There wasn't supposed to be a "Day 11" but there was. No breakfast. I ate a granola bar and some cranberries, but I wouldn't call that "breakfast" exactly. We went to the Airport to try and find a Delta representative - no luck. We were "very helpfully" directed to a travel agent who booked us a flight and wanted an insane amount of money in cash. A. We didn't have that much in cash B. Couldn't get that much in cash and C. Wouldn't give him that much cash, even if we could. It was something crazy like $5K. We were booked on an airline we'd never heard of that had a two bag per person policy. I'd like to note for the record that three traveling scientists will probably have more than two bags each. "No problem" says the travel agent. Just to be sure, we checked with airport information to see if the airline was real. It was...unfortunately.
While Andy went to downtown Lima to find a Delta representative, Josh and I entered locality data for some of our study species. No lunch. It's a tedious job, but it helped get my mind off of the fact that I missed my baby so much. When he returned, there was bad news. We would not be flying home on Delta because their flights were all screwed up by Hurricane Ike. We don't like Ike. So, off we went to the Lima airport, again. We went to check in and not only did we have too many bags, but we had to make sure they were each under the weight limit. There was cursing and juggling around of items and bags, but we eventually managed. Nobody was happy. No dinner. Also, no knitting. Apparently, I can knit on the flight *to* Peru, but not *from* Peru. I was not happy.
Having checked in with some time to go before our flight, we go to eat. At this point, I'm in the shaky blood sugar dropping no coordination stage of having had nothing but a granola bar and some cranberries early in the morning. We go to the food court and have some Peruvian fast food, including an Inca Kola. This stuff is really sweet and it's a good thing, too. As I sucked it down, Andy says "You're like a hummingbird!" True facts. I have a metabolism like whoa. Twenty minutes later, I feel much better, but I'm not quite in the place where I believe I'm going home.
Eventually, we made our way to the gate and I took one last look at souvenirs. There's one shirt that has a cartoon alpaca, Incan dude, and conquistador lined up hip to hip. This was the funniest damn thing I'd seen all week. At this point, I was out of cash, so I didn't buy the shirt. Oh, I wanted it, though. "Perhaps they're conga-dancing..." says I, grinning.
"Yeah...they're 'dancing,'" says Josh. I've never heard him say anything funny before or since, but this made me laugh. I take final peek at the overpriced get it while you can alpaca store, but just for purposes of window shopping. I'm twitchy at this point 'cause I have no knitting. Josh could tell. It was like going through withdrawal. I saw a woman winding yarn into a ball and considered doing something... I'm not sure what, but something. We'd already been through security, but they searched our bags again before we boarded. I'm not sure what that was about, but whatever. I just wanted to go home.
This flight was as awful as the flight to Lima was nice. No beverage, snack, or dinner, unless I wanted to purchase something. No, I did not want to purchase something. No little pillow, no movie, no sleep. I can't sleep in a moving vehicle. At best, I kind of close my eyes and half snooze. I couldn't see the ocean until we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, but at some point during the flight, I finally feel like I'm on the way home. At this point, Day 11 fuzzes into Day 12. We go through customs and as the lady stamps my passport, she says "Welcome home." Never in my life have those words meant more to me. I almost cried, but didn't because I didn't want the guys to think I couldn't handle the tough stuff. I'm of the opinion that crying doesn't mean you can't handle it, but rather that it's okay to have emotions about the tough stuff. In customs, there was this poor stupid man with limes in his bag and a number of other food items. The customs dude tried to explain, "We regulate all of this stuff! No, you can't have this! No!" We re-check our bags and get ready for the next flight. No coffee. Josh bought a pack of gum and shared to get that "God, we've been traveling" taste out of the mouth.
Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta was a short flight and we ended up on the exact same airplane we'd just flown on. They changed flight attendants and they seemed nicer than the Lima to Ft. Lauderdale crew. The plane was not nearly as full, so that was nice, and because they booked my seat twice, I had to move to a vacant seat. No problem. I picked a row with nobody in it so I could have some time to myself. All the being jerked around for two days, the crap flight, the "Welcome Home," everything, came out at once. I cried quietly almost the entire way.
I sucked it up before we landed and really did start to feel better once in the Atlanta airport.
Collecting our baggage took for God and Ever, but at least there was coffee. I was so happy, I drank it with no sugar. There were giant fire ant sculptures on the ceiling of the baggage claim area and finally, I had my knitting again. I chatted with random woman #3 as we waited and eventually we had our bags and a rental car to drive from Atlanta to Murfreesboro. It was cheaper and quicker to do it this way than to try and book another flight into BNA.
Remember in Cusco, when all they had was a tiny little compact car at the rental place? This was the car we took up and down mountains, around winding gravel mountain roads. In Atlanta, when we would be traveling on paved highway and no more up than Monteagle, all they had at the rental place was an SUV. I was amused. It wasn't the kind of vehicle I'd do any actual mountain driving in, though. This thing was big to be big. It was the epitome of conspicuous consumption and I think it would cry if it got its tires dirty. It was that kind of car.
We stopped a couple of times, once for Taco Bell and once because traveling is rough on the intestines. The Appalachians looked different to me. They were tiny, small little hills, hardly mountains at all. Everything looked different, too big, too much, too wasteful. Damn but aren't we a fat, rich, spoiled country and most of us don't even realize it. I didn't understand myself, really, until we were on our way home. I felt really rich, really fortunate to live in the US, and a little spoiled.
Home. I was finally home. I walk in and the house is clean, dear husband is folding laundry, and dear daughter is so excited, she shuts the door in Andy's face (we opened it again). I had missed her so much that I just hugged her for a very long time. That evening, we went to D&D as usual and I kind of verbally vomited out an account of my trip, distributed gifts, made a first level character, and promptly fell asleep.