We left out before the sun had even started to rise to meet at the airport at 5:30. This didn’t quite happen as planned and as some of us were late and having trouble figuring out where to go tempers began to rise. The frazzled group all scrambled to get bags checked we turned around to find Grandpa Henry standing behind us. Our grandparents were supposed to be on the 6AM flight that should have been leaving as we stood there talking to him. I said we were frazzled before but once we found out their plane had been cancelled and there was no hope of them getting on ours the true meaning of that word became highly apparent. With confusion abounding we all got separated into small groups but managed to meet up at the gate for our plane. Everyone scheduled for 7:00AM made it onto the plane but we all worried about whether or not Grandma Pat and Grandpa Henry would make it. The plane began to roll to the launching bad and faces visibly changed from worry for our grandparents to worry for our lives mixed with a touch of excitement. I know that personally my stomach lurched as the plane took off and I had to tell myself to take deep breaths to keep from losing it.
As we rose into the air the neat little rows of suburban toy houses seemed to shrink beneath us and the small cars that sped along the highway vanished behind layers of fluffy white clouds that looked soft enough to dissolve with one tiny touch. These too eventually fell below as we soared through the air. This tiny plane left much to be desired as far as room was concerned. With only three seats per row total there was no room to move around and we sleepless travelers stayed quiet for most of the flight but began to speak excitedly as we watched the New York skyline rise in the distance and our destination came one step closer and the reality of our travel began to sink in.
Once landed in New York our bags were automatically transferred to our South African Airways flight and we headed to a painfully slow security check. After having to separate each of our electronic devices and take them out of their cases and put them back we made it to our boarding gate. Here we all met back up and were also untied with Rick and his son Jack. With now 12 of us traveling together it became even harder to keep together especially as they boarded the huge plane and everyone flying began to huddle around the lines to enter. With everyone settled in their seats we began to calm down and relax for the 14 hour flight ahead.
Shortly after take off we were served a lovely dinner with beer and wine for those of us old enough to drink by South African standards (18 is the legal drinking age here). The lights were then dimmed to help us sleep so we could get on the proper South African sleeping schedule. For those who couldn’t sleep there was a Media Center at each seat equipped with TV, Games, music, and movies. As well as a camera attached to the outside of the plane to watch what we were doing and a travel map program that showed where we were, when we were expected to arrive, what part of the world was night and what was day, as well as the temperature outside (it got down to -70* F at one point!).