The airport in Johannesburg was not quite what I expected. From what others had told me, I was bracing for an atmosphere of controlled chaos, like the international terminal at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. But my information was seriously out of date. The O.R. Tambo airport is clean and bright and efficient, featuring high-end shops like Gucci and Montblanc. It feels just like dozens of other international airports across the world; the only sign of Africana was a large plastic elephant in one corner of the concourse.
The team of the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival traveled in two separate groups. Bogdan Dulu, our star pianist, was flying on his own from Vancouver to Johannesburg. But I was traveling with Nani Sinha, our fabulous mezzo, and my mother, who is helping to coordinate the music program for AIDS orphans in Gaborone.
Weflew from Los Angeles with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (or, as I like to call them, “the Flying Dutchmen.”) The seats were a bit cramped, but there was a wide selection of movies (including a performance of Aida conducted by Zubin Mehta) and copious amounts of airplane food. We spent twenty-one hours in the air, not including a dangerously tight connection in Amsterdam. I slept most of the journey, but fortunately I was awake to see the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert from 30,000 feet!
Meanwhile, Bogdan had a very different experience on British Airways — on his way from Canada to South Africa, he managed to spend a snowy day in London!
When we finally met up, it was almost midnight in Joburg, but we celebrated the beginning of our festival by going out for pizza. To our delight, we discovered that the pizzas at Cappello Pizzeria were named after world leaders! Check Nani’s blog if you want to know whether we liked the Obama pizza better than the Mandela pizza. After the global-leader-pizza-party, we called it a night. There is much to do in the next few days.
The adventure has begun!