Category: south Africa, 2019

Thoughts on the Flight to Joburg

March 27-28

Well, here I am, sitting on a plane, only about nineteen hours from landing in Joburg. I have a 2-hour flight to Atlanta, about a 2-hour layover there, and then a 15-hour flight to Joburg. So, whattayoudo?

Well, there’s certainly no rush. My current plan is the following:

Do a little blogging

Perhaps read a bit

Perhaps text a bit (Delta offers free texting, which may or may not be a blessing; we’ll see)

Then, en route to Joburg……

Perhaps eat a little

Perhaps look at photos from Morocco

Perhaps look at one or more movies

Try to sleep (I’m generally not successful, but I’m gonna try an Ambien)

So, there’s a lot of “perhaps,” which I think is just fine.

A few further reflections on Morocco. In the eight days we’ve been back, we’ve been asked by many friends how our Morocco trip was. Our general answer, “very good, but not one of the top few we’ve taken,” is accurate, but not really fair. Not every trip we take can be one of the top few. Fact is that Morocco was damn good by any reasonable measure. We saw many interesting things, experienced some street life and probably had the best accommodations, overall, of any trip we’ve taken.

Though I need to spend a lot more time on photos, the time I’ve spent already indicates that I’ve got enough decent shots to satisfy me. Maybe I’ll wind up with twenty, give or take, that are worthwhile. Here’s are three that I like. I did not take many photos, compared to what I might usually take on a trip of that length, probably 800-900. I look forward to spending a lot more time with these photos after this trip. I expect that I’ll take many more photos on this trip, since it is, specifically, a photo trip.

So, I’ve learned a few things since Morocco, from a Japanese poet, artist and peace activist and from a Lyft driver from Mexico City.

Recently, Carol and I read “Painting Peace” by Kazuaki Tanahashi. It’s quite an interesting book, dealing with his fifty years of active engagement in International peace movements, his schooling in aikido and in Buddhism, his poetry, his translation of Dogen poetry and his approach to painting. As a long-time lazy person, I love his take on laziness, “It’s a tough job to be lazy, but somebody has to do it. Industrious people build industry. Lazy people build civilization.” He says that laziness does not mean doing nothing but doing less. It can also mean being effective, as in, “I’m too lazy to be ineffective.” And, in Dogen, Tanahashi says, every encounter we have is a miracle. Nice.

My Lyft driver on the way to the airport today, on hearing that I was going on a photography trip, said, “I love photography. When you take a picture it no longer lives just in your mind. You can look at it and think about it. It’s like capturing time.” I love the concept of photography as “capturing time”. I suppose that it also allows us to relive moments of our lives, and to share them with others.

My Lyft driver was from Mexico City. Still is, actually. He comes here to earn money and every two months goes back home to be with his wife and two children for a couple weeks. The type of person our president wants to protect us from.

So, less than four hours from Joburg now, I can report that I did a little bit of most of what I thought perhaps I’d do. For the most part, not worth expounding on, with one exception. Flipping quickly through over 9000 photos I have on my iPad was pleasurable, recalling prior trips we’d taken and seeing photos of the grandchildren in various stages of their growing up (funny how there are many pictures of the grandkids and almost none of their parents).

But there was one photo, in particular, that I was looking for that I thought might be there, and I found it. This photo, of Albie Sachs and his partner, Vanessa, was taken 16 years ago in Capetown, on a trip we took with our friends, Judd and Linda Miner and Bob Bennett and Harriet Trop. This was Carol and my first trip to Africa, and may well still be our favorite trip, ever.

I think it was Bob who had a connection to Albie, a prominent activist in the anti-Apartheid movement, who lost his right arm in a car bomb explosion. Undaunted, Albie continued his activism and became a member of the Constitutional Court in South Africa. Vanessa is a practicing architect. We spent a delightful evening, drinks at Albie and Vanessa’s home and dinner out, one of the most memorable experiences of a very memorable trip.

Thirteen years later, when we took our granddaughter, Zoe, to South Africa, Albie hosted us for tea at his home and invited us to an art opening of paintings by the wife of the Spanish ambassador to South Africa at which Albie was giving some remarks. Vanessa joined us at the opening and at the small dinner afterwards to celebrate the opening to which Carol, Zoe and I were invited. As we entered the restaurant, Vanessa whispered to Zoe, asking her whether she would mind if Vanessa sat next to her at the dinner. How sweet is that!

In his eighties, Albie had not missed a step, flying all around the world to consult on peace issues. He had recently been to Colombia and the day after our dinner was flying off to deliver a major address in Toronto and then to meet with some professors at Harvard Law School. Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing Albie on this trip. But I’m thinking about him, and Vanessa.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, I am met at the door of the aircraft with my name on a paging board and assisted through immigration, baggage collection and customs. These special services really help on long trips like this. I am then shown to the Arrivals Hall to meet my driver, Freedom Dube, who has driven for me twice before on trips to Joburg.

Johannesburg is Africa’s commercial and industrial powerhouse, as well as the heart of the political struggle against apartheid. No more than 2 hours flight from Cape Town, Windhoek, the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, the Kruger National Park and the Mozambique islands, it is an ideal springboard into the rest of the sub continent. Affectionately known as Jo’burg (or Jozi or e’Goli – City of Gold) it is the largest city in South Africa, and surprisingly also one of the greenest – more than 6 million trees have been planted here in what was originally flat grassland veld. Jo’burg’s origins are firmly ensconced in the mining industry, with particular reference to the discovery of gold in 1886, which saw an unprecedented gold rush and the city literally burgeoning overnight.

Jo’burg boasts a colourful and multi-cultural mix of people with an energy that gives it the moniker the ‘New York of Africa’ and is currently undergoing large scale rejuvenation and renovation, particularly within downtown Jo’burg, where the Newtown precinct has received an injection of cash and creativity. Here, the emphasis is on arts and culture, theatre, dance, music, crafts, restaurants and bars and is easily accessible by the Nelson Mandela Bridge, which is itself worth a visit. I’ll be going to this area tomorrow.

Freedom drives me to The Parkwood, a boutique hotel highly recommended by my travel against. It seems cozy and comfy, and hopefully will afford a good night’s rest. Dinner at he hotel was, surprisingly, absolutely delicious. It may turn out to be the best meal i have in SA. I’m hoping not, because that would mean that I’m in for one or more terrific meals.

3 comments to Thoughts on the Flight to Joburg

  • Bob Heywood

    Hi Arnie!

    Your thoughts on photography and capturing time bring to mind reflections on the 20 or so years that I photographed weddings… after converting to digital from film, I would regularly capture about 2000 images per wedding… @ 1/125 sec per shot, that’s 16 seconds of a long and event filled day. I realized this as I was driving home late one night from a particularly challenging affair, and the idea caught me short… all this chasing around, equipment hassles, fears of getting lost, Mother of the Bride stress, drunk groomsmen, rude reception hall management, etc etc etc for only 16 SECONDs!!! And 15 of those seconds would probably be edited out!

    Probably best to not over think it. Enjoy your travels, and keep on capturing time!

  • arnie

    Love this comment, Bob. I think I’d last about 1/125th of a second as a wedding photographer, but I find travel photography a lot more fun. No drunken groomsmen.

  • Phoebe Snell

    I love looking through old photos because it brings me back to old memories! Glad you landed safely!

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