We don’t usually write about our travels, but a lot happened on our recent one week trip to the States. There were a few important business, tax, and banking problems that could not be done online or in the mail, so we packed up, made some quick travel arrangements, and flew to North Carolina.
One interesting aspect of the flights was the increased level of security. In Quito, we went through Ecuador exit procedure without problems, then at the departure lounge, experienced our first “pat down.” Jonny thought it was fun and asked for a pair of latex gloves from one of the attendants and proceeded to pat down the agents to general hilarity. I was then “selected” to go to the checked baggage area out on the tarmac. Escorted by a guard, we went through many restricted areas for about a quarter mile of walking up and down endless stairs to an area near the runway piled high with hundreds of pieces of luggage waiting to be loaded onto planes. Our four bags were pulled aside and one suitcase sat on a table with an attendant waiting for me to open it. He took out Jonny’s sippy cup that had a dragon’s head on the top that bounces up and down and asked me what it was. I explained that it was a drinking cup and he nodded with some level of understanding, zipped the bag closed and I was escorted back. The guard and I were both patted down again and returned to the waiting lounge.
Our LAN Ecuador flight was almost like flying in the old days, an excellent meal, comfortable seats, and pleasant attendants. Miami airport was a zoo and required an hour on line to get out boarding passes, then again through security, customs, immigration but with no problem with the Sippy Cup. On USAir, we encountered more of what we had been used to, cramped seats, no food, and indifferent attendants. We stepped off the airplane in Charlotte to frigid weather. The east coast of the US was in a cold snap where temperatures in Florida reached into the low thirties and the low twenties in North Carolina.
In our rental car, we spent four days racing from bank to lawyer to Walmart to friends to a short night’s sleep and then a repeat of the same schedule the next day. We got our fill of McDonald’s Big Macs and Kid’s meals, the usual shock at the excess in the stores compared to our simpler and probably more sensible offerings, plus an observation that, even in this economic crisis, people are terribly resilient and are doing the best that they can. We saw casual friends on the street and in stores and it seemed like we had not even been gone. Our close friends were still as close as ever and Jonny fell right in with his old buddies.
Then it was time to come home to Cuenca again. Another four flights and the familiar bustle and confusion carrying four suitcases filled with Christmas gifts and items that friends had asked us to bring back. Stepping off the plane in Cuenca sent a wave of gratitude through all of us.
We were happy to be home. Though still tired from our exhausting trip, we kept our promise to Jonny and put up the tree and now look forward to the very festive holiday season ahead. Happy holidays to all.