My patience was put to the test last week when I decided to ride solo to Arequipa for a grand Colca Canyon adventure. The trip began with a very interesting flight, or lack of flight, at the Jorge Chavez International Airport. Who knew you could mess up a 1 hour domestic with an almost 4 hour delay, only then to try and compensate for it by handing out mystery meat triangular sandwiches. Well, at least they cut the crusts off.
Beginning at gate 9 the crowd and I moved to gate 14 after an announcement had been made that our flight was delayed and since I had no clue what was said, having been consumed by my book, I followed the crowd aimlessly. Yet another switch was made to our gate, only this time the crowd scattered in all directions and needless to say, I did not follow the gringos but instead a Peruvian man in a bright red track suit who minus his attire looked like he had the wisdom to get us out of this mess. After an hour of waiting, and reading my passport info for the 40th time as if I didn’t now where I lived already, it finally occurred to me that I was at the wrong gate yet again, when everyone got up and formed a line at the word “Iquitos” on the intercom. The old man in the Fidel Castro track suit, equally perplexed, identified with my confusion. We looked at each other in a moment of silence until one of us, him, walked over to the other, me, grabbed my boarding pass to look at the number and said “Vamos”. Unusually calm but still looking for answers I decided to follow his charge and head in his direction. It was only when I saw Rambo (the man in a sleeveless army getup who I had seen at gate 9) that I knew we were finally at the right gate.
Without a book or something to read since I finished the last chapters of my book in the first hour of waiting I tried to occupy myself with other things like watching the flustered flight representatives deal with the flux of questions from ranting, angry passengers, memorizing my passport code and eventually folding my boarding pass into an origami swan.
After inspecting every inch of my nails and trying not to make awkward eye contact with anyone, a gringa suddenly walked my way. My first thought was that she wanted to share in our gringa knowledge to figure out what was going on since she was headed straight for me with deep intent. I assumed wrong. She only wanted to partake in the complementary mystery meat behind me. It was clear to me now, I was in desperate need of a National Geographic. So I scurried upstairs to the nearest convenience store.
One 30 sole National Geographic later (always worth the price) I was learning about the beasts of India’s Grassland Kingdom while trying to block out the drone of my own airport wildebeests, or children as we call them, next to me. Looking up at the sleepy enraged passengers around me, I wondered who I would have the pleasure of sitting beside once we finally took off. Would it be the creepy but helpful old man who turned out to be my knight in shining red tracksuit armour or the little animals, I mean kids, using my bag to play some sort of jumping game. Maybe I would land the jackpot and get sandwiched in between Rambo and the man competing in the shortest shorts competition. Thankfully as it turned out it was someone who had slept the whole way. However we did share a moment of disgust together over our meat salad which consisted mainly of wet chicken (I assume) and shiny ham slices and I think the purple ball in the middle was an olive. As if the orange mystery meat wasn’t enough. Ugh Arequipa, you could not come any sooner.
Christina Baker is a researcher and blogger for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.