The couple across the aisle is making out, or rather maybe just involved in some “heavy cuddling.” They actually look rather uncomfortable, sittin up and turned sideways in their seat. I guess I am probably jealous.
We are thirty-thousand feet above Pucon, Chile, or that is what the in-flight sky map is showing. The plane starts its slow descent into the Puerto Montt region and the cabin crew are fall squirrels, bustling around, gathering items, picking up trash and shoring things up. Despites its short length and crowded cabin, I would probably rate this segment as my favorite as my favorite with regards to customer service. Offering free Cristal (the Chilean “national” beer) AND snacks. I mean United’s half mostly empty economy cabin was not even offered free drinks as we passed into the new year on a nine hour international flight. Friendly skies, yeah right.
As I write this I have been traveling for over thirty hours, and I imagine, that when I reach the NOLS branch in Coyhaique, it will have been over thirty six hours. My mother and I left stark in the 0500 hour dark and drove to meet my brother for breakfast in southern NH. From there it was a bus ride to Logan Airport and then two flights to reach Houston, where I boarded the nine hour flight to Santiago. The new year came in, as I mentioned, without much fanfare as I stretched out in the mostly empty main cabin of United flight 847.
We touched down in Santiago a little bit early. My eyes scanned the various signs and instructions as the crowds hustled me down the hallways and stairs that led to Chile’s immigration and customs. I noticed the reciprocity fee sign and the lack of The Stars and Stripes next to it. Then the “Chileanos y residents” sign directing them to take a left to that bank of officers. All other passports straight ahead. I wound down the serpentine, ribbon cordoned walkway. Then… “Kevin…?” I asked to a familiar looking face. He looked up, then raised his hand in a high five request. I matched the gesture. “What’s up?”, I said, cognizant of the line of people behind me. I moved forward with the crowd while he kept pace and we chatted briefly. After making our way through customs and immigration we find our way up the domestic departures ticket counter and check-in for the final leg of our flight to Balmaceda. Kevin is en route to NOLS Patagonia to work a course. I find the running into an old co-worker and friend a bit of a highlight of the journey, especially since it was in an international airport a third of the way around the world. Yet before the LAN airlines Airbus 320 leaves the runway from Santiago, I will have run into two more familiar and friendly faces, making the day even that much better.