2005-10-28

More Travel Story

I flew Air Madrid to Quito. It's a budget airline, and I understood that I would have to pay for ANYTHING that I wanted to eat or drink. So I packed a lunch and made sure I had change with me in case I wanted something to drink.

Knowing that the flight would be full of South Americans, I made sure I was at the airport early. Standing in line was like being home in Ecuador, and I stood there and grinned inwardly. It was chaos, but it was warm and friendly and nobody was behaving in a loud or aggressive way (something that is common in Spain.) You have never seen such a variety of "luggage," all of it stuffed to the hilt. Despite the 40 kilos of weight each passenger was allowed, lots of people were being sent to the line to pay overweight charges.

I got checked in without a problem, and the whole flight was a great experience. We left on time, they gave us 2 meals and drinks for free (apparently their plan to charge for food was backfiring as everyone was just taking food with them) and showed 3 movies. It is a really long flight, 10 1/2 hours, but it was non-stop so that was a bonus.

As we got close to Ecuador, they handed out the immigration forms, which (get this) were all in English! Ecuadorian immigration forms for a plane full of Spanish-speakers. Good one. Anyway, I had fun helping most of the people around me fill in their forms. About 20 minutes after we were done, one of the flight crew got on the loudspeaker and translated the form line by line.

By this point I was having all kind of conversations with the Ecuadorians around me. Why was I going to Quito, how long was I staying etc. etc. I felt like I was already home. Listening to the noise level and timbre on the plane was like a big party where everyone knew each other well. I loved it!

When we landed in Quito, everyone cheered and clapped, in good Latin tradition. I cried, I admit it. I cannot land in Quito without getting choked up. And I wasn't the only one! I saw lots of tears being wiped quietly away.

Once we got on the ground I was very impatient to get out to see my brother. That was not too smart, because I was immediately plunged into Ecuadorian inefficiency. It's friendly and bubbly, but a nightmare all the same, especially when I have gotten used to living in Europe.

Getting off the plane was our first challenge. They opened doors at the front and the back, but they kept telling us to "go the other way." We were laughing when we finally got on the bus, having walked up and down the aisles in different directions more than once.

Once we got inside, the immigration lines were like playing Russian Roulette. They closed lines, reopened them, closed them again. I switched lines more than once and finally got through. I was struck by the fact that ALL the immigration officers I saw were women, which was a very new thing. They all had on smart uniforms and wore their hair in smooth buns.

I paid my $1 for a luggage cart and wandered around looking for my bags. The luggage belt in Quito is only big enough for so much luggage, so it's customary for the bags to be taken off and piled up on the floor. It's a good thing they actually check your luggage tags to your claim tickets. After finding my bags on the fringe of the crowd, I breezed through customs without being stopped and Scott was standing there.

We went home right away so I could meet Emiliano. This is my favorite photo from my visit...



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