SA man shares his journey of coming back home from America during lockdown

SA man shares his journey of coming back home from America during lockdown

From struggling to book a flight to being under quarantine, Nelson Makgakoa shares the challenges he faced when returning to South Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nelson Makgakoa
Nelson Makgakoa/ Facebook

Nelson Makgakoa is one of the South Africans who has been looking forward to coming back home to be reunited with his family. 

After working as a chef at Frenchmans’ Reserve country club in West Palm Beach, the world-renowned chef says he couldn't wait to return to African soil. 

But, with the world fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, booking a flight to come back home came with many challenges.

Nelson says he had to wait for a month to get the Consulate/Embassy letter before booking his flight. 

Nelson, who flew back home on 2 June, says he had to drive from Washington to North Carolina to catch his flight to South Africa. “Unfortunately, we could not find a flight to Washington because it was short notice, so we had to drive on Sunday around 2 am to North Carolina. I was with my two friends. We helped each other to drive.”

But with America facing many protests following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police, Nelson says he and his friends were praying they would not run into any protests.

“I remember when we were driving to Washington Airport we kept on praying that we don’t bump into the #BlackLivesMatter protests because we didn’t want to miss our flight.”

Fortunately, Nelson says they had a smooth ride. “The road trip was so refreshing. Passing through beautiful hills of Tennessee and Mountains of Georgia playing great country music and singing along. Those are the kinds of things that I will always cherish.“ 

"We arrived in Washington Dulles Airport around 2 pm and already there was a queue for South Africans waiting to be repatriated,” he says.

Nelson and friends
Nelson and friends/

Nelson recalls the time he finally got onto the flight. “Then came a moment of brilliance when the pilot said: 'Ladies and gentlemen welcome onboard the SAA flight, please fasten your seatbelts and once again thanks for flying with SAA'... then I knew that Africa is the destination after I have been in USA for 2 years,” says Nelson with a smile.

"The flight was 14 hours 40 minutes of which I didn’t even feel that it was that long because I longed to be welcomed by the African sun, the mountains, and the tweeting of the great birds as well as African Ubuntu. 

“We landed on Tuesday (02 June) afternoon and got into the buses to Sandton Protea Hotel. We were welcomed by the staff and that’s when I felt that Ubuntu I have been longing for,” says the 35-year-old. 

Nelson, with all those he flew with, is under quarantine. 

“The rules of the quarantine were read to us and as difficult as they were we had to abide by them. It’s not that easy spending a day without going out especially when you are in Sandton. So far, the quarantine is going well, though I miss flavourful food because the food we get in this hotel is meagre,” says the chef. 

READ: You just have to try this yummy 'Rainbow Pap'

“The quarantine ends on Monday, 14 June. So far I have been watching some South African programs and news all over the world in the particular USA, concentrating on George Floyd’s murder.” 

Nelson says America will always have a special place in his heart. “I will miss the dollars, my friends, colleagues, and some great networks I made that side, cooking great food. America has been a great refuge for me, and I consider it my home,” he says.

“Finally, I thank God for safe repatriation and I can't wait to be integrated back in the society!” 

Please don’t try this at Home, School or even at Church ......hahaha

Posted by Nelson Makgakoa on Thursday, 18 January 2018

Image courtesy of Facebook/ @nelsonmakgakoa

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