30/3-09 19.48 : Maya Northen
If At First You Don't Succeed
On Saturday, March 7th we eagerly loaded up our luggage on the shuttle from the Comfort Inn for the five minute ride to JFK airport (we’d taken a transfer up the night before and stayed overnight). We knew we were going to be early, but hoped we’d be able to check out bags in an hour or two and then could just kick back, grab some food and wait for our flight to board. As expected, when we arrived at JFK we saw no check in line for South African Airways so waited patiently until we saw someone at the SAA ticket line - it wasn’t check in, but we figured they could point us in the right direction. When we asked about the SAA flight departing at 5:45 PM that evening, they just laughed at us, told us that it had been cancelled a month ago and that we’d been put on the flight for the next day. They told the same to a couple in front of us in line, and said both of our parties had been sent emails a month ago stating the change. We all insisted we had not, asked what they could do, and they just continued to laugh at us and say they couldn’t do anything (note: as someone who works in the service industry, I can assure you this is not the correct response!). After a quick bout of being upset with their lack of caring, we decided we’d make the most of the situation and get a hotel in midtown Manhattan. After all, there are worse places to be stranded on a beautiful Saturday night than New York City. Luckily, three of the five of us travel with laptops and my mom hopped on hers and made a quick reservation at the Renaissance Times Square. The hotel turned out to be wonderful, though perhaps not the place to go if you need total privacy as the walls are rather thin and you can hear your neighbors quite well (which presumably means they can also hear you). We enjoyed a night of dinner and drinks at the Heartland Brewery and headed out the next morning to JFK try again, this time successfully - we stalked the ticket counter and were first in line to ensure our seats on this flight. I must acknowledge here the wonderful driver we found to take us from JFK to the hotel and back, Ali, who made our being delayed a day almost worthwhile for meeting him.

After what seemed entirely way longer than a 6.5 hour flight, we arrived for our refueling stop in Senegal (you need a visa to enter, so we had to stay on the plane and therefore unfortunately cannot really claim we’ve been to Senegal) and then on for another 8 hours to Johannesburg. As my sister put it, “the flight wasn’t long enough, so thank goodness we now had a 2.5 hour transfer to Sun City!” It was dark and we were tired, but the feel of the warm, fresh air as we emerged from the airport felt fantastic! It had a night at the not quite as fantastic Comfort Inn, a few locally brewed beers and unexpected stay in Manhattan, a 14.5 hour flight complete with a stop in Senegal and a 2.5 hour van ride upon landing, but we were in Africa!

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