Friday, August 13, 2010

And here I thought flying would be the boring part...

This is already getting lengthy and I don’t want to bore you with detail after detail of my travel- so I’ll sum up highlights and you can read into detail if you like.

1) My grandma is great friends with the aunt of the man I sat next to on my first flight

2) Friday the 13th proved to be unlucky for many Argentine travelers: The computer system crashed in Buenos Aires and getting to Formosa suddenly became a big, chaotic adventure.

3) I am now traveling with 3 older Argentinian Rotarians who are on their way to Formosa as well!

My flight down to Dallas was smooth and easy- I sat next to this really nice police officer from New Mexico and found out that growing up, he spent weeks of his summers in Northfield, and that his Aunt is one of my grandma’s best friends and someone I served at the golf club this summer often: Dot Swanson! We talked about Northfield (he was devastated to hear Tiny’s had just closed. his father worked there growing up and they still have a clock in their kitchen in New Mexico that was given to them from there) and even found out that one of his wife’s best friends is Cindy Broderius from Hector, MN!! It is things like this that just comfort me and show how connected this world really is.

After a long flight from Dallas, I arrived in BUENOS AIRES!! I had a whole row to stretch out across, and was served dinner, breakfast and beverages the whole way- which was really nice. Despite the nice conditions though, I was FAR to excited and only caught a little bit of sleep. Instead, I just looked out my window and watched the sunset, the stars, and finally the sunrise over beautiful Buenos Aires:) I couldn’t have asked for better timing, it was stunning. I made it through customs, to my bus, and through the city- which I can already tell I want to explore that city much more- to the other airport!

… And that’s where it got interesting. When I walked through the doors of the Aerolinas Argentinas airport- it was chaos. There were people standing in lines to get into lines to get checked in, and none of those lines were moving. I had no idea where to go but made a good guess and got into one of these many lines- there I talked to a nice lady who told me the computer system crashed and that they were not able to check anyone in, that flights were getting delayed or canceled, and that she hadn’t seen a line budge in a half hour. She was very nice and let me borrow her phone so I could call my host family (which was the first time I had spoken to them out loud) and let them know I would be delayed. About five minutes after hanging up, the intercom came on and told us that it was back up and running, everyone cheered and the line finally moved!

I checked in, paid for my extra luggage, and went to go check out the delay-damage to the surprise that my flight WAS on time! I didn’t realize how much I take cell phones for granted until that moment when I was standing there needing to let my host family know and didn’t have one. After trying to use the pay phone or track down another cell phone I could borrow I finally found a little telephone-service store that only cost me about a quarter to make the call. Ten minutes later, my flight to Formosa read “demorado” or delayed for one hour. Expecting that it could change to a later time I decided I would wait 15/20 minutes to call my family again. I just people-watched then, happy to soak up all the Spanish and Argentine culture that I could. After about 10 minutes had passed I looked back up on the monitor and to my horror it said that the flight to Formosa had “DESPEGADO” or had took off in bright green letters, 20 minutes before the original time had posted. I then scrambled, went to the counter of a little café and asked where the Information booth was… to find out there was none. I ran back downstairs, through the chaotic lines again and found a man in uniform that looked like he could help. Almost in tears, I explained my situation and he took me to the front of a line started typing away on the computer. He then picked up the phone, made a very angry phone call in Spanish so fast I couldn’t even begin to comprehend, hung up, gave me his deepest apologies and explained that it was a mistake- that the flight to Mendoza, Argentina had took off and Formosa was still delayed till 1:30. AY! I can’t express how relieved I am that I know enough Spanish to communicate down here- I can’t imagine if this had happened in Thai or Swedish! Everyone was very friendly and always willing to help me or at least lead me in the right direction, and I appreciate the hospitality already. While waiting, a man approached me and saw that I was a Rotary student! He explained that he is a former President of the Worldwide Rotary International club and that he is headed to Formosa as well!! Not only was that amazing news to hear, but he was with a group of Rotarians who were coming up to celebrate the 60th year of Formosa’s club! Who knew I was headed towards a big fiesta?!

While talking, I watched as the monitor changed the status from 13:30 to 13:40 and finally it told me to contact an agent, who told us it was delayed till 2:40 and finally over the intercom they canceled the flight all together. So the Rotarians took me under their wing and have been so fantastic as I’ve gotten my bags back, and Celia (who reminds me of Chrysanne) has completely taken charge and got us tickets to Asuncion, Paraguay for tonight where we will spend the night and be picked up in the morning by a Rotarian from Formosa. If that didn’t work, we would have had to take a bus or drive in their car. I’ve seen maybe 4 or 5 mini vans in all of Buenos Aires, so I am trying to picture me, 3 other Rotarians, and the two carts of luggage fitting in one of those little cars on the way to Formosa haha. Lets be glad Celia is so great. So Mom and Dad- don't worry, I'm in good hands. I keep being reassured that this is not how it usually is here by Luis, so while he is blaming Friday the 13th, I think this whole adventure is just a sign that this year will be anything but uneventful.

At one point, every flight on the monitor read either delayed orcanceled- I have never seen anything like it haha.

Clockwise from the left: Edoardo, Celia, and her husband Luis. When I wrote this I had no idea what a big deal Luis is. He was telling me that in the year and a half that he was Rotary International Worldwide President he traveled to 69 different countries, met with the Pope twice, Mother Teresa five times, over 52 presidents and kings, etc. I'm glad I had 9 hours in the airport with him to hear a few of his amazing stories:)


sara said...

mia this is hilarious and also a little scary!!! you seem to be handling everything so well-you always do have a great attitude :] i hope that everything goes smoothly from now on, but it's still exiting and never boring :] i'm so excited for you! i know you'll have an absolutely wonderful time in argentina.

Anonymous said...

What exciting travels!! I am sure the rest of your travels will go smoothly. Traveling with Rotarians is definitely the way to go! Good luck with the rest of the trip!

Martha Sudermann said...

Good luck, Maria. I am glad the Rotarians were there to help you! I am not sure how I would have handled your situation. I look forward to following your blog and hearing about your Argentinian adventures. You will have a fabulous time.

Sam Estenson said...

Holy guacamole shamoley, I can't believe that in your first two days of exchange you've already made such an unreal rotary acquaintance!! This would be when you use those business cards babe!! Haha mom and dad have already told you to invite them all to our house =)
Can't believe you're doing all this in español!! So proud/jealous!!
Sam and fam