Sunday 3 May 2015

Travel: Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika - Back in Africa after 25 years

We are here
Let’s start with the end of the story. I arrived safely in Johannesburg, South Africa, after a trip that took a total of 18 hours and 35 minutes. Passport control was easy, I picked up my baggage that kept up with me this throughout my journey with two transit points and the hotel had sent a chauffeur to pick me up.
I have slept a bit, called my host to say I have arrived because WhatsApp is flaky and SMS does not seem to be available on my mobile phone. I am ready to do South Africa.
A plane not so plain
Yesterday, I had stopped over in Amsterdam and then Paris where I caught my flight to Johannesburg.
When I got to the flight embarkation point, the priority queue seemed quite long, eventually, I was noticed and let through. The Airbus A380 is a city in the air. I have never seen such a large crowd gathered to get on a plane before.
Two gangways served the plane, one for the lower deck and another for the upper deck, it meant we did not have to use the stairs in the plane to get to our seats.
A glass and a class apart
I was on the upper deck, on the aisle side of a Duo Seat and my neighbour was already seated, a slightly older friendly African.
I settled to a glass of champagne before the flight took off, and the take-off was probably the most graceful I had ever experienced. Nothing about the size of this amazingly big jumbo jet was betrayed and our 10 hour flight began.
Off the choice of films on offer, I decided on The Devil Wears Prada, my neighbour scanned through 18 pages of titles and took to watching one of the 4 Nollywood films on the list. I’ve been told Nollywood has a good African following, I guess that was proof.
Some conversation
He was Botswanan, wrong, I knew that, he was from Botswana, the country of the Tswana people, where the common official language is Setswana. He is a Motswana and when you have more than one Motswana, you address them as Batswana.
He introduced himself, I having started the conversation. Perish the thought of sitting beside someone for 10 hours without an engaging conversation, maybe if I was comatose. I do not know how or why I get the knowledge, but I seem to have the names of leaders of countries to hand when I meet people from other countries.
He worked in the tourist industry and was returning from a conference in South America, we talked about the serious and mundane, joked, laughed and lamented the fact that Africa could be a better place, but for many unfortunate incidents of small-minded men with their hands tightly gripping the reins of power.
After our three-course meal, we all stretched out on our comfortably fully reclined seat-beds until breakfast was served in the morning.
We touched down in South Africa, on time, he gave me his business card and we parted ways. Yes, this was my first time back on African soil since 1990.
God Bless Africa

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