It seems that not only is Craig on a streak of travelling again, accompanying missionaries home for health reasons, but this last week saw Lesley travel with him as well as there was a young sister missionary that needed to be accompanied home.
Craig has decided that at the end of our mission he is going to list ALL of the airports that he has visited, ranking them in order of the least least desirable (ie best) down to the most least desirable (avoid at all costs). At least he will have learned something! In that spirit we had the opportunity to visit the bottom of the list this week - Santa Cruz, Bolivia airport. It all started Sunday lunch time when the decision was made that a sister missionary needed to return home to Guyaquil, Ecuador. She needed some assitance so we would both need to go. The initial problem was working out the flights. It took several hours to work and rework how to do it at short notice. Eventually at 9.30 Sunday night the flights were organized and booked. We went to bed at 10 pm.
At 2.00 Monday morning we were up to get ready and travel to the Lima airport. The four precious, delicious, wonderful hours were the only sleep we would have in 64 hours! The first leg was from Lima, Peru to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, about a two and a half hour flight over the magnificent Andes. The mountains were spectacular and we thought we saw an erupting volcano with its plume in the distance. Bolivia has a large number of active and extinct volcanoes. In fact just the other day scientists discovered a large lake beneath one of them, holding enough water to fill one of the Great Lakes in the USA. But, we digress…..
It was raining as we came into Santa Cruz, as evidenced by water on the plane windows but, true to form, it stopped by the time we got off and didn’t resume whilst we were at the airport for five hours before we left again for Cochabamba, another city in Bolivia. Avid readers of our blog might by this stage recognise some similarity to Craig’s first trip accompanying a missionary three weeks after we arrived, which he barely survived.
We arrived in Cochabamba late in the afternoon and spent a few hours with the local mission president who graciously took us to dinner and then back to the airport where we met up with the young missionary. As always Lesley shared her reassuring smile and plenty of sugar lollies and immediately bonded with her.
At 10.30 Monday night we flew back to Santa Cruz where we waited over three hours before boarding the plane to Panama City. Now, at this point, we should note the obvious that Santa Cruz to Panama City to Guayquil is not the most direct way, but connections were difficult, seats limited, and we definitely did not want to stay in the La Paz airport at nearly 15,000 feet for 8 hours (the highest international airport in the world). So we got a good view of the Panama Canal (maybe) and landed at 6.30 Tuesday morning.
We had an interesting passenger behind us on the flight to Panama City. A man brought on board his large Newfoundland dog, a seat for him and two for the dog. It seemed to be some type of helper dog, although the disability was not immediately obvious. Initially the dog panted heavily (because the plane was hot) wagging his tail vigorously which kept hitting Craig around the seat. However, he settled and went the whole way without whining or barking (the dog, not Craig).
After a couple of hours in Panama City we boarded the plane to Guayaquil arriving three hours later at 11.30 am. We returned the missionary into the welcoming and loving arms of her family and then found somewhere quiet to wait in the airport for another seven hours before we caught the flight back to Lima. We finally arrived home at 10.30 pm and collapsed into bed at 11 pm. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, we seemed to be strengthened throughout our travels and physically coped beyond our own means. But about 15 minutes from home in the taxi it was very difficult to keep our eyes open (and for Craig not to start drooling on his tie like he did the first time he made this similar trip).
We were back in the office the next morning (a little later than usual) and busily caught up on our work for the rest of the week. We are also busy in Christmas preparations. The senior missionary choir continues to perform and we are looking forward to singing Christmas carols in the streets in our neighbourhood next weekend. We will also be involved in Christmas with the young missionaries in the Missionary Training Centre, particularly with Christmas Day falling on Sunday this year.
Whilst there are differences in the lead up to our second Christmas in Perú (much less frantic pace - if we can stop traveling all over the world - away from home and loved ones) we are grateful for the similarities: hot weather, Christmas music and singing carols, wrapping presents, curling ribbon, service, children, choirs and performances, turkey and ham and icecream and fresh fruit, and focusing on the reason for it allthe birth small baby who is the light of our lives and the Light of the World. #LightTheWorld https://youtu.be/mJmAV0gTp_Q