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Day 324 of 1827: Relocating Is Never Boring

Day 324 of 1827: Relocating Is Never Boring

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days.

Holy @#$% what a day!

It all started at 2 o’clock this morning when the TransVIP shuttle picked me up.  My flight wasn’t until 630, but for some reason, TransVIP doesn’t run any shuttles between 2 AM and 6 AM.

It later turned out to be quite fortuitous that I allowed myself 4½ hours to make my flight.

I arrived at Aeropuerto Internacional Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez at around 330 in the morning.  I had my snazzy new carry-on (*sniff* goodbye duffel!) and my backpack.

No bags to check; all I needed to do was print out my boarding pass.

Ok, now where’s the TACA counter?

Ummmmmm… no, really.  Where is it?  I don’t see any TACA signs anywhere.

I pulled out my phone real quick to check my itinerary (*gasp* I didn’t write it down in my notebook?  I am getting lazy!)… nope, I’m definitely at the right airport.

Ok, time to ask for directions.

I asked a nearby security guard who pointed me to the Copa Airlines counter.  Sure, why not.

After waiting in line for 15 minutes, I approached the counter, handed the agent my passport, and she immediately gave me a funny look.

That’s always a good sign.

“A dónde viaja hoy?” she asked, looking more than a little annoyed with me.

“Um… Perú?”

The agent then explained to me (rather curtly) that Copa Airlines only flies to/from Panama, and I actually was supposed to check in with Avianca instead.

Oh good; you mean the airline with the line stretching halfway across the concourse?  This is going to be fun.

Half an hour later, I had my boarding pass.

All of that for a little piece of inked paper.  Next time, I’m making sure I get an e-ticket!

Well.  That was annoying.  At least the worst is over.

Well… until I got to the security checkpoint, anyway.

The xray machine picked up a pair of scissors in my carry-on.  Now, I had wrapped them in plastic and taped them up to the point that even the security agent couldn’t get the pointy end to stick out.  But he still wouldn’t let me go until I agreed to get rid of them.

What a shame; those were really nice scissors.  I received them as a gift right before I left the US.

Well, whatever.  At least now I am finally in the terminal.  All of the bureaucracy is behind me; time to relax for a bit.

I found a secluded spot in the terminal and recorded an episode for Five Years AbroadCAST.  As I was finishing up, it was time to board.

Now, for all the trouble that I had getting to the gate, at least the flight was very pleasant.  The breakfast was tasty, my Spanish was in top form, and there was even a port for me to charge my phone during the flight.

All in all, it was one of the more enjoyable plane rides I’ve taken in quite some time.

Annnnd then we landed in Peru.

Dealing with Peruvian immigration is not exactly a pleasant experience, so I started mentally preparing myself to manage a grumpity-grump.

But those tricky Peruvian officials had an ace up their sleeve — suddenly, the only agent processing extranjeros got up and left her booth.

For about 10 minutes, there were no immigration agents on duty to process foreigner entries.  Seriously.  We had to just stand there and wait for somebody to come off their break.

Finally, a new agent came out and started stamping passports.  After what felt like an eternity, it was my turn… but before I could approach, the woman at the booth got up, walked up to me, grabbed my immigration form out of my hand and started shouting at all the people in line.

Apparently, the last few people in front of me hadn’t filled out their forms properly, and the immigration officer was so annoyed by this that she decided to vent her frustration on the crowd.

Thank goodness I had completed my form properly.  Now that would have been embarrassing.

I was impressed by this woman’s resolve.  She stayed in character almost the entire time.  I did manage to get her to chuckle for an instant by making a joke about my Spanish… but within seconds that scowl was right back on her face.

I briefly considered asking her if she was disappointed that they picked Jim Carrey to play the Grinch instead of her… but then I realized that I don’t really enjoy cavity searches very much, so I kept it to myself.

*stamp, stamp, shuffle, shuffle*

And now I’m in Peru.

Well, not quite, actually.  I still have to go through customs.

To get through Peruvian customs, you hand the agent another form, and then you walk up to the post at the front of the line and push a button on the front of it.

If the light turns green, you are free to go.

But if you get the dreaded red light, then you have to submit to baggage screening.

Guess which one I got.

Fortunately, it wasn’t all that bad this time.  I just had to run my luggage through another xray machine… pretty much the same thing I have to do when I fly into Santiago.

Ok, now I’m in Peru.

I had hired the same driver as last time to pick me up from the airport, but he was going to be a little late today, so I purchased a local SIM card for my phone while I waited for him.

Finally, I met up with the driver… except he had no car.  Apparently his car was having mechanical problems, so he had to leave it at the shop for a few days.

This has not been a good year for motor vehicles.

However, he did still accompany me, act as an interpreter, pick out a reputable taxi driver, etc.

It’s a shame he didn’t pick the taxi, too, though.  When we got to the car, we discovered it had a flat tire.

Good thing I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.

Finally we were off, and let me tell you something:  Everything you’ve heard about taxi drivers in Lima is 100% true!

Ohmigee, I have never been more scared to be in a car in all my life!

I lost count of the number of times vehicles almost merged into us — at several points during the ride there was another car coming straight at us that only turned away right at the last second!

Oh, and of course, the seat belts were broken.  Like you even have to ask 😛

After what felt like a lifetime, we arrived at my new home.  I managed to release my fingers from clenching the seat in front of me, and I stepped out of the taxi and buzzed the doorbell.

That’s when the day started to turn around — and in a very big way.

My Airbnb hostess was unavailable, but her friend let me in.  And she prepared some breakfast for me. And she and her aunt sat down with me to ask me about my adventures — in Spanish.  For an hour!

It is really encouraging to know that even though I have barely practiced my Spanish in a few weeks, I’m able to pick right up where I left off when the need arises (:

Once I had a chance to settle into my new digs, I walked out to my client’s office to see how things were going up there.  Ahhh, it’s good to see that the old neighborhood is still the same!

This evening, I got in a taxi.  On my own.  In Lima.

You have no idea how big of a deal this is for me.

For a long time, I was afraid of Lima.  I’d heard so many stories about people getting assaulted, mugged and bullied in this city that I was positively terrified to set foot in this place.

But then I started to really think about it.

I spent some time in Colombia, and I was fine.  I lived in a couple of places in Paraguay that were really shady, and I never saw any violence (ok, I did get scammed a couple of times, but at least nobody was threatening me physically).  When I lived in Chile these last few months, I did find myself in a couple of bad situations, but those only happened in places where I really shouldn’t have been in the first place.

And honestly, you could say the same kinds of things about my country of origin — you know… try to stay out of Washington DC, Detroit and certain parts of Los Angeles.

So here I am.  I’m in Lima, I’m walking around, and now I’m taking a taxi!  This is seriously a major personal victory for me (:

I later discovered the driver overcharged me by 5 soles.  But aside from that, it was a great experience!

Living in Lima is going to be awesome!

There’s nothing quite like an aguaymanto welcome to make you feel at home in Peru.

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