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Several people have asked that I write and post pictures so I'll do that here.


DAY 1:


As I write this it's about 4 AM Georgia time and I just left Johannesburg South Africa... But I digress... since I haven't even made it to Madagascar yet, I don't have anything to say and no real pictures to post.  But I feel like typing, so I'll tell you about the trip so far.


So Monday (20th Sept) morning I had to get up at 2 AM and leave by 2:30 AM to drive to Atlanta to catch the 6:25 AM flight.  Whoever thought leaving that early was a good idea should be shot! 


As luck would have it, the flight was delayed over an hour because of a "light-bulb issue" in the cockpit.  Doesn't sound all that critical to me, but someone thought it needed fixin.


Meanwhile, I'm supposed to land in LaGuardia, collect my two large checked in bags from baggage claim jump in a cab and go to JFK (14 miles away).


By the time we get in the air and I do the math, I "know" I can't possibly make my next flight.  According to the airline, you are "supposed" to check in three hours before an international flight.  At touchdown, I had less than 1 1/2 hours till take off.


But being the optimist, I hustle down to baggage claim and what do you know, my bags come out in the first batch.  Collect those two bags (for a total of four with my carry-ons) and run/hobble out to the taxi stand... only to find a VERY LONG taxi line.  It turns out that the UN was having an event in New York City so the cabs are somewhat scarce. 


1 hour and 15 minutes and counting...


I start counting heads and doing the math again.  About 50 people ahead of me.  Average of about 2 people per group with cabs coming about 45 seconds apart.  CRAP!  Yup, it took every bit of 20 minutes to get my own cab. 


55 minutes and counting...


About 14 miles to JFK.  My Cabbie was great!  He knew I was in a rush and I explained that my international flight was due to leave in less than an hour.  He made a "tisking" sound and then stomped the gas.  He bounced off of 90 MPH during one little stretch and even with New York traffic managed to get me there in 16 minutes.  Yes, he got a big tip.


39 minutes and counting...


I run/hobble to the VERY empty South African Airline counter and approach the VERY disinterested looking woman behind the counter and before I could even begin to beg, she informed me that the flight was closed.  As the only other two SAA employees approached (no doubt to see a wanna-be passenger have a coronary from the-just-run marathon), I said to her..."Yes Maam, I'm very certain it is closed.  But you have the power to get me on that plane.  So what-do-ya-say?"  or something to that affect. 


After a few contemplative seconds and a stare down to see if I would blink, she suddenly embraced her new mission in life and began barking orders to the other two employees.  As it turns out, it's a little more difficult than I thought to "UN-Close" a flight.  (as I write this, I'm two hours from Madagascar so I will soon see if my bags made it...)  the last I saw of them, they were being loaded on a special cart to be hustled directly to the plane.  (I think bag screening can get real "optional" when people are trying to beat the clock).


In not so many words, the NOW Interested South African Airline Lady tells me to "run" to security and get to the gate pronto... So being the obedient "Gonna-be" passenger, I break into a trot towards the x-ray machines.  My optimism was on the rise and I was feeling somewhat gleeful thinking I can just breeze through what appears to be an almost empty security gate, when I turn the corner and am met head-on with a wall-of-humanity. 


22 minutes and counting...


Now this may sound a bit anti-Semitic and I don't mean it be, but there was about two hundred VERY-JEWISH people with LOTS of kids clearly going on some pilgrimage to some far off land that required international travel.  I couldn't understand most of what they were saying but in my mind it translated to "The Home Land Awaits!". 


For the next 10 minutes or so I stood neck deep in baby carriages and men with inappropriately long strands of curly hair protruding from their black hats, dressed in impossibly complicated religious garb  -  "foot shuffling" forward their carry-on bags that didn't stand a chance of fitting in any known overhead bin...


...AND THEN I SEE HER... my angel from the SAA counter (in her now very attractive blue vest with stained white shirt)... I know she saw me back there...the only one without a hat and not wearing black clothes craning my neck so as to get her attention.  SHE was cutting line.  Walking straight to the mouth of the x-ray machine with her clipboard and personal bag.  I pleaded with my eyes for her to take me with her, but all I got was a "pinky-wave".  Now here I thought we had bonded  -deep sigh-  and then she was gone.


11 minutes and counting...


For what seemed like an eternity I shuffled forward watching in agony as one pilgrim after another failed every security etiquette test known to the TSA.  Our 9/11 spawned rent-a-cops went hoarse bellowing ridiculously similar commands like "YES, the stroller must be folded up and must go through the x-ray machine" and "NO, I said it must be folded first" and "YES, you MUST take the baby out" and "You must empty your pockets" and "I SAID, empty ALL your pockets" and "YES, BOTH SHOES must come off" ... well you get the picture.  For those of you familiar with airport travel, you can appreciate how thankful I was that this group didn't seem to be carrying laptops.  I would still be there.


-1 minute and counting...


FINALLY, I'm the next to go.  I practically attach myself to the guy in front of me going through the metal detector, when upon setting off the alarm he gets in a (yiddish laden) argument about why he shouldn't have take off his metal-laced suspenders because they were holding up his pants.  As he steps aside to continue the argument, I slide sideways through the metal detector, snatch my bags and shoes and hustle to the "put-yourself-back-together" table.  I could have sworn I heard a TSA agent now afflicted with laryngitis say something about my ninja-like slide by, but I decided to ignore it and simply brace for the body slam, which thankfully never came.


As I break into an all out run towards Gate A28 I pass a young fellow with a SAA blue vest that asked me if I was Baldwin.  I wheezed out a "yes" and kept going.  As if to be impossibly redundant, I heard him mutter "you better hurry".  -grunt-


My gate was easy to spot, even without the signage, because there were about eight more blue vested people standing in the center walk way clearly amused by my galloping approach.  My angel, with a somewhat dimmer halo, leaned over and whispered in another girls ear while simultaneously giving me the pinky-wave again.  (in retrospect she might have simply been performing a reenactment of the previous events... I guess I'll never know)


My ticket gets scanned and as I pass through each successive door I can hear the unmistakable sound of a lock engaging behind me.  Finally I make it into the actual airplane and am greeted with very polite and knowing smiles from the crew.  Even before I make it to my seat, I hear the announcement that the doors are now shut, seat-backs must be in the forward locked position, tray-tables should be secured and all mobile devices should be off... blah... blah... blah.  I manage to get a quick text message off to those praying for me and turn off my phone.


-4 minutes and no longer counting...


The rest of the trip was somewhat uneventful.


DAY 2:


Colin picked me up at the airport and we made our way into the Capital "Tana".  Before we got our "Hotel"... picts below.  We learned that our flight for the next day was cancelled.  So we spent an hour or so making other arrangements.  God took mercy on me again and we were able to secure a 7 AM flight on a chartered plane directly to Ste Marie island.  Our only other alternative was going to be an 8 hour bus ride to Tamatave (where Kim and Colin live).  Needless to say I was very happy to avoid the bus ride.


Kim and the boys will be joining us this afternoon on Ste Marie.


My little camera doesn't do this place justice.  It is an island paradise.

My classy accommodations in Tana the Capital of Mad


The only shot of the airport that came out.

Shot through the plane window... looks better in real life.  This island is only about 3.5 miles wide and 35 miles long.
Our cabbie on Ste Marie island

Quick road race

Unload the luggage and put it all on Proges (canoes)

One of our new South African friends. (She just stepped on an sea urchin - so she's in some serious pain now)

Colin is sitting behind me... the guy with the pole is taking us to our bungalow.

This is the front of my bungalow

Standing on the beach view of the bungalow

View of beach from bungalow

Picts of the little club house

The owner is "Okkie" (sp?) a South African.

More club house picts

Colin is working on my laptop...

That's me with the windblown look!