Thursday, June 5, 2008

The trip to Bolivia

We arrived in Santa Cruz late last night, after a very long day of travel to Bolivia. Students arrived in Miami from various destinations around the New York area. I had been nervous that their flights would be delayed - when are they not out of Newark and LaGuardia? - but by some miracle everyone arrived on time, though Yury had to run to catch the flight and we were concerned that her suitcase might not make the transition with her.

The flight down was unremarkable, which is always good where air travel is concerned. Though we all bought our tickets independently, for some reason we were all seated in the same rows. I sat next to Yury and Nicole, who had the window seat and had to visit the bathroom with an alarming frequency. ;-) Lisi was seated behind me, Aida and Kelly were in the row opposite, and Carolyn in the row behind them , in the middle seat, having selflessly surrendered her middle seat so that a mother could sit next to her child. (I have to admit, I would not have been so generous.)

The highlight of the trip, I suppose, came when the flight attendant cleared away our meals (yes, you still get them on international flights). She was a rather squat woman, very jovial for a flight attendant (who tend to be rather surly lately, I've found). Her joviality may have been provoked by the fact that every time I allowed my right elbow to stray into the aisle, she happened to be there, and I jabbed her in some private region of her body. ("Don't poke my bottom!" she told me at one point, as she was bending over to serve someone a diet Dr. Pepper.) Nicole, who had brought her own food, being a vegetarian, handed the trash to the flight attendant, and subsequently realized that she had accidentally thrown away a candy bar along with her orange peels. I was required to (once again) rise from my seat, while Nicole and the accomodating flight attendant rummaged through the trash in an unsuccesful attempt to rescue the missing chocolate bar. This, as I said, was the high point of the flight. (We also got to view back-to-back showings of the "The Water Horse" and "The Bucket List," both rather maudlin tear-jerkers, both very much about death, which I found both fascinating and disconcerting.)

We arrived in Santa Cruz and had no trouble getting through the visa process. As expected, the officials in MigraciĆ³n had little interest in the various documents that the students had so diligently assembled, being much more concerned with the US$100 payment that each visa recipient is required to provide. Nor did we have any trouble finding our bags and getting through customs, despite the ominous and confusingly worded new customs form that each of us had to fill out prior to arrival. Outside, four taxi drivers awaited us, bearing signs with our names. We piled into the vehicles, one devoted entirely to suitcases, and made the mad dash into Santa Cruz and the Hotel Camino Real. The hotel, as always, is beautiful and commodious. The students seem to like it, and paired up without much fuss into the shared accomodations. G.'s flight from Cochabamba was late, but we met up for a late dinner at the hotel before crashing for the night.

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