The Long Journey to South Africa

By Dane Glenn and Maria Valles

We were up before sunrise, eager to skip the journey and arrive at our destination. But since reality does not have a fast forward button, or gratuitous montage sequence software, we were stuck; forced to deal with long lines, day-old clothes, TV dinner inspired food,  and sleep as consistent and refreshing as American politics. Travel days (yes, plural) had arrived.

Welcome to Cape Town Study Abroad version 2.0. The inaugural trip took place over the course of Spring Break of 2018. Almost two years later, the second journey has started, taking place over New Year’s Eve and into mid-January, the sequel started. Sixteen travelers altogether: eight WT students, one student each from Wellington and Dumas High School, two WT staff members, three WT faculty, and an adorable plus one chose to take part in the program.

Dallas

Our point of origin, at least in terms of booked flight out. We all found our way down to the Big D. Alarms breached the silence, some of us anticipating the call to rise and somewhat shine enough to make it to the plane. We hustled through security and set out for coffee, lifeblood of the traveler. We sat down, huddled together waiting for our ride. As mentioned before, we were eager, but our mental capacities hadn’t quite caught up with our physical selves. Like zombies, we shuffled aboard, destination: The Windy City.

Chicago

We landed in the famous hub perched on the coast of Lake Michigan. We had six hours to kill, and many of us weren’t going to let that go to waste. A crew went to see Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean. Another crew went in search of Chicago’s finest and proud cuisine, that of its own stylized hot dog, deep dish pizza, and famous (or infamous) sliders. Some of us stayed in the confines of the airport, searching for food, rest, and strength to face the next 24 hours.

Vienna

Our plane left Chicago late, Mother Nature ushering in a cold front. The eight-ish hour flight was restless. For entertainment aficionados, it proved a great time to catch up on movies and TV shows. A few grasped fleeting moments of sleep. Some talked away the hours. Yet, we all felt it, that slap; time change. As if our bodies were yanked through a filter and what was left was some uncomfortable mess of a human. We landed in Vienna, on time to grab a bottle of water, a snack, and maybe rest (standing up, because were tired of sitting). We jettisoned onward, the Alps scrolling underneath our wings.

Cape Town and New Year’s

The flight took half a day, straight down from Austria to the southern most tip of Africa. Many of us found sleep, our bodies forcing a hard shut down. In between rest, we found comfort in the tiny TV planted into the headrests in front of us. On occasion, we had to get up, move around, use the bathroom, find more water, whatever - just surviving for 12 hours inside a biscuit tube rocketing at 30,000 feet above Earth’s crust. We landed and disembarked, shuffling through customs: Passport? What’s the purpose of your visit? Stamp. Proceed.


Our gracious host here in Cape Town warmly welcomed us, a WTAMU flag stretched out reminding us of our impact, and the friends we made on our last visit. New faces were introduced, old ones reunited with a hug. But we didn’t have time to play catch-up. We were tired. No, scratch that. Exhausted. We had to get to our hotel. And it was late. Almost midnight.

We gathered at the passenger drop off/pickup outside the airport, our bags getting loaded onto the shuttle buses by the amazing drivers we had last time. Cool air relaxed tense muscles and achy bones. City lights sparkled in the distance, a multicolored beacon assuring our safe arrival, but also reminding us of why we were here. But we didn’t have time left in the day to get to work, that would have to wait for the New Year.

A few of the students began a countdown.

5...4...3..2...1

Cue the fireworks.

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