Saturday, June 22, 2013

Time to go. Up before 5 to get the essentials done: wash, pack, check the quarters of everyone else, load the luggage in the taxi and Beth’s vehicle. About 15 or 20 of the kids get up to see us off. In the dark.

It’s a quiet ride to the airport, because it’s early and because, to the extent that we’re thinking at all, we’re feeling the weight of the goodbyes. We’re at the airport by 7 for an 8:50 flight, which should work. Beth warns me that we’ll need some cash for baggage overage fees, so I hit the ATM just before security.

The baggage weigh-in is, well, chaotic, but we get through that, and through security, and into the waiting area a few minutes before boarding. They are nice enough to average our bag weights so we don’t have to shift stuff around to minimize the fees.

The flight from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam is uneventful—the only kind I’ve ever had, I guess. 🙂 We can’t see Kilimanjaro, but that’s not a major disappointment. We have a 4-hour layover in Dar, and they run us out of the secure zone whether we want to leave it or not, so we have a couple of hours to kill before we can check in again. Since I know about the lack of amenities in the waiting area—!!!—we store our luggage with a service and walk upstairs to a nice-looking Indian restaurant and settle in for a leisurely lunch. Some get breakfast, some get sandwiches. It’s very British-feeling and relaxed. A number of other wazungu are eating there as well; we talk to a couple of American girls who have just finished 3 weeks working in a different orphanage in Mwanza. I talk to a very interesting man from Zanzibar who’s going to Los Angeles next week for an extended vacation.

When it’s time to check in, we go through that. The staff there tells us that some of the carry-ons need to be checked because the flight is full. Later we find some things missing from those bags, and missionaries in Cape Town tell us that that’s a common method to give staff access to the more valuable things that travelers carry. You avoid that by carrying no valuables (not likely) or keeping all of them on your person—which is a pretty good idea in any case.

Off to Joburg. They feed us a very nice meal, if limited as to portion size. South African Air is a noticeable step up from the cut-rate outfit we used inside Tanzania. We have a fairly tight turnaround in Joburg, especially considering that we have to go through customs and immigration. We spend nearly an hour in that line, but fortunately, Abbie’s aunt meets us right after that—she’s picking up Abbie, who will spend the next two weeks with her instead of with us—and she’s already identified our gate and walks us just about all the way to it, before the secure zone begins. We make the flight to Cape Town with a few minutes to spare. The Joburg airport is very modern and impressive, and the team is quick to realize that this part of Africa is not like what they’ve already seen. Welcome to the New Africa.

It’s a short 2-hour flight to Cape Town. We land from the north, the Atlantic to our right. It’s hard to put into words how good it is to be back. We grab the luggage, and while the others are waiting for theirs—Jon’s never shows up—I get on the local wireless to pull up the car rental information, and I see an urgent email from Bill Knipe to call him. I can’t, of course, but his note has enough info to indicate that there’s a problem with the reservations at the guest houses where we’ll be staying. I pull up the emails for that reservation process, and I find, to my horror, that I’ve misread a key email from the folks there. We’re not covered for the first four days; their info was clear and unambiguous, and this is entirely my fault.

Well. We’re homeless. 7 of us tonight, and the other 7 (Cameroon + Joslyn) starting tomorrow night. Until Wednesday. Yikes.

Jon learns that his bag was left in Joburg and will be here tomorrow morning, so we gather and head out to meet Bill. We find him immediately, and he’s already got the situation under control, sort of. He’s identified the least expensive place with room for all of us immediately. Unfortunately, it’s too expensive for us. So he has a backup plan: we’ll stay with his family tonight, then the others will be split between the Grahams and the Elmers for the next 3 nights.

I hate this. How would you feel if you found out that 7 college kids were staying at your house for the next 4 nights, and they’ll be here in 30 minutes? And it’s my fault, fully and unambiguously. And these are missionaries, with families. And they’re friends of mine; the last Africa team worked with the Knipes and the Elmers in Zambia in 2010, and the first one worked with Eric Graham in 2007.

So I hate this. But we’re out of options, and Susan Knipe is being really nice about all this. So to their house we go.

Bill and Susan have been missionaries in Africa for several years, relocating about a year ago from Kitwe, Zambia, to Cape Town. They have 3 sons and a daughter, all elementary age or below. Fortunately, they’ve just gotten a very large house (good deal, not absurdly high support level), and Susan really does love having company. They throw 7 mattresses on the floor; we pile our luggage in the front room; and we’re in business.

It’s late and we’re tired. We’ll get more organized tomorrow. To bed for now.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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