GEORGE NEWS - If all goes according to plan, Kathy Whitehead, the journalist from Wilderness who has been stranded in Kabul, Afghanistan since March, will be back in South Africa on Sunday evening. George Herald reported on 10 May that Whitehead was hoping to return during the following week.
That didn't pan out, but on Tuesday 18 May she told the paper that she had received confirmation of her flight bookings.
Whitehead has been trying to get back to South Africa since 20 March, when all flights in the country were suspended without any warning and she couldn't continue working there. She will be on an evacuation flight out of Kabul to Doha, Qatar on Saturday afternoon. This flight has been arranged by foreign embassies in Kabul to get their own people home. "Once in Doha I will connect on a South African repatriation flight on Sunday to Johannesburg. In Johannesburg I will go into quarantine for two weeks, but after being locked down in isolation in Kabul for more than two months, an extra two weeks won't make a difference."
The reality hasn't quite sunk in yet. "I think it will only become real when the flight out of Kabul actually takes off," she said. "But I am very grateful to so many people who have tried to help me. Especially the officials at the South African embassy in Pakistan who have been amazing. I have been stranded for two months and the last three weeks have been especially difficult for me, as I reached a point where I really started thinking this nightmare would carry on for months."
She said being stranded is an extremely difficult thing to get one's head around.
"You are locked in a foreign country and locked out of your own country. And yes, one does start taking strain mentally - which is something that has and still is being experienced by hundreds, if not thousands of South Africans who are still stranded around the world.
"Hopefully ways will be found to get everyone home as soon as possible, because the longer they are stranded the more traumatic it becomes for them. So for me, it will be a huge relief once I am in the air on Saturday, knowing I am on my way home."
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