As I’ve noted here in the past, my daughter the veterinarian and PhD aspirant, frequently travels to Namibia, Africa to continue research that involves chasing zebras around the African plains. Her typical stay there is usually around 6 weeks, during which she lives and works at a game park and lab in Etosha. Once there, the work is long and tiring. But even those long days pale in comparison to the lengthy journey it takes to get there in the first place. Traveling from her home in Oakland and her lab at Berkeley to her final destination in Etosha, Namibia typically takes the better part of three days on various flights and then hours of ground travel across Namibia.
That she is able to maintain a sense of humor about the arduous travel it takes to get her there is remarkable I think. This time around she is flying through Frankfurt and then to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then to Windhoek, Namibia before riding for 5 or so hours across Namibia to Etosha. She is an astute observer of all around her and isn’t shy about sharing her observations. Following are two of her emails from the past couple days while she makes her way to the land of zebras. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Tuesday, April 7
Things I learned (or was reminded of) in the last 12 hours:
There is a Hells Angels chapter in Luxembourg, and it may be populated by scary Germanic-unhinged type folk, if the fellow on the plane wearing his vest was any indication.
One should never eat breaded fried "chicken" pieces in spicy brown sauce if it's offered on a plane.
Children's voices really carry.
United is really cutting corners now. No toothbrush, no socks, and only one freaking movie that starts when they tell you it's going to start (unlike all the international carriers that give you a choice of 12-40 movies that you can start and stop at any time).
This recession is nice in that it means that fewer people are flying, which in turn means that there are more open seats next to me, which in turn means that I can attempt to sleep lying down by squinching into a ball over 2.5 seats.
The wireless in Frankfurt airport is sometimes free, and sometimes not. Or maybe I hallucinated the free bit.
My husband is always in meetings whenever I am online, and is thus unable to chat with me.
The chair-benches in the Frankfurt airport are surprisingly comfortable for napping. A bank of three chairs does nicely.
Cups of hot water are not free.
I could be on a plane to Tehran right now, if I had heeded the frantic last-minute call of the flight attendant who woke me up to try to get me on that plane.
The Frankfurt airport apparently completely runs on hydrogen and solar power and on the dreams of German children, as I can't find a single outlet in which to plug my laptop.
The cleaning crew here rides bikes around the airport, and has a jolly good time doing so.
Germans are not a friendly people, and do not suffer fools gladly. They think that most people are fools.
The German language is silly, because I cannot understand it.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
More things I have learned (or rediscovered):
The food on South African Airways is SO much better than that on United. Ditto for the service, the movies, the drinks, the bathrooms, the socks, and the toothbrushes.
Four year olds should not stay awake all night having a crying fit like a newborn.
The heavier your backpack, the longer you will have to keep it on your shoulders as you stand on a crowded tram waiting for it to move.
It's still odd to meet Afrikaans guys named Francois.
One of my bags will always come out on the baggage carousel way ahead of the other, leading me to believe that my other bag probably isn't coming, and making me lament what I will be missing from it.
Given the chance, I will always spill my ginger ale.
It's fun to be bumped up randomly to business class, even for a 1.5 hour flight. They give you real dishes and real glasses and even a table cloth!
There are three roads in Namibia.
For some reason, short South African Airways flights always show clips on the televisions from a Quebecois comedy festival. Does this have anything to do with the Afrikaans guys named Francois?
Everyone's money is prettier than ours.
There are frequent flights from South Africa to places like Kinshasa and Libreville. Really, does anyone want to go to those places? And, if so, is that wise?
White people do not walk in southern Africa.