‘Oh god, not again,’ I hear you groan.
But yes. Another summer, another holiday spent with more time spent in airports than in my house. I LOVE IT.
This time, it’s South Africa. I’m a project coordinator for an organisation called Tenteleni, and I cannot wait for it to get going.
For once I actually decided that a comfortable flight was worth the extra £20 in flight costs, so I flew with the comparatively luxurious Qatar Airways – I knew I’d really made it when I made the glorious discovery that they provide metal cutlery with their aeroplane food, rather than the accustomed plastic. Stopped over in Doha, Qatar, for a mere 6 hours (another perk of not skimping too much on flights), which boasted the accolade of ‘best airport in the Middle East’ – evidenced by such wonders as Apple iMacs for customers to browse the internet on… and a giant yellow 30-foot high statue of a teddy bear.
Anyway, 22-odd hours (and 5 films) later I emerged into Johannesburg airport, optimistic for the trip ahead. I had a couple of hours to wait around before Rachel, my partner for this job, would arrive, so I passed the time by getting us South African SIM cards (the woman in the shop found me inexplicably hilarious) and ringing up the car company to confirm the arrangements for picking it up the next day (I know, they’re letting me take charge of a car, I’m as bemused as you are). Rachel soon arrived, a lot more exhausted than I was after her three flights from Hanoi to Jo’burg, a grilling at passport control between flights, and an over-friendly fellow passenger with no sense of personal space. She apologised for her smell (there was no smell), and we caught up on the ride in the City Bug bus to Nelspruit, though we were both dead to the world before the end of the journey. We managed to get picked up from the drop off point by the lovely Paul, one of the owners of the Nelspruit Backpackers where we’re staying a few days, and had a whistle stop tour of the place (key points gathered: 1 pool, 2 dogs, 2 cats) before collapsing into our comfy bunks. Rachel is having to grapple with the issue of bunk beds with no ladders. Very amusing for me. I’m on the bottom bunk.
So we’ve been here a couple of days now, and have been starting to get things sorted for the project, ringing round to the schools that volunteers will be working in and various other people with a stake in the project. Everyone so far has been super friendly – and I am gradually overcoming my irrational fear of talking to people on the phone (I can tell already that it is not going to even slightly be a problem by the end of the 11th week here), but I’m still just mostly excited to meet people in person.
We’re here for a bit longer before heading off to our homestays in Lekazi for the rest of project (and that’s a whole new experience to be excited about!) – and hopefully tomorrow we will get to test out the pool (we didn’t get a chance to today – such hard workers we are). It’s very strange weather here; balmy English summer-type days followed quickly by suddenly descending darkness accompanied with autumnal chill. I quite like it. But I should have brought more socks.
We live and learn. Here’s to the beginning of a new chapter of the never-ending gap year!