The Four Legged Beast

Hello from 10,676 feet! I’m nestled into seat 53C on a crowded Airbus. South African Airways is less cushy than American carriers, but I’m taking comfort in the fact that my personal entertainment screen keeps pouring forth episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (The Ice Man Cometh!) and that the flight crew is fantastically polite. And, for the first time in my travelling life, I have been blessed with a pleasant neighbor. And the SAA coffee has this funky walnutty taste to it. Who needs reclining seats and complimentary champagne?

We just navigated through the Bermuda Triangle, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was pretty rough. My meatloaf was shaking in its compartmentalized tray. The seatbelt signs were a-blazin’.

I’m dangling precariously in the atmospheric space between time zones, and all I know is that it’s past midnight in Senegal, and around dinnertime at home. I still have another 16 hours of travel before I reach Cape Town. My first flight, between Orlando and DC, was very delayed, so I reached Washington Dulles with 18 minutes before my connecting flight pulled away from a gate – on the opposite side of the airport. A short, chubby twenty-something sprinting full-speed through hoards of people, clad in cowboy boots and a knit beanie in mid-June. Not cute.

As I sprinted up to the ticket counter, the agents pulled the doors closed. I screamed something incoherent between gasping breaths and they very graciously held the flight for me. Phew! There’s no telling where my luggage is at this point, but I had the foresight to throw a few necessities into my carry-on before I bid adieu to my checked luggage. I should be ok for a few days, if it comes down to it. I have my boots and my journal. And extreme faith in the UF Financial Services office. Someone (me) entered the wrong account number on my direct deposit form, so as I am hurling toward Africa at 11000 feet, my student loan is lost somewhere in the banking system.

I’m trying not to panic, because I know eventually my luggage, my funds, and my tired self will arrive safely in South Africa. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to get my assigned reading done. It is the most unbelievably fascinating material I’ve had in front of me since starting law school. I mean it! The first section of Comparative Constitutional Law covers whether US courts should look to international law for guidance. My initial reaction was an emphatic YES. The notion of justice is global in nature, after all. But those legal writers are tricky and very persuasive! One of the articles I just read presented the notion that if American judges use foreign case law to make decisions, they are effectively defying the very hallmark of our democracy by following decisions made by officials not elected by the American people. It’s so fascinating, and I’m actually excited to hear what other people think about the idea – especially the UCT students, since South Africa’s law is rooted in a very young constitution. I haven’t quite formed my own opinion yet, so we’ll see.

At any rate, the limbo of packing and unpacking and repacking, and worrying about what I did or didn’t pack is finally over! The next time I update, I’ll be settled in Cape Town. Until then, lots of love to my family, friends, and Brian.

Update: I am in Johannesburg. My luggage is not. There is something both terrifying and exhilarating about being on a foreign continent with no belongings, no friends, no family, and no preconceived expectations. In my exhaustion-induced haze, I feel liberated. I keep thinking about the unspoken camaraderie formed by people who endure a 17 hour flight together. I find it strange that in a normal public setting, you must cling to your passport for dear life. But in an airplane full of strangers, it’s cool to disappear to the bathroom or walk laps through the aisles for fifteen minutes without fear of saucy interlopers.

In sum: Very narrowly made my last flight due to delay at baggage inquiry counter. Met a girl who is here for 6 months. She packed only a carry-on. Feeling slightly ashamed of my 50 pound rolling duffel and two carry-on bags. Was just chased through the E terminal of the Johannesburg Airport by two earnest shoe-shiners who didn’t quite understand my explanation of the painstaking process required to make my boots look as dull and filthy as they do (it’s a Texas thing). Have yet to secure foreign currency. Have yet to find a wi-fi signal. Have yet to eat anything but airplane food. Have yet to sleep. Regardless, thrilled that I’m on the last flight of the four-legged beast known as my journey to Cape Town.

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