Starting Our Trip Off with Almost a Bang

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Bogotá, Bogota, Colombia
We were planning to drive to the Pensacola airport and park our car there, but on Monday morning, we received a surprise call from Lamar, (a member in the Mobile congregation), and he was volunteering to take us to the airport and to pick us up upon our return.  He said he had a flexible work schedule and it worked out well for him.  This was nice for us as we would not have to negotiate parking, and find our way to the terminal, and also worry that our car would be safe the entire two weeks that we were gone. We will pay him for the gas to and from, even though he said we did not need to.
Lamar arrived shortly after 7 AM on Tuesday morning.  I had made him a cup of coffee—his only requirement he said for taking us to the airport.  We drove the 45 minutes to the airport.  Upon arriving at the terminal, we noticed a lot of police cars blocking the lane closest to the terminal drop off. They motioned us to the taxi lane and this did not look good.   Then we saw armored vehicles that said, “Bomb Squad. ”  That definitely did not look good!  Always an adventure!
We approached the Silver Airlines check-in desk, and we were informed that “the airport was currently in a lock down mode.  Nothing was going in or going out.”  Our flight was delayed at that time for 45 minutes.  We still would have a 2 hour 15 minute layover in Orlando, so we were still good.  We checked in without problems and proceeded to our gate.
While Scott was using the restroom, I chatted with a man standing nearby.  He was headed to Dallas and his flight was delayed too.  He said that he had heard from his wife.  She saw on the local news that a “suspicious package” had been found at the airport about 6:30 AM.  They had recovered the package and had the owner in detention.  Now, 1 ½ hours later, we were still waiting.  Apparently, they had further checks to make. 
We found a table at the Beach House Restaurant, the only sit down restaurant in the terminal.  We would hang out there until our flight was ready.  They were swamped.  I had coffee and an omelet.  They were only serving breakfast and had nothing Scott could eat.  He went next door to Einstein’s Bagels and found a grilled chicken salad…with very little chicken, but something he could eat.  I received notice that our flight was now leaving at 11:58 AM.  Our layover and reconnection in Orlando is now down to 45 minutes.  Hopefully, we will not have a long way to walk when we arrive in Orlando.
Well, nothing like starting off the trip with excitement!  Well, that type of excitement we can do without, but it does create great writing material to keep you all coming back to read!  I could not make this up if I tried!
I did find out later on in the evening that the suspicious package was a ball bearing tester that a Korean passenger had in his luggage. Apparently, it looked like a pipe bomb. He did not speak sufficient English, so this complicated the process until they could find a proper translator. We can relate to this as we’ve been stopped over the years while traveling for being a “narcotic risk.”
We flew on Silver Airlines. This is a first time for us.  It is a small, no frills airlines like Spirit Airlines, but they work in concert with Avianca and United Airlines.  The plane was a prop driven plane, a Saab 340 B+.  I am not sure what the plus was as it was a tiny airplane with only 34 seats.  Perhaps the “+” was the bathroom.  It was super tiny.  I was so tiny that I could not even stand up straight in it, and I am only 5’ 7”.  At least it had a bathroom for which I was thankful. Scott said it reminded him of the one he was locked inside on one of our other trips!
While we were waiting for our flight from Pensacola to Orlando, a young lady started chatting with Scott, and he said, “You sure are trusting to talk this much to someone you don’t know”… she said, “Oh, you look like someone I can trust.” After about a half hour of talking she mentioned she was from Navarre, FL, and had never been out of the city before, 18 years…and thanked us for keeping an eye out for her.  She took a business card from him and said she’d be in touch. Who knows? When she saw the card said “church pastor” she smiled and said, “ah!”
We arrived in Orlando and had to deplane onto the tarmac and walk to the terminal.  That doesn’t happen much in the United States these days. We had about 45 minutes before our next flight departed. We were going to grab a bite at Burger King---the only real fast food place, but there were at least 20 people in line.  Instead we decided to head to the gate.
We already had boarding passes, but we had to get our passports checked.  They were going to start boarding in about 10 minutes, so there was no time to go get anything to eat.  There was a small place right next to our gate selling Roast Beef sandwiches—2 pieces of bread, lettuce and beef wrapped in Saran Wrap for $13.25.  I felt that was highway robbery and said, “No thanks!”  The flight attendant did say that a “small” lunch would be served on the plane, so we would not starve.  This is why we try to carry tuna packets with us.  We never know when we will not be able to obtain food.
We boarded our next flight and this plane had in-seat entertainment screens.  I chose to watch the movie, The Darkest Hour.  It showed the severity of the situation in Britain before the difficulty at Dunkirk, and the difficult decisions that needed to be made.  We all need to have courage like them in that even when times are difficult, we must continue to fight against evil until the end. We must never give up!
Lunch was beef tips with carrots and potatoes, a small pasta salad that tasted awful (I didn’t eat it), a wheat roll with butter, and a rice cake snack with nuts and mango.  They had a beverage of your choice—soft drinks, juice, water, coffee, or a selection of alcoholic beverages.  So, not such a bad lunch after all.  Sufficient to hold off the hunger until we can get a meal in a restaurant.
We arrived in Bogotá and made it through immigration with only having to wait for one person.  This was great, and not normal. Scott said, “God was smiling on us.” Then our bags came quickly, too.  We made our way to the hotel shuttle area.  The shuttle is supposed to come every 30 minutes on the hour.  We waited 45 minutes plus before it came…raining but not pouring.  It almost would have been worth it to get a taxi.  There seemed to be quite a bit a traffic, so maybe that caused the delay.
We checked in, dumped our bags in the room, and went down to the restaurant to eat.  Janet and Jaime Salek, our assistant in Colombia arrived just as we were sitting down.  I gave the small extra suitcase brought with us to Janet.  It had Matzos for Passover, some used clothing, and a few other useful items that had been donated to bring to our Colombian brethren. Interesting when we cleared customs, they stopped us to go through it again. Scott thinks just to wrinkle the clothes a little to test our attitudes.
I had Ajiaco soup—three potato soup, which is a typical soup from here.  Scott had baby beef (sirloin), sautéed vegetables and a salad.  Janet and Jaime just had drinks as they had already eaten.  We talked about multiple details regarding the upcoming Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, as well as many details in regards to the congregations in Colombia. Scott talks with them sometimes several times a week via Skype video, but it’s not the same as face to face. Then we said good bye about 9:30 PM.  Janet and Jaime had to make a 10 ½ hour trip to Medellin tomorrow, so it would be a long day for them.
The elevator had an interesting sign. “No butts about it, Aloft is Smoke Free” and in Spanish “Sin Peros, Aloft es un espacio libre de humo.”  Knowing both Spanish and English, makes it humorous, as they used the wrong word for “butts” unless they meant to make a pun with that word, but when they translated it, they used the word for “but” not “butts.”
Scott and I both got a good chuckle out of the sign.  We have to find humor daily here to balance the work we do.
We went to our room checked and responded to our email and then went to bed.  It had been a long travel day for us.  Though I was tired from traveling, I could not get to sleep.  I even had some of our adult beverage that we brought with us, and that didn’t help.  I tried reading, but it was at least 1 AM before I fell to a restless sleep.
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Comments

Steve C
2018-03-29

Hi Gayle, The difference between the Saab 340b+ and the straight 340b is the plus has an active noise and vibration control system. Translation, quite and smoother flight.

gayle_hoefker
2018-03-29

Well. Steve, I am thankful for the plus. It has been several years since I have been on a prop plane and I noticed that it was noisier. Thanks for the bit of knowledge.

Connie
2018-03-29

So happy you made it there safe and sound! What an adventure to start out your trip... We will continue to pray about a safe and inspiring trip.. Hugs...

Ailsa
2018-03-29

Good title for your opener! Very scary, but glad it turned out not to be an explosive! Prayers for your continued safety. Have a good Passover, NTBO and Unleavened Bread.

So happy you guy's arrived safel
2018-03-30

So happy you guy's arrived safely. I had heard about the possible bomb story on the way to work and when o got in the office I called Lamar and was telling him and he said that he was leaving the airport. .. I prayed for your safety and I would ask Lamar had heard from you guy's... he let me know all was good... God be with you and keep you safe and bring you guy's back home to us safely .

2019-10-19