I Knew I'd Get Here Eventually…

[Written in the Miami International Airport, August 2]

Its days like today that make me need to remind myself over and over that I do in fact like (even love) international travel. Here's what happened.

First of all, there was the tension and stress of a visa and Passport that were only Fed-Exed to my house the day we were scheduled to leave for Chicago (they did in fact arrive on time, but barely) and thus we were able to start phase 1 of my trip on schedule, but then…

This morning started out well-like the dutiful little traveler I am, I awoke at 6 with enough time to shower and pack up my bags, eat some breakfast, and depart my Grandmother's house by 7. This meant that we (my faithful mom, dad brother and I) arrived at O'Hare around 8. We therefore had just enough time to check my monolithic neon green suit case, and get my boarding pass (only the one from ChicagoàMiami though, the next leg was to be gotten in Miami I was told, since it was through Lan Ecuador and not just American Airlines. "Just ask an agent, and they will tell you where to go" said the reassuring bag-check-in lady) We then said our goodbyes, shed our tears, I was gifted an exquisite hammered copper Wisconsin-shaped necklace by my mega talented mother, and right on time I got in the security line. So far, so good.

I even boarded the plane without incident. But here is where things began to get out of whack…We sat for 2 hours while the mechanical issues (apparently having something to do with one of the seats?) were resolved painfully slowly. But I wasn't worried-it was early, and my patience had not yet worn thin. I listened to music, read a book on my fancy new phone, talked to the vacationing Iowan couple next to me…listened to more music, read some more…when we finally took off things went alright-not too much turbulence and I was able to stretch my legs out in the exit row and sleep. A thunderstorm over Miami set us back another few minutes before landing as we had to circle around and land from the other side, but land we eventually did.

Now, remember that bit about not having a boarding pass for the second leg of my trip? Well, that meant that I couldn't quite remember the exact time (or gate, or flight number) of my connection, which, at the time I was given my first boarding pass hardly worried me-after all. My layover was at least two and a half hours I was sure, so that would be plenty of time to get my new boarding pass, and figure out where I needed to get myself. My critical error in all this, I realize now, was not pulling my bag down from the overhead and checking at least my flight number and exact departure time for the next leg of the journey. Alas, I am an unseasoned connecting flight traveler. All the flights I can remember had been delay free, with others who managed connections, or direct to my destination. But, after asking the flight attendant, as well as the agent at the gate we came in on (and receiving contradictory information) I trouped my way down to concourse F, which was not in fact what I needed, so I went down to J, which is what the people at F told me to do.

The Lan Ecuador attendant at Concourse J informed me that there were no flights leaving for Quito until 11:55 at night, and that the one I wanted was a Lan Ecuador flight, but it was operated through American Airlines, so I had to go back to Concourse D where American had its headquarters and ask them. So back I went through the alphabet of concourses, past all the enticingly aromatic restaurants (it was now about 5:00 PM, as I found out later, and there had been no meal on the first flight) and annoyingly slow ambling people all the way back to concourse D. I printed my boarding pass, and felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. It wasn't a boarding pass at all, only a slip informing me that "Unfortunately the check-in window for my flight had passed" and it asked me to please see an agent. Wonderful.

Another long line later, I was informed that, (as the Lan agent had already told me) there was a flight leaving at 11 something PM, but that it was full, and I was to go back to Concourse J and ask if I could get on standby. If not, I would have to wait until tomorrow. Even more wonderful.

So back to J I trouped, starting to feel it in my arms by then, from lugging my two hefty carry-ons back and forth. After several frustrating minutes of being told to wait, being redirected to someone who also didn't have information I needed and not knowing who did, I was finally directed downstairs to the Lan office where the agent made some calls and got me on the 11:55 flight (for sure, not standby). Finally some good news!

So back upstairs I elevator-ed, and was informed that the machine could not figure out how to spit out my boarding pass, and I was to see an agent yet again. Just what I really wanted to hear. It was in the process of waiting to do that when the Lan office agent from downstairs found me and told me that I should go to American Airlines and get my checked bag on the correct flight so I could pick it up in Quito when I arrived.

Alright so for the third time I hauled myself all the way back to concourse D (and this is a big airport people, I mean yes, I am being a bit over-dramatic about it perhaps, but it actually was a pretty long walk, especially the third time!) The agent at the Main Desk of American Airlines got my bag forwarded so that I could pick it up with the rest of the people on my new flight. She was also happy to give me a $12 travel voucher to eat with (solid recommendation to ask for that-thanks mom) since breakfast had been my last meal before 7AM, and almost 12 hours later I was beginning to get a bit dizzy…

One overpriced "Margarita sandwich" later, (during the eating of which I composed an email to Rodolfo, the program leader, explaining the situation, and asking him to please inform my poor host mother that I was still in Miami and wouldn't arrive in Quito until some ungodly and as yet unknown hour of the night) I could not send my email since the wifi was not in fact functional in that spot, but luckily I had managed to thoroughly cover my phone with greasy mozzarella fingerprints…

After finally tracking down an agent who directed me to another agent who directed me to a line where I finally got my boarding pass, I went through security for the second time. I made my way to gate J14 where I composed another email to Rodolfo, this time with actual times, that I was able to send. I hope he saw it and was able to inform my host mother before she left for the airport. With the time difference (I am on eastern time here, and Quito is currently on central time) there is hope that he was able to catch her right as she would have been leaving to drive the hour to come and get me…

I have been sitting here in a strange yellow rocking chair that belongs to a fleet that seem to be unique to gate J14. I've been explaining to all the passersby who (like me) think that this wall covered with several outlets would be a good place to charge their device, but that in fact only one of the 10 outlets actually functions. This long delay means I have had ample time to fully document the first of what are sure to be many escapades-and I haven't even gotten to Ecuador yet! I may not get to post it until sometime tomorrow (after lots of sleep I hope) because my half an hour of free airport wifi is long gone, but you will all get to read it when I am settled into my host family's (and my new) house in Quito.

[I am now sitting comfortably in my new Ecuadorian room, my half un-packed clothes splayed everywhere, just home from a city tour with Gus (pronounced like Goose) my host Dad–more on that later]
My expertly crafted hammered copper Wisconsin shaped necklace
My expertly crafted hammered copper Wisconsin shaped necklace-I love you Mommy!
Snapchat from O'hare
The snapchat from O’Hare that never sent…
Strange rocking chairs by my final gate
An unfortunately blurry picture of the strange rocking chairs by my final gate (where I sat to write this)
My luggage made it!
My luggage made it! Hallelujah!
Safely tucked into my new Ecuadorian bed at long last
Safely tucked into my new Ecuadorian bed at long last—5:51 AM!