think that includes about an hour spent on the ground in Dakar, Senegal, for refueling and for passengers embarking and debarking.  Senegal is the most western point on the African continent.

Dawn was peeking over the eastern horizon as we left Senegal, but we had many more hours in the air before we reached Johannesburg in South Africa.

Finally, finally, we landed in the largest city in South Africa and it was here I found the answer to something I had long been considering:   Why are passport control and customs located so far from your gate?   After walking several miles, the answer came to me in one of those light bulb epiphanies.  

 (An aside:  Now that incandescent bulbs are no longer being manufactured, what will replace the light bulb icon for epiphanies?  Those idiotic, twisted, low-lumen CFLs or those cold and heartless LCDs?)

Anyway, here’s my latest epiphany:  If you are able to follow directions and get to passport control and customs inspections, and you able capable of walking that far —you know it’s a bad sign when one hallway has three (count ‘em, three) moving sidewalks— then you are self-reliant enough to enter that country.  And probably conditioned enough to enter that country’s premier marathon.

Once through passport control, I retrieved my suitcase from the luggage carousel, dragged it off to one side, and opened it.  Right there in the lower right corner was my scan-resistance safety wallet, and tucked in an inside pocket was my yellow fever card.  I breathed a big, long sigh of relief.

So far, so good.

Landing in Johannesburg.

I breezed through customs with nary a glance from a gaggle of uniformed customs agents clustered around a scanning device meant for luggage.   I wasn’t stopped and questioned.   My bags weren’t inspected.  No one asked for my carefully completed customs form.

Had I somehow accidentally chosen the right line—the one that was labeled “Nothing to Declare”—and that’s why I breezed through?    I kept looking around.  Surely someone would want my form.   All I saw was a dizzying array of uniforms and the wearers of those uniforms had no interest in me, my luggage, or my customs form. 

Would they have taken away the mandarin oranges I’d brought from Alaska and meant to eat on the plane?  The half sandwich from Potbelly’s in D.C.?  Ah, well.

Out the security gate I went and there was Brian holding a Vantage sign and gathering his flock of “new recruits.”  For the next three weeks he would shepherd us around, answer our questions, keep us safe from hawkers and miscreants, and, if need be, bail us out of jail and mediate any international incidents we might cause.

Welcome to Africa!   After years of dreaming and ten months of waiting, at last I was in Africa and anxious for my first safari into the African Savannah to see wild animals in their natural habitat.

But what happened next…   Well, that takes some explaining.


  1. LCD's as they are much brighter and take less effort.
    Glad your home.

  2. Love It! I too have wondered about the distances. You did not mention the TIME STANDING AND STANDING AND STANDING .. Smiles from Cap and from Patti ..

  3. One NEVER knows about the process of entering countries does one? NO ONE (in your gaggle of uniformed cutoms agents) cared one-hoot about you it would seem. This above time. Then one time in one place on one trip they LOWER THE BOOM. Australia in 1997. Two (count them two) hours they searched me for micro-dots on my address lists.. and my toothpaste.. and YOU NAME IT. All-the-time saying to me .. "Just denying you have illict goods is in fact a violation itself." FINALLY .. abashed to some-small-degree .. the WOMAN in-charge of this incredible saga said .. "You can go now." So travel enough and this could happen to you. THEY KNEW that THEY HAD THE MAN (THE MAN being me I guess). My light bulb was this: A REAL World Traveller friend of mine said .. "Cap, all of those into Bangkok and out of Bangkok and back into Bangkok qnd back out of Bangkok about five times in a month was a tip you were THE MAN they were looking for."

    Smiles .. Cap and Patti