Friday, August 20, 2010

Crocs have invaded Madagascar

Note sure how to transition from regular blogging to posting journal entries, but I'll give it a go...

August 18, 2010. 7:52pm San Diego International Airport.
I am through security and the first person to arrive at the gate. I am sobbing. Tears are streaming down my cheeks and I have a completely soaked the nasty Kleenex which is griped in my hand. I can barely see my computer screen. I am 100% heartbroken to leave Ron. I knew this would be hard, but honestly, this is much worse than even I expected.

Plus, I f*cked up my flights. I booked on Travelocity and knew that I would have to transfer from EWR to JFK. Sounds like no big deal, right? I didn’t think it would be, as my itinerary says “transfer via AirTrain.” Well, it is a big deal when you have 220lbs of checked luggage along with as much carry-on as I can stuff into my two bursting bags. Normally at the airport of departure, I would be able to get boarding passes and check my luggage all the way to my final destination. Now, not only to I have to lug all of my bags from EWR to JFK in a taxi (I simply can’t haul all my luggage on the AirTrain), but I have to pay the baggage fees twice! Rookie mistake, I suppose. I had a serious melt down at the Continental counter when I realized. Well, that and 75 other serious meltdowns today.

8:25pm. Finally clued in that I was at the wrong gate. Flight leaves in 1hr. Must be careful not to “pull a Marni*”, like missing my flight while thinking the plane must be delayed, and how odd that I am the only one at the gate. I have all my really important things with me (Gary, my passport, computer, credit cards, phone, medications and $4000 cash) and must not lose anything or get lost. MUST NOT PULL A MARNI.

*Pulling a Marni refers to my tendency to sometimes act without thinking my actions through. Examples include taking Ron and I to the Medan Airport 24-hrs before our flight departed and 24-hrs after our visas expired (those cancel each other, right?), taking HAM to US Customs and Border Protection for an import inspection with duct tape over the VINs (I had parking tickets!), or waltzing over the San Yasidro border crossing with the intention of waltzing directly back over with my shiny new visa (It took 10hrs during which bribed, budged, nearly got beaten up by an old lady, and was almost kidnapped under a bridge).

Aug 19, 2010. 8:46am SD time, 11:46am Eastern time. Airbourne from JFK.
Survived the night flight. Barely. Slept a little. Cried a lot. Got to EWR and made a poor decision that I would like to call “sketchy cab.”

I was dazed and looking for the carousal for my luggage. I thought I found the correct carousal and figured I’d better find a cart, or rather, 2 carts for my 4 jumbo bags and 3 medium bags. A normal-ish looking older gentleman asked me if I was needed a taxi. At first I said no. The nice lady (Trish) that helped me at the Continental counter in SD said to look for a porter in a red vest and ask them for the best way to get myself and ALL my bags to JFK. So, I was gawking around for a red-vester, but had already found baggage claim without spotting a single person in a red vest. So, I turned around and told the helpful man that I was in fact looking for transport. I told him that I had a zillion pounds of luggage and we agreed on $90 for the 60min ride to JFK. He was immensely helpful and got carts and helped me will all my bags. Thank goodness. Then we went out to the car. Instead of going to where all the other taxis were, we took an elevator up and then walked up to a regular (non-cab-ish) looking car. He asked another man to help get my bags into the car, at which time I pointed out that this car “did not look like a cab.” Both of the men replied, no it’s a car service. The assured me that I could get a receipt and gave me a business card. They also pointed out the official looking number in the window. Something just didn’t seem right at this point, so what did I do? Got in and buckled up.

Clearly, I was not killed and raped, as I would not likely be chatting about the incident if I had. I was rather worried that I would be killed and raped though. The nice gentleman “Xavier” or told me how risky it is to solicit passengers as he had me. Apparently the minimum fine is $500, so Xavier said he had to keep his soliciting on the DL. No shit. He also told me that I was getting such a screaming deal because he was not technically licensed to transport, well, people. That being said, he was actually a fairly good tour guide and pointed out some bridges, Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Atlantic, etc. One we got to JFK, he said that I must pay him in the car and that he would not be able to talk to me once I was out of the car. We pulled up and he asked the “airporter” dudes to help me with my bags. They got into a screaming match about whether or not they would remove bags from his car, but eventually they did.

Yeesh. My decision making skills need a kick in the arse.

Getting my bags checked in with South African Airways was less than pleasant… Apparently the checked luggage limit is 4 pieces. I had 5. Apparently they don’t accept over-weight items. I had one whopping 72lb bag. They told me “no.” I told them “no.” They hummed and hawed. I hummed and hawed. They asked for $550. I gave them $550. They told me not to try to check 5 bags again. I asked why not?
Anyhow, in all of this, I am still placing the vast majority of my nearly being killed and raped AND being $1040 poorer on Travelocity. I even called a couple of weeks ago to ask which airline fees I would have to pay for my extra baggage- would it be with the carrier I checked in with in SD or would it be the carrier of my final destination? They said Continental, since they had an agreement with South African Airways. You better believe I am going to draft one heck of a nasty gram for Travelocity.

In between all of that, I sobbed quite a bit more and talked to Ron a number of times. I complained about JFK- there was no Starbucks and no WiFi. Granted there was Pete’s and Boingo, but that’s not how I roll.

Also, Meghan is not on this flight. She left a frantic message just as I was boarding. She was connecting from DC and her flight got in late. There was 40 minutes before “our” flight left, but TSA rules stipulate that you must have 60min of time between scheduled flights or you will not be permitted to board. So her Dulles-JFK flight was getting sent back to Dulles for rescheduling. Oy.

Aug 20, 2010. 10:56am local time. On flight from Joburg to Tana.
I was just served a “light snack” on my South African Airways flight. Light snacks on North American flights may include a teenie tiny bag of pretzels or peanuts, or I once got a ½ donut on a Frontier flight. My SA light snack choices were beef, chicken, or veggie. I chose veggie and got the following: two spinach crepes, pasta salad, white chocolate pudding, whole wheat crackers, cheese, a chocolate bar, a bag of peanuts and a box of orange juice.

I have now been traveling for 32hrs and remarkably am feeling not too bad. I slept quite a bit on the earlier flight. I opted not to have any of the lovely South African wine and I think I am fairing much better for it. My biggest complaint is that I am f*cking freezing and have been for about 20hrs. For some reason, SA air cabins are kept at the same temperature as meet lockers.

There is a passenger behind me whom I would like to call “loud Chinese a&%hole”, who is a loud Chinese a&%hole. Go figure.

Am not feeling as completely bleak as I was earlier. The sobbing has stopped, which I am sure my fellow air travelers appreciate. When I border the plane at JFK, I was of course sobbing, and handed the lady working at the gate my ticket, passport, and one drenched snot rag. She took it with a look of shock and horror.

I thought that I had a 3hr layover in Joburg, but I actually had to haul ass to get to my flight. What a bummer, because the shopping in that airport is fantastic. I was going to buy some yoga-style pants and another hoodie, since I am f*cking freezing, but had no time. I did however take advantage of the 2 bottle limit of duty free SA wine (one Shiraz and one Syrah). I will enjoy those from the bush!

August 20, 2010. 4:33pm local time. Antananarivo, Madagascar. Hotel Sakamana.
Arrived without much drama. I just had a shower which was so wonderful after 38hrs of travel. Most interesting tidbit thus far- Crocs have invaded Madagascar. For shiz.


  1. hi Miss, so glad you made it there mostly unscathed! The sobbing was a normal reaction to going so far away it might as well be another planet...

    Good luck - we are back here thinking of you and smiling at your blog/journal!! <3

  2. Marni, you make me laugh. Good luck in Mada, I'm envious. I pulled a Marni in Edmondton. Never ever take the airport shuttle in Edmondton. I highly recomend the Maison du Pyla bed and breakfast when you come back to Tana. A bit outside of the main downtown area but it is worth it.