I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Monday, June 19, 2023


I took this picture at the ruins in Ollantaytambo only a few days ago, but it already feels like a dream. Was I really there?

I would say I'm not even 100% sure that I'm actually back in New York, except that I had fruit salad for dinner and used tap water to brush my teeth and flushed my used toilet paper instead of putting it in a wastebasket, so I'm definitely not in Peru anymore.

Lima airport is quite surreal. I ended up getting there an hour earlier than planned, because the hotel made a mistake ordering the taxi and there was surprisingly little traffic. OK, being early isn't the worst thing—I could easily kill another hour sitting in the lounge, having a snack and reading. Except that I couldn't find the United counter to drop off my luggage. I walked the length of the terminal twice and finally asked one of the security people.

Donde esta United?

Puerta 7.”

I walked back to Puerta 7— no United. I finally talked to the very nice woman at the airport information desk, who spoke only a little English and was patient with my limited Spanish. Eventually I understood that United didn't have anyone there until three hours before a flight was scheduled to depart. Until then, it basically didn't exist. I wasn't sure I really believed this, but as it was almost four hours until my flight, my only choice was to wait. There were no chairs, or bathrooms, so I sat on a windowsill and read and tried not to think about how much I needed to pee. A few minutes before the hour, some monitors that had been displaying a generic Lima Airport logo suddenly changed to United, stanchions were put in place, and check-in/luggage dropoff commenced. I found this pop-up airline setup very funny—once I was on the other side of security and sitting in the lounge, anyway.

At the boarding gate, Peruvian airports have three lanes set up: the Group 1 and Group 2 lanes you see at US airports, plus a lane for travelers requiring assistance, or with small children. When I arrived at the gate, the third lane consisted of a line of fourteen wheelchairs, with more arriving while I stood in line. I had never seen anything like it.

Unfortunately, our hand luggage had to be searched for liquids before boarding the plane, and they only had one agent doing it. Each of the wheelchair passengers was accompanied by one or more family members, so our scheduled departure time came and went before more agents arrived to assist with the security. By the time the plane left the gate, returned to the gate to address a problem with one of the lavatories, took off, cleared the turbulence over the Andes so that I could leave my seat and use the lavatory myself and try to sleep, it was 2:30 in the morning.

I slept a couple of hours but I'm exhausted. Though I will note that I carried all of my heavy luggage up the four flights of stairs to my apartment with only one brief stop to catch my breath, so I am clearly recovered from my altitude issues.

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