Date: Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Location: Doha, Qatar
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
The day starts out on a flight to Doha, Qatar and is the fourth day of the week I’ve been on a plane. I just checked Europe off my list of firsts and today I also check off the Middle East and Africa. Qatar Air is one of the most enjoyable airlines I’ve ever flown on. The service wasn’t completely perfect but the flights went smoothly nonetheless. The Airbus fleet is nice (Look out Boeing!) and despite having less legroom than Icelandair had LOTS of headspace, which is great when you want to stand up for a bit on a long flight. Qatar air also gives you a nice little packet with a blindfold, earplugs, and a toothbrush which makes you feel special.
Despite sitting down at my seat to find the in flight entertainment system listing our destination as null we make it to Doha without incident.
Upon arriving in Qatar I learn an obvious lesson first hand. Qatar is really fucking hot. It’s 98 degrees Farenheit at 6am. Qatar is bidding to host the World Cup in 2018, and this heat convinces me there is no way the tournament could be held here. However, I’m told Qatar has enough money to air condition the entire country if necessary, so maybe they still have a shot.
The plane touches down on the runway about 5 minutes before my connecting flight to Johannesburg is scheduled to take off. I don’t really freak out because I have no control over the situation, so I just get on the shuttle bus to the terminal. When we unload at the terminal we learn that we have to go through security again before boarding our connecting flights. This line for security is no joke either. Flight was scheduled to take off 5 minutes ago, things aren’t looking good.
I get through security before almost everybody else on my plane (I’m sneaky like that), and once I get to the gate I realize the flight is being held because there are enough people connecting from London. As I get on the shuttle bus to the plane I count the people connecting from my flight. The bus fills up when my count reaches 92. People are still waiting at the gate to get on our flight. I guess scheduled take off times don’t matter when ALL the passengers show up late. I make a stop at the restroom, and try to get some sleep.
A nap, Invictus, and most of Shutter Island later we arrive in Johannesburg. Getting through customs is easy and consists solely of answering one question: “Are you here for football?” A simple answer of yes gets you a stamp in your passport and free entry into South Africa.
Immediately after exiting the customs line I’m given a free can of Coca-Cola (a.k.a. the Nectar of the Gods). For the first and last time I think South Africa is the greatest place on Earth.
I make my way out of the international terminal and to the MTN store to buy a local SIM card for my cell phone. I wait patiently in line as the store workers are helping other customers. 45 minutes of being completely ignored later I’ve learned a valuable lesson about Africa. If you need something, take it. I finally get a free SIM card from the worker and get it activated. Once the activation is complete she asks me if I would like to top up the phone so I can make calls. I tell her that adding money to the phone is probably a good idea, or I wouldn’t have wasted my time getting a SIM card. Education is not a big thing in South Africa.
With the phone taken care of I ask around about the shuttle van to my hotel. A completely uninformed volunteer instructs me to wait two hours for a shuttle different than the one I asked about. Another 45 minutes later I end up on a FIFA sponsored VIP/media shuttle and get a free ride to what I think is my hotel. I don’t complain, I might as well adventure while I’m in Africa. We arrive at the hotel. I confirm it IS my hotel.
I get the keys to my room and head upstairs. I close the door survey the room. It’s not luxurious but it definitely has everything we we need. Even the toilet paper has World Cup fever.
As cool as the toilet paper is, I’m exhausted, so at 4pm I’m ready for a nap. I jam the desk chair behind the door. I don’t trust Johannesburg, so if somebody’s coming into my room while I’m alone sleeping, I’m going to hear it. I wake up in a daze at 7pm with my stomach aching for food. I decide continuing to sleep is more important than eating. I decide to deal with the food problem in the morning and close my eyes again to sleep until tomorrow.