As you know, I recently got back from a trip to the US of A. It had been a year and a half in the waiting due to lonnnng delays in getting my Residency Visa, then my Censo (which is no longer needed), then my Cedula. It was time overdue to hug my mama (81), see my best friends and ensure I hadn't been replaced, as well as check on the waterfront house I still own but can't seem to get an interested buyer.
An avid reader wrote me and asked if I was going to write about my trip and I thought 'no, why would I? My blog is about my life in EC'. I've given it second thought. After all, so many people have moved here from some other country and invariably they travel back to their former home country to visit relatives and whatnot. So, I guess it's all a part of the experience...moving somewhere else and the part about having to travel back to the origination point for visits....right???
My trip had many legs. Because Cuenca (CUE) does not have an international airport (outfitted with customs/immigration facilities), one must get their tushes to either Guayaquil (GYE) or Quito (UIO) to fly anywhere outside of EC.
First leg. I hopped a van for a 3-hour ride from Cuenca to their offices near the Guayaquil airport. Cost: $15. Then, hopped in a taxi which took me to the airport terminal just a handful of blocks away (I had 3 bags) but required a weird circumvention route to ultimately get there. Cost: $4. Waited a couple hours, used internet, recharged laptop.
Second leg. Flew for 45 minutes on LAN airlines from GYE to UIO. Service amounted to passing a wicker basket down the aisle and selecting from some chewey candies. I grabbed one of each color. Excitement was provided by air turbulence, common to the descending process into UIO. After all, we were skimming alongside a corridor of volcanoes and then into UIO which is situated between two long ridges.....all of this ripe for turbulence. This time, it was REALLY bumpy. So much so, I heard many passengers yelp at the surprise of a sudden drop....one of many. Waited a couple hours, used internet, recharged laptop.
Third leg. On a LAN airline 767, we were to depart late at night and arrive around 6am in Miami. I LOVE the 767's because they are wide....two seats, aisle, three seats, aisle, 2 seats. They seat darn near 300 people!! We sat on the tarmac for awhile with no announcement. Finally, the captain stated they were waiting for a crew to investigate an odd smell that several passengers had brought to their attention. An hour later, they didn't discover anything and decided to take off.
Quito has a new airport under construction outside the city, whereas the existing one is smack dab in the middle of the city. They needed a longer runway, especially due to the altitude of the city. Having been a pilot myself in my younger days, I was curious as to how long our rollout would be. 'Rollout' is the point from which the pilot gives full throttle (thrust) from a dead stop to the point of liftoff from the tarmac. I had counted it at GYE, which is at sea level, to be 33 seconds for an Airbus 320. I used the standard scientific method of 'one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three....'. In Quito (UIO) I counted to 48!!!! Think about it. Count to 48 right now (I'll wait). That's how long we rolled and rolled and rolled and I had to wonder just how much runway was left for us to use??? That's the affect of altitude. The air is thinner and, therefore, it takes longer to attain lift. Ditto with heat. The hotter the air, the more it takes to attain lift.
We landed in Miami (MIA). Because we had entered a new country, we had to go through Customs, retrieve our bags, run our bags through scanner equipment, then RE-check our bags if we were continuing on to another destination. Waited a couple hours, used internet, recharged laptop.
Fourth leg. On American, I flew to Chicago. Unfortunately, AA had changed the flight schedule and my layover time had been reduced from 2 hours to only 30 minutes. Luckily, the connection gate was nearby and they were already boarding by the time I landed. I got on, no problem, but I had my doubts about my bags.
Fifth leg. Chicago to my final destination, The Emerald City (Seattle). No sooner had I arrived at baggage claim I heard an annoucement with my name in it. I didn't know what they said, so I went to the service desk presuming what they ended up confirming. My bags didn't make it. BUT, since there were so many flights coming from Chicago to Seattle, my bags would be on the next flight which was due to arrive in an hour. My friend Mavis picked me up and we hit a nearby Jack In the Box to kill time and get my fix for onion rings that I had been deprived of for so long. Then, back to the airport and my bags were waitig for me.
From the time I left Cuenca, to the time I arrived in SEA....22 hours. Luckily, I arrived without having killed anyone.
Seattle was having gorgeous weather. It had been nearly 50 days without any rain. Though lawns were dry and golden, the trees were lush and green. I've known Seattle most of my life, but boy-howdy, I sure noticed the green canopy everywhere. I felt like I was driving through tunnels of trees. There is absolutely NOWHERE better than Seattle (or the Pacific Northwest to be broader) in the summertime.
I had a yard sale at Mom's to further reduce my inventory of personal belongings. A lot of it I had set aside from my original reduction sales before I moved to CUE...thinking I would want 'this stuff' in CUE. But, after being in CUE for over a year and a half, I realized I didn't need most of it and it would either be too much of a hassle and/or too costly to ship it down to EC anyway. End result, I made a few hundred bucks, reduced the amount of stuff stored in Mom's garage, and gave the rest away to charity.
The rest of my stay I won't bore you with. It was visit friends, shop for things to stuff in my bags to take back with me (I had to stock up on SWIFFERS!!!), get some new clothes (hard to find big guy sizes in EC), visit family, etc. My sis came out from Laramie, Wyo to check out the spiffy new house they bought. Oh, and dine out, dine out, dine out. GOSH...the prices were shocking me. At one restaurant I had a nice burger and fries and (ahem) 3 martini's. Cost? $45!!!!!
First day I was there, I got a parking ticket. $44!! I could pay it online....for an additional $4 convenience fee. ARRGHH.
3 weeks later, I headed home to EC. Reverse the order of the above.
First leg. Late night departure from SEA to Chicago ORD.
Second leg. Chicago to Miami. Early in the manana, I had to transition over to the international terminal and schlep my way to LAN Airlines....down a corridor, onto moving sidewalks (thank God), another corridor, more moving sidewalks, rinse/repeat, rinse/repeat...repeat, repeat. Schelping 3 bags. I could tell my energy level was on a low reading.
As I was riding an escalator down to the final leg of my schlep, I tried to read the various signs to tell me where I could find LAN's counter to check-in my bags. My brain was wigging out. I couldn't read the signs and electronic messages appeared to be freaking out and when I moved my head, the images my eyes scanned along the way, showed up split seconds later. The images my eyes were capturing were getting all garbled up by my brain. Envision that part of an old movie where the film runs out and there's all that sratchy image stuff flying by. I thought....grrrreat....I'm gonna pass out here in the Miami airport and come-to with paramedics standing over me and I'm gonna have a huge good 'ol US of A medical bill.
So, I quickly sat my ass down on the cold concrete floor (so I wouldn't fall as far) and tried to focus on not looking at anything that would cause me to see all those distorted, flashing images. This was the first time this had ever happened to me. I'm used to hitting a sugar low and I know if I miss my medication my head gets a bit loopy, but I had taken it earlier that morning. But, this was entirely different. After awhile, I got up and scrambled to a nearby shop and bought a candybar and water and inhaled those. Just as a backup, I took another dose of medication. I was sweating like a pig headed for you-know-where. I thought it would be just my luck some security person would interpret my sweating as being a nervous passenger and put me on a terrorist watch. Luckily, I finally came out of it and felt semi-normal and went on my way.
Third leg. Off we sailed into the wild blue yonder on another 767. I had the foresight to ask to switch to an exit row seat so I would have more legroom. But, I overlooked the fact that some exit rows have a bulkhead smack dab in front of you which is NOT what I wanted. Dammit!!! Luckily, the flight wasn't full, so I snagged a seat in the middle section which I had all to myself. Movies, food, wine, pillows, ear plugs, whiskey, I was a happy camper.
Fourth leg. After arriving in Quito, we had to do the whole Customs/Immigration thing again. Sailed through. The Airbus 320 was a full flight. Everyone was on board and we waited....and waited...and waited. Finally, the captain announced they were delaying departure in order to wait for other passengers coming in on other flights that were running late. Lots of moans and groans from the passengers on board. The Flight Attendants kept walking up and down the aisle with their clicker counting how many passengers were on board and, presumably, how many empty seats remained. This got a bit irritating after a bit because how many times does it take to know how many are/aren't there? Passengers arrived and boarded and tried to cram their bags into already full overhead compartments while we all watched. Passengers DE-boarded. This went on for quite awhile. Some passengers who had waited and watched all this started to get vocal with the FA's. They wanted to leave NOW. A lot of people were getting hot under the collar. Keep in mind, this was the LAST flight of the day to GYE from UIO. I highly doubted anyone on board had connections in GYE they would be late for, or miss. They just wanted to get home...period. I thought.....what if THEY were the ones coming in late and LAN was waiting for? They would be so appreciative that LAN waited for them. But, they'd be pissed if LAN left them high and dry in Quito without any other option. But, noooooo....they didn't give a hoo-hah about someone else's situation because THEY were on board, that's all that mattered. I don't get it. People don't seem to have the ability (or just don't give a rats ass if it doesn't benefit them) to put themselves in the other person's shoes and see their viewpoint. I have a motto: "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want done to you". So, if you wouldn't want to be left behind, then shut the hell up. You'll be home an hour late...whoopteedo. Another 45 minute flight from UIO to GYE.
Fifth leg. Outside the terminal, I asked a taxi driver how much it would cost to take me to my hostal very nearby. He didn't know where it was, even though I showed him the address. He consulted with others. $7. I said 'no', the hostal said it shouldn't be more than $4. He grunted and went away. Meanwhile, another driver overhearing this said he would take me. The hostal truly was only a few blocks away but to get there it required a circuitous route.
The hostal had my reservation, but not my room. It was 10:30 at night and I was dog tired. However, he said he did have a room, a dorm with 6 beds, that I could have all to myself and he wouldn't charge me anything more than the $20 deposit I already paid. OK. I couldn't help be reminded of the Seinfeld episode where he had a car rental reservation at the airport but the reservation agent informed him that, though they had the reservation in the system, they didn't have a car. Seinfeld implored the woman that, since he had a reservation, there should be a car. He further told her 'I don't think you understand how a reservation works' to which she tersely responded 'yes, she does'. Seinfeld informed her 'I don't think you do, because if you did you would have a car. You see, you are supposed to KEEP the car!!'.
We went out the back door, down a smelly (of fish) corridor, past a laundry room and turned to go up a set of metal stairs attached to the outside of the building. These stairs had to be no wider than 18 inches!!! Up 3 flights and through a steel door and into the room. It was okay enough. Clean white linens, private bath...ummm....wait....there was no sink or mirror....just a toilet and a shower and the shower had only one knob, so you know what THAT means. NO HOT WATER!!! Ok, I needed sleep. I went to bed after banging my head on the steel frames of the bunkbeds several times. Oh, lest I forget, there were no keys to the room, just a sliding rod to lock the steel door, though that wasn't worth much since the window right next to the door could not be fully closed, nor locked.
Along about 1am, I awoke to knocking on my room door. It was the night manager with two young women behind him with backpacks and looking very exhausted. They had just arrived on a late night flight. What was I supposed to do...say NO?? What the hell happened to me having the room all to myself for $20 which, by the way, a bed in the shared dorm normally costs only $9?? HMMMM????
Sixth leg. UGH. I got up at 7am and had breakfast. I felt miserable. Other guests were coming down from their rooms in the other part of the building which seemed nicer. They all seemed happy and refreshed. Yeah, because they were sleeping in nice rooms like the one I HAD reserved!!!! The night manager gave me a ride to the van office. Within a few minutes, I was in the front seat of the van on my way back home to Cuenca. Most of the way I slept even while the driver careened around curve after curve after curve going through the Andes, climbing from sea level to my 8,000 ft city.
Hey!!! I came back with one more leg than when I left!!!!
I left Seattle late on a Thursday night. I arrived back home in Cuenca around noon on Saturday.
Stayed tuned for my next blog where I take a 4-day driving trip to Otavlo, Cotacachi, and Ibarra in northern Ecuador, and stand on the line known as the middle of the world...the Equator. LOTS of photos, too!!!