Today, I head back in the direction of South Africa.
This will be my fourth consulting mission there. I was invited to Cape Town in August 2009 to teach a two-week class in infographics. They ended up holding me over a third week to teach advertising design. Which was fun, because I had never taught ad design before.
They must have liked my work, because my clients — Media24, which publishes a number of daily and Sunday newspapers in both Afrikaans and English — invited me back for two more months of consulting work, mostly in Johannesburg. I was there in October and November of that year.
This past year, they invited me back again. I flew to Johannesburg in November and stayed six weeks. My Christmas break, you may recall, was delayed by the huge snowstorm that struck Europe.
I’m departing this afternoon from Norfolk with a brief (I hope) layover at JFK International Airport in New York. From there, I fly overnight to Heathrow, where I’ll lay over for 11 hours and 15 minutes on Friday. Perhaps this might give me enough time to slip out of the airport and take in a little of downtown London. If I dare.
Friday night, I’ll fly overnight once again to O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg, where I’ll arrive at 6:45 a.m. â€¦ but “only” shortly before midnight Friday, here in Virginia Beach.
So my trip will last about a day-and-a-half. If all goes well.
As is my custom, I’ve spent the past few days here at home gradually shifting my hours to help acclimatize my system to South African Standard Time, which is currently seven hours ahead of Eastern Time here in the U.S. I dragged myself out of bed at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and then 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, going to bed earlier each night. Today, I set my alarm for 3 a.m.
Just as I was about to take my morning shower — Boom! — the power suddenly went off here in the neighborhood.
Heh. It’s like being in Johannesburg already!
What happened, I found out later, was that a car ran into a utility pole down the street from here, cutting electricity to my little section of Virginia Beach.
I’m typing this sentence at 4:27 a.m., via my batter-powered laptop and despite not having internet access. Electricity has not yet been restored. It’s awfully chilly here in the house — it’s been a very cold, very snowy winter for us so far, with even more snow forecast for later this week. (Hmm. Glad I’ll miss that.)
Heh. The forecast has deteriorated quite a bit since I went to bed last night. Here was the five-day forecast for Virginia Beach, as of 8:15 this morning, by the Weather Underground:
And while weather radar shows ice or snow falling very close to here, you can also see the line between ice and rain is also just a mile or two to the South of me:
I might indeed see a few flakes here in the area before I check in for my flight.
I might see some snow, too. Heh.
Luckily, I’m all packed. I have only a few items to stash in my carry-on bag and my briefcase before I head out the door.
And I wasn’t planning to leave until late morning. So the power outage will be less of a worry for me but a bigger one for Sharon and Elizabeth, who may have to get ready for school in the dark.
And, of course, it wasn’t an issue at all. The power was restored at about 4:40 a.m. I woke up Elizabeth shortly before 6 a.m., bought her breakfast at McDonald’s and dropped her off at school.
Among the things I’ll miss during this trip: Elizabeth’s 18th birthday. So it was good we had an opportunity for even just a few more moments together today.
Let’s see. What else is different for this tripâ€¦
For starters, I have a new large suitcase. Sharon bought it on sale during her trip to Atlanta over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s just a bit smaller than my older, much heavier bag, which I was always overpacking, causing weight problems at check in.
Most airlines have a weight limit of about 50 lbs. per checked bag. No matter how much empty space I leave in my old bag, typically, I check in to find myself anywhere from three to five lbs. over the limit. Typically, though, the folks at the counter allow me to rip open my two checked bags and move stuff around to even out the load and bring each bag below the limit.
I’m hoping this new bag — very light and on four swiveling wheels — will ease the travel burden just a bit.
Secondly, I’m traveling with only one checked suitcase this time. It seemed silly to drag all my short-sleeved shirts and summer clothes back here to frigid Virginia for the holidays and then drag them back, so I left a second large bag at my bed-and-breakfast in Johannesburg, Twickenham guest house. The folks there will have that waiting for me when I return Saturday morning.
The airline allows me two checked items, however. So I’m taking with me a box of year-old design contest books that the Society of News Design was kind enough to donate to the artists and designers with whom I’m working in South Africa.
I had originally planned to ship the books to Johannesburg. But that was a) going to be expensive and b) going to take weeks and weeks to get there.
This box contains ten copies of the Best of Newspaper Design vol. 30. The box weighs 13.7 kilograms, which is about 30.2 lbs. So it should easily qualify as a checked item.
Also, I bought a new shoulder strap for my computer briefcase. You might recall that my wife bought me a new Samsonite briefcase last year. The shoulder strap lasted about a year before it wore completely through during my week in Cape Town in November. What a disappointment.
My good friend Meg Lavey — ace designer for the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa. — recommended I buy a replacement strap from a company called Tom Bihn. This shoulder strap right here, in fact — The Absolute Shoulder Strap, for $30:
Although the folks at Tom Bihn offered — via Twitter, no less — to rush it to me in South Africa, I saved the shipping expense and had them send it to Virginia Beach. It was waiting for me when I got home.
And let me tell you, this strap is awesome. It’s wide and comfortable and stretchy. It places much less of a burden on my tired, aging shoulder than the Samsonite strap ever did. All travel bags should come with the Absolute Shoulder Strap. Or something like it.
So consider this a strong endorsement for Tom Bihn and its line of travel bags, backpacks and accessories. Find their web site here.
Lastly, I plan to take a jacket with me. I got quite chilly a number of times in Johannesburg, despite the fact it’s summer there. Johannesburg, you see, is way up in the mountains. The city is even higher in elevation than Denver.
With a jacket — and a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a scarf — I’ll be able to venture out into wintry England tomorrow and perhaps take a few pictures of downtown London.
So this should be interesting.
As usual, I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE: 1:18 p.m.
Arrived at the airport shortly before noon. Piled my stuff into a trolley.
Left the car for Sharon to retrieve this afternoon.
Checked my bags. Sure enough, the large bag was nearly a pound-and-a-half over. I took one paperback book out, which was enough to bring the weight down to 50 lbs., exactly. Sigh.
Security was not crowded at all, which was a good thing. The TSA folks did a very thorough search of my briefcase, including going through every file folder.
Got to the one restaurant in Norfolk’s Terminal B. Ordered a beer and some lunch. And after a few minutes, I became aware that the waitress — Remedios — was calling me by name.
I’ve not told her my name. What the hell?
Turns out, she remembers me from the last time I was here.
Which was on Nov. 4.
Is that amazing or what? I thought so, too.
FOLLOW ALONG ON MY LATEST TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Thursday, Nov. 4: Leaving home
- Thursday, Nov. 4: Greetings from Miami Beach
- Friday, Nov. 5: A Friday in Londonâ€™s Heathrow airport
- Monday, Nov. 8: My home for the next six weeks
- Thursday, Nov. 11: Teaching news artists in Johannesburg
- Thursday, Nov. 11: I found my pants! I found my pants!
- Friday, Nov. 12: How would you like to work in this gorgeous sports department?
- Sunday, Nov. 14: A lazy Sunday morning in Johannesburg
- Monday, Nov. 15: A gorgeous Sunday at an African craft market
- Wednesday, Nov. 17: An interesting op-ed page illustration
- Thursday, Nov. 18: Evangelizing about infographics in Bloemfontein
- Sunday, Nov. 21: A gorgeous room atop Cape Town, South Africa
- Monday, Nov. 22: A daylight view of Table Mountain
- Tuesday, Nov. 23: Who needs TV in Cape Town?
- Thursday, Nov. 25: An amazing American-style Thanksgiving dinner
- Friday, Nov. 26: A stroll down St. George’s Mall
- Saturday, Nov. 27: Mountain watching on a blustery day in Cape Town
- Saturday, Dec. 4: A fun, first-person graphic for the business page
- Sunday, Dec. 5: The difference 8,000 miles can make
- Monday, Dec. 6: Following up on that big business graphic
- Thursday, Dec. 9: More photos from my week in Cape Town
- Friday, Dec. 10: Attack of the giant damn bug
- Sunday, Dec. 12: A little Sunday Christmas shopping at Sandton City mall
- Tuesday, Dec. 14: The ugliest building you’ll ever see
- Friday, Dec. 17: I told you it’s been raining here in Johannesburg
- Sunday, Dec. 19: Stuck at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport
- Sunday, Dec. 19: Holed up for the night at a hotel near the airport
- Tuesday, Dec. 21: Bonjour from Paris
- Tuesday, Dec. 21: Home, finally
- Sunday, Dec. 26: Christmas with the Apple family