Flying back to the US, transiting in Miami
Jun 5, 2008
It was a sad feeling to know the trip has ended. After 41 cities/towns, 36 different hostels, 8 countries, 18 night buses, 88 days and having been to the world's tallest waterfall, world's widest waterfalls, world's largest salt flat, world's highest city, world's driest desert, world's highest lake, world's largest urban park, world's largest river, and world's highest geyser field we were about to leave.
We woke up at 4AM and got to the airport at 4:45AM (10 min ride, USD 6 by taxi)to see a long line of people waiting in line. Although we were there 2 hours before takeoff, we were one of the last to get there. When we got to the immigration custom, the line was even longer. An American Airline staff told us that it was possible that the plane would have to leave without us. That got us really nervous! We pleaded with the custom officer to let us go in front of the line with no luck. We prayed to God to open a way. Surprisingly we saw there was a special line for pregnant women. We went to that line showing them our three "small" children and asking would it be possible to go to that line? Amazingly, this time they said, "Yes!" Wow, we made it inside the airplane just 3 minutes before the door closed. Thank the Lord.
We were unprepared to realize that each person, including child, has to pay USD 40.80 airport tax, adding up to more than USD 200. The airport tax itself equaled 1/5 of the money we went entirely for Ecuador.
It was a clear early morning and when the plane took off at 6:40AM, we were pleasant rewarded with an excellent overview of Quito from air. Not to far from the city, one can also see the famous snowcapped Volcano Cotopaxi (5897m). It was our first time seeing it though we passed by it by car because the past week clouds obscured it the entire time.
FUN DAY AT THE BEACH IN MIAMI
On the plane, it showed the movie "Bucket List", which is about two old man who were about to die deciding to go out and do things they always wanted but never had done in their life. What an appropriate movie. It was good that we are doing it while we are still young.
After 3.5 hours, we arrived in sunny Miami. We were really nervous about entering the US because Annie and the children only brought their Canadian passport. We weren't sure how to explain why they were coming into the US as visitors when they also hold the US passports and their father is a US citizen. Fortunately, the custom officer only asked few simple questions.
Given we had 6 hours layover, we took a J bus from the airport (USD 1.25/adult, 45 min) to reach the beach front of Miami. We then transfer onto another bus (USD 25 cents, 5 minutes) to go south towards the Miami South Beach (Lincold Mall Street) where there are more actions, stores, and people. On the bus, a person thought we've been in Miami for a while as we were tanned and spoke Spanish!
We were pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the beach, ocean, and building in South Miami. We were thankful that we can end this trip with such a high note. Without hesitation, we changed into our swimsuits and jumped into the warm, clear, aqua-blue, tropical ocean.
The white sand beach of Miami South Beach is perfect for children as the water is shallow for many, many meters, the waves are just right, and the water is warm. We had lots of fun surfing, floating on the air cushion we bought at Walgreen (USD 3). Annie had fun picking up more beautiful stones and shells.
We left the beach reluctantly. We waited for a while before a bus showed up, causing us again anxiety as to whether we would miss our plane. We got to the airport 30 minutes before departure and thought we were safe until we saw the long time at the secruity check point. Once again, we started to sweat. This time, the staff at the security check point saw that our flight is about to leave and let us go on the special line. Thank the Lord. We got on the plane again 10 minutes before the door closed at 7:30PM.
Given we were flying west, the plane chased the fun as it tried to set in front of us. For most of the flight, we enjoyed the sunset on the plane until we reached Los Angeles at 9:30PM, a 5 hour flight counting time differences.
It was great to see the familiar face of Jon's mom waiting for us at the airport. The children kept telling her all sorts of stories.
There was no food served as the airline is trying to cut cost. We also didn't buy food for lunch before we had difficulty adjusting to the high prices in the US. So by the time we got to LA, we were quite hungry. Fortunately, Jon's mother is prepared and we had an excellent mid-night meal with all sorts of Taiwanese goodies and fish ball soup. After 3 months of South American food, we really enjoyed the change of taste.
THE NEXT DAY
We woke up the next day and threw all our traveling clothes into the washer. After we put on our other clothes we all began to laugh because we could hardly recognize each other. For 3 months, we wore the same clothes everyday. To see each other in clean, presentable clothes and to see Joani in her cute dress was such a funny scene.
Annie and Jon lost about 2-3 kilograms during the trip despite eating lots of fried chicken, french fires, shakes, and ice creams. Jon's stomach is the flatest it had been since college. Olivia grew over an inch and Nathan grew just under an inch during the 3 months (We forgot to measure Joani before the trip).
It was a strange feeling to be back in the US. Jon felt that he was in a reverse cultural shock. Somehow, the life in South America has become so ingrained and so familiar that the luxuries and comforts in the US was not so inviting. South America was much more similar to China than to the US as well.
We still say "chow, chow" (goodbye in Spanish) and put our clothes back in our backpacks just like we were still traveling.
We were very thankful for the prayers of our parents and many other for safty in our trip as throughout the trip nothing were stolen and our health and safty was never at risk, despite the many adventures.
We built many, many lifelong memories beyond our expectations.
We met many great travelers along the way whom we can continue to keep in touch.
We experienced God through his protections, his speaking, and his people whom we came in contact throughout the different cities.
Praise the Lord.
Note: The trip came out to be roughly USD 2500 per person for the 3 months, including all costs such as lodging, food, transports (air & land), and tours. About half of the cost were for the cost of entrance tickets and the activities we went on and a quarter of the cost were for transportations. A quarter is for food and lodging.