Monday, December 28, 2015

Empanadas and Airport Coaching

This seems like an unlikely photo to post especially as the first photo of my recent trip to Chile and Argentina.  I took this photo to remind me of the kind people who help me while traveling.  I know most of the people I meet are in the tourism industry so it’s their job to help visitors.  But I still appreciate it very much.  I can’t believe how many of them say “Sorry my English is not very good.”  I should be the one apologizing for visiting their country when I don’t know who to say much more than hola, gracias and el baƱo por favor.  Still it seems many of them go beyond what is expected.  I went into a little coffee shop in Puerto Natales with a few hours before the next bus to Punta Arenas.  I didn’t have many options as it was just after 3:00 p.m. and most of the restaurants were closed.  I looked over the pastries and menu on the wall the best I could before sitting down.  I was hoping for an empanada but didn’t see any.  I asked the young man behind the counter if they had any empanadas. He said no.  I sat down anyways and ordered a cup of coffee.  Shortly after I sat down the young man brought me this note directing me to a bakery that had empanadas.  

Later in my travels I was helped out quite a bit at the airport in Santiago.  One guy literally went the extra mile for me (or at least a 100 meters or so).  I wrote this the next morning (December 11, 2015) at the airport in Bogota.

My flight from Rapa Nui to Santiago was delayed about 2 1/2 hours.  That left me with less than 1 hour to make an international connection to Bogota.  When the plane landed in Santiago at 12:40 a.m. I impatiently waited to get off.  No one else seemed to be in a hurry.  When I got out of the plane everyone was meandering down the exit hallways and it was nearly impossible to pass anyone because I was carrying two backpacks (weighing around 50 pounds), one over each shoulder making me twice as wide as usual.  Fortunately I had no checked bags.  As the hallways widened I raced passed everyone, taking stairs where possible and looking for signs leading to departures.  

I ended up at the baggage claim and didn’t see a clearly marked exit.  There was no one to follow because everyone was just getting there and the luggage had not started to come out.  No one was leaving.  I saw a lady at a help desk.  I went over and she was on the phone.  I waited a few minutes for her to finish then asked where to go for Avianca check-in.  She said to go outside then up to the third floor and motioned towards some doors.  I walked to the doors and outside as quickly as I could.  When I got outside I found myself on the tarmac  underneath airplanes.  No one else around.  I tried to go back in but the doors were locked.  I walked to my right but there was a high chain link fence with barbed wire on the top.  I went the other way.  It looked like another baggage claim area but no one was there and those doors were locked too.  I went back and began knocking on the doors I came out of to see if anyone would let me in.  The people waiting for bags just looked at me as if I were a security threat.  Finally the lady that gave me directions saw me and came over to let me in.  She said “I told you to go outside” and pointed to a hairpin turn at the entrance of the baggage claim that was still in the building and definitely wasn't “outside.”  But I didn’t have time to explain to her what “outside” meant to me.  I know she just meant outside the baggage claim area anyways.  

I thanked her and ran off through the crowd of people waiting for arriving passengers many holding signs with names on them.  A number of men jumped in front of me one after another “Taxi?”  I pushed my way through the crowd to the stairs and ran up to the third floor.  I didn’t have time to search for the Avianca counter and spotted an information booth.  The lady told me to go to counters 8 thru 15 at the other end of the corridor.  I walked as quickly as I could through the crowds.  My backpacks bumping into people about every other step.  “Sorry.”  “Excuse me.”  I really need to learn more Spanish.  When I got to counters 8-15 I saw the Avianca signs and went straight to the counters through the first class lane.  There was no one at the counters.  I walked up and down passed counters 8 to 15.  Each one had a closed sign posted.  I looked around for anyone who might work for Avianca but didn’t see anyone.  I had no idea what to do.  I looked around for another help booth.  I didn’t see one but did see check-in kiosks.  I began the process.  Selected English.  Reservation number?  I reached for my phone and opened the file with my reservation number and typed it in.  My flight info came up on the screen.  Great!  Then I pressed next and got the message “This flight is closed.”  No!  I tried it again scanning my passport this time knowing it wouldn’t change anything but I didn’t know what else to do.  I forgot to select English so the message was in Spanish.  I tried scanning my passport again after selecting English.  My flight info came up again.  Next.  “This flight is closed.” 

Not knowing what to do I ran back to the other end of the corridor to the information booth.  The attendant was busy going through a backpack with a security guard.  She was spraying dirty shoes and clothes with something.  The guard said something to me that I felt meant “What do you need.”  I started to speak.  He interrupted “English” and pointed to the attendant.  After a few more sprays she turned to me.  

"I need a boarding pass for Avianca but no one is at the counters."
She said “Counters 8-15” and pointed to the other end of the corridor.  
“No one is at the counters, they are closed.”  
“Just go to the gate.”  
“But I don’t have a boarding pass.”  
“It doesn’t matter.  Go to the gate.  Hurry.”  

I jogging to the other end of the corridor dodging people standing around and whacking a few with my backpacks.  I didn’t know where to go but at the far end I notice a sign that said international departures.  A man at the doorway asked for my boarding pass.  I said I didn’t have one and showed him my reservation information on my phone.  He waved me on and said “Run.”  

I ran to the only customs desk with someone there.  There were no lines.  No one else was in the room.   The man asked me for my boarding pass and passport.  I handed him my passport and said I don’t have a boarding pass while showing him the reservation info on my phone.  He stamped my passport and said “Run.”  I asked which way and he pointed to my left.  

I ran down a hallway and came to a security screening area.  At first it looked like no one was there.  I saw a few people standing by the last x-ray machine.  As I was racing through the empty maze some guy stopped me and said something in Spanish and pointed behind me indicating I did something wrong.  I looked back but saw nothing.  I started forward again.  He raised his voice and repeated what he had said and pointed behind me.  I looked back but couldn’t figure out what he was pointing at.  I gave him a confused gesture.  A man at the x-ray machine waved to me to come over so I just ran passed the man and he didn’t say anything else.  I threw my packs on the conveyor. At the exit side of the machine a guy asked me for my boarding pass.  I told him “I don’t have one.”  He grabbed my passport and asked which airline.  “Avianca.”  He then asked my name.  I told him and he repeated it into a radio.  

He said “Gate 11, you’ve got to run.”  
“I will but I don’t know where gate 11 is.”
“I’ll go with you, run!”  

We ran down a zigzag walkway passed duty free shops and restaurants.  While we were running he asked me my name 2 or 3 more times.  Each time I told him and he repeated it into his radio.  Then he asked what my final destination was.  I said between breaths “Salt Lake City, USA.”  We ran passed gate 11A and onto a gate that I could see no sign as to what gate it was.  Two attendances were standing by a small counter.  It was very dark almost all the lights in that area were turned off.  The guy running with me handed one attendant my passport.  I didn’t even realize I didn’t have it.  The attendant asked for my boarding pass.  “I don’t have one.”  They quickly printed the boarding passes for my next 3 flights.  Handing them to me along with my passport he says “Run to the airplane.”  I ran down 4 ramps to the plane and at the door a man asks for my boarding pass.  “Yes, I have that!”  As I walk to the back of the plane breathing and sweating like I had just run 400 meters with 50 pounds on my back a flight attendant checks my boarding pass.  There was a problem, my seat was already taken.  

She pointed to an isle seat with no one sitting next to it and asks “Will that seat do?”  
“Would you like a glass of water?” 
“Yes. Gracias.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Transitive Property of Mistaken Twins

In high school many people thought my best friend Charlie and I were twins.  We got a kick out of this but couldn’t understand why people we went to school with would think we were twins.  We were the same height, had the same build and had many of the same clothes.  We both had long hair and played guitar and got good grades but that’s about where the similarities ended.  Charlie had dark brown hair and mine was blonde.  Everyone liked Charlie especially the girls and why not, he was good looking, always happy, smiling, fun to be around and talked to everyone (all of that is still true).  Most people didn’t know who I was.  I was too serious, didn’t smile much and didn’t talk to many people.  I was simply known as that kid who hangs out with Charlie.  A few girls did talk to me but just to get info about Charlie and they hoped I would let him know that they liked him.  The girls I went out with all really liked Charlie and went on dates with me just to be close to Charlie and to keep track of him because we often went on double dates.  Now I’m not feeling sorry for myself, just pointing out that we were different in many ways.  We thought it was absurd that anyone could mistake us for twins.  

After high school Charlie went to Taiwan on a church mission.  I had to take a second language in collage so I picked Chinese because Charlie was learning Chinese and I thought it would be fun to speak the same second language as my best friend.  In one of Charlie’s letters he told me about another missionary from England who’s Chinese name was Sung.  Many people in Taiwan mistook him and Elder Sung as twins.  Charlie thought it was strange that in high school the two of us were mistaken for twins when we didn’t look alike and in Taiwan there was a bloke from England that was being mistaken for his twin.  

I enjoyed Chinese classes so much that I continued to study Chinese all through collage and ended up with a second major in Asian Studies.  Anyways, 2 or 3 years after Charlie returned from Taiwan I was spending the summer in Taiwan.  One afternoon I was at a beach near Danshui northwest of Taipei.  I was wandering around looking for shells when a group of girls came running up to me yelling “Elder Sung! Elder Sung! Hello Elder Sung!”  I couldn’t believe it.  I never met Elder Sung but I knew exactly who they were talking about.  I explained to the excited group of girls that I wasn’t who they thought I was but rather I was a friend of Charlie’s (who they also knew).  I told them that back home many people thought Charlie and I were twins and in Taiwan many people mistook Charlie and Elder Sung as twins.  So if me and Charlie could be mistaken as twins and Charlie and Elder Sung could be mistaken as twins then Elder Sung and I must look like twins too.  They agreed.  

Transitive Property of Equality: If a = b and b = c, then a = c.

I don’t see it but Charlie and I must look like twins.  
Seems like the wind has been blowing every time Charlie and I get our picture taken together lately.
Maybe I should just grow my hair long again.