BOTSWANA: The never-ending journey

It’s 1:45 a.m. in Johannesburg, South Africa and I’m sitting on a metal bench in the airport trying to occupy myself for six more hours until my plane leaves for Gaborone, Botswana. 

The place is completely empty except for nine sleeping people near me, whose snores all seem to have synced to the rhythm of the Frank Sinatra music playing over the airport speakers. 

On Tuesday morning, I hopped on a 7 a.m. flight from San Antonio to Washington D.C. I had a six-hour layover there, so I had plenty of time to browse through the hundreds of shops that sell mugs with President Barack Obama’s face and American flag sweaters. 

I settled into my seat in a huge airbus and prepared for what I thought was going to be a 12-hour journey to Johannesburg. It turns out that I’m incapable of doing elementary school level math, and the flight was actually 17 hours long. It seemed eternal, but we stopped in Dakar, Senegal to stretch our limbs and refuel the plane. 

I sat next to a very friendly man from Dakar. I could tell he was friendly because he laughed a lot and instigated our conversations. He had a very thick accent, and I’m not used to any accents except American, British and Australian, so I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t understand anything he said. I just did what all the socially inept do—smile and nod. He could have been brutally insulting me for all I know. I was sitting on the aisle and he by the window. He didn’t get up the whole flight, which seems sort of odd. Come to think of it, he must have asked me to  move so he could use the bathroom, and I probably smiled and nodded like an idiot, staying in my seat. 

Seventeen hours later I arrived here, where I’ve been waiting for eight hours. I feel like it’s been days. 

My accent-interpretation incapability got me in more trouble when I unknowingly made plans to meet this guy after his work shift for coffee. I smiled and nodded my way through that conversation until the end, when I finally understood the words, “So we’ll meet here at 10.”

My flight leaves at 8 p.m.

Anyway, I’m almost there. I’ll be at the University of Botswana for the semester. I’m eager, excited, anxious and exhausted.