William and Mary Law School

No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk

After three flights, 22 hours, and a 20-minute car trip, I made it to my flat in Cape Town, South Africa.  Despite sitting on a plane for the better part of a day, I learned about African culture, specifically about Xhosa (pronounced with the click of the tongue and then “sa”).  After arrival in Dakar, Senegal to refuel and after the UN-obligatory aerosol spray, we took off for Johannesburg at around 5 am local time.

While being served the morning meal, the flight attendant asked what I would like to drink, to which I replied a cup of coffee with milk.  After she had poured me a cup, I was about to take my first sip when all of a sudden the milk that the flight attendant has just used, spilled all over me.  Stunned and unsure of what happened at first, I remained in my seat, trapped by both shock and the meal on the tray table in front of me.  The flight attendant apologized profusely and helped me to the galley, where another flight attendant gave me disposable wash cloths to dry myself off.  All the while, I thought sarcastically, “Great, I am going to smell like rotten milk for the remainder of this seven hour flight!”  Thankfully, I was wearing my waterproof jacket and most of the milk just wiped off.

While helping me clean myself off, the flight attendant explained that in her culture (which I later found out to be Xhosa) if milk spills on a woman, it means that she is pregnant.  She explained further that the Xhosa associate milk with the angels and with good luck.  She then promptly added that she did not know what milked spilled on man meant.  However, since she said that it was associated with good luck, I decided to see it as such, instead of an unfortunate start.

The rest of the flight from Dakar to Johannesburg was uneventful.  After I rechecked my luggage in Johannesburg and boarded the plane to Cape Town, a professional looking team boarded the flight.  I studied their shirts, which prominently displayed the word “Stormers” on them but still had no idea who they were.  During the flight, the attendants started taking pictures with them.  When I finally arrived in Cape Town and met friends who graciously drove me to my flat, they explained that the team was the professional rugby team, the Cape Town Stormers!  Of all my travels, I must say that the flights from Washington, D.C. to Cape Town were some of the more memorable ones.