The actual flight to Guatemala
Jan 13, 2005
|The flight to Guatemala did finally occur, though it was a far cry from a normal day of travel. The original itinerary consisted of one flight from Detroit to Houston leaving at 6:15 in the morning and a second from Houston to Guatemala City that landed at 12:22 in the afternoon. However, here is the sordid tale of what actually occurred - you can stop reading whenever you wish:
Part 1: We woke at 4:00 a.m. in our hotel room in Ann Arbor (20 minutes from the airport in Detroit) and looked outside to see an inch or so of snow on the ground and a veritable blizzard to complicate our journey. The shuttle arrived on time, and the woman driving immediately told us that today was her second day of driving, and she hated driving on snow. "Hope we don´t end up in a ditch," she says. She also informs us that, though there was no one else scheduled for our shuttle at 7:00 the prior evening (and they stop taking reservations at 8:00), we now have an additional person to pick up in Ann Arbor. The chances of making our 6:15 flight are looking a bit shaky. Miraculously, we make it to the airport with a few minutes to spare and race to our flight.
Part 2: We´re sitting on our plane for far longer than normal, and are eventually informed that it would be necessary to switch planes because . . . no one really knows. Everyone gets up, removes there stowed luggage that has not shifted during flight, and heads back into the terminal. I´m starting to think that there will be a problem making our connecting flight in Houston, so I went to the counter and talked with the woman there. She was quite good, called up American Airlines (we were flying Continental) and moved us to a new flight that left Detroit at 11:30, flew to Miami, left Miami around 5:45 and landed in Guatemala at 7:45 p.m. Perfect. We get a couple of vouchers for any restaurant in the airport for the four hour wait until our new flight.
Part 3: American flies out of a different terminal in Detroit, so it was necessary to go back to the entrance and catch a shuttle bus to the new terminal. Once there, we had to check in with American. The lovely lady working the desk informs us that we can´t fly to Guatemala unless we have a return ticket. "Those Kerry expats think they can leave the country and not come back," the bitch says. I inform her that I´ve talked to the consulate and a travel agency and Continental airlines didn´t seem to have a problem with our itinerary. She looks at some sheet of paper directly in front of her and says, "Oh, I guess you´re right." Damn straight.
Part 4: We caught plenty of grief from the nice man at The Old Airport Cafe (please, any of you in Detroit, never eat at this shithole). "Airlines never pay up for vouchers. Tomorrow, stop taking vouchers". Whatever, the meal sucked anyway.
Part 5: I called our contact in Guatemala and in broken English and Spanish explained the situation and the new arrival time. Sam and I slept on some chairs for while, then we finally got on our plane. We sat on the tarmac for a while while the plane was de-iced, always a comforting thought. Consequently, we arrive in Miami a bit late, but it doesn´t really matter, since we have three hours to lounge in the nastiest airport in the U.S. Seriously, it was very difficult to find a bite of food that wasn´t some awful sandwich in a box or something fried beyond recognition. We dined on pizza and headed to our gate to discover that the flight is an hour behind. I call Guatemala again, since they are sending someone to pick us up at the airport.
Part 6: The flight to Guatemala was fairly uneventful, we even arrived a touch early. Finally, some good luck. I did realize on the second flight that I had left our Rough Guide to Guatemala on the first flight, thus ridding us of that awful convenience, knowledge, for our first days in Guatemala. Immigration went perfectly. However, while waiting for our bags, we started contemplating the bizarre circumstances of our flight and started questioning whether or not we´d ever see our bags. My bag arrived, Sam´s did not. We waited for an hour or so, positive that our ride would be gone. Amazingly, our best friends in Guatemala, Gustavo and Raquel were outside waiting for us. They took us home, fed us, and we slept the sleep of the dead.
Part 7 (yes, there is actually a Part 7): We decided not to head to our school in Xela the following day so that we could hunt down Sam´s backpack and also stop by the embassy. We would go to Xela on Thursday. When Raquel called the airport, she discovered that the controllers were on strike and no flights were arriving. Check the newspaper, I´m not friggin lying. We tried to go to the embassy in the afternoon and arrived at 3:34, but unfortunately, they closed at 3:30. We had a lovely time wandering around Guatemala City, trying to find "bloomers", the term saved for ladies underwear in Guatemala. Bueno. Actually, the center of Guatemala City was gorgeous and we ate well. The evening was a bit strange, because we were staying in Zone 1, which is a very dangerous area of Guatemala City, so we weren´t really allowed to leave.
We are now in Xela (after a rather intense four hour bus ride). We have registered at our school and have moved into our host family´s house (who are awesome - more about them soon). This city is gorgeous and is relatively safe to wander. And we start class tomorrow and have a hike scheduled for Saturday. However, we are still waiting for Raquel to ship Sam´s backpack COD (if it ever sees the Guatemalan sun, that is). I noticed in the paper this morning that five controllers were imprisoned, so I guess the strike is over. Meanwhile, Sam is enjoying her one pair of underwear, one outfit and tennis shoes (it is definitely sandal weather). She bought some striking gear at una supermercado here, but we´re still crossing our fingers.
Hope everything is going well with y´all. More to come . . .