Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Home again, home again

I got home around 5 weeks ago and lets just say, I hit the ground running:
-12 weddings, 2 bridesmaid dresses and 3 bridal showers later, I successfully saw my best friends marry the man of their dreams. 
-Started my last semester of school at the U
-Found an awesome apartment in Salt Lake
--->Have not moved down yet due to lack of time
-Went on a trip to Bear Lake
-Got some quality wakeboarding in
-Saw many wonderful friends that I have not seen in centuries
-Planned trips to Egypt and California
-Celebrated my mom's big 50th birthday


Monday, September 1, 2008

The GRAND finale!!

I know that it has been forever since I have updated my blog and I realize that it gets harder and harder to motivate myself to do so because of all of the events that happen and are "blog worthy." Therefore I find the idea of updating everything far too overwhelming and give up.  Today I was at my Favorite Aunt Cindy's house and she said she made a blog and that we were linked now, the pressure is on... so here I go:) 

Before I tell you all about my wild American days, I have to finish my Ecuador saga. This could take a while so sit back and get ready to laugh at my crazy life.

Note: I flew to Ecuador on a buddy pass that my great friend Amber let me use. In case you don't understand buddy passes, it means that I fly stand-by and I can only get on the plane if there are seats available, and if there are seats open then I have to wait for the other stand-by passengers that have higher seniority to get their tickets before I am issued mine. Keep in mind  that I had the lowest seniority of anyone on the list. 

I had come up with a brilliant plan to surprise my family. I told them quite a while ago that I was planning on going to Peru for the last week of my internship and was bound and determined to see Machu Picchu. I booked a flight to Peru and made plans with friends to meet up with to go all together and see the amazing ancient ruins. Well, the plans fell through around the second week in July, it was such sad sad news. The Galapagos and Machu Picchu were the only two things I wanted to do the entire summer and now I was not able to see either.  Since going by myself to Peru was not an option due to safety issues, I never told my parents and instead decided to surprise them 7 days early.  I watched the flights carefully as the 31st of July came near and had two options... 1. I could stay in Ecuador and fly out of Guayaquil, or 2. I could use my ticket from Guayaquil to Peru and fly out of Lima.  The flights leaving Ecuador were filling up fast and were oversold. Whereas the flights out of Lima had some 80 seats available for stand-by passengers. There was no question, Lima was the place to go to get home the fastest.  

We had a big fiesta in each community we worked in to say good-bye, I had my hair done all cute (since I had not done anything but blow dry it all summer), and packed my bags. Time had flown, it was amazing, but I was so excited to go home. I wanted a hot shower, clean floors, a couch and home-cookin' more then anything.

 I flew to Lima and was sure I was going to make it on the midnight flight for Atlanta, they only had 2 flights a day- one at midnight and one at 7 AM that headed to America.  I stood in line with other fellow stand-by passengers and had a nice conversation with a flight attendant from Atlanta who warned me that Peru is one of the hardest places in the world to fly out of because of all of the cargo issues they have. Apparently because of all of the exports from Peru to America, the cargo becomes more precious then the paying passengers. With a plane that had 80 seats open and 12 stand-by passengers ahead of me, I was the only person who did not make it on that night. 

I decided to stay in the aiport because it would be pointless to get a hotel for 4 hours.  I met a girl named Rebecca from Detroit and Petra from Holland who were both my age and staying the night in the airport  cause they had an early morning flight to Cusco where their boyfriends were meeting them. They were so fun and we spend the rest of night sitting in Starbucks talking as the hours flew by. Soon it was time again for check in and I was the first in line at 5 AM.  I was again denied  and the plane went out virtually empty of passengers, yet weighted with cargo. 

In my mind I decided again that it would be dumb to get a hotel because if I were to make the flight at midnight, the room and money would go wasted. The airport was clean, I had free internet and I could just find a corner to sleep in- not bad. I had one problem though, I promised my mom I would call her that day and let her know I was safe. The original plan was not to call her but to be home by that time to surprise her, so I had to make up some believable story and convince her I was safe. I told her I was on the bus and we had just stopped for lunch for a few minutes. I had to keep putting my microphone on mute during the conversation to silence the intercom announcing the arrivals and departures of flights that was just overhead. My mom kept getting frustrated and I just said it was a bad connection which was (luckily)enough to put her at ease.  

Midnight came around again and there was an even larger line of stand-by passengers then before and less seats available- bad news.  The customer service agents knew who I was by then and didn't even ask for a passport to see my name. 2 stand-by passengers made in on that night and no one else. I tried to sleep in the comfy chairs at Starbucks that night, but my nerves were begining to get the best of me and not even 2 hours of snoozing was all my mind would allow. Morning came and guess what? same story. I begged the customer service agent to tell me if there is any possible way I will be able to make it on the midnight flight. She told me I needed get rid of my luggage somehow and then I would have a much greater chance of getting on the plane. I was determined to get rid of my bags in any way possible just so that I could get home. I was exhausted, smelly, my cute hair was now covered in grease and all I wanted was home.

I was in the hallway sitting on the floor trying to google how much it would cost to ship my 50  pound bag home when an airport employee who had talked to me before asked if he could help with anything. He knew I had been there for days and from the tears streaming down my cheeks, he could tell I was frustrated and desperate. I told him I needed to get rid of my bags and I had absolutely no idea how to do so. I asked him if I could do it from the airport and he said no but that he could take me to a place where I could. I can't tell you what a relief it brought to have someone help me. We went to the huge compound just outside of the airport where all of the cargo is handled. We then proceeded to go to every airline and ask how much it would cost to ship my bag. We got every answer from $250 - $900. Once I found the cheapest place I then had to go through 20 pages of paperwork, fingerprints, passport scans, drug-dog sniffing, saran-wrapping and a credit card charge, my bag was finally on its way 5 hours after I had started my shipping search. 

I had to call my mom again, I was making up a big story in my head but after no sleep at all, 2 solid days in an airport and hearing her voice, I broke down. She asked how I was and I could not stop crying. I then explained my situation and everything that had happened. My parents told me to buy a ticket and get home. But after spending so much money on shipping costs,I could not bring myself to buy one because of the hope the customer service agent had instilled in me.  I told them I would try two more times and if they were not successful then I would buy a ticket. Now I knew my mom and dad's nerves were on edge, but it oddly enough seemed to bring so much comfort and take my nerves away. Therefore I was able to take a four hour nap in the hallway, until a man yelled at me for sleeping in that particular spot. 

I met some girls from Seattle at Starbucks that night, who went to BYU. We had a lot of fun talking and they were amazed at my crazy stories. I also met another girl that night from Holland who had crazier stories then I did. The people working in cafe in the airport began to recognize me and gave me my usual seat. The taxi drivers stopped asking if I needed a ride because they knew I would say no. The security wrap guys stopped asking if I wanted my bags wrapped cause they knew I didn't need it... come to find out later that they all had bets going on how long I had been there and how long it would take before I got home, just like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. 

I didn't make it on the midnight flight, nor the 7 AM flight that day, not having bags did not help my chances at all. I was so mad.  I broke down and bought a flight for that night at midnight. It only got me to Ft. Lauderdale FL but thats all I needed. Even just being on American soil was enough joy for me at the time. I could use my buddy pass from Ft. Lauderdale  to Salt Lake then.  I bought my ticket online and sat in Starbucks waiting with excitment... I was FINALLY going home, guaranteed!I met a group of people flying stand-by on Delta as well and told them all of my adventures from the past 3 days. They were stunned and were not looking forward to the trials they had to face. I gave them a list of the best places to sleep, cheapest places to eat and most entertaining times of the day in the Lima airport. 

I was the first person in line for Spirit airlines and when the lady handed me the ticket I started to cry out of pure happiness. It was the most amazing feeling to have a ticket and nothing was going to bring me down from my state of bliss. I walked back up to Starbucks and showed my stand-by passenger friends my ticket to which they stared at in frustration. During my last meal at the Lima Airport Cafe the sweetest couple from Ft. Lauderdale offered me to join them and ended up paying for my meal. We had a wonderful conversation and they were so kind to me. They offered me their home in Florida if I got stuck there and were truly inspiring to me. I showed my servers at the cafe my ticket and they all clapped for me as I told them I was finally leaving.

Going through customs is usually a tedious task, however I could not wipe the grin off of my face as I willingly let the TSA officers search everything of mine, including my person.  I was excstatic to see a whole new part of the airport and wandered the stores until my flight called for boarding. I was finally heading to America after 4 days of living in a land of chaos, confusion, frustration and mostly, foreigners. Nothing could have made me happier at that moment in time.