**Prepare for a long post each time, seriously not for the faint of heart. This is my first time leaving home on my own ANYWHERE, so forgive me if I record all my observations in meticulous (sometimes boring) detail.**
Hola chicos, madre, toda la gente que va a leer esto. Ya estoy en Córdoba, Argentina! Después de una serie de vuelos, muchas horas gastadas en los aeropuertos, los aviones…comer a las horas extrañas y no poder dormirme, ya estoy en la casa de mi familia de acogida. Los vuelos han sido relativamente sin incidentes notables; Además del aeropuerto de YVR, ninguno otro tiene wifi, nosotros canadienses son muy generosos, ¿no?
La primera trepidación de mía era no tuve bastante tiempo para cambiar vuelos en LAX, Los Ángeles. Quizás no estamos en la estación popular porque solamente me llevo unos quince minutos para caminar del terminal 6 hasta terminal B (tuve que pasar los terminales 4 y 5) y la garita de seguridad también. Por fin, sólo los puntos de seguridad en Canadá y los Estados Unidos me obligaron a llevo a la computadora fuera de mi mochila, la gente en Santiago (SCL) era más relajada. English under the cut.
You anglophones are not going to make me translate all of the above into English, are you? Anyway, there was nothing much to do at LAX after passing through the security lineup. It was about 12:15pm and there were very few duty free shops of interest in the area; the only one I might consider buying something at on the way back is See’s Candies because they’re a) only in America b) their coffee candies are divine! Well anyway, we’ll see how I feel on June 1st…As it turns out, it wasn’t that confusing to get out of terminal 6, but that was probably because I looked at the maps beforehand. I already knew there was no connecting tunnel between all the terminals so that part wasn’t confusing. Getting out wasn’t difficult either, although it did suck having to get off on the departures level (so you’ll have to go all the way down to arrivals again to be able to get out). This is the part where Canadians thank whoever was foresighted enough to arrange the customs agreement with the States. Those lineups were HUGE! I took one look at them and just fled. Kind of makes me wonder how they regulate this kind of thing when there will always be people arriving who would not be part of that queue? Anyway, the only thing I like about LAX is how they do have a few kiosks for internet (although they’re freaking slow and you’re only limited to facebook, twitter, gmail, wikipedia…), which was where I checked in on facebook to leave a message for my mom. Few points of advice for whoever goes to LAX for the first time and have to change terminals: PAY ATTENTION to the signs on the shuttle buses, many of them don’t go around to other terminals but to parking lots, ALWAYS follow the U, even if it looks like the other terminal is just straight across on the other side (it’s not, there’s a lot of parking lots in the way, and it’s actually so much faster just following the U since there’s a sidewalk and all).
Flight to Santiago felt like the longest plane ride in my life (although the ones to Hong Kong are about as long, but it’s just ONE flight, I had already taken another flight that morning!). Sat next to a guy who I wasn’t sure if he spoke much English, but he would speak Spanish to me, then give up when I don’t understand, and revert to English. First thing I always do when I sit down on a plane is to check out how everything around me works: the TV (when there’s one), the headset, cupholders…well it took me an unbelievably long amount of time to figure out where the living daylights the headset plug in was. Goes to show that I haven’t taken a plane in a long time (about 4-5 years?). Anyway, guy beside me had even more trouble haha, but I helped him out ;). He also couldn’t figure out how to pull out the ring for the cup holder OR how to take out the remote control for games or TV. Seriously, people. Anyway, he was a nice enough vecino. I got a nosebleed right when the second meal was delivered and he smiled at me and let me through pretty promptly, which probably would not have been my response (I would dive for my stash of kleenex, siempre preparada!). Finally got a real chance to stretch my legs at our stay-on-board stop at Lima. Quite a few people on the flight going to Santiago from UBC for the learning exchange (in fact, my friend Tina’s on the same flight, I met up with her before we boarded in LA). Most, if not all, the Japanese tourists (there were a lot…and of all other languages to include besides Spanish and English, LAN also has an audio recording of Japanese; is there a history of immigration from Japan to Peru or something?) got off here.
SCL, although much smaller, had much better gift shops (to me, anyway). I actually thought I had to go through customs; well I didn’t, and then I heard the message on the plane that said we all had to, and I figured I was included in the “all”. So I booked it out of the plane (having nothing in the overhead compartments=score!) and got to customs first, just to have the guy tell me that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Actually what happened was something like this:
*guy reaches for my pasaporte which I hand over*
“You’re Canadian, you’re going to have to pay a tax.”
Me: O_O (mind you, I haven’t had any sleep for about 16 hours by that point, and I had to get up at like 5:40am) But this isn’t my last stop!
Me: My last stop is in Argentina! *hands him my boarding pass*
Him: a;ldkfjas;djfas;jf Go to the third floor, you blithering idiot, and stop wasting my time! (just kidding). He just told me to go to the third floor to catch my connecting flight, was neutral about it; doubt he would have said ‘blithering’ anyway.
It was nice that he spoke English though. This phenomenon seemed to get rarer and rarer the more I traveled on…
Anyway, the gift shops sell so many little/medium sized figurines of those Moai (stone statues of la Isla de Pascuas/Easter Island). They were so quaint! I want one, but it would be awkward since I wasn’t actually there. It was about 6 30am local time but so many of those shops were already/still open. I was impressed.
Was seriously considering phoning home at that time with about 2.5 hours to kill, but 3am is such an ungodly hour…
I think I was seriously the ONLY Asian in that entire waiting area. No one paid any attention to me, which was just as well, but it was still a bit strange. However, flight attendants did not speak to me in English at all on that flight to Argentina, and I felt so out of depth when we stopped taxi-ing in the middle of getting ready to take off and taxied all the way back to where we started due to some problem that was glossed over in Spanish and not repeated in English. People were asking about what happened but all I caught was that not even the flight attendants knew. That caused about an hour delay on our flight (just because we couldn’t take off!) and in the end it turns out that all they did was refuel the plane (that we know of, anyway). All I really caught was the message in Spanish to turn off all electronics and take off seat belts because something was combustible, so I assumed. I was dead tired by that time and just slept it off. I had the aisle seat for once, which I was extremely grateful for. They feed you really well on LAN, our flight was only supposed to be an hour and a half and they gave us drinks and box which contained 1 chocolate chip cookie, 1 brownie, some soda biscuit cracker things, which is a heck of a lot more than Alaska Airlines with their skimpy bag of peanuts! Anyway, not complaining. It’s nice to be fed at all.
I forgot to mention that I lost the on-flight pillow on the way to Chile because it fell in between the crack of the chair and the window and slipped into the row behind me. The couple there were not amused and did not return it =(
Wow, it’s actually already past midnight here…
Córdoba reminds me so much of Macau. The climate, the sporadic palm trees, the traffic, the reckless motorcyclists and drivers…I got into the most hilarious conversation with two workers right before the exit (salida en español) after picking up my baggage because I remembered reading somewhere that I was suppose to be given this orange and white card that they’ll staple to my passport that I’ll need to return on the departure flight because they would be specifically checking for it. Well, I never got one. Honestly, it was the most confusing thing ever to my sleep-deprived mind to even make it out there, there were no instructions or anything about where I was supposed to go, most signs are in Spanish with English fine print (if there even is English; I caught a typo whith=with in one sign, I wonder if they would consider hiring me to translate all their signs?). So I passed through migraciones, which didn’t make sense to my mind and I was doubting myself the whole time thinking it’s only for Argentine residents (which most of them seemed to be). And the guy asks me if I speak Spanish (in Spanish?). I grimaced and said no. I do, but at that rate, my cognitive processes were going and it’s hard enough for me to figure out what people are saying on a good day. Guy seemed a bit deflated about something, didn’t speak to me at all and just stamped the visa onto my passport. No white and orange card, no nothing. I didn’t even have to pay the supposed $70USD reciprocity fee. So I thought I got off a little too easy. It was kind of a triangle configuration with aduana, migraciones and baggage retrieval just all kinda there. I almost went through customs before realizing I was supposed to get my suitcase first. Whoops. And what do you know, it was THERE! It didn’t get lost after a gazillion flights! I was so happy it was only 39lb ish too, because by that point I was just gone. Customs was about the same thing. She made me take off my jacket (but not my hoodie, I think) but I didn’t have to take out my laptop or fluids, she DID however open my backpack just to see my laptop which she didn’t even remove the cover for before stuffing it back in. That was remarkably nice of her. Chau is rather more common than adiós, hm. So anyway, I got out of there, then realized, where the eff is my orange and white card?! Luckily there was just one other person walking towards me in that hallway/no-man’s-land between the secured area and the outside area. Lady listened to my possibly delusional tirade about some white and orange card I was supposed to have gotten at migraciones and probably didn’t get a word of what I said. She flagged down the only other guy (another worker, about my age or younger, well taller than me anyway, cute, very nerdy-cute) and together they tried to decipher what I was trying to say. I was choking on all my words by that point asking for some probably non-existent tarjeta en naranja y blanca. They were suggesting things like “traveling within the country”, “bus pass”, anything like that. In the end, I tried to dig up the email that Sofí sent to see if she mentioned it but she didn’t, it was probably on the projectsabroad website. They then asked me how I planned on getting out of there and I said there was someone waiting for me, which was when they ingeniously thought I was asking for the exit the whole time (huh? wtf? no!) but I went along with it because I was just so hammered by that time and just followed along and exited the place. I got out fully expecting to see a sign waiting for me but there was nothing of that nature near the front. I correctly discerned that the poor guy was probably sitting down somewhere hopelessly waiting and I was right! He saw me making my way around the crowd and made a beeline towards me. He probably thought I was terrified. I was too tired to feel much of anything, to be honest. Very firm handshake, my co-op advisors approve. Very friendly, approachable; we chatted about things related to Argentina, myself, while waiting for the taxi, then other random things like graffiti, the stereotypical Canadian/Argentine, just random things. He gave me a phone card (which por desgracia neither me nor my house mom could get to work…probably dialed the area code wrong or something), introduced me to my host mom (who’s amazing but I feel like I’m neglecting her while in my room typing stuff like this, but honestly it’s been a long day or so and I need quiet time), acted as liaison between me and my host mom. I couldn’t catch what was going on for the majority of the time! *sigh* this language endeavor is going to take more effort than I had perhaps hoped.
I have a full day of induction to the city and my placement tomorrow, so I gotta jet.
Abrazos y besos para todos, chau!