Thanks to intestinal difficulties and insomnia, I spent most of the flight from London to Johannesburg awake and watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith (fun and cheesy), Batman Begins (fun and a little dark) and half of Kung Fu Hustle (totally fun and extremely cheesy, esp. if you like parodies and kung fu films as much as I do). So I set foot on African soil with that glazed surreality that comes from too many hours awake and stepped into the maw of customs lines. I had hooked up with a Scottish grandmother who was very nice and had the stamina of a mule. She shepherded me out of customs and through to the Durban flight with more pep than someone half her age (namely me), all the while texting her family (you’ll be happy to know Nan). I hit Durban and got a cab ride from a guy extolling the joys of long haul driving. I stayed at the Glenmore Pastoral Centre, which was pastoral in the sense of being a retreat for Christian meditation as well as a conference center and in the sense of being way out in the sticks, both of which senses I had somehow failed to grasp while I was booking it. It was very nice though and quiet (except for some animal that kept making a sound like hot water radiators make when they heat up or cool down—this intermittent ping-ping-ping sound). I crashed immediately, got up, showered, gave up any plans for a dinner out on the town and went back to sleep off and on until morning. When I finally levered myself out of bed and showered and repacked, it was a few hours until the bus so I got a cab into town with a guy who showed me why “yehbo” (sp?) was such a catchphrase, where I learned that it was not really stereotypical to see women carrying things on their heads (Larry!) and where I learned that life, though difficult, has certainly gotten better in South Africa and that there is a good deal of hope. As my second cab driver pointed out, black people all over (including those recovering from Katrina) know what it is to go through hard times and continue on with life, because that’s just what has to be done. I also managed to see a bit of the Old Courthouse Museum (with an odd assortment of vintage and traditional costumes, model cars and ships, and replicas of turn-of-the-century businesses) as well as the KwaMuhle Museum (which had excellent explanations of the apartheid era “Durban System” and those who fought against it, as well as information on places of historical note in Durban such as Grey Street). I nearly missed my bus because of the museum outing but managed to make it just in time, thanks to my cab driver. A quick trip through the green and misty countryside and I was in Pietermaritzburg, where I was collected by Prof. Walter deMilliano and got a lovely welcome by everyone, including Ms. Lesley Brown and Ms. Fee deStadler, two of the staff at ACCI who helped plan my visit. I was distressed to hear that Ms. Beulah John, the scientific information specialist at ACCI and another one of the primary planners of my visit, was still ill but I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to talk with her at least before I go. The folks at ACCI have set out a great schedule, where I’ll get to meet with both the 2004 and 2005 cohorts of students as well as the staff at ACCI and in the university libraries.

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