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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

Sept.7-8 – Traveling to Johannesburg

Traveling is always a good lesson in patience and equanimity, and this one started with those same lessons – plus humility in the face of Mother Nature. Thunderstorms to the east delayed our flight out of Dulles for 3 hours, and by the time we got to Johannesburg at 8 p.m., after 17 hours of flying, (plus 3.5 hours from Denver and a four-hour layover for me), we were in no mood – or condition ­– to rent a car and drive two hours to our intended hotel for the night. So we appealed to South African Airlines, and they put us up for free in the luxury Premier Hotel O.R. Tambo along with four men who missed their flight to Namibia for hunting big game (In the spirit of Mussar, I will not pass judgment here); a high school student from Zimbabwe who had visited the US during her holiday break; and a family of five with two carts stacked high with luggage for an extended stay in Durbin.

Suffering from jet lag, I spent a good portion of the night tossing and turning, trying all my natural sleep-inducing remedies (meditation, chanting, deep breathing) in vain. Finally falling asleep, I was rudely awakened by a 6:30 a.m. alarm. The breakfast buffet was well worth it, with incredible service including tableside delivery of a fresh-from-the-oven muffin and a heartfelt apology that it wasn’t chocolate!

On the plane I watched a fact-filled documentary on elephants – a perfect prelude to seeing them in the wild the very next day.  Did you know that elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunks? Scientists are trying to replicate this feature in robotics that will someday be used in microsurgery.  Elephants really do have the fabled memory we so often hear about. In fact, “Shirley” was brought to a rescue facility and was immediately recognized by a female in a neighboring room who had been with her in the circus 23 years earlier. The two females trumpeted all night, perhaps catching up on gossip (elephant lashon h’ara?).  And elephants, like Irv, are afraid of bees! In fact that’s how some farmers keep herds off their land.

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