all text and photos copyright 2017

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

Send me on my way...

security purse and a couple of backpacks...happy happy.

So here's the ugly truth, much as I hate to admit it: the girl whose personality has more than once been compared to that of a golden retriever, (that would be me,) wasted most of the last year of this precious thing called life...in a funk. In a slump. Which is lame. Capitol-L lame.

Sure, I had reasons: Last August I acquired (and still have) an injury that kept me from running. There are few things sadder in everyday life than a runner who can't run, and the injury was utterly my own fault -not listening to my body when it said woah! This did not make for a happy camper. It has gotten better, and I can run...some. Which is way better than nothing, y'all.

Also, admittedly, I was having a hard time letting go of Dubai, not just of the friends and amazing running community there, a painful loss, but also of the travelling and closest-thing-I-was-ever-going-to-come-to-glamorous lifestyle.

I've always subscribed to the no matter where you go, there you are saying, buuuut now I think perhaps I was wrong. I definitely like myself better when I'm running...or travelling. Maybe it's the excitement. Maybe it's the chance to learn something new about myself and the world. Maybe it's that nicely widened margin of acceptability for appearing a total idiot.

Whatever it is, I thrive on it.

So it was with entirely glad heart (Funk? What funk?) that I donned the backpack, checked a single piece of luggage, and boarded a plane (after the "traditional" airport massage...twice makes a tradition, right?) for Houston and then South America.

South America. A whole new continent. With a loved one waiting for me and a land to explore without a single memory in it yet.

Delicious. Enough to make a girl's spine tingle.

It all began with zipping effortlessly through security at SeaTac, interested once again to note the number of people who seem both befuddled by the system and unhappy to be there. Many were obviously people setting off on vacation. A time to be happy. Personally, I think the airport security staff do an awesome job of getting everyone where they need to be in a timely and friendly manner, seemingly without getting frustrated by the overall noncompliance of the flock.

On the plane the airline (who shall remain unnamed) informed us that if we wanted television we could pull out our credit cards to pay for it. I objected to this on principle, and turned the screen all the way down, though most people didn't seem to mind the inveigling "There's still time for On-Demand!" message, but then, I could afford principles. I had reading material and I didn't have kids in tow. With the kids I would have coughed up for sure.

On my right was a mother who did have her brood alongside, three small children. Dad was waiting for them in Houston.They seemed to behaving pretty well but as the 5 hours progressed their mom got more and more stressed. Stressed enough that my offer to hold her adorable baby girl, initially meeting with a polite refusal, resulted in baby sailing over the aisle to me for me to hold multiple times. Little Justina and I became good buddies. Mom was whispering threats to her other two offspring, trying various and sundry options that didn't seem to garner the result she was looking for.

Finally the breaking point. The flight attendant asked what they'd like to drink -there were no meals served, at least, not to Coach Class scum like us. Justina's brother, about 4 years old, wanted juice. There was no more juice. Mom said, in what I would describe as a resigned tone, but no worse than that, "fine."

The flight attendant went ape. I apologise for the expression, but it fits the situation. She raised her voice to that scary command and control tone they teach in cop school. The one they use with a cocked weapon pointed at your head, a snarling, barely restrained German Shepherd alongside.

She barked, "I don't like the way you are COMING AT ME, Ma'am!" with a sarcastic twist to that last bit.


Mom turned white and her mouth dropped open. It was the exact same reaction one would have gotten from backhanding the poor woman. I'm not sure what the stewardess was trying to accomplish. Flying alone with children that you're not only responsible for but also trying to keep civil is an experience that deserves the sympathy of those around, if not an entire cheer squad.

As it turned out, this mom had a cheer squad. One composed entirely of complete strangers, to be sure, but when she lost it, started to cry and, between hoos, sputtering disbelief that she was being accused of such a thing, three rows on either side stirred angrily to her defense. This only made the flight attendant more belligerent, so much so that she had to be bodily dragged away by another female flight attendant who took her handily by the waist and wrangled her back, still trying to pick a fight, to the attendant area at the back of the plane.

I kid you not.

In retrospect, I would have given a lot to have been privy to that little conversation between the flight staff once they disappeared behind the service curtain.

I'll bet it was good.

The nice (and apparently martial art or animal handler trained) flight attendant came back and took the now crying Justina away from the still bawling mother and her concerned children, holding the baby while trying to calm the now full-of-righteous-anger mother.

It's possible we fellow passengers might have set her on said path of righteous anger with our indignant comments on her behalf. It was impressive to hear her turn on her Texas Momma and retort, 10 minutes after the incident, I don't wahnt her back door apology, ah want her name.

I can tell you, it totally cancelled out any need for paid in-flight entertainment.