Many people asked us why we were going to Africa, especially to Botswana and Namibia. Here's the story: Laura first went to Botswana for her semester abroad in college, where she learned about Botswana's culture and language, as well as the ecosystems and the animals that inhabit them. This first trip impacted Laura greatly, and so our trip together would provide a small taste of that experience — an opportunity to share with Geoff the northern part of Botswana and its animals. As for Namibia, the draw was Laura's dear childhood friend Kristina, who has been living there for the past eight years or so. She is doing amazing work developing the Mark 9.14 Foundation's foster home for Namibian children. We were looking forward to seeing her life there. Africa, here we come!
Getting to Africa is a day of flying. That is, a full day — as in 24+ hours of airplanes and airports. First, we flew from Seattle to Atlanta. Then, after boarding our international flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, we were delayed when the pilot fell ill and we needed to wait onboard for a couple hours until another one could be called in. This international flight had two 8-hour legs, split by a several-hour stop-over and refueling in Dakar, Senegal. There were a few passengers for whom Senegal was their destination so, after they departed, security agents went through each and every remaining carry-on bag on the plane, checking each overhead compartment and under every seat, verifying that all the bags belonged to someone. During this excruciating process, we were required to stay on the plane for security reasons. How we longed to stretch and breathe some real air!
In addition to the free booze, Delta airlines provided us some goodies for our international flight, including: a headset, earplugs, an eye mask, moisturizing lotion, and a compostable toothbrush made out of corn!
Our first night in Africa was spent in Johannesburg, South Africa. The place our travel agent arranged for us to stay in, the Emperor's Palace, turned out to be a casino! The Emperor's Palace had motifs seemingly directly copied from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. The only obvious difference between here and Vegas was the presence of metal detectors and armed guards at all the entrances. The whole experience was a bit surreal for our introduction to Africa, but it was right next to the airport, and had a great food court open late. Yum, Indian food!
Our hotel provided a spectacular buffet breakfast, with foods from around the world, including sushi and a meat bar with 3 kinds of bacon!