My last day in Stellenbosch was spent getting final things worked out with the International office at the University and spending some more time with Christo and Andrea (the American student who just moved to South Africa). We took a drive out to one of the vineyards for a winetasting and then went to a berry farm for cheesecake and coffee. Christo says the berry farm has the best cheesecake in the world (and he supports this claim by saying that even Bob Pritchard and the Logos guys always ask to go there when they are in the area). Unfortunately, they have changed the recipe of the cheesecake (only Christo could have noticed that) and he says it is now “really good” but maybe no longer the “best in the world.” He says they took out some of the creaminess. It tasted superb to Andrea and me. The areas around Stellenbosch are just stunning. There are views of the mountains wherever you look. Most of the vineyards are nestled up onto the lower slopes of the moutains and have restaurants with outdoor eating areas. What a lovely way to relax! But we did talk business while we were eating our cheesecake. My research schedule seems to be headed in the right direction, so I was glad for the positive feedback.
I also got to spend a little time talking with Mrs. de la Bat again before I left. I will miss our conversations. I look forward to staying with her again.
My trip home began at 10 am on Saturday (South African time). I walked in the door at home on Sunday around 11:30 am (EST). That’s quite a bit of traveling in one stretch. The longest part was the 18.5+ leg from Johannesburg to Dulles, via Dakar. We stopped in Dakar to refuel and have security checks (more about that later). I was most worried about who I would be assigned to sit next to for this very long leg. The trip from Capetown to Johannesburg was not easy since I sat next to a large man who needed some of my seat. But, things worked out amazingly for the second flight. I sat next to a fourth-year med school student, from (of all places) U Penn! He had been in Botswana doing a 6 week rotation. He is a second generation immigrant from India. And he used to go to Tenth Presbyterian! And he knew all about Tim Keller’s upcoming talk about his new book that Mark is helping to organize. And he was just a great Christian brother to talk to (all you Hebrew students can consider those “ands” as “waws,” but can you tell what kind?). We had a great time sharing stories. Unfortunately, his video for his seat did not work, so after about 4 hours he insisted they move him over to a nearby empty seat so that he could watch some movies. That meant that I had no one sitting next to me for the rest of the flight.
I had downloaded the third episode of LOST to watch on the plane (I think I violated some download limits to do it- it took 4 days!). After watching it, I tried to sleep as much as I could. Halfway through the trip we landed in Dakar and all the lights came on. Only people who had their final destination in Dakar could deplane (only a handful). Then the fun began. A squad of security folks came on and checked every seat that did not have a person in it. They removed cushions, felt into seat pockets, looked all around the chair. Then everyone in the plane was requested to remove their carryon luggage and hold it in their lap. Seriously. On an international flight do you know how much carryon luggage some people bring? And for the entire plane to try to get all their luggage out of the lockers at the same time was hilarious. So, we all had to sit there juggling all these suitcases, backpacks, giftbags, etc., etc., so they could see if anything was unclaimed in the lockers. You can guess what they are trying to find. And the final zaniness to this middle of the night stop was that they then had to fumigate the plane. Yes, with us all in it. They walk through the plane and spray some cans of insecticide into the air. Oh, and I forgot to mention that after we landed the air vents had some kind of moist cold (read freezing) air pumped into the cabin, so that we had a kind of smoke-vapor emitting from all the vents (looked surreal).
The rest of the journey was pretty typical. You soon run out of positions to sleep in. The more hungry you get, the worse the airplane food becomes. And you have watched every video or documentary at least twice. I even tried to watch the movie Bees. I couldn’t finish it. The good news is that my luggage made it all the way to Dulles just fine. I got through immigration and customs without a hitch and even though the Philly flight was a little delayed, I eventually found my way to Mark in the terminal. Hurray! Wait, a minute. Is that Mark? What’s with the facial hair?
Anyway, I’m back home and unpacking, doing laundry, and trying to stay awake all day so that I can sleep tonight. Mark, on the other hand, is already taking a nap. He has been sick this week and then spent most of the weekend helping out with the teaching for a youth retreat before he retrieved me from the airport. I figure it will take a few days to get back into the swing of things, but already the to-do list is growing. I look forward to being back on campus on Monday and sharing more about the trip with people in person. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. It was fun to write about the experiences and to hear your comments.