The trip is about forty hours long, split between three take-offs and landings. Savannah to JFK to Istanbul to Johannesburg to Durban. In Savannah at the Jet Blue counter, I bump into Roxanne Howard, (Rarely do you meet someone with the same name, let alone as nice as can be.) the check-in person, for the second time. She’s grown out her hair into dread locks, and has the same expansive smile. She does the same double-take as she did when my the name on my passport flashes onto her screen, then realizes she’s not going anywhere and It's just me again. My fourth trip to South Africa. I get a pass on my very-slightly overweight baggage and the first seat on the aisle with the extra legroom. We selfie, we hug. I really feel she’s a lucky omen again for my long solo journey.
I’m the first one off the plane at JFK, not that it mattered. I have a four-hour layover. I always get a little homesick stopping in New York, where I lived most of my life. JFK is familiar turf so I manage the layover without a problem. I wish I had more time for a reunion with all the folks I left behind and miss a lot. I make a stop at MUJI to buy sketchbooks, one for me and one for Samuel. I’m dreaming of a side-by-side drawing session with him in my new flat, at my new dining table. I buy a juice for $7.50 out of desperation, (outrageous), do a lot of walking rather than any more sitting than I know I’ll have to, see DT, Jr., with his entourage in plain clothes strutting by my gate. Then it’s 11 hours to Turkey.
Istanbul’s recently opened, mega airport makes the nine-hour layover less daunting than my first trip through Turkey. I arrive at the same building I would be departing from. There is no crowded bus ride to an airstrip, but the same long wait, constantly checking the electronic departure board for my gate number.
The terminal is stadium sized with arched ceilings that spanned two levels. Shops are an escalator ride up, but the Starbucks on the gate level is a good reference point for not getting lost. So I don’t venture far from the coffees which keep me going in daylight. I'll have a better shot at sleep during the flight. The internet is better than the airport’s one free hour and my first spelling lesson in Turkish is riveting.
There is a giant screen that flashes “ask me” in Turkish and English, in a kiosk by the information desk. A larger than life person appears like a giant Face Time character, answering individuals’ questions. I am assured my Terminal is "A”, the gate may change. It wasn’t, it did. The more walking I do, the heavier my carry-on feels, even though I only added three printed Turkish scarves from the Terminal A Duty Free.
I pace the B terminal wing for another an hour, avoiding the careening electric taxi vehicles and a rogue Segue. We board for the 10-hour Johannesburg flight then another hour to Durban. The empty seat next to me is a welcome bonus. I’can almost stretch my 5 feet 7 out for sleep. When I arrive, it’s the next day. A new day of the week, Savta-day!