Posts Tagged ‘Santiago’


I Haven’t Had a Bean in Weeks

Originally posted December 31, 2005 by Linda Lou Burton from Lima, Peru – Seating roulette. Interesting how it’s played. Boarding in Santiago, expecting the window seat this time for sure, I found myself once again in the center, but on the aisle. Ah, no one in the center seat. Could I be so lucky as to have a little room? First switcheroo – girlfriend moved from elsewhere to sit by guyfriend, assigned the other aisle seat. Center seat, now taken. I clamped my elbows closely to my side. Anything sticking into the aisle would get chopped off at the nub, for sure.

Across the aisle from me, two newly-marrieds, doing the Versace stroke. They had a window view, but they pulled down the shade. Behind them, two empty seats. I waited, pounce ready. Before I could blink, a little girl moved from behind me and stretched out in those two seats, ready to sleep. Her window shade also was closed.

Oh well I’ll entertain myself with the GPS map, I thought. Alas, no such feature on this plane. No screen, no games, no room, no air. For five cents I would be miserable. But it’s almost the New Year. We’ll celebrate! Every time zone! Yea! Airbound at last.

Dinner was served. Gunky pasta with meat sauce, salad, roll, a bit of orange-flecked cake. The couple to my right indulged in intimate whisper-talk. I interrupted long enough to say “Our New Year’s dinner, eh?” They laughed. Salt Lake City, they’re headed there, they said. Dinner over, I struggled down the aisle to pee.

No sleep before our Lima stop. Then on the ground, a flood of newbies filled the plane; bags banged against my shoulder, klump, kalump, kalump. Evicted from her comfy seats, the sleeping girl was yanked across the aisle by father’s hand. Too many people now, too little space. I sucked in air, hoarding breath, grasping for some calm. Think of something else, I told myself.

Lee-ma, Peru. Ly-ma bean. Lee-ma. Ly-ma. Nothing could be fine-a. Good grief, I thought, as I scanned Nordnorge’s smorgasbord in my memory bank. I saw salads, seafood, myriad desserts. But no beans, anywhere.

No wonder I’m getting cranky. I haven’t had a bean in weeks.


Play it again, Sam

Originally posted December 31, 2005 by Linda Lou Burton from Santiago, Chile – Time to move on; leave the comfort of  our beautiful hotel; board the the 3 PM shuttle bus to the international airport. Maria was with us again! She had a family barbecue planned for the evening, she said, to bring in the New Year. But she was good-natured, as ever, her gentle melody-voice explaining the four stops we would have to make inside the terminal. One, check our bags and get our boarding pass. Two, go to Counter 54 and pay the exit fee of $18. Three, go through the security line. Four, turn in the declaration form. Check the bags? Oh no, I have to deal with BAGS again. Didn’t my tour information say “Baggage transfers included”? What did that mean?

The international airport was a good distance from the city, a pleasant freeway ride, with stands of pink-tasseled mimosa trees and glossy-leafed magnolias along the way. My Myrtle Beach seatmate and I agreed, it looked like South Carolina. Now, the terminal. Maria and our driver scurried to grab carts, piled the luggage on. Ah, that’s what it means, I thought. Maria helped me push my cart till I reached the line, got into the serpentine maze, then off she went to a special counter with Ross, who’d lost his passport. “Maybe he can just show them that Antarctic pebble he has,” I thought wickedly to myself. “Or the knife he says he won’t take out of his pocket no matter what security tells him.”

My wait began. I made seven serpentine turns before arriving at the check-in counter. But I was cool, full of Buenos Airesian hospitality, ready for anything. Others were not. “Stop fidgeting!” said a mother to her little boy. “Tuck your shirt in!” she said to another child. “Tie your shoes!” she said to a third. Their cart was piled high with enormous bags, the children were leaning, pushing, laying on the floor. “How much longer will it be?” said one of my South Carolina tour mates just behind. “I don’t know,” answered the other. That question, and that answer, repeated on a five-minute track, again and again and again. A Lan Chile employee, gorgeous, sleek and smiling, walked the line, threading plastic locks through every zipper on every piece of luggage. “We want your bags to be safe,” she explained to each of us. “We can’t lock our bags in the US,” I commented. “I know,” she answered, “but we don’t think it’s a good idea to have unlocked bags.” I thanked her profusely.

Overhead, a fright. A Versace perfume ad postered a 40-foot woman in a state of swoon, eyes glazed, in a hands-on ceremony of multiple caressments by several other glazey-eyed swooners. Powerful stuff, Versace. More raunchy than Manuel’s penguins mating. Cover the children’s eyes! Cover mine! It made me chuckle.

Finally I’m up to bat, I swung my fancy-schmancy bags from cart to counter. In no time I had my seat assignment, my gate number, and a smiling wish for a “good trip.” Next to Counter 54, past the blue sign, Maria had said. I saw blue signs ahead, picked the wrong one, backtracked, handed over a US $20. Change back, it was $18 to leave Argentina. Security next. No problem there, except for lack of air. (Why do they call them AIR-ports? Most rooms are incredibly stuffy.) Oops, geez, what was the fourth stop? I couldn’t remember anything else. But there was a gate to stop me again. Hmmmm. Oh, the declaration form! I grabbed one from the counter, checked the boxes, in like flinn, it’s OK, I’m done!

The waiting area by the gate was pleasant, not too crowded, I picked a seat where I could see the plane. Eek! A fright again. The Versace woman was there too, swooning above me, I moved. A tiny snack bar ahead. Aha, I remembered this time. Buy a bottle of water. I approached, asked. My God! Embarrassed. After two weeks I still don’t know the Spanish word for water. The clerk did not speak English. I pointed. She asked a question I did not understand. We leaned closer to one another, neither understanding. Finally she handed me a bottle, told me the price. I began laying money on the counter, but it was not enough. She was frowning at me. I should know how to trade by now. Still embarrassed, I vowed to better prepare for my next trip. An American sitting at the counter finally told me what to do. “Thanks,” I said to him, clutching my precious bottle of water. I slunk back to my seat, away from the scary Versace woman, away from the South Carolina travelers who were now in full-quarrel mode.

On board! And now I see, my boarding pass gave me an aisle seat, not the window I requested. But, ahhh, looky here. Must be a movie star, surely. A young man, handsome, slender, tight jeaned, day-old beard; he nodded, sat, whipped out his cell phone, made a call, low-voiced. “Do you want me to come and run naked on the beach with you?” he almost whispered to the phone. I was reminded of a song, “Hello young lovers, wherever you are”; if you don’t know it, look it up. Shades of Versace.

Buenos Aires to Santiago, that was the first leg of the flight. My Argentinian cowboy-movie star and I waited as others exited, a long, slow process; laughing at the image of what would happen in an emergency. “The disaster instructions show everyone quietly reaching under their seat for their life jacket,” he said. “Yes, and they don’t tell you NOT to pull the cord till they get to the end of the instructions!” I added. “I can see all of the life jackets going whoosh whoosh whoosh inflating before they remember.” We laughed harder. “And exiting the plane!” he said, “you know people would be fighting each other to get out first!” “Right,” I laughed, “pushing and shoving and stepping on each other.” We shook our heads at the thought of it, sniffle-laughing till it was time to go. He was headed for Mendoza.

I exited the plane expecting to spend a few minutes in the waiting area while they spiffed things up for my reboard. But no! We were pinned like cattle in a hot and stuffy glass-walled passage. What was happening? Outside, I saw the familiar brown-hazed hills of Santiago. The crew exited the plane, pushed their way around us. “Why are we waiting here?” I asked one of the flight attendants. “I don’t know.” She shrugged her shoulders and kept walking. An American family waited in line in front of me, Mom and Dad, two teen sons, a daughter, maybe 12. She was cute in flippy short shirt and flip-flop sandals, fingers and toes glossed in Barbie pink. The boys were studying plane activity outside, theorizing our delay. The father was scowling at the crew, as they walked away. The mother began to rattle questions in Spanish; one attendant turned around, answered. I decided to hang close, a language-bridge here, aha! The mother turned back to her family, explained there was a change of planes, we were to go to Gate 17. “For Lima?” I was quick to ask. “For LA?” “Yes,” she nodded, that’s where we’re going.” Well, I thought, at least I have a clue. I stood near the daughter, hoping I’d blend into the family circle. I could be the grandma! I asked her where they’d been, she named the cities, a Christmas holiday in Argentina. We talked about penguins, horses, sheep, the ranches, the barbecues. “I can’t eat lamb!” she said, “cute babies, oh no!” She showed me her fuzzy lamb souvenir.

Finally the line began to move, around a corner, we turned, we’re in an x-ray room! Security, again. What the &%$#*(&)(*&? How many of us have had a chance to purchase bombs and guns since the security check that put us ON the plane? I’ve never been x-rayed getting OFF a plane. But, there it was. Then, worse. My pack was stopped, pushed to the side, I’m signaled over. “Senora, I need you to open your pack,” the attendant said. I smiled, complied, unzipped the top. She pointed to an object, queried, “What is that?” I reached for my laser-thermometer, quickly picked it up. She jumped back a step; I slowed my movements down. “It’s my thermometer,” I said clearly. “Would you like me to show you how it works?” I realized she could see its push-button — could it be a detonator? I didn’t dare to laugh. She studied the object in my hand, I forged ahead and pushed the button. “78” registered on the face panel. “See,” I said, “it shows the temperature in this room.” She nodded, smiled at me. “That’s fine,” she said, “that’s all I need to see.” I was dismissed.

I hurried out the door, but my language-bridge family was nowhere in sight. A marker overhead said Gate 13. I ran, chest tightening with every step, towards Gate 17. I had no idea when my plane was due to leave. I could not bear to miss another flight. Puff puff pant pant Gate 17. There, a flight prepared to leave for Canada. My heart sank. And then, I gained my senses back. “You don’t need no stinking translator,” I thought to myself. “Just read the Departure Board.”

“Lima,” it said. “Gate 21. 7:30. On time.”  Well rats and hallelujah. I had been fretting and rushing for nothing. I had plenty of time. I ambled down the walkway, thinking about the cup of coffee I’d buy at the Dunkin Donuts spot I remembered from my pass-through two weeks earlier. Ah, just ahead I saw my adopted granddaughter in the flippy skirt, waving at me. I might have a donut too, I thought as I reached for my change purse. After all, it was New Year’s Eve. A quick left to the donut counter. It was closed.

No coffee. No donut to dunk. But I had my bottle of water. And I had my gate. And I had time to spare. My Barbie friend came over to chat, while we waited for airport things to happen, in their own good time.


Jack Daniels and the Dunkin Donuts

Christmas in Antarctica originally posted by Linda Lou Burton December 17, 2005 from Santiago & Puerto Montt, Chile –It took one hour and 25 minutes to get to the glassed-in box that housed Policio, Immigracion. I had my passport in my hand, a friendly I’m-not-dangerous expression on my face. “Have you been here before?” I was asked, as she flipped through my passport pages, which were as yet free of any mark. “No, my first time,” I replied.

“Go pay. One hundred dollar.” I knew they would collect a hundred US dollars as I entered, I had three crisp fifty-dollar bills folded and ready in my passport case, one for good measure. But there was no sign anywhere indicating that it would be anywhere else but at the gate. “Where?” I asked, more than a little frustrated. She pointed to an area behind me, where there had been no line. I had observed none of the other passengers standing there during the long wait.

I trudged back across the nearly empty room, where three ladies merrily chatted away. “Pay here?” I asked. She had me slide my passport through the slot and then said “One hundred dollar.” I passed the money through. She stamped the passport, printed a receipt, and stapled it inside.

I trudged back to my original waiting line, ready to get aggressive about position. I edged my wheelie carry-on to the yellow line, like a runner at the starting gate. Go! I’m certain now I’m good. Passport to the glassed-in booth, receipt poking out the side. She flipped through again, glared at me. “You did not fill out the papers! Go back!” I had not noticed two small papers stuck inside, that asked for name and address and purpose of visit. “Can I please sit down to fill this out?” I asked, noticing a bench just a few feet past her. My knees were begging me to SIT. “NO! GO!”

I moved behind the yellow line again, first in place, determined not to let anyone ahead, hastily scribbling in the pre-measured boxes demanding name/address/married/single/widowed/divorced. ????? I thought. @#%$^&&#$^ I also thought. Now I’m up again! Go! Passport into the glassed-in booth, papers complete, fee paid. She slapped the stamp against the page and thrust it back to me. “Welcome to Chile,” she said.

I saw a sign pointed to the baggage area, which wound through the duty-free shop. Now I’m in the main terminal, crowded with people pushing, shoving, hauling carts piled high with boxes, bags, children. I find a sign for Flt 601, and there below, tossed already onto the floor, are fancy and schmancy, waiting for me. No other luggage is in sight, long gone, to somewhere.

Good fortune! The carts are free, parked here and there. I grabbed a cart and piled my belongings together, all my stuff, at last! I headed for the gate. Or so I thought. There was a line of carts poised to go through, oh no I can’t believe it, CUSTOMS. I get in line again, leaning wearily against my cart. Fifteen minutes, edging forward, finally to the x-ray machines, a gentlemen is standing there, collecting papers. PAPERS? What papers? I ask. I did not see any papers! He handed me a sheet, “Here Senora, to declare,” he kindly stated. Many questions, name, address, widowed/divorced/married/single, did I bring plants or animals into the country? No. I handed him the completed form, and he stuffed it into a stack on the counter, never glancing at it.

“Go now,” he said, nodding at me. My bags disappeared into the x-ray machine, but I held possessively onto my cart.

On the other side, a sign in blue-and-white loomed overhead. Spanish, of course, but I could make it out. SMOKING CAUSES CANCER was the basic message. It pictured a person looking very ill. I pushed my now x-rayed baggage forward, past the waiting taxi drivers, onto the elevator, up to the Departures tier. Everything smelled of cigarettes.

And what did I see? LINES. Nacional. Puerto Montt, Balmeceda. I did not know what fate called next, but, I could not stand in line. I had to sit. I had to rehydrate. The vending machines asked for coins I did not have, could not read. I spotted stores, just around the corner. A bar! “Ginger ale?” I asked. “Si,” replied the bartender. “Ice?” I ventured, hopefully. “Ice,” he replied. I sat down. It was 3 AM by my watch, but 8 AM in Santiago. A mustached blond man at the next table ordered coffee, lit a cigarette.

I sipped my ginger ale, watched the people passing by. On the wall, a sign advertised Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. Hm! I recalled my tour of the place, my lunch at Bobo’s, in a tiny town in the Tennessee hills. The next store was a music store, plastered with posters of Jennifer Lopez. Just past that, Dunkin Donuts was the spot for a Chilean breakfast.

“No matter how far we go, we’re never very far away,” I thought.

Fortified now. Back to the lines. I handed the ticket agent my passport, she asked my destination. “I do not know,” I replied, ‘but my name should be in your computer somewhere.” I explained about the tour company, the delay, the arrangements. She called for a supervisor. They talked for a while, in Spanish of course. I waited.

Then she began to type. “You will come back later to see your gate,” she said, “it is too early now to know.” “Then you see my name?” I asked. “Si.” “Where am I going?” I asked again. “Balmeceda,” was the answer, “at 12:55.” She pasted new tags on my luggage, threw it onto a belt. Suddenly, I had a boarding pass in my hand.

I pushed my cart outside into the Santiago air. It was sunny with smog, and pleasantly warm. “Santiago,” I thought, “is the same latitude as Birmingham, Alabama. So, this would be like a Birmingham day in June.” More or less. I snapped a few pictures of the rounded brown hills and went back inside.

Now to stay awake until noon. My head was drooping. I decided to eat. Back to the café, a milkshake now, a fruit tart. How to pay? How to tip? I blundered through.

Security at Santiago was easy. Finding my gate was easy. Or, is everything routine now? Seated, with two hours to wait, I fell asleep. But still, I heard the call. Onto the plane and a window seat! A couple to my right. She was so friendly, now I know I cannot sleep. She asks where I am going, listens to my tale. “We are going to Puerto Montt,” she said. “That is my home. We were delayed in Miami ourselves, our luggage lost. We’ve been filling out papers.” Now I knew, we were kin! “What were you doing in Miami?” I asked. “Oh, we live in North Carolina,” she replied. “My husband is from Alabama.” He smiles and nods at me. Maybe our paths have crossed before, in a grocery store, at a football game? Small world thoughts again.

The sky was clear as we left the ground, and suddenly I saw the city of Santiago below. My seatmate leaned to look with me, described the city. She knew the route, pointed out the mountains, the lakes. Osorno Volcano I recognized from the pictures I’d seen. She verified I was correct.

The plane glided over lakes, water, resorts, boats, houses, trees. We were on the ground and my friendly companions departed. “Have a wonderful Christmas with your sister,” I said.

“Good luck in Balmaceda,” they said to me. “We hope you catch your ship.”


Fatal Mistake

Christmas in Antarctica originally posted by Linda Lou Burton December 17, 2005 from Santiago, Chile – The tiny screen in front of me was my lifeline. Set on GPS, it showed my location as if I were looking from the cockpit, with the jagged peaks of the Andes on my left. Other screens were map-like, with city-dots identifying the political name for what was there, our tiny-toy plane an imaginary figure above the world, creeping south. Occasionally the screen flipped to a statistics page. Velocidad. Altura. An English menu was offered but it took so long to download I decided to stick with the Spanish version. I determined we were flying at 35,000 feet with a ground speed of 508 mph.

I jotted down map-names. Trujillo. Rio Branco. Cuzco. Arequipa. Arica. Huancayo. Juliaca. La Paz. Iquique. Antofagasta. Galapagos Islands. Machu Picchu. Ascencion. Vina del Mar. Oruro. Totori. Calama. Salta. Pachacamac. Trinidad. Sucre. Copiapo. Mumahuaca. Concepcion. Cordoba. Santiago. Maldonado. Balmeceda.

I believe Balmaceda was a name Par said to me as a possible destination after Santiago. But he was not sure. I must wait and see.

They served food again after our stop in Lima. An omelet, tasty and hot, some fruit. A cinnamon cake. “You can have my melon,” Sofia said. “If I can have your grapes.” It was a perfect swap. The man on my left was sleeping. But Sofia and I talked. She was born in New York, to Argentine parents. Her father worked for Citibank so was transferred twelve times as she grew up. Elementary school in the Philippines, high school in Greece. “I followed my ex-boyfriend to LA,” she told me, “and now I do not want to leave. But I have so many choices.” “Where is your ex-boyfriend?” I asked. “He’s moved on,” was the reply.

I could not sleep. My brain was still on Seattle time. It was 10 PM when we left Lima, with three more hours to fly. Midnight, and my Friday became my Saturday, but outside it was already light.

I finally made it to Santiago, 48 hours behind schedule. I waited till the plane was nearly empty before I started down the aisle. It was 2 AM on my watch, 7 AM on the ground. Next step, get in line at Customs. Fatal mistake, waiting so long to leave the plane. There were at least 300 people ahead of me. I wished I’d slept. I wished I had water. I wished for a chair.

My next invention, a fancy-schmancy travel bag on wheels with a pop-down seat.


Until You Get on the Plane

Christmas in Antarctica originally posted by Linda Lou Burton December 16, 2005 from Lima, Peru – The yippy dogs kept at it all night. The planes kept coming in. But that was OK, because I was going to Santiago. I slept despite it all.

6 AM wakeup. I called Par to give him the news. “I’ll be in Santiago no later that 9:45 AM on Saturday,” I said. “What arrangements can you make to catch me up to the ship in Puerto Montt?”

Par did not know. “But, I will get you there,” he assured me. “Call me when you know which plane you will get on.”

I dressed and packed, confident, though much uncertainty lay ahead. It was going to be a good day. In the shuttle, I heard a familiar sound. Three people, together, talking Southern. I had to ask where they were from. “North Ca-ro-lin-a,” was the answer. “Montreat College. We’re he-yah to play basketball.” We exchanged stories and wished each other luck with what was ahead.

A light bulb went off in my head about my luggage. A cart! “Please let me out by the CARTS, instead of LAN’s gate,” I asked the driver. I’m finally getting smart, I thought to myself, as I piled four pieces on one easy-to-roll cart.

Inside, I began working through the line-up maze. “Please do not fly today and we will give you a ticket anywhere we fly,” was the first approach. “No thank you,” I replied. “I am flying today.”

“Put your luggage here,” I was instructed. A swarthy man x-rayed my bags, rubbed the outer surface, then tagged them with a sticker of approval. Clunk, they went into a pile with other bags, all much larger, heavier, more beat-up than mine. What a travel baby I am, I thought.

At the counter, I asked for standby. A ticket was prepared, but I was assured I would not get on the plane. “We are overbooked,” I was told. “I will wait,” I answered. “And, if you cannot seat me, you can endorse my ticket to American. I have a seat reserved there.”

This caused a great flurry of protest.

No! Your ticket is not endorsable!

Yes! Magdalena looked it up yesterday!

No! You must call reservations!

Yes! I did! That is who said!

No! We will not endorse this ticket!

Then, I will know that I will get on this plane today, I said.

With my standby ticket in hand, I moved across the way to Security.

Serpentine. Serpentine. So many children traveling with parents. Children, rushing, languages, colliding, everyone, pushing. All possessions in a tub. Everyone watching everyone. Passport. Boarding Pass. Hurry up. Move it on. Gate 115.

I called Par in New York. “I am standing by the gate,” I reported. “What arrangements have you made?”

“Until you get on the plane, we cannot make arrangements, because we do not know what time you will arrive. Once you are on board, we will proceed with the next ticket.”

“How will I know what to do? Will someone meet me at the gate in Santiago?”

“No, no one can meet you there. You will have to manage yourself. Go to the ticket counter and ask them what ticket they have in the computer for you. It will be ready. Wherever you go next, someone will meet you and take you to the ship.”

Announcements, announcements, noises blaring, it was almost time to begin boarding. “I have to go!” I said to Par.

I sat. I waited. Row by row the numbers were called, the line grew smaller, and smaller. Finally, there were only 12 people left standing. I inched towards the counter, listening.

And then it happened. They called my name. I stepped forward, and accepted the boarding pass in awe. Seat 16J, it said. Get on Bus 38, they told me.

I stepped outside, boarded a bus. A few more people came, and then we were driven several miles across runway and pavement, to a distant loading area.

16J would have been a window seat. Of course that part was too good to be true.

They put me in the center seat of the center aisle. But I did not complain.

Just after takeoff, I was fed. Pasta, bread, salad, water, even dessert. No food like that on domestic flights! Maybe I can even sleep, I hoped.

There was a mini-screen in front of me, offering news, videos, games, even a GPS map. I tuned into the map and watched my progress south.

At 6:30 PM, Pacific Time, I finally made it across the equator. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

We got to Lima at 9 PM. One stop, passengers off and on, refuel, clean the toilets. By now I’ve met Sofia, in the seat to my right. She was headed for Buenos Aires, to spend Christmas with her family. We watched each other’s things, stretched our legs, walked to the restroom.

The door was open at the back. I caught a breath of dark Peruvian air. It was humid, 74 degrees.


Don’t Moan, Get on the Phone

Christmas in Antarctica originally posted by Linda Lou Burton December 15, 2005 from Los Angeles, California, United States – I had a plan. First, a 6 AM wakeup call. That’s when the insurance company in Kansas City would answer their phones. I got through to a fellow named John. The bottom line, according to John, was that I was covered for $100 per day UP TO a max of $500 for “mechanical breakdown” problems. Nothing more. “Now, if you were SICK,” he continued, “we’d cover full price.” Thank you John.

Next a call to the cruise line in New York. Par (pronounced Pair) answered. I told him what I’d learned about the insurance, and assured him I was heading back to the airport soon to get in the standby line. “If I get to Santiago today,” I said, “I can join the tour at the airport as they leave for Puerto Montt.” He agreed that was a great plan. “But if I DON’T, what are my alternatives?” I asked. He would talk to his manager and find out. “I’ll call you back at 7:30,” he promised.

I showered and dressed and zipped up the carryon. Par called at 7:30, with booking agent Mark on the line. “We offer you a fresh tour, starting over from day 1,” they said, “if you can’t fly out today.” I pondered that option. I asked about other tour dates. Nothing else they had would get me “down south” for that treasured First Day of Summer. “I really, really, really need to make this tour,” I said. “I’ll see if I can get to Santiago one way or another.”

“If you do,” Par said, “we’ll catch you up to the tour at some point along the way.”

AHA! A surge of hope opened my eyes wide and set me smiling. “Then let me hang up and get back in line!” I hastily said goodbye to Par and checked out of the hotel.

I was the only passenger on the shuttle back to LAX, and the driver was in a talking mood. His name was Reynaldo. “I’m from Guadalajara,” he said, “but I’ve lived in LA for 18 years.” He described Guadalajara to me, talked about the cost of living. “I’m going back when I save some money,” he said, “where the pace is easier.” He let me out at the busy LAN Departures gate and wished me luck.

Inside, all 16 stations for LAN Chile were closed. A sign promised Open 8:45. I found an elevator and a McDonald’s and ate the Big Breakfast for $3.49. While I drank my coffee the speaker announced, on a 7-minute repeat schedule “You are not required to give money to solicitors.” A man laid a paper on my table, requesting money. “I am deaf,” it said.

Back in line at 8:45. A gentleman in a LAN Chile uniform approached to ask if I would give up my seat on the plane today. “We are overbooked,” he said, “and we’ll give you a ticket to anywhere we fly for use any time this year if you don’t fly today.” I thanked him for the offer, and took that as a Very Bad Sign for a Standby. At the counter, they said No Way Jose. Or, something that meant the same thing. “Try American,” they offered. “Or, come back manana. We have two flights tomorrow so you have two times chance.”

“You still have my luggage,” I said, “What should I do about it?”

“You should prolly take it home,” I was told. “It is in an open area.”

OPEN AREA? NOT LOCKED? That factoid has escaped notice the day before. My fancy-schmancy wheelie luggage had sat in an unlocked area in the Los Angeles airport for a day??? Yikes.

I requested that they bring it forth herewith, and that, surprisingly, happened quickly.

Now I’ve got the dreaded four-bags-on-two-wheels situation, and a walk to American Airlines in the next terminal. My determination fizzled, but on I marched, bump dabump dabump. There were 500 people in line at American. That I could see. The serpentine lines wound to a balcony upstairs that was completely out of view. The Big Breakfast had not prepared me for that. I found a bench outdoors, under the blue Los Angeles sky (only slightly dinged by brown smog and cigarette puffers), and watched the tour buses drive past, headed for Disneyland.

Where else do I want to go? Hmmm, I haven’t been to Death Valley yet, or the Channel Islands. How about Christmas in Santa Barbara? I’ve even got relatives there. Maybe I could rent a car and drive home, enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Coast . Rats, I remembered, it’s December and the passes are already getting bad in the Oregon mountains.

I finally wrangled the luggage back inside, found the hotel phone bank, called for a shuttle, and trekked back outside to the Red Zone to wait for a ride.

This time they gave me a larger room, much nicer, for the same rate. Did they feel sorry for me? I was getting the bedraggled look, for sure. Although it was on the 4th floor, a palm tree brushed against the window. Down below, a back yard, a swing set, a barbecue. So peaceful, I thought. Suddenly three little doggies ran from the patio to the shrubbery, in a yipping chase. In the sky above, JAL was coming in for a landing. Three yippy dogs and an international flight path. Oh happy day. I kicked off my shoes and rubbed my blistered feet.

A voice inside instructed: Don’t moan, get on the phone.

First, American Airlines. YES! YES! There is ONE SEAT left on the Santiago flight tomorrow! YES! She booked the flight, gave me the confirmation, and instructed me to call LAN Airlines so they would endorse the ticket.

Second, LAN Chile Airlines. “My name is Magdalena and I would like to help you,” in a beautiful, lilting accent. I told her the story. I asked her to endorse the ticket to American. “You are both a part of One World,” I said to her, hoping that would engender the spirit of cooperation. She asked for my ticket number. “I will read the regulations,” she promised. Soon she was back. “The ticket may be endorsed,” she said. “But they will have to do it at the counter tomorrow, I cannot do it by phone.” “Thank you, Magdalena! You have been so helpful!”

What a plan I have now! Three options! I can Standby for the 12:35 LAN flight. I can Standby for the 1:05 LAN flight. If I don’t make either of those, I can have them endorse the ticket and go to American for the 3 PM flight. Either way, I get to Santiago in time to join the tour, fly to Puerto Montt, and get to the ship in time.

My life is perfect. It is too late to call New York and give Par the news. I brush my teeth and head next door to Casa Gamino, ready for guacamole, ole.


United, We Stand

Christmas in Antarctica originally posted by Linda Lou Burton December 14, 2005 from Los Angeles, California, United States – The shuttle was right on time. 3:15 AM, just as promised. The van was already filled with middle-of-the-nighters getting ready to travel places, see things, do stuff. A couple headed for New Zealand thought THEY had the market on distance. Ha! I’m going to Antarctica. That was the trump card, for sure.

An icy fog swirled around us as we hurtled through the dark, headed for SeaTac airport, AKA, Flying Carpet Central. “What do you do in case of bad weather,” I asked, fearful we might not make the plane on time. “Oh, I have studded tires,” was the reply. “I always get you there.”

Inside. In line. Bags checked to Santiago, Chile. Boarding pass. Rode the shuttle to another terminal. Got coffee. Got muffin. Got newspaper. Waited.

5:40 AM. Got on the plane!! Stowed carryon. Found seat. Buckled up. Waited.

6:00 AM. “We’re going to put a little deicer on the wings,” said the pilot. “Don’t be alarmed by the smell.” Mysterious vehicle with shiny spotlight dumped something all over the wings. Waited.

6:15 AM. Taxied to runway. Waited.

6:30 AM. Screechy clunky noise from wing. More noise. More noise. Pilot announced “We are computer driven and the computer is acting up. We’re trying to get it fixed.”

7:00 AM. Sorry can’t fix, have to go back to terminal. We’ll know something by 8 AM. Ride back to terminal. Wait.

8:00 AM. Sorry folks, they can’t seem to fix it. Get off the plane and go have breakfast on us. Voucher worth $5.50. Come back at 9:00.

Got in line to contact LAN Chile Airlines. Please United, see if I can make another connection. Answer. NO. Wait and see.

9:00 AM We have a good plane. Please reboard. By now the passenger load was much lightened. Lots of people were headed for Hawaii. Lots of people missed connections. Mucho groucho. THIS IS CRAP was the most frequently heard comment in the rebooking line. Hey, when you’re headed for relaxation, you don’t want anything to slow you down. Right?

Pretty little Charlie, a two-year-old blond sweetie traveling with her mother and grandmother, did not reboard. I did.

Back in my window seat. Young man has returned to seat beside me. He’s dressed in T-shirt and toboggan; tattoos of roses-on-trellises grow from his wrists up his arms. “I missed my appointment in LA,” he told me. “I had a job interview.” “Bummer,” I said, and told him of my flight fright. “If I miss the flight to Santiago, I miss the boat!” “I’ll help you get your carryon when we land,” he offered.

9:30 AM we were in the air, leaving Seattle behind. Could I make the connection?

11:45 On the ground in LA. How long does it TAKE to open the door? “Go to Customer Service and they will help you find the LAN Chile desk,” offered the flight attendant. “I have no idea where it is.”

RUN. Ah, Customer Service desk. 27 people in line for one Customer Representative. Quick multiplication in my head. 27 people times a conservative 5 minutes each equals 135 minutes. Plane leaves in 50 minutes. I kept running.

Saw a uniform. “Help! I need to find LAN Chile! Can you help me?” Gentleman stops, yes he will help. “Tell them I’m here! Tell them I’m running!” He went away to make a call.

Back. “I cannot get through to them. You should go directly to the desk.” He kindly walked with me down the escalator, to the door, motioned towards the shuttle bus. “Oh, that one is just leaving, there’ll be another in 10 minutes,” he said. “I don’t have 10 minutes to spare!” He pointed left, drew me a diagram, “It’s only a 5-minute walk.” ANOTHER BUILDING. A different terminal entirely!

I began running (in my best slow hobble-walk), pulling my sturdy TravelPro carryon with the in-line skate wheels that drives like a dream. I’m running backwards in the alphabet, according to the overhead signs. From United. By the time I got to Delta my chest was pounding and I was drenched in sweat. Finally then, American! The end of the terminal. Open spaces. Next building.

It was stinky. Really stinky. Cigarette puffers lined the route, nervously sucking and blowing smoke, smoke, more smoke. There was a sign ahead. LAN. I bumped down the brick walkway, into the door, I’m on the wrong level! I need Departures and I’m still on the Arrivals tier. Elevator. Run.

I could see the counter! It was now 12:10 PM. I still had 25 minutes. But which line? Rows of tape separators on little chrome posts made a maze of pathways. A guard looked up to see if I’m a dangerous intruder. “LAN! For a 12:35 flight!” I waved my ticket in the air. The guard jumped up, ran, “Come with me!” I followed through the maze and he led me straight to the counter. Which was strangely empty. He called and someone appeared from behind a Do Not Enter door. He explained in Spanish. She shook her head. CLOSED. Plane is full.

I explained in English. Plane was delayed from Seattle. Pant pant. Must get on this flight. Pant pant. Here is my ticket. Pant pant. Please help.

“Ees not my fault,” was her reply. How many times would I hear that statement before the day would end?

I spent 10 minutes begging to be allowed onto my plane. I spent 25 minutes waiting for the supervisor to return from the departure gate. Pregnant and obviously tired from the morning rush, she kindly described to me the details of why it took 3 hours to board – security, holding pen, many busloads to departure area, on and on. “Please come back manana,” she concluded. “We’ll try to get you on. But, eet too is full so, maybe not happen.”

I called Norwegian Cruise Lines in New York and explained what happened. “Please help me,” I implored. “Well, it’s not our fault that you missed your flight,” was the answer. “The trip officially begins in LA.” “I have trip insurance,” I stated. “What will it cover?” “Call the insurance company and see,” I was told.

I went outside and caught a shuttle back to the United counter. Waited in line for one hour. Finally reached the counter and Jo Anne, my first angel of the day. Jo Anne sold tickets, mostly to people who were “dis” connected, like me. She dealt with lots of tears. What flights go to Santiago? We can fly you to New York, and then to Miami, for tomorrow’s Santiago flight? No seats from Miami. We can fly you to Mexico City, then to Santiago? No seats from Mexico City. We can fly you to Toronto, then on Air Canada to Santiago? Seats available, but flight arrived too late to catch up to the Tour.

“I guess I’ll have to stay the night in LA,” I finally told her. “Can you get me a hotel voucher?” “Absolutely!” she assured me, and went away to do so. Meanwhile, beside me, a woman wept in French. They called for an agent who could converse with her. Passport expired, how could she get home? At least, I was close to home.

Jo Anne returned. She was in tears! Now I was the consoler. She could not get me a hotel voucher, she said. “And that’s not RIGHT! We delayed you and we should help you now. But my supervisor says it’s not our fault that you didn’t make the connection. They won’t help you!” “Don’t cry Jo Anne,” I replied, “you worked so hard to help me. It’s not your fault. Please don’t cry,” I repeated. “That’s such a beautiful pin you are wearing,” I said, an afterthought. Jo Anne smiled and wiped the tears from her cheeks, and then directed me to the bank of hotel phones.

Free Shuttle From the Airport. I selected a hotel that appeared to be nearby and made the call. “Go to the red zone,” I’m instructed, “we’ll pick you up.” Outside, the cigarette puffers are rowed like ducks, on assignment to leave no breath of fresh air for anyone passing by. I waited.

“Welcome to Los An-glees!” said my smiling driver, as he opened the door to the van. “Are you having a beautiful day?” “Yes,” I replied. My buddy the Downhome Philosopher espouses ‘never dump your problems on somebody else’s head.’ I agree with that thought. Why ruin the driver’s lovely day? “What are those towers ahead?” I asked. He described the towers of light, the palm trees; we were on Century Boulevard, in his beautiful city.

Checked in, my room was a haven, cigarette free, noise free. But it was too late to call Kansas City, home of my travel insurance company. It was too late to call New York, home to my cruise line. I flopped onto the bed, and fell asleep.

No! I’ve had no food today! 6 PM! Fourteen hours since I had my cup of Starbucks and my muffin. I’m starved. I could see Casa Gamiño from my window. I washed my face and went to eat.

Inside, it was warm, walls were soft adobe coral, trimmed in hacienda green, Christmas decorations everywhere. “Good evening Senora,” as I was seated. I ordered #5, chilies rellaño. Chips were set before me, laughter was behind me. The music was playing, a Spanish song of happiness, I could tell, even though I did not understand the words.

This was the first day of my trip to Antarctica.


Know Your Neighbors 2 – South America

September 7, 2020, Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – A little more detail on the twelve countries of South America. Which country has the largest military budget? Which country has the lowest per capita GDP? Which countries have emeralds and diamonds? Which country has Dutch as their official language? In which country is life expectancy for females the highest? In which country is life expectancy for males the lowest? In which country do the most people claim to be Catholic? How well do you know your neighbors?

Countries in South America

  1. Argentina
  2. Bolivia
  3. Brazil
  4. Chile
  5. Colombia
  6. Ecuador
  7. Guyana
  8. Paraguay
  9. Peru
  10. Suriname
  11. Uruguay
  12. Venezuela

Argentina, Capital City Buenos Aires

Argentina, the third largest South American country by population (45,089,492), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 77% Catholic and 11% Protestant and 7% Agnostic. The defense budget is $4.2 billion and there are 74,200 active troops. Natural resources are lead, copper, iron ore, petroleum. The Per Capita GDP is $20,567. Compulsory education ages 4-17. Life expectancy female 81.0; male 74.5.

Bolivia, Capital City La Paz

Bolivia, the eighth largest South American country by population (11,473,676), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The primary language is Spanish and the country is 79% Catholic and 9% Protestant. The defense budget is $533 million and there are 34,100 active troops. Natural resources are natural gas, iron ore, petroleum, timber. The Per Capita GDP is $7,859. Compulsory education ages 4-17. Life expectancy female 73.1; male 67.3.

Brazil, Capital City Brasilia

Brazil, the largest South American country by population (210,301,591), is a federal presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Portuguese and the country is 65% Catholic, 14% Protestant, and 11% Independent. The defense budget is $28 billion and there are 334,500 active troops. Natural resources are gold, iron ore, petroleum, timber. The Per Capita GDP is $16,068. Compulsory education ages 4-17. Life expectancy female 78.2; male 71.0.

Chile, Capital City Santiago

Chile, the sixth largest South American country by population (18,057,855), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 61% Catholic, 22% Independent, and 9% Agnostic. The defense budget is $4.2 billion and there are 77,200 active troops. Natural resources are copper, timber, nitrates, hydropower. The Per Capita GDP is $25,284. Compulsory education ages 5-17. Life expectancy female 82.4; male 76.2.

Colombia, Capital City Bogota

Colombia, the second largest South American country by population (48,631,464), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 86% Catholic, 9% Protestant, and 3% Agnostic. The defense budget is $10.6 billion and there are 292,200 active troops. Natural resources are copper, emeralds, hydropower. The Per Capita GDP is $14,999. Compulsory education ages 5-14. Life expectancy female 79.7; male 73.3.

Ecuador, Capital City Quito

Ecuador, the seventh largest South American country by population (16,703,254), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 84% Catholic, 11% Protestant, and 4% Agnostic. The defense budget is $1.7 billion and there are 40,250 active troops. Natural resources are petroleum, fish, timber, hydropower. The Per Capita GDP is $11,714. Compulsory education ages 3-17. Life expectancy female 80.5; male 74.4.

Guyana, Capital City Georgetown

Guyana, the eleventh largest South American country by population (744,845), is a parliamentary republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is English and the country is 34% Protestant, 30% Hindu, 11% Independent, and 8% Muslim. The defense budget is $56 million and there are 3,400 active troops. Natural resources are bauxite, diamonds, timber, shrimp. The Per Capita GDP is $8,569. Compulsory education ages 6-11. Life expectancy female 72.4; male 66.2.

Paraguay, Capital City Asuncion

Paraguay, the ninth largest South American country by population (7,108,524), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official languages are Spanish and Guarani and the country is 85% Catholic, 11% Protestant. The defense budget is $313 million and there are 11,500 active troops. Natural resources are hydropower, timber, limestone. The Per Capita GDP is $13,571. Compulsory education ages 5-17. Life expectancy female 80.5; male 75.0.

Peru, Capital City Lima

Peru, the fifth largest South American country by population (31,624,207), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official languages are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara and the country is 84% Catholic, 12% Protestant. The defense budget is $2.3 billion and there are 81,000 active troops. Natural resources are copper, petroleum, fish, coal. The Per Capita GDP is $14,393. Compulsory education ages 3-16. Life expectancy female 76.7; male 72.3.

Suriname, Capital City Paramaribo

Suriname, the smallest South American country by population (603,823), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Dutch though English is widely spoken, and the country is 30% Catholic, 20% Hindu, 16% Muslim, 15% Protestant, 5% Agnostic . The defense budget is NA and there are 1,840 active troops. Natural resources are timber, hydropower, fish, gold. The Per Capita GDP is $15,498. Compulsory education ages 7-12. Life expectancy female 75.6; male 70.6.

Uruguay, Capital City Montevideo

Uruguay, the tenth largest South American country by population (3,378,471), is a presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 52% Catholic, 30% Agnostic, 9% Protestant, 7% Atheist. The defense budget is $486 million and there are 21,000 active troops. Natural resources are hydropower, fish, minor minerals. The Per Capita GDP is $23,531. Compulsory education ages 4-17. Life expectancy female 81.0; male 74.6.

Venezuela, Capital City Caracas

Venezuela, the fourth largest South American country by population (32,068,672), is a federal presidential republic with a president as head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 81% Catholic, 11% Protestant, 5% Agnostic. The defense budget is $741 million and there are 123,000 active troops. Natural resources are petroleum, gold, hydropower, diamonds. The Per Capita GDP is $18,102. Compulsory education ages 3-18. Life expectancy female 79.5; male 73.4.

Resource: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020


A Bi-Polar Year: From the Arctic Circle to Antarctica

A Bi-Polar Year: From the Arctic Circle to Antarctica will be released in 2018.

Here’s a peek at the intro.

It’s something I wanted to do for years. That is, to be north of the Arctic Circle on the first day of summer (June of course), and then to be south of the Antarctic Circle on the first day of summer in the southern hemisphere (December). This had to happen in the same year, I thought. And so it did.

The trip began in June, an easy ride from Seattle to Alaska and the northernmost point in North America. Point Barrow, polar bear country! Then life wound through summer, and autumn, and family, and friends, till I boarded a plane for my flight to Santiago, Chile, and my southbound ship that got me to Cape Horn on December 22. We crossed the Drake Passage in time for Christmas on the White Continent, where I met my first penguin.

Join me?

(c) Linda Lou Burton 2017