I arrived at the O.R Tambo International Airport at 8am local time, approximately 2am Eastern. The direct flight from JFK Airport in New York was almost 15 hours. I was fortunate to have a window seat (and be awake at 3am) so I could see the Southern Hemisphere stars as we flew over the ocean along the Western African coast. The sunrise was beautiful and the views flying over Namibia and Botswana before reaching South Africa, though cloudy, were worth the lack of sleep.
Never did I think I would be here. As a kid, you read about all these places. In my house, you could find them on a globe or a map, probably find pictures in a recent issue of National Geographic, and (if you were my older brother) have a pen pal from Africa. As you grow older, you read about them/watch them on the news. I was struck with awe as I followed our in-flight map tracking our flight and looking out the window. I was going to Africa. Heck, I was already flying over it. Months of preparation had not prepared me for the wonder, awe, and exhaustion that washed over me when we were in range.
I flew on the same flight as three other classmates, and it was helpful to have a few pairs of eyes as we made our way through an unfamiliar airport through customs, to currency exchange, and over to the public transit terminal. Today has been mostly lying low waiting for the rest of our classmates to arrive, but trying not to fall asleep to get adjusted to the time difference. We’re staying in the richest square mile in all of Africa apparently and had lunch at the second largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere (second to somewhere in Australia). The mall courtyard features the third largest statue of Nelson Mandela in the whole country. The mall had some stores as familiar as Forever 21 and others I’d never seen or heard of. We opted for a food court adventure–which aside from Krispy Kreme and Cinnabon was mostly unfamiliar restaurants. I am grateful for prevalence Indian cuisine (read: known gluten free dishes) in local South Africa fare!! I look forward to trying other local dishes as well.
Tomorrow, we head to an NGO called Teboho Trust. More about that tomorrow!