Our first deadline is 10 am, check-out time from De Keurboom. We’re all up in plenty of time, and everybody’s doing what he needs to do. I go over to pay the bill, and I tell Linda what we’ve broken: 3 glasses, a Pyrex casserole lid (put it in a hot oven, and “room temperature” here was about 50 degrees at the time), and, believe it or not, a glass shelf from the refrigerator. We were sitting in the living room the other night, and we heard a popping sound and could see nothing that seemed suspicious. Then Amber opened the fridge, and a shelf had crumbled. There had been 2 light bowls on it. Strangest thing I ever saw.
Anyway, Linda was very gracious about it all. I feel as though we should have done better on that score.
We’re packed, loaded, inspected, and out in the van at 9:58. They’ve aced their final assignment.
Flight’s at 1:15 pm, so we should be at the airport by 11:15. It’s a 20-minute drive. Not really time to do anything else—a stop at Limnos, unfortunately, would take too long—so we head to the airport. I drop the whole crew off at the arrivals curb and tell them not to wait for me while I turn the van in. I figure we can just gather at the gate; they all know what they’re doing.
Van turn-in is routine, but I notice we’ve left a bunch of sand in it. Come to think of it, we did a lot of beach stuff, even though it’s winter.
I walk back to the terminal and check in to find the others still in the check-in area; one of them was overweight on her carry-on and had to pay a fee. They tell me Jason and Luke have texted them with word that they’re on their way to the airport. We have plenty of time, so we can remain outside security for one last good-bye. We’ve made friends here. And those friendships will be able to continue in a way they couldn’t for an earlier generation, thanks to social media.
Through security quickly, with plenty of time for Mugg & Bean coffee and light breakfast. I use up the last of my rands—very efficient—and we head for the gate.
It’s less than 2 hours to Joburg. Since Gershon is flying from here directly home to Hong Kong, this is our final flight all together. We lift off through several layers of overcast and then top out above the clouds, where the sky is blue and the sun is shining. It always is, you know, no matter how gray it looks down below.
Gershon has the quicker connection in Joburg, so we decide to just follow him around and see him off. We gather near his gate and take the traditional final full-team photo, then wait at the gate while everyone else on the wide-body loads. Then it’s hugs all around, topped off with a group hug, which I document photographically for the Dean of Women. He walks down the ramp and out to his plane. And now we’re Eight.
The girls aren’t very happy about that. I take them to a Haagen-Dasz kiosk and cheer ‘em up as best I can.
Two hours to boarding. We’re not hungry, so we decide to just wander around the terminal, shopping or whatever, and gather at the gate.
Everybody shows up on time, and I do my last boarding count of the trip. 8. Good.
This is one of the longest flights in the world (not counting military, of course)—over 16 hours. We’re all seated together, 2 rows of 4, at the rear of one of the sections, right in front of a toilet. That’s nice, better than being scattered around the plane as we have been occasionally.