At the airport, we stopped at the Value Added Tax (VAT) counter to have our luggage inspected. Luggage inspection is the first of many steps required in order to be reimbursed for the 14% tax we paid on all of the souvenirs that we were bringing home. We opened up our bags, showed the inspector a few items, and waited for him to stamp all of our receipts.
Next was check-in, which would have gone quite seamlessly had my suitcase not been overweight. Significantly. We shuffled items around. Lauren rolled her eyes at my lack of packing prowess. I got annoyed. And, finally, we sent our luggage off into the belly of the plane.
Four pieces of luggage lighter, Lauren and I made our way through security and into the international terminal. The international terminal houses the VAT Refund Administrator’s Office, where we were to take our stamped receipts and jump through the next hoop in the tax refund process. The line was long. And full of restless, frustrated, time-crunched travelers such as ourselves. It really wasn’t a pleasant process. And we didn’t have a ton of time to waste.
The VAT Refund Administrator’s Office issues refunds in check form. So, in order for travelers to get cash for their VAT refunds, they stand in our third line of the whole refund process: at the currency exchange office! Lovely. We skipped this step and brought the check home with us. (Which reminds me that I should probably bring that to the bank.)
We found our gate and I headed off in search of some real food to get us through the flight. I find a café, pick up a couple of premade sandwiches, get in line and…oh. The credit card system is down and I’m all out of Rand. Fail.
I return to the gate and Lauren and I settle for the coffee shop that’s just outside of our gate. The flight has started boarding; we order a couple of smoothies and a muffin and get in line for our second security check. They search our bags. We both get patted down. Lauren has her White-Out confiscated. We both have our smoothies confiscated. Supposedly, Delta is the only airline that doesn’t allow passengers to take liquids purchased in the airport onto the plane. So annoying.
Settling into our seats was almost a relief. At least we wouldn’t have to stand in any more lines. …or queues, as they call them in South Africa. …or torture, as I’d like to call them after weathering line after line after line as we (slowly) made our way through O.R. Tambo.
The feeling of relief was temporary. How excited can you be about your seat when you’re stuck in it for 16 hours?
Not very. Not very excited at all.