Thursday, June 5, 2008

Arrival in Cochabamba

We had a slow morning today, taking time to catch up on some sleep, still not completely regained after the long trip south. At 11:00 we checked out of the hotel, and boarded another taxi caravan for the airport. Though we had arrived in the international Viru Viru airport, our departure was out of El Trompillo, a much smaller airport in the heart of old Santa Cruz. The airport, with its low ceilings and small check-in counters, reminded me of an old Florida airport, the kind they used to have before everything became multiplexed and modernized. There was even a guy pushing around a little cart, selling homemade sandwiches wrapped in cellophane.

Having had problems in the past, I watched carefully as the baggage man put tags on all our luggage. I asked him for his name, which seemed to surprise and irritate him, and one of the women at the counter asked me suspiciously if I was worried about my bag. I explained that yes indeed, Aerosur had "lost" my luggage once, and I didn't want that to happen again. She scowled and went about her work.

The theme for today was "forgetting." While we waited for the flight to board, a student realized that she had left her cell phone at the hotel. We called, and they were able to send it to us in a radio taxi. Arriving in Cochabamba we disembarked and collected our luggage, when another student suddenly realized she'd left her laptop in the overhead compartment. She was not allowed back on the plane to look for it, and the inept Aerosur staff were of course unable to locate it before the plane again took off. But E., my colleague in this program and a lawyer, bawled them out (she is still simmering, I think, over her inability to help me recover my lost suitcase the last time I flew Aerosur), and when the plane landed in La Paz they were able to recover the laptop. They promised to send it to Cochabamba the next day.

J., one of the owners of Bolivia Cultura (the agency that is coordinating our homestays) was waiting for us at the airport with a bus to take us and our gear back to his offices. There we ate pizza and listened to J's orientation about the homestay experience and life in Cochabamba, with an emphasis on security, and respect for the families, the rules of the house, and the local customs. One by one, the families came to collect the students. They all were genuinely happy to meet the students, greeting them by name with handshakes and kisses, and helping them to drag their suitcases out to waiting vehicles. Amy's family was the last to arrive, and she waited patiently like a little orphan girl until they finally arrived, with apologies for being late.

Shortly thereafter, a student called to say that she had left a blue bag at the office. I told her we'd hold it for her until she could pick it up the following day. Sigh.

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