It’s been a while since I’ve posted. A second child has proven even more detrimental to my bloggage output than the first. But I’m still here, and I plan to be posting updates more frequently, as we anticipate major changes in the next few months.
The next few posts will be a travelogue of my trip to Stellenbosch for my dissertation defense.
When I originally booked my trip for the defense, my advisor told me to count on a day during the week of January 27-31, so I planned to arrive on Saturday, January 25, and to depart late in the evening on January 31. Once the date was fixed, it turned out to be Friday, January 31, at 11am (SAST)–so I plan to defend, celebrate, and fly out in the same day! I will certainly provide an update on Friday, and you can bet that my CV and education info on Facebook will be updated that afternoon.
So a Friday departure left me with nothing to do from Saturday afternoon to Friday morning, except to re-read my dissertation in preparation for the defense. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My journey began Thursday afternoon with a 2.25-hour drive up to Nutley, NJ, where I dropped off my car at my old church and went to stay the night at my former pastor’s house. Don and Leigh’s kids are all grown up now! Don–surname withheld to protect his anonymity–has become something of an expert “secret shopper,” so he showed me how he gets free meals at restaurants, nights at hotels, etc., by submitting reports as an agent of a company that helps major service firms evaluate their employees. Translation: Free beers and steak at Applebee’s! It was great to catch up with Don and hear about his new role in parachurch ministry after 17 years as a senior/solo pastor.
He dropped me off at Newark Airport at 6am for a 7:50am flight. I still don’t know exactly why airlines recommend getting to the airport 2-3 hours before departure for international flights. In my experience, my time from drop-off to gate is purely a function of how long it takes to check my bags and get through the Security Theatre–mostly the latter. Of course, it takes longer to board a larger plane, but it turned out to be only about 20% full.
We were scheduled to arrive a little before 8pm GMT in London. But we sat at the gate in Newark for an hour because of a problem with the air conditioning system. A side note: I much prefer when the captain/crew provide periodic detailed updates on a delay, rather than just, “we’re delayed because of mechanical problems.” Even if you don’t have details, make them up! It reassures the impatient passengers that someone is working to get the plane moving, even if it doesn’t make the repairs go any faster.
Because of the delay, I barely made my connection in London. I had to run down what seemed like an endless hallway with my backpack bouncing and my coat in hand, rush through security again, and then leg it down a hall exactly parallel to the one I had just run through back to the gate. I and the other passengers transferring to the Cape Town flight made it onto the flight, but–we would find out later–our bags did not. So, after a completely-full 11-hour overnight flight, I had only the clean underwear and toothbrush that I had conscientiously packed in my backpack.
Professor Jonker picked me up at the airport around noon SAST on Saturday, sans suitcase. I also realized along the way that I had forgotten to pack my laptop cable, but he was very kind to lend me his spare cable–so I got the powwahh! After a late lunch and picking up some groceries for dinner, I had a shower at the room and put on my clean skivvies. I tried to stay up as late as possible to complete the time-change, but I ended up falling asleep at about 6pm, then waking up at 10, and sleeping again from 11:30 to 7am. But all in all, not too bad a journey.
I like the visual of you running down the endless hallway. Of course, thinking of you in the airport brings to mind the memory of me carrying you around in the front pack during a layover somewhere, eating clam chowder with crackers, and getting your sweet thatch of red hair full of cracker crumbs and chowder drops.
It seems that when one is in the airport, one is often either rushing or killing time.