Friday, December 4, 2009

Of Helicopters and Spring Boks

Just checking in quickly to say that things are going well here in South Africa. I just got back from a 1.5 hour helicopter ride with Joshua, one of the guys I'm staying with. That was my third flight since I've been here. I was warned ahead of time that the first ride in a helicopter can be a bit scary, so I was ready for it. But yesterday we took a Squirrel(I think that's it's real name?), a sort of medium sized one with room for 6 people, and I thought it was great. Didn't find it a bit scary. When I got home the guys asked me if I'd been in the something-something model (as if I'd know). I said it was silver. They said, "well, c'mon, what were its call letters?" Beats me, I said, so they showed me pictures of different choppers until I could identify it. That's the only reason I know it was a Squirrel. It was pretty cool to see Johannesburg from the air, including the World Cup stadiums that will be used next year, and famous former townships like Soweto.

This morning we took a smaller helicopter, which I think made it bumpier (or maybe it was cuz it was a student pilot?). I don't know what model it was either, but I can tell you it was blue. And there were no doors. I could have fallen right out of that thing! It took me a few minutes to relax, but once I did it was fun, even though as I was shivering in the back, the guys up front were like, "oh, it's so nice up here without the doors...what a nice breeze." We flew out over a dam which was beautiful and reminded me of Lake Como in Italy, except that the water was polluted. We went over some neighborhoods of HUGE houses with tennis courts and pools in their yards, and then over neighborhoods not far away that are run down, patched together shacks.

Then this afternoon, Joshua and I took an even smaller one north, past the dam and on to another airport. Joshua is a student pilot, too, and I was his second non-instructor passenger. Schalk, another roommate, was the first, and that was yesterday. I told him after we landed that for future passengers, he might want to edit the words, "Oh shit" out of his vocabulary while he's flying. As far as a non-pilot passenger knows, it could potentially mean anything from, "I should increase RPMs a little--but it's not a big deal" to "there's a Boeing descending and barreling straight toward us." He agreed I had a point.

Next week I hope to go to a game reserve to see some animals, and of course, I'll be busy tying up loose research ends and writing more of my thesis, perhaps doing some interviews, and hopefully finishing my presentation for African History day on the 18th.

Hope you all are well! See those of you in Switzerland in ten days.

(and p.s., mom, I just wanted to add that I checked with the main instructor before I flew with Josh to see if he thought it was a good idea, and he said it was perfectly fine. I just thought you'd appreciate that level of precaution.)


  1. Steph: airborne
    Lukas: jealous

    Enjoy it! Glad to hear that you're having a good time down there.
    By the way: be prepared for a change in temperature when you get back. It's not cold cold yet but summer is definitely gone.

  2. Actually, kiddo, I was still laughing about the third paragraph and had not even thought about whether or not he was an ok pilot to be giving you helicopter rides. I agree with Lukas. He should add my name next to his. A ride like that would be way better than sitting on the roof top. :)


  3. Lukas: I heard it snowed at home! Good thing I packed longjohn for the Dubai-Zurich-Basel part of my trip!

    Mom: Helicopters are coool. Possibly cooler than airplanes. You wouldn't believe how little and flimsy-looking the RH22s are though! I think I'm going to get one. I'll just push it into my apaartment at night and back out in the morning to fly to school.

  4. They're called "Squirrel" in countries where "Ecureuil" was deemed unsuitable.