Welcome to Johannesburg, City of Gold.

South Africa, easily my number one fascination in the world for as long as I can remember. I was THAT girl – the one who aced the location and pronunciation of Lesotho in elementary geography classes as a country in South Africa’s center; the girl who gave heart felt speeches in Junior High, High School AND College Public Speaking courses on apartheid; the one who knew everything from South Africa being known as ZA to their country long distance code; the one who taught herself short phrases in Afrikaans and kept a long term pen pal relationship with “middle school boyfriend” Tommy Pullen before losing touch when he received his rugby scholarship to London where he planned on becoming a lawyer. We were the best of friends for 7 or 8 years after our unlikely meeting – me as an 8th grader who knew everything about his country, on a Disney World field trip with a bunch of students. He was a year older than me, all the way from Port Elizabeth. He played rugby, was keen on surfing as much as the tides would allow, made straight A’s and was visiting Florida as one of seven students that South Africa had granted a NASA scholarship. He was there visiting the Orlando headquarters. Who knew the ironic paths my life would take me from that moment forward regarding so many likenesses to that one passing in time.

Here we are, JM and I, with his brother, Shaun and our very best friend, Jeff. We are enjoying a brisk morning of tea in Jo’burg, South Africa. We arrived last night.

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The plane ride was a fantastic experience. We had first class individual pods that lay down all the way. I think they are built for average size people – weight and height – but I was comfortable enough to sleep most of the 14 hour flight. I watched a movie during the in-flight dinner which was an amazing steak, soup, fruit, cheese plate, roll, wine, dessert wine, and I don’t even know what else. I was so stuffed! The list of movies was about 40-long and all free! After dinner I slept about 3 hours before waking up completely and needing another sleeping pill. From there I was out cold!!! I think the only reason I woke up again was the announcement that they were prepping to land within 2 hours and serving the final meal and I surely didn’t want to miss that! I am one of those people who can’t not eat when being served but am always sure to regret it. I always eat what’s on my plate and then wonder why I weigh what I did in high school, back when my mom was feeding me… And feeding me well!

Eating last night was an adventure however. JM and I ordered tapas. Despite staying at the Westcliff, in five star amenities and spoiling ourselves by taking over the entire presidential suite (which I was very confused to find they have pictures of American presidents) the Rand trades at 12 cents to the dollar so food here at the Polo Par, below our suite, was 12 dollars for the nicest dish. JM and I opted for the tapas however which were all about 4-6 dollars. We had calamari, ostrich spring rolls, a type of cheese, and what ended up being a sort of beef jerky dish that all of us devoured. We opted for two plates of the calamari too although I am always a big fan of ostrich.

This morning has been stunning so far. Despite waking up at 4:01am African time, I watched the sun come up (it is a rainy day so not spectacular) and began to hear the most awkward noise like people screaming. Turns out this was the noise of hundreds of native birds awakening. If you have seen the movie up, this is the noise of Kevin and all of his friends. Small yellow puffed up birds and birds with Mohawks started arriving at our veranda as I opened the door. It was wonderful! I attempted to do yoga at the veranda opening to great the day with Sun Salutations. Since it has been so long the warrior positions were a bit much for my left ankle post-surgery but it was a start none the less. A shower and some morning oolong were a perfect start. Now for some breakfast…

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