26 May 2010

this is my last post from south africa for a while. however, due to my connections *in* south africa, i should be able to continue to write about it for most of the time that i'm gone.

two days after my last entry, i received a telephone call from my aunt, saying my mother was sick, but they didn't say how bad. now we know. stage 4 bladder cancer. uncool. basically, they are thinking she is waiting for me to get there so she can go to the next plane.

anyway, money being a joke at the moment, not to mention the cost of airfare having gone up something around 50 percent since the last time i actually *paid* for a transatlantic flight [late 2004], i needed to buy the miles in order to make this flight happen. when i finally got that right, i booked a flight on award travel.

now, fly-brother HATES HATES HATES american airlines, one of the two leading carriers in oneworld. but he concedes that they have the easiest accrual and redemption methods of all the mileage programs and also the most partners. do you see on my previous post, my flight memory? most of those were done on BA [heathrow is in fact my most visited airport]; there is an occasional flight across the atlantic on aa, and one on iberia.

anyway, i've done two award trips between the united states and africa. it's nice. [it's also 75,000 miles in the cheap seats, if you wanted to know.]

one of the nice things about things about oneworld is that you can redeem miles for a one-way flight using half of the miles as for a round trip. ergo, instead of 75k for a round-trip flight, this only costs me 37.5 for a one-way flight. schweet.

so anyway, i've just flown the cape town to joburg leg of this journey, and in an hour i fly the joburg to madrid leg, have a five-hour layover there, and fly to chicago, spend the night in chicago with my cousin, and then in the morning i fly from chicago to philadelphia, where my aunt picks me up and drives me to harrisburg.

[ugh. harrisburg, pennsylvania. if you've ever been there, you would know why i have been living for the past five years in the city that is, basically, in terms of flight time as far as you can get away from there and still be on planet earth. ]

i'm currently sitting in johannesburg airport. unlike harare, it does not have free wi-fi. [harare's wifi is some of the best airport wifi ever. and it's FREE.] airports company south africa [ACSA] is a beast when it comes to airport wi-fi. if you do the time-based wi-fi, it's R50 for one hour, R100 for two hours, and R150 for four hours. eww. that's nasty. the way aournd it, depending on your usage in airports is to get the bandwidth-based option. if you meticulously watch your bandwidth -- and if you are resident in south africa, you tend to do so -- you would know that by far the best option is the R100 for 250MB for which you have 30 days to use up.

this morning, cape town airport was pretty fly. i hadn't been in it since november 2008, so i hadn't seen the finished product yet. it is really fly. it will give a good impression to foreign tourists landing there, i will say that. [of course, it's surrounded by shantytowns, like GIG, so take that with a grain of salt.]

i'm sitting in joburg airport and the best thing about this upgrade is that you no longer have to GO OUTSIDE to walk from the domestic to the international terminals. this is something that is absolutely fantastic. it doesn't look like you need to do that in cape town either. given that joburg in the winter is freezing, and cape town is 10 degrees C/50 degrees F with gale force winds and rain to match... this is excellent.

so i give these two airports hmmm.... marks out of 10, tambo gets 9. it would have gotten 10 if the gautrain were running -- it doesn't start doing so until two days before the world cup. cape town gets an 8.5, because it doesn't have train service to the airport, just high-speed bus. i was originally thinking of giving it only an 8 out of 10, but on match days during the world cup, if you have a ticket in your possession, the high-speed bus to town is free. yeah, that touch is really cute.

i may make another post after check in. for reasons i'd rather not go into now, checkin is going to be quite taxing and i want to talk about it AFTER it happens.