Friday, October 9, 2015

Cute Sardines!

I'll explain the phase above in just a bit.  Got your attention, didn't it?  (smile)

We have returned to our Cuenca condo at long last!  All looks familiar. . . except a UPS package delivered here by mistake addressed to a Stephanie someone or other.  Our lovely landlady will return it to UPS "Return to Sender" as she doesn't know who that person is either.  She helped us get the gas water heater fired up correctly as well as our gas oven, too.  She ordered on our behalf for para llevar a good, proper, healthy and nutritious Ecuadorian meal of pork, rice, and soup with salad.  She knew we would need supper but would be too tired to cook!  God's Blessings on her for her unfailing kindness.

The flights on United were on time - a plus - and the LAX to IAH/Houston flight was jam packed with passengers and luggage.  Carolyn Anne wisely gave up her long carry on bag after the ticket agent on duty got on the PA imploring passengers to have them checked with the other checked luggage.  If she had brought it aboard the cabin, she wouldn't have stood a chance of getting it in the overhead bins - they were that jammed up.  We endured -especially me - the middle aisle seats rebooked on very short order.  Carolyn Anne's seat was right behind mine.  My two seatmates promptly went to sleep. . . good thing I didn't need to use the lavatory or anything!  United's seatbelts don't require me to use an extension, which tells me I have kept a good deal of any gained weight from happening. 

United is such a cheap airline anymore.  If you don't have a tablet or other small electronic device, you can't use their free Wifi.  No free food, even peanuts.  At least we got biscotti and peanuts from Delta on the way to LAX while flying them in August!  And no free airline flight tracker/screen like Delta offers.

At Houston, we had an uneventful layover of three hours.  I procured from Wendy's in Concourse E a cheeseburger for me, a small salad for Carolyn Anne, and chili for the both of us.  Last real American food for us for a while.  $18 and change for the tab, which is still more reasonable for food than anything LAX would ever offer food and drink wise.  At LAX two bottled waters cost $3 apiece.  Yikes!  ATL is even more reasonable on food in our recollection, where I got an Arby's Beef and Cheddar for $4, and Panda Express for Carolyn Anne for $8.

We boarded our IAH to UIO flight, which remarkably had half of its Economy Plus seats empty.  Our aisle and middle seat - together - seats were better than the lack of space we endured on the previous flight, which I remarked to our personable and perky flight attendant about as I made a polite request - considering all the monies we had already paid United for these flights.  I was hoping we could stretch out a bit in those vacant Economy Plus seats.

To her credit, upon learning of our original status as First Class passengers, she offered us complimentary alcoholic beverages of our choice.  Of course our answer was "no."  She then explained that due to the passenger manifest being closed, she couldn't allow us to change seats on the fly like that, even though entire rows were empty of passengers in that section.  (One such Economy Plus passenger stretched out and laid herself out to sleep since she was the only passenger for the entire row!)  In case of an accident, or psych case where they have to get the police to arrest the person, they need to know who is sitting where.  If I had made the request before boarding, the answer would likely have been "yes," by the way.  Understood.  She then commented, "But you're a cute sardine !" after I commented again about the lack of seat space in our Economy section.  The comment stuck with me, as I teased the flight attendants about the remark, said in a friendly way, of course.  These are after all still the Friendly Skies of United, even though they continue to offer less and less to the passengers.

Arriving at UIO, we noticed again we had deacclimated to the altitude.  Your heart works harder in an oxygen deprived environment like Quito, and the ramp to the terminal seemed longer than usual to Carolyn Anne.  We got to use our new Visas at Immigration for the first time, too!  So we got a "welcome back!" instead of the standard "!Bienvenidos!" that we always got before.  The Aduanas - Customs - folks were likewise accommodating, and they simply asked what were the contents of our luggage.  They waved us through.

A little slip up: no taxi sign with our name on it once we cleared Customs.  After telephoning our Hostel, Posada Tambuca, we came to understand they slipped up and didn't send anyone for us.  We ended up using the standard taxi service instead, managing to get all six large suitcases and our four carryons into a Nissan Sentra (Ecuador model).  Just enough room, too!  Ecuadorian can-do spirit at work.  Bedtime finally arrived at long last.

When you travel with a nonstandard amount of luggage in Ecuador, like we did with our six large suitcases, your suitcases dictate how you are handled at airports and other terminals, such as the well used and modern Terminal Terreste Quitumbe in the southern part of Quito - the southward destination passenger bus terminal.  We had to buy our tickets, then get our baggage carrier to come with us to the van driven by our Hostel's owner, and then proceed the back way to the terminal boarding area where the bus came to arrive for us as we unloaded the bags.  No time to do other things, even visit the restroom.  I had to stand a while and stop walking for a bit as all the walking was hard on my heart, and Carolyn Anne eventually realized that fact.  Then we continued to the boarding area. 

Due to us getting to the bus terminal earlier than our usual carrier of choice - Express Sucre - was open to sell tickets, we went with Super Taxis Cuenca, which has modern, spacious (for legs, especially) buses.  They didn't have windows that open, and the ventilation system wasn't turned on until four hours into the trip - we repeatedly asked for this to be done by notifying the asisente to the conductor in my perfectly good Spanish.  We didn't suffocate due to lack of oxygen, but it was on the stuffy side, and made me drowsy.  Not a good thing healthwise.

Our amount of luggage dictated what transport we had to take back to our condo upon our arrival at Cuenca's Terminal Terreste.  Space for a driver and two passengers, and the ten pieces of luggage - in total - meant that our luggage carrier had to go to the street curb and get us a large - for Ecuador - industrial looking truck.  $10 charge for its use to our location, which was not an unfair charge considering the size of the stakebed camioneta, and we were home at long last!

These "cute sardines" are snug in their own bed and just glad to be home again after almost two months of traveling and visiting.  Thank you one and all for your prayers for safe travels, and we'll unpack and restart life here again in short order.  Looking forward to meeting some new friends we have made on the 'Net lately, and inviting folks to supper in due time.  We'll keep you posted, as always, God willing of course.

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