Monday, November 29, 2004

Nov 19th,Day1

Planes, trains and cars

Today is the day. I went to work for few hours in the morning. Yeah I know I have a great work ethic, I wanted to complete some important works before I leave. Things like taking print outs for my trip, making some long distance calls, sending fax etc. My flight was at 2.00pm.I had to take a connecting flight from Washington dc to Atlanta and then the international flight from Atlanta to Lima at 4.30pm. My tour operator was supposed to come and pick me up at the airport in Lima.

As usual had to be early at the airport, because of the increased security. When i was walking for the security check i remembered that even though i choose my travel insurance company and plan, i forgot to buy the insurance. I was cursing myself.

For the security check ,I had to take off my camera, my pouch with handy cam, the purse, passport neck purse, belt and the height was shoe. I was thinking, thank god the shoe bomber didn't carry any explosive in his under garments. And my Asian looks got me a personal massage from the security guy. It took me another 10 mins to pack up my things back.

Great thing about this trip was i got a window seats on all my flights, including the internal flights in peru, buses and trains. The sky was little cloudy. Looked as if it drizzled a while before.

The plane was about to leave at the right time. The pilot backed the plane a bit and don’t know what happened he parked it again. He said there is some problem in Atlanta and that we cannot fly for a while now. After 30 mins. He said we are ready to leave and went on the strip leading to the runway, just a few yards before entering the runway. He stopped and announced that again there is some problems and that we cannot take off now.
my flight schedule was like this
Washington 2.00 (pm) --> Atlanta 3.35(pm)
Atlanta 4.30(pm) ---> Lima 11.30 (pm)

But it is 2.45 and iam still in washington dc.I started fearing the worst. what if the flight is delayed for long. I wont be able to catch the lima flight and wont be able to go to Peru. if i miss the flight today and go tomorrow change of one day in my itinerary would mess up my whole schedule. I had already reserved the internal flights, lodges etc. I would have to make alternative arrangements for everything right from my pick up at the airport. I was cursing myself for forgetting the travel insurance. The image of sage Ezhil(my friend who cursed that my flights will be delayed) loomed large in my memory, his curse has come true. I was furious and it was at this exact moment that i made that decision. The decision to kill ezhil in case my peru trip gets cancelled.

But god thought otherwise. He decided not to decrease the meager population of india and save the life of ezhil. The lucky guy escaped. The pilot said everything is clear and joined the runway. The flight to Atlanta was smooth.

I was always looking at the time all the way to Atlanta. It took more than 15 minutes for the pilot to park the aircraft after touch down. It was already 4.15 pm. I had to run from one gate to the another. Atlanta airport has a internal train that u have to take to go from one gate to the other. I felt the train was incredibly slow compared to my urgency. I felt i would have ran faster than the train. I reached my boarding point. There was no one, everybody has already boarded. I was the last. I rushed in. After taking my seat i remembered my luggage. I checked in one luggage. If i made it right on time. There is no way that the baggage would be transferred from my connecting flight to this aircraft. The baggage’s were still getting loaded into the plane. i was pitifully looking out of my window at the baggage boarding looking for my bag. But I didn’t see it till the end.

I talked about my checkin luggage with a stewardess and she said that i have to complain it in Peru, if i didn't receive my baggage. She also said not to leave the airport without filling the lost baggage form. Again i started imagining the worst what if my tour operator went off before i could fill up my form. I just decided to face things as it comes.

I started talking with the girl sitting next to me. And i ended up talking to her non stop for more than 5 hours. That was veronica, a triple master degree holder in anthropology, urban planning and economics. A first generation Peruvian American, very knowledgeable person working for a non profit organization. She was first of the so many incredible peoples i met in my trip.

I reached Lima around 11.00 pm.I went to the baggage claim area to give a complaint about my checking baggage. I was in for a sweet shock, my black baggage came on the carousal, it was the 3rd bag to come out of the carousal. The baggage looked like a black knight in shinning armour , galloping towards me in a slow motion shot. I just fell in love with my baggage for a second. I thought lady luck is favoring me on this trip. I was relieved, what a great way to start the trip.

At the airport i had to stand in big lines, the most interesting thing about the lima airport is its customs checking. You have to stand in a line and at the end of the line there is a big button with 2 arrows on top of it. When you press the button one of the arrow glows. The 2 arrows are 2 different colors red and green. If you get green u can proceed forward without any checking otherwise if u get red u have to go for special checking. A pure chance checking.

There was 2 lines the in my line everybody was getting green. the next line one guy got a red. I decided the probability of me getting red is less in the other line comparing to mine. So i switched line and when i pressed the button .I got a GREEN and i was out of the airport.

The person who i was supposed to meet. Mr.Pablo was there holding a placard. I talked to him and went with him to his car. suddenly the Latin American scares came to my mind and i asked his ID card to check his name and stuff, he was all smiles when I asked his ID. Then got into his "Hyundai" and went to my lodge in downtown. Mr pablo dropped me at the hotel and said he will pick me up tomorrow for my flight to the Amazon. He gave me two letters. It was from paola the person that i was talking to on the net. She had written that letter cause Mr.Pablo's english is "so-so", she mentioned the arrangements that have been made. The other letter had all my tickets my 2 flight,3 bus tickets and all the hotel vouchers .I was impressed. I never thought tourism industry was so organized there.

Mr.pablo took me to an hotel in the downtown. there was this funny warning board on the hotel.

what are the chances or you meeting someone with a name like miguel, carlos or gloria in a latin american country.It is like john or bob in USA.

I was very tired and would have slept for 30 mins. I heard flushing sounds from my toilet. I was wondering who the hell is using my bathroom. i checked my bathroom and there was none. It was actually from another bathroom in front of my room. That bathroom is supposed to be a common one for all those people who stay in the hostel. It seemed as if somebody was distributing free beer to everybody in that hostel. The bathroom was constantly in use and that was the end of my sleep. Imagine you r tired and you r slowly drifting into sleep. You reach that point of quagmire where your spinal cord is taking over your brain activities, At that sweetest moment you hear , Bluuusssssssshhhhhhh, someone flushing the toilet. It made me crazy, but I was helpless. My only option would be to change the room. But i decided against it considering the facts that it was my first day in latin America, i can't speak spanish,it was late night and I have to be up early morning.Even though i was in my room, i felt i was sleeping in the front bathroom.I heard all kinds of converstaions,people talking about there weekend plans and bar incidents. From my observation i guess the Australians will win the liquid output race pants down errrrr hands down.

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