Alicia, Student Blogger: Day #1

My first time on an airplane, yikes… Getting my boarding passes was easy, then my family and I had plenty of time to wait.  We ate breakfast, and I tried not to cry.  Then it was time to actually do things by myself, so I did cry.  My family did too, but they might deny it if you ask them.

I went through security, which I was terrified of; I couldn’t have imagined a worse way to start my flying experience than at O’Hare at a time when TSA is understaffed… Yet, maybe because it was an international flight, I got through in less than 5 minutes.  Seriously.  Then I bought the nastiest coffee ever, dumped it out, and got on my plane.  Flight #1 was just fine; I had no strong feelings about flying yet.  The food was good, so props to COPA Airlines. Fresh fruit, good waffles, and decent yogurt, plus some CocaCola, and better coffee helped wake me up.

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5-ish hours later, I landed in Panama.

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The transfer to my second flight in Panama was actually very simple; there were easy signs to follow, and all I had to do was wait to get on the plane.  Again, the food was pretty good.  A chicken empanada was a nice pick-me-up (I was nervous that I wouldn’t have a chance to eat on this day of travel).  This second flight was when I had some troubles… The airline did nothing wrong, but I get very motion sick in cars, boats, buses, etc… and my fear of this happening on the plane was realized.  I felt like we descended really quickly.  Looking back, the problem was more likely the fact that the cabin started to depressurize and I’m definitely not used to the altitude of Quito: 2,580 meters, or 9,350 feet, for us Americans.  I got hot and sweaty, my hands got clammy, the nausea set in.  I could not wait for the plane to stop moving, which it eventually did and my body regulated itself again.

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Here’s my little review of COPA Airlines: I loved it.  Granted, I’ve never flown before, so I have nothing to compare to.  However, from my first-time flyer perspective, it was a lovely experience.  The plane seemed clean, the bathrooms weren’t awful (just tiny), the flight attendants were helpful and patient, and I got to my destination on time, and safely.  I would recommend flying COPA if you have the choice, because they were also the cheapest ticket we could find that had me arriving at a decent time of the day.  Another plus.

I went through customs and immigration, no problems, got my bags after a short wait, and the driver that the school arranged for me was right there waiting for me.  He was great, he helped me with my bags and told me what was going on, but didn’t make me talk much.

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The drive to the house, actually IN Quito, was about 40 minutes long.  The view was beautiful, which helped distract me from my motion sickness that was coming back.  At one point, the driver pointed straight up at some buildings, told me to take a picture, said “That’s Quito,” and then began the nearly-vertical portion of the drive.  There were some very narrow curves, some very sharp turns, and some very vertical streets, but I finally made it to the house!  The host family was wonderful to me, so wonderful that they’ll get their own blog post later.  Once I got my stuff up to the 4th floor (yes, it was hard after being sick), they had dinner for us.  Students get breakfast and dinner at the house.

We had soup with noodles and potatoes, then eggs scrambled with ham and tomatoes, with boiled potatoes, then juice for desert.  *Remember this pattern, this is how all dinners work here.*  The food was very good, and very neutral on a nervous tummy.  I was incredibly comforted to find out that there were other students living here, too.  One retired woman from California, one man who looks in his 20’s but is actually older (he’ll get mad if I post his actual age), and one woman from French Canada who’s 25.

That was my day one!  All of the fears I had, besides motion sickness, were a waste of my energy, and I survived!  The worst part was leaving my family, as I struggle with anxiety when I leave my family or when they leave me.  It was actually somewhat weird how I left Chicago in a big flying tube (an airplane) and by the end of the day was in a foreign country.  The process of actually traveling was quite simple, in this instance.

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