Originally published June 15th, 2014
Before sunrise, we headed to Billy Bishop Airport for our 7am flight to New York City (courtesy of Porter Airlines) after a sleepless night of packing & preparing. Backpacks on and bags in hand, we caught our ferry to the island airport just as the sun rose.
We arrived at Newark airport just after 12pm. we hit a massive line up going through customs but once we got up to the counter, we sailed through. It took about an hour to get to our hotel. We checked into our closet-sized room, threw down our bags and hit the city. Since we were running on 0-2 hours of sleep in a city that never sleeps, we figured we should do something less active so we agreed to a picnic in Central Park, which was my only wish in coming to New York just before my 16th birthday the next day. We decided to check out the Whole Foods in Union square, one of the busiest grocery stores I’ve ever seen. We walked over to the park and settled on a grassy spot underneath an Oak tree. We spent a couple of hours in the park and then headed back to the hotel for an early night, as we needed to get to JFK Airport early in the morning.
Awakening at sunrise for my 16th birthday, this time it was raining. Sleepy-eyed, we taxied over to JFK, passing by the United Nations, where this project was first inspired. It was an emotional moment for us as we realized that we were really about to embark on this global journey that would hopefully see us return to screen the film. I wondered about some of the other 16 year olds I’d be meeting along the way. I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and very excited to be taking this first step on my birthday.
We arrived at JFK and breezed through security with plenty of time to spare. We made our way to the South African Airways boarding counter and introduced ourselves, as we were flying as media with the airline. They were very friendly, and let us pre-board so we could meet the pilots. It was such a thrill to see the inside of the cockpit. I told them a bit about the project and they wished me well.
We found our seats which were near the front of the plane and got comfortable for the 14 hour flight ahead of us. I checked out every movie and tv show available on the screen in front of me and came to the conclusion that besides sleeping, i would be busy for the entire flight. Mom was well entertained too, listening to some South African music.
About 45 minutes into the flight and with the most beautiful view of the cotton candy clouds and clear blue skies and the sun shining, i felt a real excitement settle in.
The flight attendants were really attentive and friendly. A fews hours and naps later, lunch was served. We had some delicious Alfredo pasta, salad, crackers & cheesecake. We were stuffed and ready for another nap. Overall the flight was very smooth & enjoyable. One of the most exciting parts of the flight was in the middle of the night when we passed over a lightning storm. It was so beautiful to the flashes in between the clouds, followed by clear skies and an unbelievably full sky of stars that I’ve never seen before. Who could sleep on such an eventful flight?
After the scenic night came a beautifully coloured sunrise. It was so different to see it from this perspective. How appropriate to fly into South Africa at sunrise too? As the purpose of the global sunrise project is to cover stories of hope and resilience, my thoughts turned to all of the wonderful stories i would get to discover while in South Africa. What a great place to start right on the plane, with a staff that couldn’t have been more accommodating and gracious. I had the feeling that I would find more of the same while on the ground.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu – In this case, i’d like to say thank you to South African Airways for helping us get to our destination safely, smoothly and on time.