I realize that I never wrote about our trip home from Africa and so I am going to do that now. On our last day in Africa we had the option of doing some more shopping or hanging out by the pool. Dan and Tina volunteered to take the kids to a crocodile farm as well. Most of us spent the morning hustling through "the market" and getting good deals. Some members of our group made the vendors quite happy, I think, judging from the number of packages in their arms. Matt met Mr Discount. When Matt met him, Matt told him, "Mr Discount, meet Mr Cheap". Some of us, including Sharon, his wife, were in the "real" stores nearby when Matt found us and quite excitedly told us all about his adventures with Mr Discount. He showed us all the stuff he got and we agreed that he not only did well, he did great!!! Greg, Kyle and I went over with Matt to Mr Discount and were able to get all that we wanted for just about what I wanted to spend. We spent "American" and traded Kyle's old Nike tennis shoes. Mr.Discount didn't want to come to my price, but he sure wanted the shoes. I finally asked for the shoes back and started to leave 'cause he wouldn't come down to my price in dollars. He very quickly came after me and I think everyone was happy with the deal. So, I have a lot more confidence in my bargaining now should we ever go back. Maybe it will help at yard sales .
After we left the market place, we went back out to the main street and checked out some of the stores there. The main street through Vic Falls has several nice stores. Some of them will bargain, but most will not. We (Jean had found it on Wed) even found a Christian gift shop. Greg and I ended up joining upwith Tina and followed her as she power shopped. That was an amazingexperience. I don't think I've ever moved through a group of stores so fast!Being in town was also an interesting experience. You just kind of have to be aware all the time. There are people who will try to exchange money with you on the street. They promise a good rate, but they generally end up stealing/cheating you. There are also people who will try to sell drugs to you. Kyle had the experience of a man telling him "good stuff" as he made the motions of smoking pot. Tina called Dan at one point and switched from English to Swaheli (not generally spoken in Zimbabwe) to discuss money. A person NEVER makes their intention to exchange money known if at all possible.
Tina and Dan took most of the kids to the crocodile farm shortly after that. Those of us who didn't go ate lunch and did final packing. At about one we all packed up the bus and headed for the airport. The Victoria Falls airport is like any small airport...SMALL. We checked in with no problem, got the kids something to eat and then went to sit at gate. As we were sitting and waiting we could see the luggage being piled up outside near the runway. When we finally boarded (late) each person had to identify their luggage and then the luggage was loaded on the plane. Some of the observant members of our party noticed that there were some large trunks with "The Billionaire" written on the sides. Our friends from the falls, we are fairly certain. So, we are on board our plane, we have boarded late and now we have to wait for our luggage to be loaded. While that was going on the stewardesses passed out kid activity packs in large red vinyl packages to all the kids and then the young at heart. We thought that was a good start to the flight. Ha! That was the most positive part of the flight. When that was done, the captain came on and told us that there are 3 things they strive for: to be on time, to be safe and (I think) to have a pleasant trip. So, he says that we are already late, but should be able to make up time; the flight from Johannesburg to Vic Falls was quite bumpy and would be that way to Jo-burg (so much for pleasant) and in order to be safe we were going to have to sit on the runway for 15 mins to burn 2,000kg of fuel. Every passenger showed up for the flight and the luggage was heavy (no duh with the huge Billionaire trunks loaded) so in order to fly safely we needed to lighten the load by burning fuel. Of course, that gave many of us visions of not having enough to land in Jo-burg.
We burned the fuel and took off. Shortly after take off we hear a commotion behind us. As Caolinn and I are looking around to see what is going on, I feel a drop of water on my hand. The people making the noise were making it because they were getting wet. Then so were Caolinn and I. Water was dripping on us from the overhead compartments. We ALL tried to get the stewardess's attention. She really didn't do anything, so an international group of people solved the problem with pillows and blankets and by emptying the overhead compartments. We never really did figure out what the water was, but it did stop dripping on us and the other people. After the cabin service, we called one of the stewardesses over to ask her to notify the airport at Jo-burg that there were 19 people on this flight that needed to make a connecting Lufthansa flight and we were not going to make it unless they gave us some help. Our flight was for 7:15 and we weren't going to land until 6 or later. The stewardess told the pilot, the pilot notified the ground crew and they said someone from South African Airlines would meet us at the gate and get us onto our next flight. Sigh of relief.
Yes, our flight was quite turbulent. At one point I just closed my eyes and prayed for the best. Very interesting thing, though, Caolinn who when we very first talked about this trip had said NO WAY! I am not flying, was sitting next to me patting my arm telling me that it wasn't too bad and we would be fine! Very cool the way God works! And I have to tell you all that in my mind I figured we had done the mission trip, we had seen most of our family (including extended family and some people we hadn't seen in awhile) prior to going and so there wasn't any reason why we wouldn't die on that flight. (Sometimes I am so silly). As you all know we did live. So, when we landed in Jo-burg, we were quite late. No way did we make up the time we'd lost. We got off the plane and looked around for our SAA representative and there wasn't one! We ran to the Lufthansa counter...there was no one there. We got some other airline representative's attention and the checked for us. The Lufthansa gate was closed and they weren't letting anyone else on. They had never been notified about us and they had filled our seats with passengers who were waiting due to earlier flight problems. Needless to say we were all a bit on edge about this development. Matt and John ended up at the SAA counter trying to get help and to get us out that night. In the end six of our group got out that night on British Airways, but the rest of us got to spend the night in Jo-burg. Matt and John were at the SAA counter for 2 hours working on finding flights for us and getting our need for food and shelter taken care of. The woman who helped them found us all a flight out the next night on an almost direct flight- one stop in Senegal to let people off and take more on. We were then given passes for rooms at the nearby Holiday Inn and meal tickets for dinner, breakfast and lunch. The SAA representative asked if we wanted suites. We said "YES!" When we got to the hotel, they almost laughed at us. They don't have suites. We all got rooms with 2 double beds. We did get an extra room for the Kanas family since they have 5 members and really needed one more bed. We ate dinner there at The Spur restaurant! The Spur was one of the restaurants at The Kingdom and Mike had had a pretty bad experience there. When we had pulled up at the hotel and I saw the sign for the restaurant, I couldn't believe it. We all had a good laugh over that. Anyway, dinner was good (we all ordered WHATEVER we wanted since it was on SAA) and the service was quite good. Then it was off to bed for us.
Just as a short note here: I was proud of Kyle. He really wanted to make that Lufthansa flight 'cause we were going to have a 3 hr lay over in Germany. He was looking forward to that and then had it abruptly taken away. He was angry at first, but managed to get calmed down and was even joking by the time we left the airport that night.
OK, only one more installment after this...I promise. Tomorrow I will write about our day in Jo-burg, but enough for now.