NOTE: I AM CURRENTLY SENDING THIS FROM BANGLADESH IN THE MIDDLE OF FEBRUARY, 2008! I MADE IT HERE A LITTLE OVER A WEEK AGO, SO THE INFO IN THIS EMAIL IS ALREADY WEEKS OLD. BUT, BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, RIGHT? A SELECT FEW OF YOU ALREADY HAVE A VERSION OF THIS..........
The day I left Peru, after 4 months volunteering in Pisco and a bit of traveling afterwards, I spent the day with my friend Santiago in Lima. After a filling and fabulous Chinese dinner at a restaurant overlooking the city at sunset from the 18th floor (used to be the highest building in Lima), he drove me to the airport where he stayed with me until it was assured I could get a seat on the plane. What a gentleman! I was flying on a buddy pass, which didn't assure I would get a seat, thus there was a good chance I would have to spend another night in Lima. I was told by the lovely lady at the counter that there could be some problems with me boarding due to the two checked bags I had. It had to do with the planes being over- weighted and full with cargo, and non rev customers are basically SOL unless by chance the plane doesn't have too much weight. I was told to come back at midnight and she would check again and see if it was possible for me to board. When we returned to the counter, I noticed all the standby bags were gone from their "holding place" behind the counter where they had piled up when I initially checked in. This was a good sign of course, as I was told I would otherwise have to take my bags with me, and return the following night if I couldn't get on the plane. What a pain that would be!! As it turned out, I made the flight, and if I hadn't have talked so long with Santiago, I may have even made it to the gate with enough time to get a first class seat. No such luck. The important thing is not to be in first class (tho who could complain about that!?!?), rather THAT I had a seat!
Santiago and I jabbered on and on, and when there was 45 minutes left until my flight was to leave, I bid him farewell and walked behind the glass wall, separating passengers and non. It was there I had to pay my $30.00 departure tax (the nincompoop short changed me nearly 2 bucks in change, too!) and then stand in the longest line EVER to clear
immigration. Of course out of 12 officers, I had to get the one with the least personality. Figures. I was overstayed on my Peruvian visa by 15 days (I knew this, I just figured it would have been a lot less to pay my "dollar a day" here, now, in the airport than renew my passport for another $30.00 plus bus and taxi costs from Pisco to Lima to the Embassy and back again). I was hoping it would get overlooked. Damn computer made the loudest alert noise ever when my passport was swiped. No such luck it would by-pass the system..... She told me I was overdue (duh...), slowly put her stamp down on the counter, turned beyond-slowly in her chair and then proceeded to yell out to a fellow immigration officer across the room on what she should do. I was afraid I was going to have to stand in a different line or go to a different part of the airport to pay this fee. Nope. Thankfully, in the end, I just had to pay her directly. I gave her 40 soles and she seemed pleased with that. (That's less than the $15.00 I owed). I was getting quite nervous at this point cause there wasn't much time til my flight was scheduled to leave!
Then came the x-rays. Ooops, change in my pocket. Have to go through again. Time waster. I have nothing of interest but the ladies insist on checking my carry on bags. This means they had to take everything out making a complete mess of all my belongings, which of course I have to throw all back into my bags unorganized cause now it is 5 minutes til my flight leaves! Controversy over my leftover Chifa (Oh so good Chinese food). The lady fumbles and can't open the plastic bag that contains my leftovers. Then she inspects the plastic Tupperware container inside. Top, bottom, all the sides. Looks at me quizzically. Calls over another inspection dude who disregards it and dismisses me. Great! Throw the Chinese back in the bag, place it on top of the carry on, hoping it won't leak and proceed to, proceed to, proceed to.......I hadn't the foggiest idea which gate to run to! I look frantically for a departure board, which I eventually find and thankfully my gate is essentially Right There. I ran up to the gate, and was one of the very last to board (if not THE last...which wouldn't have been the first time....) before the doors closed behind me. I was handed a plastic Delta bag with a sandwich, banana bread and a water. How cute. Dinner #2 at 1:30am.
The flight left on time, no hassles or problems (just not-the-friendliest-flight-attendants-in-the-world on board.........there is something to be said about flying international carriers, but then again, I have been saying that for years!), a bit of rough air, seat backs certainly don't go back as far as the Bus Cama buses in Peru (ahhh...such heaven when you really want to sleep!), but other than that, I got to Atlanta unscathed. Talked with a number of Peruvians while waiting to collect our luggage and waiting in line for immigration. They were all thankful and appreciative of the work Hands On did in Pisco.
A few observations from being back in the states....
First off, I keep greeting and thanking the airport staff in Spanish. I even fumbled my way through trying to ask a simple question -- only I did it in Spanglish! I was given an answer in English, along with a smile and a snicker. Whoops!
I forgot about paper seat covers in the ladies room, and by rote put the toilet paper in the bin, forgetting that in this massive country, almost all plumbing can support flushing TP. Oh yeah? What a novel idea....
I plugged in my laptop plug into the wall outlet and it didn't fall out! No need to prop it up with anything for fear of it coming right out of the power supply. Again, a novel idea....an actual outlet that isn't too big to support the metal pins. Wow...
I had some garbage in my hand I needed to get rid of, and surprisingly it didn't take long before I came across a trash receptacle (so difficult to find in other countries, or at least the ones in which I tend to travel...). I threw it inside the bin and instantly from where I had just put my trash, a big whirring noise came, startling me. The garbage can seemed to be crushing my garbage, making more space for other people's trash. Brilliant.
Yes, Tim, you were correct when you said everyone here speaks English (albeit with a funny southern accent....). Now, if I could only learn to speak it back!
Drinking water can be had from funny silver contraptions hanging off the walls....
Everyone here walks around with Starbucks cups..........
News here in Atlanta seems to be all about the crash of the stock market, the feds and their big cuts and the untimely death of Heath Ledger.....what gives?? Welcome back to the states, Suz!
Sitting in the cold (at least it isn't snowing) waiting for my connecting flight to NYC, hoping all y'all are enjoying your day!
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