South Africa: Day 3 (The Arrival)

The kids finally started getting restless the last hour of the flight. Adam was crawling around on the floor and almost got his fingers run over by the service cart. Twice. The Asian Vegetarian breakfast was some sort of garbanzo bean/cornmeal dish. Not very breakfasty, but it was awesome. They accidentally delivered two of them, and Steve happily ate the other one. Steve ordered a Diet Coke and the flight attendant thought he said that he was going "die if he didn't get a Coke". (In South Africa, they call it Coke Light.) It was funny, and, thankfully, he wasn't about to die. We were all in decent shape. Throughout the whole flight, I only had to use two suckers and one Ziplock baggie full of Swedish Fish as bribes. In fact, I heard someone sitting on the side row right behind us say, "I didn't even know there were kids right there until just now." So I'm counting that as a major success.

One mistake. . . and it was a big one. . . we left our video camera on the plane. As usual, we had waited for all of the other passengers to exit before us. We started cleaning up our area and soon after, there was a flight attendant standing in the aisle behind us. I offered to let her pass, but she declined and said that she wasn't allowed to exit the plane until we did. So we continued getting everyone ready to go and checking our area. A minute or two later, she got impatient and said something about how she was going to be late and miss her next flight. We hustled out of there and accidentally forgot the video camera. We still haven't tracked it down through South African Airways, but since we purchased travel insurance, I think should be covered. Yikes. Except for all of the cool videos that we hadn't downloaded yet.

I was crazy tired, but I had to be on top of my game for the next few hours. First up was immigration. We waited in the long line for non-citizens (where we spotted a college-aged boy wearing a BYU sweatshirt), but we made it through without any complications. Derrick took almost as long going through the short line for South African citizens. I kept worrying that there was a problem, but it turns out that he just enjoys talking to everyone.

We retrieved all of our luggage from the "trolley", loaded it up onto three carts, and headed towards customs. This was the moment I was nervous for. I forgot to include this on my planning post, but on May 20, just three days before we left, I got an email from Victor, the director at Big Tree Foundation. He had just received word from the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa that their organization's permit had expired. They immediately completed the re-submission, but had been asked that we delay the delivery of the goods for two to three weeks. I wrote back and told him there was no way to delay the shoes, as we were bringing them with us on our flight. He expressed regret for the lack of attention by one of his auditors and apologized for the awkward position we were faced with.

It was one of those "Are you serious?" moments. We had collected 200 pairs of shoes. . . it wasn't like we could just leave them home. I actually did look into some options for shipping, but nothing was feasible. Derrick could tell that I was stressed out by the situation and sent me text message saying how thankful he was that I had done so much to help make this trip happen and that he would just pay for the import taxes. Of course we didn't want anyone to have to pay $2000 in taxes, but it was awfully nice of him to offer. I received a few more emails from Victor:

"I have investigated the options and at this stage it is in the air. You could come through with no problems, or it could be a huge problem and everything could be delayed in customs until all the paperwork is completed. . . You should decide if you are prepared to take the risk - I will provide the letter as promised and it will contain all our particulars and contact details."

I told him we were going to take the risk. There was no other option, we had to take the risk. My friend, Jacques, looked into some rules with South Africa's Revenue Service and even spoke to a customs official. He instructed us to stay on the international side in Johannesburg and then go through customs in Cape Town. But when we got to Johannesburg, that was not an option. We had to get our luggage and go through customs there.

I had printed out our letter from the Big Tree Foundation and had my folder with mobile numbers and all sorts of other information, should we encounter a problem. The customs official approached us in the hall, and asked us what we were doing. I told him we had brought shoes with us to donate to school kids and he asked to see documentation. I pulled out the letter from Big Tree. He scanned through it for less than a minute, and then waived us through down the other corridor. That was it. No inspections of our luggage, not even a glance. It felt like a miracle.

We hurried out of there and into the domestic flights before they could change their minds. I was so relieved that I figured we needed to pose for a picture. (Adam was pouting because he had just gotten scolded by a South African woman for playing on the escalator.)

Derrick's flight was an hour before ours, and he just about missed his plane. But they sent him along and left us to sort out his luggage, so he made it. We re-checked all of our luggage and got some food from Wimpy. The kids wouldn't eat the grilled cheese sandwich because the cheese tasted tangy and they didn't really like the fries because they were soggy. Welcome to South Africa. . . 

Our last flight was only two hours long, and everyone slept (including me).

Which was too bad because I'm certain it offered the very best views.

Right before the flight was about to land, Adam woke up and said that he needed to go to the bathroom. The seatbelt lights weren't on yet, so I told Steve to hurry and take him as fast as he could. A few minutes later, the lights came on. And then the flight attendants walked through for a final check. I told them that they had hurried to go to the bathroom, but I was sure they'd be back soon.

But then they weren't. 

The flight attendants finally knocked on the bathroom door and told Steve that they were flying in a circle, waiting for them to get out of the bathroom to land. But Steve was in the middle of cleaning up a massive disaster. Adam had diarrhea. And I'll go ahead and be as detailed as possible. . . it was like liquid diarrhea. He had held it in all the way back to the bathroom, but had an accident just as he was pulling his pants down and sitting on the toilet. There was poo halfway up his shirt, clear down to his ankles. Steve asked for a blanket, wrapped him up like a burrito, and quickly carried him back to his seat so the plane could land.

Kaleigh was so deep in sleep that I couldn't get her to wake up. And Adam was wrapped up in a poop blanket. So I'm sure you can imagine how much fun that was. We got off the plane and I took Adam straight to the bathroom, where we promptly used up half of our baby wipe supply for the entire trip. Steve retrieved all of our luggage, except for one missing bag. We tried waiting in line, but Adam was still upset and it just wasn't good timing, so we figured we would sort that out later. 

Derrick's flight landed an hour before ours, so he had some time to visit with Gcobisa before the rest of us arrived. 

Lucy ran ahead of the rest of us to greet her: 

And then we finally woke up sleepy Kaleigh to meet Gcobisa for the first time:

Adam didn't bother to get up:

(She still jokes that the only time Adam ever talks to her is when he's asking to play with her phone.)

The first thing we ate in Cape Town? Hot chocolate. It was probably 55 or 60 degrees, but to them, that's freezing cold.

That picture was taken by photographer Rachel, who took over my camera while I sorted out a rental car. (You do a lot of sorting out in South Africa. It's becoming one of my favorite verbs.)

We rented a Hyundai H1 Panel van (these pictures were taken a few days later):  

It looks way cooler with Steve standing in front of it. Or maybe Steve just looks cooler standing in front of a van?

We are stuffed full, with luggage all the way to the ceiling, in every corner, and under our feet. We will enjoy traveling lighter once all of the shoes have been distributed. 

The van has tiptronic transmission and drives a lot like our old VW Passat, according to Steve. I refuse to drive. Partly because we only filled out the paperwork for one driver and partly because I prefer to sit in the front passenger seat and fill the role of nervous backseat driver, warning Steve every time he is crossing over into the other lane and reminding him when he is driving on the wrong side of the road. Steve is doing a great job driving on the left side of the road. And the roads are crazy narrow.

It was pretty smooth how well the rental process worked out. We didn't book ahead because Jacques told us that you can get better deals closer to the rental time. We walked over to the car rental area at the Cape Town airport and asked for price quotes from two different rental companies: Avis and Budget. Both of them had vans available, but Avis was a better deal. We paid R18,000 (about $1,800) for 32 days. Because we have an American Express credit card, we didn't have to pay the R600 (about $600) insurance fee. 

I walked back through the airport to fill out a claim for our missing luggage, and it was just arriving on a later flight. 

And then we drove to our hotel: 

This was the only hotel that we booked ahead of time. Cape Town is a big city and we wanted to know exactly where we were going. The DoubleTree had the best price for a room that would accommodate our entire family. We booked the King Loft Suite for R1030 per night. Our room was 900 square feet and looked like a large NYC style loft. The living area boasted 16-foot tall ceilings and a huge floor-to-ceiling window that opened out onto a deck. These pictures aren't great, but they'll give you an idea of what it was like:

Here are the views from the deck: 

I can't get my internet connection to let me add any more pictures right now, so I'll have to add some of the others later. The DoubleTree hotel is in a beautifully decorated, mixed-use building. The restaurant had a sit-down restaurant next to the lobby, and then there were a couple of casual restaurants downstairs. 

We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Yum: 

Derrick and Gcobisa didn't actually care where or what we ate, they were just happy to be together: 

This is how Kaleigh felt about that: 

Everyone was happy. And clean.

And the food was surprisingly good. We had Yum Yum Chicken, Chicken Chow Mein, and this is the Black Bean Chicken: 

It was the perfect dinner: 


Gloria said...

So you got the lost luggage by now. You'll have to let us know about the camera. So fun to share this trip with you from here. I love it! Love you all!

@udj said...

I feel the same as Gloria, I am having so much fun reading about this adventure. I laughed out loud that you went ahead and documented the diareah details, ha ha. What a treasure to record all of this in the moment. I would forget half of it before I got home. I just can't help but smile as I read thinking, this is your crazy awesome life!

Rebecca said...

It's so fun to read about what you are up to! I was obsessively checking my Instagram and Facebook for awhile hoping for updates and so i was excited to see an update on the blog!

Keicha Christiansen said...

The graphic diarrhea description was the best! It made me laugh right out loud. I'm just now catching up on your posts. It sounds like a great trip so far.