Our 16 hours on the flight home was spent very similarly to the 16 hours we spent on the flight to Johannesburg: in an endless attempt to either sleep or properly amuse ourselves so that we wouldn’t go absolutely insane.
Oh, and also eating.
The seat-back televisions are really a godsend. Being able to watch the movie that you want, when you want is quite handy. At little drowsy during my personal screening, I must’ve put Up on pause three or four times. Great movie, though.
The seat-back televisions have a surprisingly decent variety of entertainment to choose from: everything from documentaries to new releases to television shows and DVDs. I went for the sappy (Dear John), the sweet (Up) and the shocking (Intervention). Lauren watched The Blind Side and Up, among others. We both dabbled in the games, too. A little Sudoku here, a little solitaire there.
Lauren popped an Ambien and was out for a good stretch. I’d wake her up for food and she would stay alert enough to eat her meal and put her garbage on my tray table before passing back out.
I didn’t sleep so well. Or much at all, if I recall correctly. That was not fun.
My many hours of wakefulness allowed me to spend quality time filling out our Customs Declaration Form. How many t-shirts did we buy in the last two weeks? And at what average price? How much was that slingshot? How do you spell biltong?
When we arrived in Atlanta, we were welcomed back to the country with our Favorite Thing Ever: a line! A lengthy one, too. However, after standing in line for 40 minutes or so, we were cleared through customs. Hurray!
(Side note: the number of people in that line who had a vuvuzela or four hanging out of their carry-on luggage was hilarious. Definitely the souvenir of the tournament.)
After passing through customs, we had to collect our luggage and stand in another line to have that inspected. The man checking our luggage took one look at our Customs Declaration Form and – bingo! – we were shuffled to another line. The line for people stupid enough to bring meat into the country. I’m not sure why, but I’d been naïve enough to believe everyone who told me that bringing biltong into the country was perfectly acceptable, as long as it had been vacuum packed. And when I say everyone, I mean a few South Africans and other foreigners and definitely no Americans. Not smart! For someone who researched as obsessively as I did, not to mention the fact that we’d decided to buy Dad biltong fairly early into our trip, it was a pretty amateur move. I was kicking myself all the while we stood in yet another line, watching the time to our next flight tick down. It was not my finest moment.
We made it through. I dug the biltong out of my (overweight) luggage and handed it over. We rushed to recheck our luggage, grab some McDonald’s breakfast and board on our plane to Detroit.
The trip from Atlanta to Detroit was largely uneventful, minus a little tiff Lauren got into with a flight attendant who labeled her “incapacitated” because she was wearing her arm sling. (Note to all flight attendants: calling a physical therapy student something so politically incorrect after she’s been travelling for 18 hours probably isn’t a great idea.)
And then – finally, miraculously, tremendously and not a moment too soon, our long day of endless travel was over. We were in Detroit. In Detroit with a lot of souvenirs, desperately needing showers and with our Mom was waiting for us at the luggage carousel.
It was good to be home.