16 October 2011

fly away home

It ain't over till the fat lady sings, right? Well, here I am, on my last weekend living in Costa Rica, and although the fat lady might not be singing, it's definitely over. My last few days in San Jose were a whirlwind of packing, saying goodbyes, and doing my favorite things one last time (although I'm hoping it won't really be the last time I do those things). Warning: this post is pretty lengthy!

I left on a Saturday, and although I had spent a lot of time packing already, I was nowhere near ready to leave when I woke up Saturday morning. As I had a flight to catch, I really did have a hard stop at 10:00 a.m. My friend and colleague V.D. was taking me to the airport, and when he arrived, I was still running around like crazy trying to consolidate everything into four suitcases. I'm still not exactly sure why it was so hard; when I moved to Costa Rica, one of my suitcases was filled completely with bedding, which I left behind when I was moving back, and I really didn't buy much stuff over the course of the year, so you'd think I would have had less trouble. Nevertheless, it was a total cramfest for an hour or two there. My friend/neighbor/colleague P.S. came over earlier in the day to help me, which was so nice and much appreciated!

The first grade teacher from my school, P.M., has has a niece who works at a local school in the rural community she lives in outside of San Jose, and she had asked the other teachers at a staff meeting in late April to save any old school supplies that we didn't want at the end of the year for her so she could take them to that school. She really wanted anything--I'm talking scraps of paper, little pencil nubs--anything! I asked her if they would want some housewares, as I had quite a few things I planned to get rid of. She said they would be glad to take anything like that, as well. So all of the things I bought over the course of the year but didn't want to/couldn't bring back with me--things like plates, glasses, candles, etc., all went into a big pile for P.M. to collect for her niece's school. I didn't think I had bought a lot during the year, but seeing that pile of stuff grow amazed me, and that was after I had taken bags and bags of things into school for P.M. throughout the last two months of school! It's incredible how much stuff you can accumulate in such a short time. P.S. helped out by taking all of the things over to her apartment for P.M. to collect later in the day, after I'd left. P.M. and the school gave me some beautiful wooden magnets to thank me for giving them those things, which I thought was so sweet, because it was really a big help to me to have someplace to give those things, as I couldn't bring them back with me anyway!

In the midst of all of that, I was scrambling to back up all of my computer files, as I was giving my laptop to V.D.'s daughter, whose own computer (along with almost everything else) was stolen from her house earlier in the spring. I had been thinking about getting a new computer anyway, and I would much rather my old computer go to a friend than the computer donation center in the town where my parents live. Unfortunately, my computer was not being cooperative, and I could not get everything backed up before I had to leave, so we will have to work out some system where I can get the rest of my photo and music files!

After much crazy stuffing, squishing, and squeezing, everything was pretty much in. At the last minute, I couldn't fit my computer speakers into any of my bags, so I just left those with V.D. to go along with my computer. Honestly, the whole thing was so rushed that I didn't feel that sad to be leaving as I hugged P.S. goodbye and V.D. and I got into his car and drove away. I still had to rearrange some things when I got to the airport, and I definitely had to use that saran-wrap station thing to stick two bags together so I wouldn't have to pay a huge fee for the extra bag (great idea, P.S.!), but it all worked out pretty well, I'd say!

Everything at the airport went pretty smoothly, except I did get my scissors and tweezers confiscated by security. Oh, well. The flight, however, was a different story. When I checked in at the San Jose airport, the counter agent told me that there were some delays in San Jose, so I had been assigned to a different flight, and wouldn't be arriving in Syracuse until the following day, but they had booked a hotel for me in New York City. Ok, that's fine, and somewhat expected with airplane travel. The first leg of my trip was supposed to be to Orlando, but they were experiencing bad weather, so we had to fly around and around for a while. We began to run out of fuel, so we had to do an emergency landing in Tampa. After we re-fueled, we flew over to Orlando, and thankfully, the bad weather had cleared up, so we were able to land right away this time. Because of all of the delays due to the weather, I actually made my flight to New York after the customs people called us to the front of line (I love it when that happens!)

When we landed at JFK at 1:00 a.m., I was told that there were no hotel reservations left in the city, and I would just have to sleep in the airport. ??? Hadn't accommodations already been made for me earlier in the day, when my flight was originally changed? According to the hotel representative I spoke to, no, they had not. Boo. I asked to speak to a manager, but was told that no managers would be on duty until 4:00 a.m., so I went off to find a couch to crash on until then. All of the restaurants were closed at that point, but the gate agent did bring me a bunch of snacks and beverages from the plane.

I found a nice couch and managed to doze off after getting somewhat cozy under my sarong (note to self: always travel with a sarong or blanket.) A little after 4:00 a.m., I woke up and went over to where the manager was on duty. I must say, the manager I spoke with was quite rude and it took over an hour and a half for her to tell me that I actually had a hotel reservation all along. ??? Determined to get to the bottom of this situation, I called the hotel again, and they discovered that the airline had inverted my name when they made the reservation, which is why the hotel couldn't find my reservation when I had called earlier. So. I was pretty upset by that, not so much about not having a room to sleep in, because that kind of thing is bound to happen now and again, but about how rude the manager was to me. I'll admit, I was not the most rational person by that point, because I had a horrible cold and had lost my voice after being stuck on the airplane for so long and sleeping on the couch under an air conditioning vent. However, my flight left in just a few hours, so I wandered around the airport, got some real food, and then caught my last flight to Syracuse, where my mom picked me up to drive me to Ithaca.

Although parts of the return trip were aggravating, I'm kind of glad it worked out the way it did, because it was very in line with most of my Costa Rica travel experiences, which always have been filled with unexpected detours here and there. Honestly, it would have felt a little unnatural if it had gone smoothly. Oh yeah, that $150 travel voucher the airline gave me when I e-mailed them about the poor customer service I received at JFK didn't hurt, either. Heck yeah!

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