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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pretty fly...

the destination: Lima, Peru, and a new view of the Pacific

Stepping off the plane in Houston, I had a mad impulse to stay in the corridor. There the heat of Texas had slipped through the otherwise unremittingly air conditioned expanse of George Bush Intercontinental. Sadly, the flight staff would undoubtedly have been less than congenial concerning my whimsy so I sighed and moved on into the concourse, hoping to find a kalache for a sort of late breakfast-early lunch.

What? You don't know what a kalache is? Well, we discovered them years ago, eating roadside food in Texas, a heartily recommended pastime. Kalaches are Czech goodness, with a Texan spin. A sweet bread pastry sort of thing that makes ideal breakfast, most tasty, I assert, stuffed with sausage. You can also get them with all sorts of fruits, or cheeses, or even the beloved jalapeño. My friends, a jalapeño one with a coffee will wake y'all right up.

Here's a recipe link to give you the idea: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/2007/03/sweet-escape-kolaches.html

Anyway, I wanted one. But one was not to be found by me. (Though later, and therefore not relevant, internet research revealed I could have had one at Shipley Donuts in Terminal B.) What I did find was a Starbucks. The ubiquitous, if not unwelcome, Starbucks. I settled for a prosaic cup of oatmeal and cup of coffee. Lo-cal instead of local and also armed myself with a nice thick paperback at the bookstore.

Getting to read a fat book uninterrupted my telephone or kids? Bliss.

It even makes waiting for your flight a pleasure.

Boarding the plane, it was immediately apparent this was to be a bilingual flight. All communications, including the greeting by staff as passengers entered the place were in Spanish and then English. I'm a total travel geek to be titilated by this.

So sue me.

As I slowly navigated my way to my seat in the very very last row of the Boeing 767 (hey, no biggie! Close to the bathrooms and no one behind me kicking the seat or sticking stinky sock feet through to plant on my armrest,) past other travellers attempting to lift, shove, and cram their carryon baggage into the overhead bin compartments.

There was a tiny woman with graying hair in the aisleway, also waiting to get to her seat, and she apologetically tried to move aside to let me pass. I smiled. "De nada, no hurry," I said, "we'll all get where we're going." She reached up and lightly touched my cheek, which startled me. We are so hands off in the States, I had forgotten that most of he rest of the world is not.

Bohnee she murmured. I stuttered "thank you, er, gracias" and found my seat.

I had no idea what she said...but I think it was nice. Sadly, my Spanish is limited to a slender few key phrases.

Back to the plane and continuing with the 'nice' theme, I even had an empty seat next to me, and a slim and amicable fellow to my left who never even once tried to steal my armrest.

Men, you may not even be aware of this armrest phenomenon, but ladies, you know I'm right.

surfboards, Miraflores

It was cold in there, bordering on frigid actually, and I turned off the overhead air blowers to settle in beneath the usual insubstantial (in both size and thickness) airline blanket. After about 15 minutes the speakers buzzed with this message in Spanish and English: We are asking you now to take your seats. The plane will not move until you are sitting. We will wait for you. I grinned into my book.

Eventually everyone must have sat down since the plane did its thing and we were soaring. I amused myself by trying to translate the Spanish safety spiel. Then the captain came on, beginning in English this time: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have now reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet on our way to...hold on...(long pause)...Lima."

Wow. I hoped someone had interrupted him rather than that he had forgotten where we were going. True, pilots are a sort of glorified bus driver of the skies, (don't get me wrong, I sure couldn't fly that thing!) but I prefer one who at least has a good grasp of where we're going.

I know. Picky, picky, picky.

It got colder and colder, and finally I jumped up and investigated the ceiling above me. Sure enough there was a gap and freezing air was escaping gleefully from it. "no offense, it's not you" I told the fellow next to me, and moved to the empty seat. Which was out of the draft and much better.

He proved himself amicable again when they passed out the emmigration forms. I had tried, and failed miserably, to trick the flight attendant into thinking I was a Spanish speaker. He answered me every time in English, though others got the pleasure of his melodic Español. Squinting at the blurry form, I finally gave up the pretense and asked him for one in English. This one is in English, miss. he assured me.

The copy quality was so lousy it made me question whether I was going to have to bow to age and get reading glasses. A new thought, that. However, with patience and the help of my bespectacled seatmate we decoded the form and got the thing filled out.

Lima, from the night skies above, home to nearly 9 million people and the third largest city in South America, spreads out brilliantly along the dark waters of the Pacifc. I didn't even try not to be excited.

After customs, where I had apparently filled out the paperwork correctly, I retrieved my suitcase from the carousel and proceeded to a new experience in the realm of security. We all had to line up to get out, and as each passenger got to the front of the line they had to press a button. If the light turned red they were pulled aside and their luggage was searched. My light flashed a friendly green and I sailed on through to the greeting area where throngs of people waited with signs and smiling faces.

Somewhere in that crowd was Mike. But he missed seeing me and I missed seeing him, and I waited outside in the night air with the taxi drivers for awhile, they practicing their sales pitches in English on me, I practicing polite refusals in Spanish. I spotted my spousal unit once through the windows, moving through the crowds inside, but found it impossible to enter the doors where several passengers were coming out until they had finished their exit, refusing to give any quarter. Of course Mike had disappeared by then.

This sort of thing has happened at the end of nearly every race when Mike has come to to cheer me at the finish. We can never find one another! Admittedly, part of the problem may be that I'm kind of short.

Finally, though, we were reunited with one another (me yelling "Mike! Stop! Don't Move!") and I got my first taste of Lima driving. Mike has refused, wisely I think, to even attempt it in Lima, so we had a company driver who was a typical Peruvian, squeezing us into the tiniest spots, revving and screeching, weaving, adding his horn to the cacophony around us and speeding with glee into any gap.

The little car survived, as did we, and I can honestly say that being relaxed while such insanity is going on must be a lifelong skill once acquired, because the experience didn't bother me one bit.

Finally I got to see the hotel where Mike has been spending so much of his life lately, found it luxurious and well-situated. I didn't take much time to admire, though. A quick bite from room service and we collapsed to sleep, Mike needing to get up in about 4 hours to go to work.

Not I. My unapologetic plan was to sleep in.

And then to explore Lima on foot...and on my own.

the rocky beach and a discarded bottle

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