As much as I would prefer a non-stop flight I still have to consider my budget so when I the alert for the tickets from Athens, Greece to Johannesburg, South Africa popped up in my notifications I bought them. While I am quite tired of long layovers at airports this trip wasn’t too bad. We flew from Athens to Rome with a four-hour layover (6 pm -11 pm). The flight then took us from Rome to Ethiopia. The overnight flight meant we were at least able to sleep. My mini usually doesn’t sleep during flights, especially when there are free movies and games but due to the overnight flight she was sleep before the plane took off. We arrived at the airport in Ethiopia at 6 am with a two-hour layover that would take us to Johannesburg.
Our first flight out of Athens was through Alitalia and our two connecting flights were through Ethiopia Air meaning we were only able to get out boarding passes to Rome. When we arrived in Rome I asked if we would need to go back through check-in but was reassured we could get our tickets at boarding. Our boarding gate changed three times during the four-hour layover and we weren’t able to get our boarding passes until 40 minutes prior to boarding. Since we were considered as late check-in our seats had been given away and the only ones that were available were separate seats. I had no intentions of allowing my daughter not to sit with me so when we got on the plane I had to ask several people if they’d be willing to switch seats so that I could sit with my daughter. If we were sitting across aisles and it wasn’t an overnight flight I probably would have been okay with the seating arrangements but both out seats were center seats. I’ve had this happen before when I flew with Southwest domestically and it wasn’t a good experience. The stewardess on Ethiopia Air were very helpful and told me they would make sure we were seated together. Our second flight with Ethiopia Air was great too; we were served sandwiches AND dinner AND they came through with the beverages three times. The seating was the first event we faced, once we got to South Africa that’s when the fun began.
I try to do all the research I need before we venture to our next location. I check visa requirements, I practice a few conversational phrases, and I look up cultural practices – I don’t want to give the ‘okay’ sign and find out I just insulted someone. I wasn’t prepared to be stopped in South Africa and told that I was going to have to book a flight back home and be denied entry but that’s exactly what happened. When we got to the passport check I was asked for a copy of my mini’s birth certificate, which I had, and a copy of a consent form from her father. I had a signed letter from him giving me consent to travel with her. Since we have shared custody I already knew that some countries would require proof from the other parent to travel. However, the signed letter was a no-go. What I needed was an actual form. I wanted to go into panic mode but honestly, I was exhausted. A supervisor was called over and he escorted us to a room where I showed him what I had an explained everything to him. I was asked why I didn’t have a consent form or a letter from a lawyer stating that we had shared custody. I didn’t think I would need to carry those around. I then asked if I could be given some time to call my daughter’s father, have him complete the form, and send it back to me. They said they would accept a copy of the paper. The only problem, it was 6 am in Minnesota and I was certain my mini’s dad was not going to be awake but favor was on my side.
A few hours later, I was allowed clearance. We got out passports stamped and we were ready to roll. The first thing I needed to do was find an ATM so I could get some Rands. As we were exiting the airport looking for the taxi stand, a man approached and asked if we needed a taxi. Our drivers name was Happy and he gave us a mini tour while driving us to our AirBnB; he even offered to provide us with day tours that were cheaper than advertised prices. I haven’t decided if I’ll use his services just yet because I really want to go by tuk-tuk and their prices are way cheaper than taxis and Uber.
Once we finally arrived out our AirBnB all I wanted to do was sleep. Our host had already stocked the refrigerator so I didn’t have to worry about heading straight to the grocery store. They offered to take me after my nap. I was hesitant about staying at an AirBnB with no reviews, making me their first guest, but everything I could possibly need is here. We have two rooms, two beds, and, I know this may seem meaningless, but we also have a spatula. The kitchen is fully stocked. There are extra linen and towels and every cleaning supply we could need. For the price that I’ m paying for a month, I might just stay an extra month.
Last night, I got to know my host better as they live in the connected home. We sat on the patio talking and getting to know one another. They are a married couple, the wife is a former journalist, now and editor, and the husband is a scientist. Soon our discussion turned to current events. The students in Johannesburg are currently protesting and the protest have erupted in violence between the students and the police. I learned a lot more about the history of South Africa and they gave me a list of places I should visit. Today, I unpacked and am going to work on mapping out our stay.