I settled easily into my AeroSur seat. There was a delay as airport security tried to find a passenger, some male, who needed to be Removed From the Plane for Questioning. Eventually they found the guy, and we were cleared for takeoff. I knew better than to eat their possibly-Amoeba-poisoned fool, so at 11:something at night I had my day’s first meal – the Starbucks sandwich I’d wisely purchased earlier. That swiftly done away with, and my brain satisfied by having seen Cuba down below… and I fell asleep. I awoke the next morning somewhere over Ecuador, maybe Colombia. It was impossible to tell. We landed safely in Santa Cruz.
A couple of scary things about landing in Santa Cruz.
First, the AeroSur would only take me so far. In Santa Cruz I was to get back onto a LAB flight. I had no interest in flying with LAB.
Second, by landing in Santa Cruz I had to go through customs twice. Every time you go through customs you run the risk of outrageous charges and confiscated goods – anything someone wants to take home to his wife.
I was blessed. Santa Cruz was easy. They took my immigration papers and they stamped my passport – in the wrong spot, naturally. They waved me through customs without a single problem. They were all intrigued by Captain Pausert whose bright green eyes stared out of his Prison. They were particularly impressed with the embossed and brightly inked seal of the Bolivian Consulate in Houston on Pausert’s health papers. I was in Santa Cruz, standing in Bolivia, and I was free. I went straight for the LAB counter. Another half hour in line, then I walked up to the counter and pointed at my nearby stacks of luggage. They stared blankly. Then came the conversation in Spanish.
“Only one bag.”
“No, you have to take all of my bags.”
“Only one bag.”
“No, I paid for all of this luggage in Miami. This is my receipt.”
“Only one bag! And no pets.”
“NO! You take ALL of my bags AND my cat.” (The Bolivian travel agent had been very indignant that I be as loud and as mean as possible, as that’s what was necessary and normal to get through unscathed.)
“NO, I PAID in MIAMI.”
LAB Jerkface #2 turned and asked something of someone else. That someone asked someone. Then a woman appeared, looked at LAB Jerkface #2, and said: “It’s okay.”
LAB Jerkface #2 suddenly turned smiling and pleasant, “Thank you! Please hand me your luggage.”
and all was well.
After being cleared, I went upstairs and waited. This was a new experience, too. Well, two new experiences.
First, a Bolivian bathroom. One on the clean side of things, but buttons were in odd places.
Second, the security experience. You can’t go through security and wait at your gate. No, you wait with all of the other flights and try to find a couch which isn’t packed with sleeping people. When your plane is ready to board, then you go through security and go to your gate.
I made it. I made it through security, through my gate, onto the LAB plane. The LAB plane was this old, smokey, rickety machine. It flew, though!
We landed in Cochabamba. My luggage was retrieved, and again Pausert and his Official Bolivian Consulate Seal was such a distraction that customs ignored my luggage and passed me through the gate… and into my parents’ arms.
I am in Cochabamba, Bolivia.