Day 1 (How It All Began)
I reckon if you’re reading this you have at some point in your social media days stumbled across one of my other blogs and pretty much have an idea of how this is going to go. As my mom likes to say I really “have no filter.” So for those of you who wish to follow a PG version of our African adventures and wish to hear nothing but the pleasant and delightful experiences we have day to day, this is not the place for you. I would recommend checking my Dad’s Facebook statuses if that’s the story you want to get.
But if you’re here to get the real story and to follow “Emily’s detailed version” of how things went on the safari, then you’ve clicked on the right link! I will be using my personal website (this may end up haunting me one day) to blog daily about our adventures in South Africa. As many of you have come to realize after years of mingling with me, I have the memory of a gold fish and therefore need to photograph, film, and write down every single thing that happens to me or else I forget within a few weeks. So if you’re still there, if you’re still willing to put up with the whirlwind of a blog this will be then I applaud you and give you the warmest of welcomes.
So lets get started.
[If you’re just here to read about day 1 of travels, skip down to the bolded heading]
This whole adventure started when I was only in 5th grade. I went to a private Lutheran school in Newport News and was blessed with amazing teachers who traveled abroad every summer to aid the less fortunate around the world. It just so happened that at the beginning of my 5th grade year my favorite teacher was returning home from Tanzania, where she had been aiding a tribe located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. One of our tasks throughout the whole year was to write back and forth with a pen pal of our age from this tribe. They would attempt to write to us in English and we would attempt to write back to them in their native language, Swahili. We would each tell each other about our weeks, what life was like in our own country, tell about our families, our hobbies, really anything we wanted. Because I went to such a tiny school that same teacher was able to teach us history for the next 3 years as well, until we graduated to high school. Because of this, some of us were able to keep in correspondence with the same pen pal for years.
My friend and I kept in touch until the day I graduated and then…silence. I can’t say this tore me apart too much. I was starting my first year in public school, I was making all new friends, I was at the height of my gymnastics career, I simply had too many things going on. And eventually the memory of her faded.
As the years went on I struggled significantly in high school. I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t making friends, I was bored in my classes and literally gave up on trying, gymnastics was consuming my life and I didn’t care. Even though I kept my grades up, my mother grew concerned that my lack of motivation would eventually get the best of me…and she was right. Because of my attitude and some outside factors that would take way too long to explain, after high school I literally did nothing with my life. I sat at home all day, waitressed at night, never went out, and never even considered going to college. I think it was probably a combination of me eating all my parents food and my mom wanting me to amount to something in life, but eventually she had enough. One night she sat me down and to keep things short said, “What do I need to do to motivate you.” Me being the brat that I still occasionally am told her that I needed incentive to go to college. Because you know, a successful career, independence, and socialization didn’t seem intriguing enough for me at the time. So long story long, she promised me that if I graduated college (and I think she snuck in with a desired GPA) she would take me on a huge vacation where ever I wanted. This was enough to get my ass into gear.
After heading off to Mary Washington and taking my first geography class where my professor was a native South African, it suddenly dawned on me where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to my pen pal’s tribe in Tanzania, find out what happened to her, and go on a safari. As soon as I told my mom she was on board. Sadly, after planning this trip for the next three years we realized this was not entirely possible. To keep things short, we know nothing about where this tribe is except from my own 8th grade memories (which we all know is shit), certain places in and around Tanzania were getting too dangerous for tourists, and it was significantly more expensive than we thought.
So we “settled” for South Africa. And let me tell you, I told my mom exactly what I wanted out of this trip and she made it happen. Lets all take a moment of silence to praise the woman that is my mother. We don’t have a lot of extra money to spend…like ever…but damn did she make sure all my dreams were going to come true with this vacation. Oh, and let us not forget father dearest who is basically paying for everything. You duh real MVP.
So that’s basically how we got here…shall we get started on the actual adventures themselves?! I think so:
Day 1 [The Flight From Hell]
My mom told me that her one rule this vacation was that I’m not allowed to complain about anything. Well she never said I couldn’t blog. So let me tell you what exactly happened today. We got to the airport, checked our bags, and headed towards security. Everything was going fine until the big red flashers and alarms started going off when my mom’s carry on went through the scanner. I was fully prepared to make a run for it, but she said it might make us look bad. After they opened her bag they discovered a full bottle of shampoo which was about 25 oz of liquid. She had “forgotten” to check all the pockets of her frequently used carry on and apparently will never make the same mistake again. Because we are the whitest of white family, all standing there cackling at my mortified mother, they too found the situation amusing and after confiscating the bottle allowed us on our way.
We took the bus to the gate and proceeded to wait in the Carrabba’s restaurant and get shit faced for the next three hours…and by “we” I mean my mom, dad, and sister. I get super motion sickness so even the thought of drinking before getting on a flight made me feel gross. After about a 150$ alcohol bill we finally began to board our plane only to discover that our window seats which we had spent extra money reserving ahead of time were given to someone else, because of a booking error. It’s cool, we only had to sit in the middle row next to a shrieking baby for 8 hours..no biggie. (*insert first world problems here*) Luckily baby moved after about an hour because a larger seat up front had opened up and her mother realized it would just be nicer for everyone to relocate.
About 2 hours in we were all exhausted and tried to sleep, but it seemed as though Hades himself was on board with us. Literally every single person on the plane was beginning to strip while hastily pushing their flight attendant button with as much fury as they could muster. The attendants told everyone the same thing, that the individual TVs on the back of everyone’s seats was over heating the plane and either the entertainment could be shut off or it could cool down. So guess who sweat out all her toxins while flying to Ghana?! It was actually quite amusing seeing this many people half naked and angry at once.
After landing in Ghana with no sleep, my mother pulls out these wipes and starts cleaning her face while offering a wipe to everyone within reach only to discover they were basically clorox wipes and she’d mistaken the package to be her cleansing wipes. Once the new passengers were on we were off to Johannesburg where we had a two hour lay over. Apparently a bunch of celebrities came through the same time we landed and we got to hear everyone screaming for them. We asked several different people who it was, and the closest thing we could understand was “panettiere” which we can only assume means Hayden Panettiere was only feet away from us.
Apparently, my family as a group tends to look very lost because we had three different people come up to us grab our boarding passes and shuffle us through the airport at a rapid speed towards our gate. We just thought they were being really nice until we realized it was them looking for tips and we immediately had to hand over the cash…lesson learned…wear a “bitch face” at all times. After boarding our last flight we were finally off to Cape Town.
After arriving we had a private driver pick us up who was hilarious and was trying to teach us his “click” language the whole way to our hotel.
We had to look like the biggest idiots ever sitting in the back seat smacking our tongues around attempting to sound like him. He kept choking back laughter while saying things like, “that sounds pretty close” and “wow, um, yeah..almost.” He’s going to be our driver until Monday so we have time to improve.
On a serious note it was super humbling driving through the city to get to our hotel. There were literally tin shacks after tin shacks of where the impoverished locals live. I knew coming into this that there was going to be a huge visible gap between the poor and middle class here, but thinking it and seeing it was a completely different experience. There were mounds upon mounds of piled up trash on which children were sitting on top of. Most of the dwellings didn’t have electricity and were so run down that some of them had cardboard boxes as doors. It was hard to look at and take in.
To make me feel even more guilty, once our driver pulled up to the “hotel” where we would be staying we quickly realized to our delight that it was not in fact a hotel but a bed and breakfast style home. It is two huge houses attached by an open pool area. The rooms are beyond amazing, with huge ceilings and free standing bath tubs, and little fruit plates and customized notes…and free booze. Lets not forget the booze. And the B&B owner was super enthusiastic when showing us around. He kept saying, “and you can sit here any time you like…or here…or here” while pointing to various lounge chairs.
Here are a few images of the place:
I’ll be able to get better pictures of everything in the morning! We got here at their 10 o’clock at night, so it’s pretty dark.
And that’s about it for today. We spent literally 24 hours flying and waiting in airports and are all exhausted. Tomorrow Sarah and I go shark cage diving first thing in the morning, while mom and dad explore the town.
Until tomorrow folks, I’m off to bed!