The Ups and Downs of Air Travel

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This blog entry about the events of Sunday, October 19, 2003 was originally posted on October 20, 2003.

DAY 1: After a crazed morning of last-minute packing, a run to the Home Depot for luggage locks and some Dunkin’ Donuts bagel sticks, I had a final lunch at Chili’s with my parents and brother, who all took the day off to send me off.  (You can all say “Aww…” in unison now, like the live studio audience used to do on Happy Days.)  I short drive down the New Jersey Turnpike, and we arrived at Continental Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport.

“Where is your returning ticket out of Ecuador?” the Continental Airlines attendant asked.

“Oh, I’m just gonna take a bus into Peru,” I answered.

“Where is the bus ticket then?”

“I was gonna get it there.”

“Immigration won’t let you into Ecuador without proof that you are leaving.”

I pleaded and pleaded, explaining that I was going around the world, and my flight out of South America would be in Buenos Aires in March.  I showed her the tickets and the printout of the itinerary I got from Airtreks.

“Anyone could have made that printout with any computer,” another employee butted in.

I was starting to freak out; this was all news to me.  I had never heard of that from other travelers.  “So, what are my options then?” I asked.

“You can buy a ticket back to here,” the woman said.

“And just get a full refund at Continental in Bogota,” the other said.

“Quito,” I corrected.

“Right, Quito.”

“And it’s 100% refundable, right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, book it.”

The woman got me a ticket, from Quito to Newark, leaving November 30.  Total cost:  $914.18 (US).  In the immortal words of Keanu Reeves, Whoa.

While waiting around the airport, I looked up in my Lonely Planet South America guide, and lo and behold, it is explained the strict rules of Ecuadorean immigration, and that the buy-a-ticket-get-a-refund loophole was a common trick.  Most South American countries are not like this, Ecuador is just the exception.  I’d have to get a tourist card at customs and keep it with me at all times or suffer deportation.


THE DEPARTURE TIME WAS LATE by about 40 minutes, so I just hung out until it was time to board.  “How long is the layover in Bogota?” I asked the flight attendant.

“About an hour,” she replied.  “Itching to get home to Quito, huh?”

I flashed my US passport.  “No, I’m just going to visit.”

“Oh,” she said with slight embarassment.

This is not a total surprise to me, it happens all the time.  As a Filipino-American, I’ve been mistaken for Columbian, Mexican, Ecuadorean, Peruvian, Argentine, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian…everything but a White Guy.  Well, maybe on the phone I have been.

I sat in the aisle seat of a three-seater, next to a pretty young woman with an Ecuadorean passport, who was traveling with her mother I assumed.  I had noticed her back in the airport lounge.  She had dark, Jennifer Aniston hair, a really pretty face, decked out in tight jeans, a belly shirt and Adidas sneakers.  Hell, why sugar-coat it, she was a hottie.  But she wasn’t much of a conversationalist unless it was to her mother.  More or less she just slept or constantly stroked her hair most of the time, like she was her Ecuadorean Barbie doll.

I passed the six hour flight reading The Alchemist, the book I read last New Year’s that inspired me to take this trip in the first place.  When the cabin lights went out, I illuminated it with my iBook to work on some pending web design gigs I had.  I pretty much ignored the in-flight movie, Foreign Affairs a made-for-TV movie from 1991 with Brian Dennehy.  I caught the last half of Legally Blonde 2, which I watched in Spanish to get into the mood.  Then I slept until we touched down for our layover in Bogota, Columbia.


I WOKE UP WHEN A TEAM OF COLUMBIANS BOARDED THE PLANE, all decked in black suits, for a security check.  One of them questioned me in Spanish, and I was totally clueless.  “Oh, sorry, you look like you speak Spanish.”

Once back in the air, we were served a stupid little roll of ham and cheese, along with a packet of “Salsa,” but upon opening it, it was honey mustard.  “What is that?” the Ecuadorean hottie asked.

“Honey mustard.”

“You really don’t speak Spanish?”  She was probably confused all to hell, especially when she saw me write “TRINIDAD” in my customs form.  I explained to her my Filipino roots, and how I was traveling to Quito to learn Spanish.  Pretty soon we were chatting it up in broken Spanish and broken English. 

Her name was Erika (yes, with a K too) and had been visiting her cousins in New Jersey for the past month.  She was on her way home to Quito to chill out for a couple more months before going back for another semester of law school.  I showed her my guidebook and she pointed out places in Quito to see and show me where she lived.

“I will give you my phone number,” she said in her beautiful accent.  Immediately I felt like yelling “SCORE!” like the headbopping Roxbury Boys from Saturday Night Live used to do, but I kept that inside thankfully.

“When can I call you?”

“Anytime.”

“Do you have a job until school?”

“No, I have nothing to do.”

“I’ll call you Saturday — Sabado —then.”

“Okay, anytime,” she said in her accent.  But then she continued, “If I am not there, leave a message with my husband.  His English is better than mine.”

I’m still debating whether or not I should call or not.


IT HAD JUST RAINED IN QUITO when I touched down and the ground was still wet.  It was a little humid, and in the upper 70s, quite a change from the coming New York winter I had just left.  I walked to the customs room and waited on an incredibly long line, behind a couple of German guys, one of which farted a stench like his ass had been in a musty old attic for 30 years.  Ah, yes, welcome to Ecuador.

I had my passport, declarations, and newly-purchased return ticket ready for my proof of departure.  The line was so long that the customs officer didn’t care to even look at it.  Then I asked him about the tourist card I read about in the Lonely Planet guide and he told me it wasn’t necessary.  All that stress for nothing.

A taxi took me through the dark streets of Quito.  It reminded me of Lima, Peru and the northern section of Melbourne, Australia in a weird sort of way.  We drove to the gringo district, so I didn’t have to deal with the language barrier so late at night.  My hostel, The Magic Bean, let me in, and they did in fact, get my reservation via email.

It was nearing midnight and everything was closing up, so I just turned in to my bed in my four-share dorm room.  The pounding of techno music of a nightclub a block away echoed through the night, and its hypnotic trance put me to sleep…until the DJ mixed in “Jungle Boogie.”


Special Thanks to Jenn Agas for pledging The Global Trip 2004 Pledge Drive.  (Hope you like that mug.) More Special Thanks to Roslyn Agas, Ryan Dunlavey and Marsha Steffen for their generous donations as well!  I’ll send the first round of postcards when I get to a more interesting place, perhaps the Galapagos Islands.

Has anyone out there from upstate New York tried to send me a FedEx package?  It was signature delivery, and I wasn’t around, and now it’s in FedEx limbo.






Next entry: The Ecuadorean-Looking Gringo

Previous entry: Sinking In Like The Titanic




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Comments for “The Ups and Downs of Air Travel”

  • Dunkin Donuts has bagel sticks!? I dunno.. bagel sticks just don’t sound right…

    Your mission is to freeload off as many people as you can during your trip, so go call the married hottie… maybe her husband will end up being your Quito sugar daddy ; )

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  03:16 AM


  • Definately call the hottie….nothing to lose and who knows….she may fall madly in love with you, leave her husband and join you on the Global Trip….keep writing….we will check daily…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  04:36 AM


  • Well, I told the hottie I’d call after I learned a little more Spanish…  good thing I signed up today for one…

    Posted by Erik  on  10/21  at  05:56 AM


  • Erik & Erika Trinidad - - go get em’ 

    I swear I stayed with the stinky German in Brighton.

    Sounds like you’re off to a good start..keep it up!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  05:57 AM


  • aw man. not even viagra would have helped in a situation like that. better luck next time. you’re in ecuador, i am pretty sure there are plenty of hotties there. you know it’s promising when they play “jungle boogie” ;P.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  06:12 AM


  • hey! if i fly to quito, do i get your return ticket to newark for FREE? haha:) i’ll swap it for a turkey. nov 30th is thanksgiving weekend.

    sounds like you’re off to a good start…excellent!

    i agree w/the rest, call erika. bring her some honey mustard & salsa her husband right out of the picture. if it’s anything, it’s a FREE place to stay. CALL!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  07:07 AM


  • Nice usage of $914 there buddy!!  That’s what all those pledge funds were for???  Just kidding.

    Also, smooth move with the married lady.  smile

    I’m at Dusty’s and we’re all giggling like school girls at your mishaps. 

    PC

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  05:46 PM


  • of course you call the hottie!  not to hook up with her neccessarily , but because SHE PROBABLY HAS FRIENDS!!  ...and when you encounter more hotties, PLEASE take pictures!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  03:42 AM


  • Keep up the blog!  We all have to live vicariously… especially when we are bored sitting in our cubicles at work smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  07:31 PM


  • Call the girl.  Who knows, you may fall in love withher husband.

    Posted by Matt  on  10/23  at  04:00 AM


  • i think your crazy but hey its whatever…..... do you and have fun

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/29  at  03:23 PM


  • Wow, I’m way behind reading your blog.  I was in Mexico for a week, awesome time!

    Can the girl, make friends.  You can never have too many friends.

    Safe journey.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/30  at  03:58 PM


  • oops, that was ‘Call the girl’.

    Can’t spell, can’t think.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/30  at  04:02 PM


  • Just got back from Italy and can’t wait to catch up. I noticed a phenomenon there (here too), and have decided to give it a name. Much like “plumber’s crack” but on women wearing thongs and lowriders… “thong cheek”. You know when you can see ass cheek below the thong’s waistband. Typically seen when they’re bending over just a tad too far. See if you can spot “thong cheek” all over the world. Photos optional. Oh and call the hottie (if you haven’t already).

    Tootles!
    Christy

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  06:03 PM


  • nice story about the ecuadorian girl…......did u call her???????did she have a sister?????????inquirering minds lke to know

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  12:01 AM


  • The meaning of life is that it stops.

    Posted by Hauschka Alice  on  12/09  at  10:19 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
The Ecuadorean-Looking Gringo

Previous entry:
Sinking In Like The Titanic




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

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Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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