We’ve sent your bags on ahead (Part 2)

We’re home, the bag aren’t. Getting home from Africa is not nearly as easy as getting to Africa, partly because the time change is easier to handle heading east than west, partly because you’re a bit tired, and partly because Lufthansa decides on a sudden walkout that leaves you scrambling for flights home. Add to that your bags not showing up…

It was one of those epic-long travel “days.” It started in Cape Town at 8am on Monday (we got to sleep in because our 9:25am flight had been cancelled), and ended at home around 9:30 Tuesday. Add 10 hours to that “day” for the difference in time and you’ve got, I think, 47 hours of which I might have slept 4. The original plan was to have the return broken up by an overnight stay in Munich, allowing all “daytime” flights on the return. Heavenly. But that was not to be. Instead of a 9:25am flight to Munich, followed by a 9:40am flight the next morning to New York, we had a 6pm flight to Istanbul, landing there at 5am, followed in just over two hours by a 7:40am flight to Paris, 2.5 hour layover before a 12:40pm flight to Chicago, then two hours after that a flight to SFO.

Thankfully United was wonderful coming up with alternative routing, even though it had been Lufthansa causing the problem. Booking the tickets with United instead of Lufthansa was one of my smarter ideas, since I have enough status with United that I never have to wait on the phone more than 2 minutes and they’ve done a great job getting me where I need to go when something screwy has come up. But… not so sure I want to fly Turkish Airlines again. At least, not with bags. I should have recognized an issue when they accidentally printed two routing stickers for one bag, and the bag tags listed ORD (Chicago) as the final destination, not SFO. The destination tag shouldn’t have really been an issue though, since you have to pick up your luggage at ORD anyway when you clear customs. Still, things didn’t feel quite right.

At Paris, we discovered just how not-right things might be, as we were called up to one of their agents before being allowed to board the plane, questioning how many bags we had, if any. Some sort of discrepancy because they didn’t have records for what we were traveling with. We ended up being the last people on our plane, but obviously our luggage didn’t make it.

More soon. But at least I’m home, ready to ride tomorrow morning. –Mike–

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From wild animal & slightly-scary Africa to… Sydney? That’s what Cape Town feels like

IMG_8446wide_bayAll those photos of wild animals and a bit of a nervous feeling later on when in Johannesburg, where a shortage of barbed wire might spark panic… that’s all behind us as we wind down this trip and head for home in just a couple of days. And for all the world it seems like we’re heading home from Sydney Australia ‘cuz that’s exactly what Cape Town feels like, only thankfully Cape Town is a whole lot less expensive. But without the stories of relocations of, by their descriptions, Blacks, Coloreds and Indians, you wouldn’t be in any way challenged in your thinking.

Despite the legal elimination of Apartheid, economic segregation accomplishes very similar things. The well-off, primarily white skinned people, are served by, as we’d say in the US, people of color. Things are obviously better off than before; upward mobility is no longer illegal. But it’s a bit frightening in Johannesburg and areas nearby, to see nearly every “nice” house surrounded not just by barbed-wire fences, but electrified as well. Cape Town has none of that; it’s almost as if you’re in a different country. The “wharf” area we’re staying in is a dead-ringer for San Francisco’s Pier 39 (but fortunately, less expensive). You only get exposed to the rest of the story when on a group tour, because your tour guide is frequently not white and has some interesting stories to tell.

Having seen quite a bit of South Africa while on the train from Johannesburg to Cape Town, I can tell you it’s very much like the US in terms of terrain and weather. It’s hard to believe this place isn’t totally rocking, but obviously it hasn’t figured out how to deal with massive differences in living standards and the scary fact that the haves & have nots remain largely determined by the color of their skin.

And that brings up something that was bothering me greatly at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg (an absolute must-see). Can we be proud and even prideful of our own culture without being prisoners of our own skin color? I don’t know. –Mike–

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