**FYI: This is intentionally the worlds longest accout of one day in an effort to give you a true representation of how long my day really was. You're welcome.**
3:45am comes far too fast when you don't fall asleep until midnight. First step was C&J, thanks mom for the ride! I don't generally mind a full bus (more exciting), but knowing my airline was at terminal E and that terminal E is the last stop for C&J, I was a little nervous about what time I would actually get to check in. I never follow rules about the whole "be there 2 hours in advance" but after seeing how full the bus was, I was a little nervous about how many people would be trying to get through security too. Well, I got off the bus at 6:42, walked straight to the ticket counter to drop my bag, and made it through security in 7 minutes! I guess I could have slept the extra hour and taken the 6 am bus...next time :)
Now that I had over an hour to kill, I decided I would treat myself and hopped in the 20 person deep line at starbucks (the only place open in our terminal). The line was slow but it gave me plenty of time to go back and forth about what I wanted to order as my drink...the internal debate ensued kept me occupied for the remainder of my wait time. To be honest, I hadn't made a final decision, but figured out a strategy where if they didn't have gingerbread syrup, I'd be forced to option 2. Well, not only did they have gingerbread (for my black tea soy gingerbread latte---yes I know, I turn into one of "those people" in the starbucks line), but when I went to pay (from my app, becuase I'm saavy like that) I had A FREE BIRTHDAY DRINK! It was January 11th, aka not my birthday, but what an extra special treat! The barrista even switched it into a large cup and gave me and extra tea bag becuase as she pointed out...its free! I'm all about good signs, and this one seemed like a great one to start off my trip. CIAO AMERICA!
Boarding call! I'm going to take a second to praise CopaAirlines upfront. From the second I got to the gate, through security, on to the plane and through both of my two flights, every person I encountered had a smile and only patinece when it came to my lack of spanish and lots of questions. The first plan to panama was brand new. I had my own personal TV and a blanket and an aisle seat. I watched some circ du soleil and spanish music videos, took a couple walks up and down the aisle, got served french toast and fruit, and did some crosswords and then it was time to land! The whole making friends with your neighbors on the plane usually works for me, but when you are sitting next to a couple that just wants to sleep on each other the entire flight (and ask you to move so they can get to the bathroom every 20 mins), the friend thing doesn't pan out so well. Oh well, at least they didnt snore. or smell.
Made it Panama city around 2:15 and my second flight was supposed to take off at 3:57, but thankfully I walked straight to my terminal because the plan had come in early and we boarded 10 minuntes later! Once it was clear that everyone was on board, I noticed the aisle seat in front of me was free, and after getting the attention of one of the super nice attendents (and some appartnly very wrong spanish words and lots of pointing and laughs) she figured out what I was asking and I got to move to the aisle and with a seat in between me and neighbor! woot woot! I had a sinking feeling that our earlier than scheduled flight might have been the reason why the Morales couple didn't make it to their seats, but I'm thankful to them for giving up their seats for my little upgrade :) 3:00 and up in the air again! This plane was much older and with no persoanl TV, but there was a TV that dropped down and played the Intern...one of the many movies on my movies to watch list, so that was lovely. I wasn't expecting another meal, but soon after we were in the air they came strolling up the aisle with their cart. My tiredness was at its peak at about this time and even eating seemed like it would take too much effort, so I passed. But I think I made the stewardess really concerned beaucse after that she kept coming and offering me beverages...which was SO great since I hadn't had time to buy or refill my water bottle in Panama. Again, A+ CopaAirlines.
Because we got in the air early, we landed at Jorge Chavez airport in Lima 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Customs was more than a breeze (first stamp in my new passport AND another Happy early Birthday wish!) Way to be observant customs guy. I followed the crowds to baggage claim, grabbed my backpack and headed to the Salida(exit, i'm learning) signs. I wish I had a picture of what I found on the other side of the doors. It looked like the crowds at red carpet when you see if from the stars view out of the limo. I was the star and in front of me were hundreds of people holding up signs and waving frantically. My very American look apparantly made me every Anne, Mary, Katherine, and Allison on everyones signs. Talk about overwhleming. I strolled myself down that runway as fast as I could and took cover in the first place I could think of...the bathroom. Thankfully it was spacious and empty so I sat on my suitcase and attempted to get some wifi so I could let someone know I was alive. Wifi, no bueno. But atleast it distracted me enough that I had calmed down and realized I probably had more important things to worry about, such as what was I going to do now that I was early and had no idea where I was supposed to be going or who I was supposed to be meeting. oops. I entered the crowds again, but this time on a mission to maybe find my name on one of those signs for real. I didn't. I was beginging to think I might just need to find a spot and post up until the rest of the groups flight landed at 10:30 when I felt a hand on my shoulder and someone saying my name. Andres! He found me! Andres is Lisseth's friend from Peru who I met for all of 20 minutes this past summer when he came to visit in Portsmouth. I most definitely would not have been able to pick him out of the crowd, so I'm so thankful hes a solid where's waldo player and spotted me.
We left the croweded airport and Andres informed me he talked to Lisseth and the rest of the group was delayed 2 hours and wouldn't be in until 12:35! oi vey! We had about 5 hours to kill and as tired as I was, I had no idea how I'd be able to stay up that long. But l should have figured a friend of Lisseths would be the nicest person ever and have a bunch of ideas. We took a quick tour of a couple neighborhoods and the main street near the aiport to give me a feel of my new surroundings, and then found ourselves a La Lena for dinner. I still didin't think I was hungry, but after Andres ordered for us and the food arrived, I realized I was very wrong. We had brick oven rotisserie chicken and cooked vegetables and some sort of herbal iced lemonade that was soooo good. It wasn't until the end of dinner that I remembered I still had no soles since Jay said we'd convert our money once we were all together. I felt like a jerk and had to tell Andres who looked at me like I had ten heads and told me it was on him anyways because " didn't I know it was my Birthday in two days?!" All these nice people and birthdays!
The next three hours were a sleepy blur of conversations about Peru and work and school systems and foods and activities and a drive to Punta where the navel academy is and a walk along the beach and science lessons about why there is no lightning or thunder in Peru (this part I actually need to google becuase that is just crazy talk, no?) Anyways, it was all so nice and by the time we made it back to the airport (and watched a couple music videos and maybe taken a 15 minute car power-nap), the other's plane had landed and we could go collect them. It was more fun to be on the opposite side of the greeting line and I got to run to Jay like I had been watching all the crazies do before and give him and Lindsey and Zach and Morgan and Bill all hugs and welcome them to Peru. The whole experience woke me up just enough to stay awake through the drive back to the hostel, wash my face, brush my teeth, throw on pajamas and get into bed. I didn't even explore. or organize my bags. Or say goodnight to the boys room. So tired.