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Alicia’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 04 Sep 2010

Location: Livingstone, Zambia

MapWe had a pretty easy morning, drinking coffee in bed before heading to the lapa for breakfast. We finished packing and before we knew it we were in a car on our way to the airport. We made it through the tiny airport crammed full of two planes worth of people and made it to Joburg with no problems. Of course, Joburg was where all our problems started. I wondered several times if we were on some hidden camera show.

We had to pick up our luggage and go through customs and then recheck our luggage and go back through security once again. Let's start counting how many times we went through security. Did I mention we had to go through it twice in Livingstone? No? Well we did. So that's two. Customs into Joburg makes 3. This is where we went to pick up the box of wine we had in storage. Of course they only took cash. I found an ATM and was forced to take out way more cash than what we needed. I got our wine and we went to the tax refund booth to turn in our receipts to get a refund of the 14% tax we payed on everything we bought. We had to pull all the items we bought out of our luggage. We had no idea that we could get a refund of tax and that to do so we needed itemized receipts, so we didn't keep them all and some we only got a credit card receipt for, which wasn't enough to qualify. We ended up with only 4 that qualified. The lady stamped them and told us we could turn in the receipts at another booth after we got through security. We checked in and went through security for the 4th time. We found the booth and waited in line, again. They informed us that our most expensive item receipt wasn't valid because it said "delivery invoice" instead of "tax invoice". He was like "here, I'll give it back to you so you can go back and get a better receipt". I'm like "hello, we are leaving the country, in like, an hour!" So we are down to 3 qualify receipts, but it gets worse. He gives us a special check for about 100 rand and tells us we have to go right next door, stand in line again, in order to get cash, yippee! We got next door and stood in line, again. Of course they charge a fee to cash the check and won't give us U.S. dollars, so we end up with about R70. We were like wtf are we going to do with all this extra rand? We found a duty free shop and bought a bottle of Amarula which is an African fruit cream liqueur for R100. That left us with about R50 which we spent on snacks and some bottled water for the plane. We got to the gate and there was some security people who stopped us and said we had to go through security again. Anyone flying to the U.S. had to go through another security checkpoint at the gate. The problem with this was they wouldn't allow liquids (i.e. the water we just bought) to go through this checkpoint. I was all "are you people fricken serious? we bought this water like 10 yards before the damn gate!" Mike and I each chugged a bottle of water and then went through our 5th security check.

8 hours of flying + 2 hours sitting in Dakar + 8 more hours of flying = 18 hours of sitting on that damned plane. We arrived in D.C. and went though customs and our 6th security check of the day. Our flight was almost an hour late so we weren't sure if we would make our connection. At this point Mike was pissed off, like everything little injustice that happened would set him off. He was already angry and convinced we would miss our connection as we stood in line for customs. I kept my cool, tried to calm him down and did all the talking so he didn't berate the customs agents. We made our connection with about 5 minutes to spare. I used those 5 minutes to stop at Starbucks and get myself a java mocha frappaccino. I never knew iced coffee could make me so happy. I was just excited to be in the U.S. again and was too tired and loopy to worry too much about anything. We finally made it to Madison and I was giddy.