January 5th 2011
The plane turned out to be quite full but luckily I only have one seat mate. As we lift off I am expecting snacks and drinks, instead all lights go out and we are plunged into darkness that offers the hope of sleep.
I ask my seat mate if I can put my feet on the middle chair, “no hablo engles..”, but sign language works and she not only says yes but also tucks my feet in under a blanket. I believe I am going to like her.
Just as sleep is blissfully around the corner all the lights come on and here comes the aforementioned snack time, and sleep was just beginning to seem like a better idea. Oh well its free food and drinks.
We eat our pretzel mix and I take the chance to practice my spanish. Through a series of questions, hand motions, me whipping out my little photo album we discover the following information:
Her name is Sandra from Guatemala, she was visiting her daughter and grandchildren in San Franscico. She has 1 granddaughter
and 2 grandsons. She fly’s into San Salvadore and takes a 4hr bus ride home across the border.
She asks why I am visiting and where, I explain the route and volunteering in Ecuador (as best I can). Asking if I was a doctor, I explain that I am a vet nurse. I show her pics of my family and pets, and also my work as a vet nurse and educator at zoos. She is down near horrified that I have worked with snakes, and she fears for me and the anacondas. I tell her I am more afraid of the spiders.
During this time two movies come and go, dinner then breakfast is served and no sleep is had. On some of the bumpier sections she looks very nervous and ends up holding my hand occasionally. At one point she digs out 3 coins from Guatemala and gives them to me as a gift. She makes me want to go to Guatemala with her kind sweet nature, I know that if I showed up at her house I would be fed very well. We land at 8am El Salvador time at the San Salvador airport. As we stand and get all our things together I am motioned/asked by an old lady to get her bag down for her! Me being asked to get a bag down… I not only reached it but am asked to get 2 more bags as well. Maybe they make these plans for shorter people???
As I exit the plane I realize I am going on close to 24hrs no sleep and am beginning to feel it. Is this airport built on the ocean because I swear this is a certain amount of pitch to it as I am walking to information. As my plane does not leave for another 7 hrs a gate has not been assigned, but glory of glories there is wifi. I call my
mummy and tell her I have made it this far and I am going to go find a corner to curl up in. The best thing is that I can take off my boots and put on some slops, my feet are praising my existence. There is no air
con in the airport and it is a rather pleasant temperature, bordering on almost balmy.
Due to all chairs having permanent, immovable arms between each, I find a section of linoleum and spread out my little blanket, make use of my neck pillow, position all gear around me so as to afford maximum security and attempt a nap.
Fading in and out over the next two hours I finally reach a point where I can see almost straight, I pop into a loo (toilet) and change certain essential pieces of clothing and head in search of grub. A ham and cheese croissant and a fruit smoothie is the ideal form of sustenance, even the melted american style cheese is just a perfect level of yumminess.
Wandering around the airport there are a number of little stores, and if the arts and crafts in Peru and Ecuador are anywhere near as beautiful as these I am going to bankrupt myself. There is a super cute christmas ornament that I can resist and I figure the amount of time I am spending in this airport I can almost class it as having visited the country. Browsing the store I come across these curios shaped like eggs and by lifting off the top half you get a view of little cermamic figurines acting out scenes of everyday life. Then I notice a series with different decorations on the eggs, lifting these I discover a series of different Karma Sutra positions… I am not sure if I should be embaressed or stop and take notes. I opt for discretely putting them back and leaving, with my little mundane ornament wrapped up safely.
Dropping mum a line of skype again we chatted for a bit before she noticed that I was swaying to and fro, and here I thought I was just moving in time to the movement of the airport. But she assured me that it was unlikely the airport was floating in the ocean… I am guessing I am still exhausted. I attempt to get some sleep on and around the chairs and have just fallen into blissful slumber when I am awoken. This very friendly lady who seems to know me keeps motioning to the phones, I think, and I think she kept repeating, among other things, “momma pappa”, I was still mostly asleep and so confused. Suddenly she leaves, goes to the ticket desk, asks a question and goes and sits somewhere else. Leaving me to wonder if I was having a very lucit dream… but no she is still sitting there about an hour later when I am more awake.
I chat to another American girl who is heading to Guatemala to do an immersion study, she has an 11hr lay over, she wins! After 2mths in Guatemala she will enter law school and hoped to focus on immigration law, a very handy to skill to know spanish with that carrer path.
Boarding begins shortly so I pop off to the duty free and decide to pick up some chocolate for Fernando’s mom and at check out I pick up a tiny bottle of Chivas Regal for his dad. Then we board and I am thrilled to see that I can move to an entire row and as soon as we level off I am nesting into a comfy spot and passing out. You know you are a traveler when the highlight of your day is getting a row to yourself. All in all a fairly uneventful flight and we land in Lima around 8pm.
After exchanging money (2.78 soles to the $), and finally getting my bag (I think they only had 2 guys unloading bags or maybe only 1 baggage carousel could work at a time) I headed to the exit. And into a sea of Peruvian faces and very insistent taxi drivers. As I walked slowly trying to find my friend Fernando (we worked at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle), I had this sudden fear that I might not recognise him after a year and a half. After wandering back and forth through the crowd and having one particular taxi driver ask me about 10 times if I need a ride, me saying I am waiting for a friend, him then saying still no friend, he offered me his cell phone. I was super grateful and once i reached Fernando I discovered he was running late.
So I hunkered down in a corner and worked on diary entries. I also snacked on sweets I had brought from home. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed 3 little girls staring at me then looking at their mother then staring at me. So I pulled a couple of sweets from the bag and motioned them to come get them. The oldest jumped up and nervously came over. They were all super cute and so excited for the sweets. About 5minutes later their older brother came back and looked a little disgruntled that he hadn’t got one, so I gave him one too. Have never seen such big smiles. Through out the next 15minutes or so they kept giggling and staring and so I decided to offer the last 6 or so in the bag, that produced much joy and an approving nod from a nearby taxi driver. Later when the family walked past to meet someone at the gate they were all nudging the girl to say something. Suddenly she blurted out “como se llama?” (what is your name), I said “Katty” (In spanish there is no ‘th’ sound), and they all smiled and walked off. Later the boy and girl came my way and stood pretending to be interested in something, but finally got the courage to ask me a bunch of questions. I think I faired quite well, she is 10 and he is 14, they live in Lima. They ask my age, my home, how long I was in Peru etc…
All in all a great experience.
Finally around 10pm Fernando arrived and apologizing profusely gave me a big hug. We headed out onto the highway and the insanity of traffic in Peru. There are not so much the concept of lanes and turning signals and such, it is pretty much a free for all, with much honking. I think the aim of the game is to see who can get the most dents in their car. I even saw a skateboarded hanging onto the back of a combi (minivan), which in itself might not be too unsual around the world, but this was on the highway at top speed with cars weaving everywhere. Pure insanity.
We grabbed a quick dinner of roast chicken, which was amazing and then headed to the house. Fernando has moved into his mom’s second house/apartment so we have the place to ourselves. It is cute and cozy and clean. However the hot water hasn’t been connected and the toilets keep running after you flush them, until you manually manuever things in the tank. We chatted till quite late and then headed to bed.
What a crazy and exhausting day, and tomorrow has promised to be a long day of exploring starting at 7am!
Stay tuned for the next round of adventures involving stunning architecture, St Francis of Asissi and heat exhaustion…