Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ecuador is Hard to Leave (physically)

The day came and i finally had to bid farewell to my favorite new crazy country. Alvaro gave me a ride to the airport at 6 AM while the sun began peeking over the tips of the Andes. Alvaro helped me with my bags and took off for work. I turned around with my sacks of luggage and camera equipment to face the transport system that would be my mortal enemy for the next few hours of my life and was immediately greeted by a friendly officer with some sort of future stick, and the word narcotics enscribed across his vest. In spanish he informed me that he would like to know if he could search through all my meticulous packed baggage. I asked what would happen if i declined his request, and he pleasantly let me know that i was at full liberty to deny him, but then of course i wouldn't be able to fly anywhere that day. So after 20 minutes of him rummaging through my luggage with his space probe, he cheerfully released me to the ticket counter. Here i got all checked in, bags ready to go, and the ticket lady was about to toss them on the goodbye-belt behind her, when another, grumpier man, with a NARC vest and a future stick, grabbed my bags and brought me back to the discretion table to run through everything again.

Once you make it past the gauntlet of drug officers at the Quito airport, the only thing left to do is maneuver oneself through 10 different security checkpoints: Some for organic material, some for paying the 40 dollar leave-the-country fee (which, as i found out has to be cash! I yelled at the guy behind the counter that they were an entire airport and that they should invest in the amazing technology of credit card readers, but my broken Spanish pleas landed on deaf ears), some for visa requirements, some for making sure that you have this sheet that other stations gave you previously, and finally one station for not getting to bring any water onto the plane.

I finally reached the gate with a few minutes to kill since the plane got delayed 45 minutos, and i made friends with a kindly old man next to me. We were sharing his newspaper, which was plastered with articles concerning the final round of the Liga tournement that was happening that night, when my buddies in the NARC vests made a B-line for me with their cute little puppy. As i sat still, practicing my non-chalance and mentally preparing for whatever further tortures i was going to face as the apparently, perfect description of a drug smuggler, the little doggy came and sat down right next to me and my backpack. NARC 1 and NARC 2 walked up behind their dog, stared me down, and then grabbed the old guy next to me and whisked him away to who knows what.

I guess my luck was beginning to change.

We made it over the airport 1/2 an hour early, but were informed that God was currently smiting miami airport with golf-ball sized hail and that we would have to land at nearby Ft. Lauderdale to weather the storm. The plane began lowering over Lauderdale until we were about 50-100 feet from the ground when it decided to make quick, jerky manuevers and blast the engines, sending us back up into the sky. Then we just started flying out to sea for 40 minutes.

The pilot finally got in touch with his confused audience in the fuselage and let us know that we were going to another airport at West Palm Beach. We actually managed to land the plane here, but then they told us that, since we were an international flight, and Palm Beach was not an international airport, we were confined within the entire plane. Handy guards even appeared from the airport to stand watch over the exit hatches for us. This was around 1:30, and the voices over the PA calmly let us know to sit back, and that in 30-40 minutes, our plane would be heading over to Miami airport where we belonged, and that for now they would just toss on a quick movie for us while we waited. So everyone begrudgingly sat back and watched martin lawrence and some chess-playing super pig. Every 30-40 minutes we would get identical announcements delaying our departure just another 30-40 minutes. By the time Martin and Raven were parachuting into Georgetown university and accidentally interrupting Grumpy McRichman's 20,000 dollar golf shot, the plane was ready to go and pulling out to fill up on some gas. Unfortunately the plane was pulled into a light pole (as i found out later from a cool steward) and now we had to wait for them to fix the tail to make the plane fly-able.

So for the next 5 hours i dedicated myself to turning the boring (let's watch the bucket list while we are in airplane jail) plane, into an awesome party plane. I made friends with a cool steward who snuck me first class omelettes and snacks and gave me free reign over the liquor cabinet. So i spent my time smuggling heinekens and bailey back to my friends in coach, and I started a huge betting pool with about 50 people, concerning when the plane's wheels would actually leave the ground. I placed an early bet in the pilot's name to get him an incentive to get the plane going earlier, but he was one of the first losers.

The day went on, more and more delays, and instead of getting in at 6 Pm like i thought, i managed to make it into chicago at a little after 1 AM. Kitty and Tom came to pick me up since i had long missed my shuttle back, and we made it into Urbana at 5:30 AM.

Now i am just working on getting things together (See firework below) and finishing up some projects before china in August!

This was the best firework for the Fourth! It makes Baby Boomers depressed!

Blog will start up again sometime when i am in china and have internet!


Here are some links and pictures from Galapagos past! Memories!

Here is an article about the rincon del relato!

Here is a link to a bunch of group photos from the galapagos

And here are a bunch of those fantastic pics of me from Anna:

Here is a sequence where i got abducted by KFC's ecuadorian mascot, Chicky

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