Thursday, June 25, 2015

Long Flight to Bolivia - Flight, Sprite, Plight

[June 19-20, 2015] Friday and Saturday

Well, we're on our way. Lisa, Andrew, and Nicholas came and picked us up right at our doorstep. It was so fun driving to the airport with them. Nicholas talked about every truck he saw, and Andrew talked to Moggie (their name for Molly) the whole way, and even sang very quietly to her. We said goodbye to them at the entrance to the airport. We so much appreciated their sweet willingness to help us out. Here we are at the curb - last time we saw all our luggage for a while.

We checked our bags (3 of them - that will become important later...) at the Delta counter in Salt Lake, and proceeded to the proper gate to wait for our flight. While we were waiting, a mother with her 10 year old daughter came and asked if we were flying to Atlanta, which we assured her we were. Her daughter was going to fly alone, and was hoping that there would be missionaries on the flight, because then she would feel safe. She didn't need us to watch over her - just be on the same flight.

We boarded the plane and left right on time - just before 2:00 pm Utah time. The flight to Atlanta was uneventful, landing in Atlanta at about 7:30 pm Atlanta time (5:30 Utah time). Just for later comparisons, all announcements were in English with no particular accents.

As we exited the plane, and started looking around to figure out which terminal our next flight to Santiago, Chile would leave from, a young couple asked us if we knew anything about the Atlanta terminal. We asked where they were going, and they indicated that they were going to Santiago. That was our next destination, so we worked together. Turns out, they had just gotten married, and were heading to Santiago to celebrate with those in their families who couldn't come to the United States. They were both BYU students, and were excited about life and marriage and everything. Their last name was Brunovski. He was from Brazil, and she was from Chile.

We spent the next two and a half hours visiting with them while we found our next gate, and got ourselves situated to wait for the flight. They were really cute.

At 9:30 pm (7:30 pm Utah time), we started to board. As I approached the attendant checking boarding passes, she asked if I would like a row with more leg room. You better believe it! So she moved us to a row with plenty of room. Thank you, thank you!

As the plane was boarding, we found it interesting that the nature of the announcements had changed significantly. Everything was still in a North American English accent, but every announcement was repeated twice - once in English, and then again in Spanish. It helped to get us into a different mindset. We really were doing this!

Just after we took off, we were served dinner. It was pretty decent for coach level airplane fare - Molly had a pasta dish with cheese while I had chicken teriyaki with rice. We both had a salad, vegetables, a roll, a brownie, and a can of Sprite. The can looked like it was meant specifically for us:

I'll let you all figure out what Sprite meant by that, but the first two lines seemed meant just for us. We tried to sleep after "dinner", but weren't really able to. Molly watched the new Cinderella movie while I tossed and turned, and she even got up and paced a bit. I just gritted it out, trying to sleep in whatever position I could.

About an hour before we were going to land, we were served breakfast - an egg and cheese sandwich, orange juice, and 4 tic tacs each.

We arrived in Santiago at about 7:30 am, Chile time (4:30 am Utah time). In looking at our watches, we were majorly confused.  It appeared that Santiago was three hours ahead of Utah - which would make it a time zone east of Eastern time. We didn't figure out until later, that Chile is in the same time zone as Argentina and Brazil.  If you look at a map of time zones, they clearly don't fit the pattern. We didn't get that all figured out until Sunday, but it really had us scratching our heads how Santiago could be east of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz Bolivia (it isn't).

We said goodbye to our friends, and started trying to figure out our next leg. My, it would have been good to have some instructions. It was a very good thing I spoke adequate Spanish, because very little English was spoken. We knew we needed to find the LAN Airlines desk to check into our next flight to Santa Cruz, but couldn't find any signs for it. We followed the crowd (since there were no clear signs indicating we shouldn't), and eventually found it way at the end of a long walk.

We checked in, and the agent instructed us to go and pay our "impuestos", so we went downstairs and got in line. Another agent there told us we weren't Chileans, so we didn't need to pay the impuesto, we needed to go to "inmigración" and pointed the way. Another line.

When we got to the front, we showed passports, etc., and the police officer stamped our passport that we had arrived. We then left the international area, and sought instructions for the flight to Santa Cruz, which was routed through Iquique, Chile. We had to go through the security check again with our carry-on bag, computer bag, and Mom's purse. We finally found the gate, with not a small amount of barely understood questions and answers, and sat down to wait again. This flight would leave at noon (Chile time, 9:00 am Utah time), so we relaxed.

To this point, I had made one attempt to purchase Bolivianos, but they only wanted to sell Chilean pesos, so all I had was Dollars. We decided to just eat our Belvida snacks, and not try to negotiate food purchases in Santiago.

The plane left on time, but now, the announcements were in Spanish first, followed by English in a Spanish accent. it was still pretty much intelligible, but it was clear we had left "Kansas".

This leg flew to an airport in the middle of nowhere, 25 miles south of Iquique, Chile. It would have been a great place to film the desert scenes from Star Wars. The northern part of Chile is one of the driest deserts on earth, and it looked like it. 

We could no more figure out why we landed in the absolute middle of nowhere than fly to the moon. Fortunately, a young man from Santa Cruz was sitting next to me on the flight (by the way, the LAN seat configuration clearly wasn't meant for North Americans. There was even less knee room on this flight than any I have ever experienced. Very miserable for the hour and three quarters we were on it) and helped me understand that it was a central place to collect people flying to Santa Cruz from Chile and Peru. It was a port town, but we never saw the city or the port.

Upon landing we all had to get off the plane. I asked the young man what was going on. He said we had to go through "inmigración" again, and that we'd be wise to take all our belongings with us.

So, we got off, stood around for an hour or so, and got our passports stamped that we were leaving Chile. I felt like the whole experience was more meant to be inconvenient for anyone going to Bolivia, since I've heard that the Chileans really don't like Bolivians, than anything else.

We got back on the plane, and as I squeezed back into my knee-crushing seat, the flight attendant asked if we'd like to move to a roomier row. Certainly. So we got to sit on the exit row, which was much better for the next leg. We left Iquique at about 3:30 Chile time (12:30 pm Utah time), and arrived in Santa Cruz at 4:15 Bolivian time (now only 2 hours ahead of Utah - 2:15 Utah time). Are you confused yet. We were.

At the SC airport, we had to stand in line to get our passports stamped that we had arrived in Bolivia. We went to collect our luggage, because we were leaving the big boy airlines, and now were in the Bolivian airline space. We saw one of our bags, and collected it, then another, and then..... nothing. We waited until all the bags were off the plane, but our third bag wasn't there. It was the one with my white ties, temple jackets, temple shoes, Molly's jeans, medicines, blow dryer, brush, and various other miscellaneous sundries. 

We contacted the LAN representative, and filled out the paperwork for a missing luggage item, and proceeded to check on our next flight. Not much we could do but report it and hope it could be found. The young man who had sat next to us let me use his cellphone to call the Temple in Cochabamba, so they knew we were coming, and I alerted them to the missing luggage. They assured me that we had done right to get it reported. By now, everything was in Spanish. If I had not been marginally adept, we would have been in real trouble, I'm afraid.

[This is Molly: Charlie was my hero as he so lovingly and patiently and capably spoke with the people he needed to using his Spanish. He never got frustrated or impatient, just remained calm and took care of me. I felt very well taken care of.]

Fortunately for us, there was a travel agent that works with the church there to greet us after we passed through customs. He took our remaining two bags, and helped us get them checked in, and helped us figure out where we needed to go next.

Our last flight left from Santa Cruz at 7:00 pm their time (5:00 pm Utah time just to keep things straight), and arrived in Cochabamba at about 8:00 pm. It was interesting to note that their were two flights from the same airline listed as leaving at the same time from the same gate, ours to Cochabamba, and the other to La Paz. There was a third flight at the same time, this one to Cochabamba, but on a different airline.We had to check carefully to make sure we got in the right line.

While we were waiting, a young sister missionary greeted us. Her name was Hermana Via. She was on her way home to Cochabamba from a mission in Mexico. We hoped she would be on our flight, but she was headed for the other one. She was excited that we were headed for the temple as missionaries, and hoped that she would see us there.

Needless to say, Molly gave her a big hug.

So, we arrived in Cochabamba at about 8:00 pm (now I'm going to quit referring to Utah time - you all can figure it out from here) after a total of 28 hours of transit. Whew! President and Sister Jensen met us warmly at the airport. What a sight for sore and tired eyes.

They took us to our new lodging on the temple grounds. They call it the Hospedaje (Lodging). Members who come to the temple from far away can stay the night, much like a hotel. Others might use it just to change clothes before going to the temple. It's a hundred yards or so down the hill from the Temple entrance.

The other missionaries had left us homemade soup, bread, cookies, and jello, and fruit, milk, and yogurt so we wouldn't go hungry. They even left flowers for us.

We quickly unpacked our depleted luggage, had some dinner, and fell into bed.


  1. Whew, that made me tired just reading it!!! And now I'm anxiously awaiting your next installment: did they ever find your missing suitcase??? Love you both!

  2. Short answer, we think so. We'll be sure tomorrow. Long answer, we'll blog about that process soon.

  3. What an adventure!!! (And very well told :))

  4. Yeah, nice use of words dad, someday you should write a book about all this.