Philia love is that level of love which can best be described as total acceptance of the object of your love, brotherly love, a pinnacle in life’s emotional journey and after sharing planes, busses, hotels, adventures, restaurants, Irish pubs and auditoriums with a team of hearing aid professionals for the last 13 days, I think that many of us advanced to that level of Philia love!
In large groups many problems can develop as individuals with differing views, needs and standards often create friction and the tour guide ends up with a never ending stream of gripes and irritations! At the end of our tour that started from her hometown, Calgary, Alberta, Canada through places with magical names such as, Banff, Lake Louise, Athabasca Glacier and onto Vancouver via bus, our tour guide, Ria, made a farewell speech telling us that our group had lifted her spirits! An honour indeed and an emotion certainly shared by most if not all of our group.
2 From the brochures we had seen, Lake Louise with Chateau Fairmont would prove to be a highlight.
It can safely be said that as we all parted at Johannesburg’s International airport, aware of each other’s minimal failings, an appreciation for particular character traits and humour, and having a MC in the form of Roger Kassner, we had developed and or confirmed a love for each other that even slightly tongue in cheek, can best be described as for who you are I love you!
3 We would eventually develop an affinity within the group that produced separation anxiety after the parting of our ways!
For the group of forty, the trip started weeks before with a whattsapp group being formed and a whole series of exchanges took place, many with a touch of humour, of what to pack, the weather, sights we would see and even a music wants list that promised a personalised hit parade for us all on a memory stick that would be broadcast over our bus’ PA system. This music list developed over the weeks producing such variety, from Alanis Morisette to Luis Fonsi’s Despacito, Creedence to Vivaldi, Michael Bublé to Garth Brooks and Bocelli to The Rolling Stones! The trip was developing it’s own character even before we assembled into a unit!
4 Alanis, the girl with attitude sings at the Winter Olympic’s closing ceremony!
Many hours before arriving at Johannesburg’s classy International Airport, the whattsapp exchanges increased in intensity as messages were shared within the exclusive group, some stuck in traffic, some not answering their phones and the seasoned travellers who had arrived well beforehand offering calming advice. We had a hiccup with one set of travel documents not matching that person’s Passport! That produced hasty diplomatic effort from our team leaders and hosts, The Kassners of Medifix.
Slowly the group made their presence felt in the departure lounge squeezing themselves around tables with lonesome travellers with varied stories to tell and managing to somehow elicit those life stories, commandeer the same tables and fit ten chairs around tables for four, easing our former table hosts out of their own limelight.
5 Johannesburg Airport is a bit of a showpiece and surely one of Africa’s top airports.
Apart from a beer or two, catching up and or introductions, helping each other out with cell phone international roaming protocol, a lot of our conversation focused on Hurricane Irma and whether our flight which virtually flew over Irma’s path would be delayed or diverted, although many felt ignorance was bliss over that subject!
6 Hurricane Irma’s path of destruction! We altered course to the north to miss the worst, but our Airbus 350 was shaken by heavy turbulence before we reached the USA coastline and Atlanta in Georgia!
A 27 hour journey seated in cattle class, often not seated next to each other due to the flight being fully booked, standing in long immigration queues, racing to catch connecting flights in Atlanta and Minneapolis and assembling the group of forty into our tour bus in Calgary, needs no further description especially for you seasoned travellers out there! The banter and support within our group did keep us on our toes though and Leigh, Yvonne, Roger and Lisa Kassner, were kept busy with head counts at every possible point of separation!
7 Note the hooligan element hidden at the back! (I was naturally assigned to the front of the bus!)
The group had assimilated itself into a kind of classroom format with the mature lot tending to sit at the front of the bus and as usual the hooligans hogged the back! Before our tour guide had a chance to speak, Roger and Simone had tapped into our bus’ PA system and we were all called to attention, told to assume the seated yoga position, instructed to place our palms facing upwards on our knees and to the vibrant tune of South African band, Gold Fish and Deep of The Night, Roger informed us that this song was our signature tune for the training trip and every time we heard it start up, our shoulders were to start grooving as we felt the energy of the tune!
There started a riotous trip that lasted for the next eleven days, through those places mentioned and many more!
Postscript: We flew high above the swirling freaks of nature, Hurricanes Irma and Maria that cut paths of destruction through the Caribbean and into the USA, leaving behind so much death and wiped out communities, and a Puerto Rico without power and communication! Our thoughts and prayers to all victims. We are you!
8 Irma first and then Maria devastated Puerto Rico
Footnote: Roll Call is part one of the Trilogy of the trip. Look out for parts two and three, Calgary – Vancouver and Eden Prairie, Minneapolis
St Vincent School For The Deaf helping the hard of hearing to listen:
Down Durban way The Fulton School for The Deaf:
Abraham Kriel Childcare group, caring while we work:
The Avril Elizabeth Home for the Mentally Handicapped was opened in 1970, and for the amazing work they do for the less fortunate they deserve great accolades: