In the past week I have done two loads of laundry, loaded the dishwasher, unloaded the dishwasher, seen the sun still out at 8 pm, spent time with grandparents, took a nap on Sunday afternoon and have been swimming at night. This all might sound like normal stuff, but it’s all “new” to me! I’m home, I’m back in good ol’ Colorado! It’s great to be back, it’s wonderful to wear summer clothes, see my family, hear the breeze through the trees and more.
But, it was a journey to get home. I planned on leaving my Puno house at 10 am on Friday morning to take an hour combi ride to the nearest airport town, Juliaca. But, on Thursday, shortly after saying goodbye to Trevor who was flying out that day, I got a call from him saying there were protestors at the airport and he was on his way to Arequipa, six hours away, to try and get a flight out from the airport there.
At first I thought nothing of my flight the next day, I was worried for Trevor and started praying for him and his situation. Then, I realized the strike could affect my flight on Friday afternoon. I started making some phone calls and found out the strikers were planning on moving the strike to Puno the next day and it was likely I wouldn’t be able to get out of Puno to the airport in Juliaca. So, I had to make a decision, I could either stay in Puno and try leaving town the next morning unsure of the strike and how it would affect traffic coming in and out of the city. Or, I could leave Thursday afternoon and stay the night in Juliaca to fly out the next morning. I decided to finish packing my bags that afternoon and get out of town. I’ve seen strikes in Puno and I know how they block the town, they put rocks in the road, even start bonfires in the middle of the road, and march through the town. I couldn’t risk not being able to get to the airport, jeopardizing not only my flight to Lima, but the rest of my flights home.
So Franci and I lugged my bags downstairs, got a cab, and went to the Juliaca combi station. On the way to the station, I called Chad and Amanda who were out in the country along with Pastor Herman and his wife. Because of the situation and the fact they were an hour South of town while I had to travel an hour North of town, I called to say goodbye over the phone. That was the hardest goodbye of all. I really wanted to give them all hugs and a proper goodbye, but I was unable. Crying in the taxi, on the phone, I said my goodbyes and started my journey home Thursday at 5 pm.
We got to Juliaca just fine and since we have a new church in Juliaca, Geremias was able to get me a place to stay. I stayed with Sandra, she’s my age with two kids and has a house right by the church and only five minutes from the airport. Franci, Geremias and I spent some time conversing with Sandra and her mother over coffee and tea to warm up. Sandra’s house is beautiful, but freezing. By this time it was late and I had to say goodbye to Franci so she could get back to our room, now her room, in Puno. I thought saying goodbye to Chad, Amanda, Thomas, Ella, Pastor and Pastora was hard. Saying goodbye to Franci was hardest of all. We’ve been glued together for almost two years. Most days I loved her, other days I loved her but I didn’t like her. But she has grown to be so very, very special to me. So, we said our goodbyes and Franci left me in the cold house in Juliaca. I wrapped myself in a fleece blanket, and wearing the clothes I had been wearing all day, along with my jacket and three pairs of socks, I went to sleep.
The next morning, Friday morning, I woke up and Sandra’s mom cooked me breakfast. She served me rice, french fries and two fried eggs for breakfast. As I sat at the table trying to gulp down the plate of food, I thought of how ironic and poetic it was. My first night in Peru was at Cristobal and Noemi’s house, a typical Peruvian home, living with people I didn’t know. And now, here I was, in a typical Peruvian home, eating a typical Peruvian breakfast, on my last morning in the country.
Geremias came over and took me to the airport, we wanted to make sure flights were normal for the day because if not, I was going to have to get on a bus to Arequipa and fly out of Arequipa later in the evening. But, we went to the airport and there were no signs of protestors like there had been the day before, just police with helmets, guns and shields. The airline company told me they were planning on keeping all the flights as scheduled. So, we went back to Sandra’s house and Sandra does not have running water but I really wanted to at least wash my hair before I started the almost two day journey home. So, her mom heated some water on the stove and took it in a bucket up to the roof for me to wash my hair in the ‘warm’ sun.
I got ready, repacked my bags and left for the airport, luggage in tow. I said goodbye to Sandra and her mother and thanked them for their help and hospitality. Then I said goodbye to Geremias and I was on my way.
I made it just fine to Lima airport and sat down with all my bags to wait for my next flight in 12 hours. At one point, as I was walking through the airport, I heard someone call my name. Come to find out, my friend Denise was also passing through the airport after a visit to Arequipa and she saw me walking by. We spent some time chatting and waiting for the hours to pass by. Finally, 3 am arrived and I was on the plane, ready for takeoff to Panama. And strangely enough, I was in first class. I have not idea how that happened, I got the cheapest tickets I could find, but I was riding first class with lots of leg room and special treatment.
I went Lima to Panama, first class. Then had about an hour in the Panama airport. Got back on first class to ride to Miami. Finally I was stateside and touching down was very emotional for me. I arrived in Miami at about noon eastern time and my flight out wasn’t until 7 pm. With seven hours to wait, I didn’t want to carry all my luggage around so after customs, I went straight to check-in and see if I could check my bags early. The US Airways customer service representative was incredibly nice. He first tried to see if I could check my bags early but then ended up getting me on an earlier flight with and earlier connection. I thanked him and expressed how incredibly grateful I was for his help and went though security yet again and got on a flight to Charlotte. From Charlotte, I got on another flight, the last one, and finally at 8 pm on Saturday evening I was home in Denver at DIA.
It was a journey. It was stressful to start. But, God truly took care of me and blessed me on my way home. First of all with no problems leaving Juliaca. Second of all with first class seats. And then getting home three hours ahead of schedule. God is good. And that’s what my Grandma Sailsbery told me when I went to see her on Monday. She said, “God is good and [He] is what holds us up”. That’s pretty significant considering she’s in the advanced Alzheimer's unit.
So as Grandma says, God is good.
Bags packed and ready to go.
In Sandra’s house with Sandra (left) and her mother (right).
With Denise in the Lima Airport.
Panama City, Panama.
Charlotte, North Carolina.
And finally, 53 hours later, watching the sun set in Colorado!