Leg 3 of my 4-part flight to Mendoza sat on the runway in Bogota for over an hour due to
“technical difficulties” (I’ve worked in the service industry long enough to know that phrase means, “something’s wrong here but we have absolutely no clue what it is”). It took a while to work out those “difficulties,” or we just got lucky, but eventually we took off. On my original itinerary, I was supposed to arrive in Santiago sometime around 6am and catch a connecting flight to Mendoza at 7:45am – easy. With our delayed takeoff – difficult.
Our ETA right after takeoff was 8:30, which I honestly didn’t mind, because that meant there was no chance of making my connecting flight and therefore getting a new flight would be a lot less stressful without the time crunch. After watching “Fate of the Furious,” I noticed the ETA had dropped to 8:15am. With hopeful thoughts in mind I fell asleep. I woke up mid-flight and noticed it had dropped again to 8:04am; at this rate we were definitely getting there before 7:45. Then I remembered that I would still have to wait for everyone to get off the plane; this Boeing-787 had 36 economy class rows, and I was sitting in seat 36D. Still, there was a spark of hope that I would make my flight on time, then I fell back asleep.
By the time the plane landed, everyone got their bags, and disembarked the plane it was 8:56am, so I totally missed my flight. In fact, the plane that I was supposed to be on had not only taken off but also landed in Mendoza by that time.
Luckily (if this can be considered luck) I was not the only one who had missed that plane to
Mendoza. So, by the time I found the service desk the airline already had us on a new flight to
Mendoza that was scheduled to leave Santiago at 11:10am.
It was only about 10am, so I had plenty of time – easy. Until I didn’t know what time it was – difficult.
Before leaving Omaha I had looked up the time in Mendoza and it was only two hours ahead. A person I sat next to on my flight to Bogotá said that Santiago was on the same time as Mendoza. Heeding this information, I changed my watch two hours ahead to be prepared (my phone wasn’t changing automatically from a lack of cell service).
The first thing I did was find my gate, and once I did that I started wandering around the airport to kill some time. When it was getting closer to boarding time, I went back to my gate to find a set of locked doors keeping me from getting back. It was probably around 10:45am so I still had a decent amount of time before takeoff. Others were also looking for my same gate and started to gather around the locked doors. At about 11am everyone was getting anxious. Finally, an official looking person unlocked the doors and we all ran to the gate only to find the other passengers sitting in chairs and nobody really doing much of anything.
It turns out Santiago is only one hour off, it was only 10:10am…
I would like to blame this mistake on the fact that I don’t know Spanish very well yet, and it was a communication error, but the guy who I talked to on the plane was speaking near-perfect English. And beyond that, every monitor with departure times in the Santiago airport also displayed the current time. Unfortunately for my excuses, numbers in Spanish are strikingly similar to numbers in English. I was having some technical difficulties.
After a total of 25 hours (minus a couple for the time changes), a quick flight over some fair-sized hills put me down in Mendoza. I lost my sheet where I declared all the taxable nothingness I was bringing into the country, but my looks and lack of Spanish must have screamed ‘Student from the States’ as the customs agent didn’t even ask for it.
My final worry was my suitcase (actually a hiking backpack). I only had this one pack, so if it got lost, I would have to live out of my carry-on for at least a day before I could buy more clothes. Due to my plane transfer in Santiago I was doubtful that my bag would make it, but lo and behold, the very first bag I saw on the carousel was mine!
I was finally here and the real adventure could officially begin. And begin it did, with a taxi ride from the airport from a random person holding a sign with my name on it. I thought it was funny how my name written on a piece of paper was all it took for me to get in a car with someone I didn’t know or understand, or know where he was taking me. That pretty much goes against every stranger-danger rule I was taught as a kid. I was here and that’s all I cared about!