At the insistence of our children, my wife and I decided to pack up our home in South Africa and emigrate to Ireland. Given our age and many other vital factors, we decided this would be the wisest thing to do.
It was late 2020 and under severe lock-down conditions that we made our flight reservation. With all our paperwork and forex on the ready, we began the packing of our four suitcases. We sold our apartment, cars, and other possessions and put, what remained of our lives into four bags. This was a remarkable feat on its own, as these contained our lifelong possessions.
Understanding that we were leaving on Thursday, we were busy packing early on Wednesday. Our travel agent called to remind us to be at the airport before noon. “You mean today?” My heart skipped a couple of beats! “Yes,” he replied. Pandamonium broke out in my family’s home. How were we going to pack and still make the airport by 12? We all began running around like headless chickens, with me in the lead and yelling, “It’s impossible; how will we make it?” Moments later, the travel agent called again. He apologized profusely saying, that our flight was Thursday, not Wednesday. There we were, six family members, having different expressions of relief. Some were angry at the agent’s error, others, including me, lying on the floor, gasping in relief.
Once all settled down, we reverted to a more leisurely packing process.
Our Daughter-in-law called from Ireland to check all was running to plan and casually asked if we had requested assisted travel, as we were both over seventy, “I thought that was just for minors,” I remarked. She reassured me it was a wiser arrangement to make. I duly called our agent and organized it with him.
When we arrived at the airport, two gentlemen shepherded us to wheelchairs. I was shocked, as I was sure we didn’t need wheelchairs.
It turned out the best arrangement for the two of us. Our carers wheeled us to all the correct checkpoints, ahead of the long queues, and knew which documents were required, helping us select these from the huge pile we were carrying.
On boarding the aircraft, we were seated in a convenient place (near the loo) without another passenger squeezing into our three-seat row.
On landing at our first destination, we enjoyed a similar treatment on both arrival and departure.
What amazed me was, on our arrival in Ireland, we were afforded the same treatment. Our trip was seamless because three different sets of carers in three countries were skilled, compassionate, and understanding.
We arrived, if not a little weary, in our new country, safe and sound. A surprised (at how fast we came through the red tape.) but relieved family welcomed us, and we drove to our new home.
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When senior years knock at the door, does adventure fly out the window?
I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of seniors, in their early and late seventies, respectively. Opportunity knocked at their door and they flew out the window to a new adventure:
Jacques and Marie are, if there is such a thing, your average seventy-year-olds who had decided to retire.
The challenge was this: Neither had any provision for retirement and their total assets were an apartment in a secure complex and two old motor cars.
Marie ran a thirty-year-old dress making business and Jacques a home-based data base management service. Both were wearied with the physical and mental stress of working their respective businesses.
Their children overseas felt it was time for them to retire saying they would offer to support them both until they could reestablish themselves. Their family at home thought it the best way for them to go.
Helped along by families on both sides of the ocean they started the lengthy process of preparing and submitting documentation, along with undergoing of all medical and financial requirements.
The final day of departure arrived all too soon, as the time they were spending with their family at home on a golf estate, (pic on right) they were enjoying.
Family dropped them off at the rendezvous hotel, where four suitcases (their life’s possessions) were lined up on the hotel patio. After registration and allocation of numbers, their bus to the airport was booked.
They settled in the cool of the lounge, savouring an exceptionally flavour-filled burger.
There was a long wait before boarding the bus and also on arrival at the airport. Once more all luggage was unloaded, this time on the tarmac entrance to the departure terminal. This process allowed for a sniffer dog to run alongside the luggage, checking for (they didn’t know what?)
Booking for an assisted passage turned out to be the best thing they could ever have done (more about that further on.) Two wheel chairs arrived with attendants and at the small cost of their self-consciousness, they were whisked to the head of an exceptionally long queue and wheeled along, with their cases, by folks who helped them to have the right paperwork ready and dealt with the check-in clerks, security, and Immigration officials.
They were literally rushed through the immigration, security and positioned first-in-line at the boarding gate. Their International airport (closed to all but repatriation flights) was like a grave yard. Everything was shut down, the lighting dim. Only one food store was open, which served some unpleasant sandwiches for which they paid a small fortune! Finally they were wheeled to the aircraft.
Neither of them had ever been aboard a Boeing 777-300 before and were struck by this huge spacious aircraft. The flight to Dubai was some ten hours and the service
provided by the cabin crew was nothing short of spectacular. Like any economy air travel, sleeping was fitful. A tasty breakfast and a cup of coffee next morning, cured much of their sleep loss.
Dubai was an extraordinary experience. It was light, airy, busy; like a huge mall with upmarket shops selling the absolute best of everything.
Their attendants spoke easily understandable English, were polite and offered a standard of service neither of them had ever experienced. The distance between aircraft exit to boarding gates would have left a fit athlete breathing fast! But their attendants weaved their chairs through the crowds at about 2 kph (fast for wheel chair occupants), showed them what forms were required and when, jostling them ahead; the crowds appeared to be sympathetic to two retirees zooming along in their wheel chairs.
Again they were delivered to the doors of the waiting aircraft to be greeted by the cabin crew members.
Once seated, a rather large person attempted to squeeze in between the two and the window seat, without any success. The person complained volubly and was speedily relocated. They then enjoyed a comfortable flight in two of the three seater row.
The seven and a half hour flight was the same as the previous one: efficient and friendly service where nothing was too much trouble. Much to the credit of Emirates – the couple said it was the best airline on which they had ever traveled. They were literally served door-to-door.
The two disembarked at their new home, where they were wheeled through all the immigration and customs process in a matter of thirty minutes before being presented to their family.
They later described the entire journey as first-class comfort and enjoyment!
Arrival at their family’s home was breath taking. The golf estate is nothing short of
Marie is going to work in her son’s franchise business and Jacques will market his first book to European readers.
When I asked them how they saw their ‘retirement’, they explained that it was not a matter of ‘giving up work’, but rather working with their passions and enjoying these with those they love!
The two have settled in and taken several walks on the estate, plus a tour of the local village where shopping is done and a grandson goes to school.
The weather for them has been fine, temperatures averaging in the 18 c’s. In the apartment itself, temperature is controlled, particularly with the double glazing.
Setting up of the couple’s mobile phones was swiftly accomplished by the younger folk (who are wizards at these things) as was linking to WI-FI for their laptops.
Although saddened at having to leave other family members and special friends behind, Jacques and Marie are excited to move into their new lives here in this beautiful country.
They will live in the hope that one day, all their family members will join them on the journey of their adventure.
What we were thinking about yesterday, becomes our reality today, and today is our only reality – all else is illusion. Bury your fears and live your dreams.
If you feel this article has value, please send this link to others, Writings are meant for people, not for dormant files in our computers and very often when we share them, it results in positive changes in the lives of individuals and communities.