Thursday, January 31, 2013

Seven statements about flying... Or perhaps better known as “My list of complaints.”

1. Can anyone explain to me why, WHY the first half of the people on the plane can bring their oversized, overstuffed, don’t-quite-fit-in-the-compartment carry-ons, as well as their carry-on sized personal item tied to a random skateboard or other awkwardly shaped purchase, but the second half are asked to check all bags except one small carry-on item?

2. Might I mention that said oversized, overstuffed, don’t-quite-fit-in-the-compartment carry-ons also slow the UNLOADING process, since the extra time required to dislodge them holds up the line? This may create issues for those of us not wishing to use the restroom on the plane, and may be especially stressful when a traveler has been awake and active for most of 26 sequential hours. 

3. Aisle seats don’t work well for sleeping. Too many oversized people passing by, and those pop cans popping your ears can be pretty annoying. I will say, however, that a flight going from Albuquerque to Los Angeles followed by one from Los Angeles to Miami allows one to obtain almost a full night’s sleep (albeit an abbreviated night). I might also note here that leaving Albuquerque at 7 p.m. is like leaving in the dead of night, while arriving at LAX at 12 a.m. feels like rush hour.

4. Midnight flight turbulence is just as fun as daytime turbulence; however, I don’t think it is necessary to yell and awaken happily sleeping people because of your excitement. When it was truly exciting, with cups sliding off of seatback trays and carry-ons entering the aisle, I awakened on my own.

5. It would be helpful to know what the suspicion triggers are. I find it rather random that the body scan triggered a pat down on my elbow. Actually, yes, there is a small metal pin in there, but I’d rather you didn’t dislodge it.... And dear lady at security in Bogota, I understand your words in both English and Spanish, but I have no idea what you want me to tell you.

6. Mr. Pilot. I am glad you choose not to take off when the extra power sources stop functioning, but I’m not sure I want to know that we’ll leave if we can restart the plane, assuming they’ll make a trip that includes crossing the ocean.

7. Dear beloved fellow passengers..... Please, please, please remember that the poor person in the middle has nowhere to go. No respite in leaning into the aisle in the absence of interference, no window to flatten against. The middle passenger should always have the leeway of using the arm rests, and he/she certainly does not want your elbow in his/her lap. Thank you. This is especially applicable in the early a.m. hours.

Odd Observations - The Third Time Around

It’s hard to believe that this was only, or that it was already, my 3rd trip to Bogota. In one sense, flying in is an adventure. It’s exciting, as is any celebration or vacation. In another sense, it’s like going home. There’s a sense of expectation, familiarity, comfort.

One of the first thing I noticed was that this time, as my flight landed, no one clapped. Let me back up and say that on prior trips, the landing announcement was immediately followed my cheers, whistles, and hearty applause. Perhaps it was because was American Airlines, rather than Avianca or LAN, both Latin based. Or perhaps it was because the cheers were already used up, after the announcement about power source restarts and the fact that our plane would still fly.

Another immediate note was the size of the airport. It’s still no LAX, but the Bogota airport now has separate terminals for ingoing and outgoing flights, glass windows so you can see your friends before walking out the door into the great unknown. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised in a city of 8.5 million.

Even though Colombian food is not the greatest source of fascination worldwide, I realized that trying to eat all the things I like in 2 1/2 days was not an easy task. Rest assured, I did manage a few arepas, lots of chocolate, a bit of pan de rollo, arroz, ajiaco, aguacate, patacones, jugos de all the fruits unheard of in the U.S.... and ice cream from Crepes!

The first time I arrived and the first time I departed, it was summer in the U.S. and it was raining in Bogota. My second visit, too, was during the rainy season. And the “hot water in the electric showerhead only” situation... No wonder I associated it with being cold. This visit was quite a welcome change. It was 12 degrees in Santa Rosa a couple of days before I left (and I had new pictures of snow to share!); during this dry season, Bogota might hit 31 at night, but the days were “caliente,” 8500 ft. altitude brought on plenty of sun exposure and 80 or 90 degree midday highs.

I can still manage a bus, a bag, and a child! I wasn’t too sure that I hadn’t lost the art, but as I traveled one morning with my friend Caro and her two year old Santi, I even stayed standing when the bus driver hit the brakes amidst 3 lanes of traffic to let Santi and I join his mom, who’d departed a bit faster than we could. AND, I made it to the farm and home again, via collectivos and busses withOUT getting lost. Anyone who knows me knows that I can get lost in Santa Rosa, so getting off the Galerias/Pable VI bus at the right spot was not an easy task.

My Colombian friends are friends of my heavenly family. They helped fill in a hug shortage that always builds in the “personal space” culture of the U.S. Likewise, the surprise of three friends at the airport, of being included in the family wedding preparations, of seeing delighted looks of surprise and having the children remember me, of being laughed at for “talking like a Mexican” - these should not have been a surprise; Jesus’ love runs deep. The couple getting married didn’t have an American wedding, or a Colombian wedding, or a Venezuelan wedding. They had a Jesus wedding. Scripture, songs, vows in English and Spanish, a “hupa” from Jewish tradition, and one line that I will always remember.... “And I pledge, if my feeling of love for you runs out, I pledge to believe that God will renew it as I continue to act in love and obedience to Him.”

Departure wasn’t final. Of this I am sure. Colombia is, and will always be, my “tierra querida.” There is a beauty in the country and in the people; there is a beauty in the calling God gave me to live there and the friendships that have returned here. I will celebrate my home... My home away from home in Bogota, and my home away from home in Santa Rosa, since my real home is in heaven! :-)