Have you seen the original “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. One of my favorite movies. Remember when Butch and Sundance get off the train in Bolivia. This was Butch’s big idea; he had told his partner what a wonderful place Bolivia was, streets made of gold, a land of milk and honey, easy pickings. But when they arrived, when their train stopped and they disembarked, they weren’t met with any diamonds or jewels. They were met by pigs and chickens, dust and squalor.
When I got off the plane in Ayacucho, Peru, in April 2009, that scene flashed through mind. I don’t remember seeing pigs or chickens, but everywhere there was dust. The airport was a small structure, like a shed where someone would store their tractor instead of a building to greet newcomers.
Inside it wasn’t so bad. It was brightly lit and modern and no one spoke English. And because my flight had been two hours late leaving Lima, I was worried that my ride wasn’t there.
I waited patiently for my luggage, focusing on the simple baggage handling system, sneaking peeks at other people without being obvious, listening for a familiar word. I grabbed my suitcase, my lone suitcase which had to weigh in at under 25 pounds due to the small size of the plane I had just exited. Worst case scenario, I could spend the week in the airport because now I at least had my stuff.
Against one wall was a tourism kiosk, a cute little counter with an awning of palm leaves. The woman working there didn’t know English, didn’t recognize the words “Cross Cultural Solutions”. You would think that the organization had people coming and going on a somewhat regular basis and that the airport personnel would have heard of them. I clutched my backpack to my chest with one hand, my other hand gripping my suitcase handle.
“Excuse me, maybe your ride is waiting outside.” Oh, my gosh, was I hearing things? I turned to face a man dressed in business casual. He nodded toward the doors. Out the window, I could just make out the side of a white van.
“Thank you,” I stammered, “Thank you so much. That must be my ride.”
And sure enough. I walked outside and the van driver hoisted a hand written sign announcing “Cross Cultural Solutions”.
A young man introduced himself (and I promptly forgot his name) and his father, the driver. The boy was home from college on break and was anxious to practice his English. Interesting. And I only wanted to practice my Spanish on him.