Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Great Adventure- the one I'll nevah evah forget (part one)

I didn't write down much from when Danielle spent the day in Santiago, but the main kicker for that portion was the fact that her flight (that was supposed to arrive friday morning) was delayed 10 hours, she left the airport for a sketchy hotel, got five hours of sleep and then I met up with her at the airport after taking two buses and the metro....Anywho- instead of sightseeing on Friday, I slept in and went to spin class! My spin instructor had mentioned that he had a gift for me but he had left it at home my last class, so it was kinda a happy accident that I ended up going one last time. He was so sweet- he gave me a huge (I would say at least 1 1b) chocolate bar and this little bike model made out of rubber and wire (it's quirky). He said I always had a good attitude and other nice things that I will never forget- he was great! All tatted up, with dreads and a huge hole in his ear (from a gage earring) you would never know that he is such a nice guy but he always tried to make sure I understand his chilean (very broken) spanish and that everyone was having a good time. 
That night, once Danielle and I made it back to the house she was greeted with an always enthusiastic and rapidly speaking Mama. Finally, someone who could experience the overwhelming sensation I feel on occasion with Mama when she starts her rapid-fire questions upon my arrival. I translated and Mama learned all about Danielle's struggles. After many "pobrecitas" she went downstairs to fetch Danielle some dinner and next thing you know she has a tray filled with a feast for Danielle to munch on in her bedroom- because obviously we shouldn't eat a table- downstairs is just too cold she insists. Typical. 
The next day we pack sandwiches on fresh bread that Danielle is already in love with (she had some the night before with her pumpkin, bean and spaghetti dinner). We hiked up to San Cristobal were unfortunately the smog covered most of the city. We enjoyed the 'views' and then trekked right back down. 
One of Danielle's two expressions that she makes in pictures- either mouth opened, eye brows raised or smiling. Nada mas
At the top of the 'hill' overlooking Santi is a statue of some religious figure that I'm too lazy to fact check
The rest of the day was filled with handicraft and gift shopping- we spent all the (cash) money that I had left and then treated ourselves to a lovely high class dinner at a wine bar (on the credit card of course ;). I enjoyed a trio of samples of typical Chilean wines (all three glasses had the equivalent of one glass) and Danielle tried her first bit of beef stew. It was great. 
The next day is when I really began taking notes- so here is a direct transcription of what I have written- Enjoy!

Day One: Getting to Bolivia (and surviving the altitude change)
Quotes of the Day: 
"Did he just take that picture?!"
"The view is INCREDIBLE"
"Oxygen masks are in, ATM Cards are out"

4:40am- rise and shine
the transfer takes us to the airport with the chattiest driver I ever encountered in my transvip experiences (there have been many trips to the airport). He was also the first I've seen that had a TV, but nevertheless he complimented my spanish skills so he got an "A" in my book.
5:45am- arrive at the airport only to encounter a long-ass line; typically there is NO line at the check-in counter (like I said- I have experience with this airport- ie: like 7 trips maybe)- took us at least 20 minutes to check in
6:00am- go thru security for the first time only to walk out so that we could access an ATM and 'Casa de Cambio' for the darn Bolivian border police. At this point I stupidly rush off with my money and receipt but WITHOUT MY ATM CARD. That's right- Carly Clark left her ATM card in the machine. Trust me, it was quite easy the way they operate those things because they tell you to take the money, then take your receipt and then they ask you if you want to make another transaction and thus hold your card hostage until you say 'no, I do not want another transaction' thank you very much.' So yeah. Some stranger tried to withdrawl a buttload of money but thankfully my bank is great and did some investigation schenanigans that fixed my oopsie and re-imbursed us. 
I unfortunately did not realize I was missing my ATM card until I had been through security for time numero dos and thus I made it through Chilean security three times in less than an hour (each time took approx. 5 minutes- I kid you not) so theres that. 
11:00am- Land in Iquique, Chile (on the border essentially), go thru Chilean 'export customs' or something like that, re-board the plane and fly to Bolivia
12:30pm- The best part of the day- We leave the plane and are faced with a long line ahead of us (this is what happens when you have to pee and therefore let everyone get ahead of you in line). I complain that I feel both light headed and pressurized at the same time and continually ask Danielle how she feels (she has a history of altitude sickness). She keeps telling me she feels absolutely nothing and I do not believe one word of it but nevertheless we move on and eventually reach the counter where you hand over a grand sum of 160 DOLLARS PER PERSON to the Bolivian officials. But hey- now we get to come back and bother Bolivians anytime we feel like in the next ten years. Woohooo for a ten year visa. 
Let's back it up a bit though so I can explain the story I may tell one hundred times in my lifetime- it's just that great:

It all starts as the Bolivian border control/immigration officer person begins to ask me questions to put on our visa applications. He starts with Danielle's and therefore I begin by translating for her. 

"Hey Danielle, you gotta sign this visa page for him"- Me
"Yeah, Okay, just a second"- Danielle, as she puts her head down on the ledge right in front of the immigration guy's little window. She looks like she is about to pass out but every time I ask her if she still feels okay she insists that she is perfectly fine. Literally at this point I've heard "I'm fine, I'm fine" maybe 5 times. 
Eventually she lifts her head just long enough to scribble a signature on the form and goes back to resting her little head on the ledge. 
"Okay Danielle, now you need to take a picture really quick," 
No response.
"Danielle?" Next thing I know she is slouching over, about to lose her balance and crumble into me. I try to put her arm around my neck so she can stand and put her weight on me but that is when she began acting irrational and continually responded that she was still fine. Instead of accepting my help she grips the ledge/counter and sways like she is about to faint. Thank goodness at this point the kind samaritan behind me notices that she doesn't look so hot (the immigration officer apparently disagreed as he insisted that we could finish the visa application and then she could go see the medic- I respond by talking in a more pressing tone and say that I think that is a horrible idea and could you please call the medic over NOW) and helps me try to pry her away from the countertop. She refuses and continues to sway until we pull her from her death grip and she relents. At this point, the customs man casually snaps a picture of her as she is getting dragged over to seat- I kid you not, and the best is that the picture will be valid for the next ten years. She still stubbornly continues to say that she is fine (I've heard this so much by now that it doesn't even sound like a word anymore) but I toughen up and insist that she will be taking an oxygen mask and breathing deep for the suggested 5 minutes per the medic's instructions. After those long five minutes pass she appears to be lucid and we are about to go on our way when the medic stops me and asks me if I can actually hang back for a minute and help the immigration officer translate. Lovely- he brings back 2 semi-agitated Americans who appear to have insufficient funds for the absurdly priced visa and who are incredibly confused about what the Bolivian security peeps would like them to do. Welcome to Bolivia.
1:00pm- We end up buying Danielle some Gaterade, I make a judgement call on which taxi we should trust- clearly we choose the one that two nuns are getting out of. 30 minutes and eight dollars later we arrive at the hostal. 
3:00pm- After a decent but not delicious meal of roast chicken (the good part), rice with cheese and fries dripping in oil (the not so good, untouched part) and a salad of lettuce and sliced tomatoes, we realize that we do not have enough money to pay for this meal. OYE. I once again leave Danielle behind to plead with the waiter, tell him I will be right back and go search for an ATM. After asking 2 strangers and walking 10 minutes I finally find an ATM, pray that there are sufficient funds on my backup ATM card and withdrawal about 30 dollars- because hey- everyone said Bolivia would be cheap right? I return to the restaurant, pay our grand total bill of $7.26- confirmed. Bolivia is cheap! Looks like that 10 year visa will come in handy- because dinner was only 6

xoxo, More to come loves

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