South Africa: Day One

Jena Tesse Fox is on location in South Africa to attend Indaba at Durban. But before she writes reports from the event, she shares her experience crossing the Atlantic, and time zones, to get there.

Onboard the Plane: Around 8 p.m. New York Time

Memo to self: When getting ready to board a 15-hour flight, it’s probably not a good idea to chug two cups of very strong coffee. Sleeping on planes is challenging enough, but with more caffeine running through your veins than blood, it’s almost impossible.

I’m writing this while sitting (begrudgingly awake) in a very comfortable business-class seat on South African Airlines Flight 204, nonstop from New York City to Johannesburg. The seat stretches out to a fully flat bed that’s remarkably private (thanks to a screen separating me from my seatmate) and roomy; the blankets are warm; and the food (apart from some asparagus that had seen crisper days) is quite tasty. (Good risotto on a plane? Who would’ve believed it?!)

The coffee that’s keeping me awake (against my will) was consumed in JFK’s Swiss Lounge, which is available for business-class passengers of numerous airlines. While the food options this morning were rather scant, the fruit was fresh and the coffee strong (really strong. Have I mentioned that?). The quiet room had reclining seats with massage options (great for sore muscles), though the thin walls meant it really wasn’t all that quiet. But the lounge was spacious and bright, and made for a much more calming start to this insanely long journey than sitting for three hours by the gate would have been.

By the way, Wall Street? Really good movie. Glad the plane had some classics to keep us entertained.

Update—9a.m. (3 a.m. New York Time)

Have landed safely in Johannesburg (or, as the locals call it, Jo’burg, or as they pronounce the full name, Janesburg). Napped a little on the plane. Forgot the nice little cosmetic case South African Airlines gave me, which included some much-needed lip-balm and a hairbrush. See what happens when you’re sleep-deprived?

Apparently, when connecting from an international flight to a domestic, visitors must clear customs, reclaim their checked luggage, re-check it for the domestic and then go through security all over again. Be sure to leave plenty of time between one arrival and one departure.

And now off to Durban


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