A South American Birthday

When I woke up at 3am to catch my flight in Guayaquil, Ecuador to La Paz, Bolivia, it didn’t even register that it was my birthday.

Screen shot 2014-06-17 at 10.02.03 PM

The night before I had been editing photos and chilling out in (what I called) my ghetto hostel and was able to Skype a couple friends thanks to a good internet connection. Then it was time to climb the fire escape to my prison room, and try to sleep for a couple of hours before my flight.


I avoided going to bed until midnight, and then I had horrible dreams of bed bugs getting into my ears; so, while I lucidly dreamt I also lay rigidly on my silk sleep sheet until about 2:00am. Then, two Portuguese girls came in and made a huge racket. My birthday wasn’t off to a great start.

When I got to the Guayaquil airport, things went as they normally do, though I had a heck of a time understanding the flight clerk (I blame exhaustion, but the accent in Guayaquil is much faster so I always had to ask people to repeat themselves). When I got to the gate, the boarding time was only marked as 5 minutes before the departure time and I immediately knew something wasn’t right.

Sure enough, at 6:10am (20 minutes post departure time), the announcement came. “We are offering you a free breakfast, but unfortunately we will be delayed. We will have an update at 8am.”


I didn’t much care, because after I ate my boxed breakfast (which included a delicious croissant!) I passed out on a bench, drooling and crooked-necked. I woke just before 8am in time to see masses of people marching toward the flight desk.

“The flight to Lima will be delayed until 13:55,” they said, “We’re sorry,” they said.

Frig. My connection in Lima to La Paz was at 10:30am; there goes that. I wait patiently in line while Ecuadorian, Chinese, and Canadian (shocking!) nationals budged their way in front of me to get information on their connections. I was so tired I didn’t even care if I flew to India, but eventually after the 6th person pushed me out of the way I got more aggressive and asked about connecting to La Paz. After all, I’m much taller than these tiny people …

“Sorry, there’s only one flight from Lima to La Paz at 10:30am. You will have to stay in a hotel in Lima and leave for La Paz on June 18, but we will pay for this. Please take the bus now to another hotel in Guayaquil so you can rest, and we will bring you back here for 13:55.”

First thought: You’re offering me a free bed?

Second thought: Darn, I was hoping to have a mini-party at my fun hostel in La Paz. I was even going to buy a party hat and wear it until people asked me why I was wearing it (I’m such a loser …).

I spent the next hour in line going through the customs that I just cleared to leave the country. My back hurt. And people were still budging to get to the front of the customs line. Happy birthday?

I get on a bus and we drive for 15 minutes to the fanciest hotel I’ve seen in South America. The lobby is gorgeous, and considering I fell asleep on the bus and dropped a bottle of ice tea everywhere, my main priority was to get. in. the. bed.


Then she said free breakfast.

So I:

  • Went up to the gorgeous room
  • Got lost in the stairwell because I couldn’t figure out the elevator
  • Had to ask the cleaning lady to help me open my fancy door
  • Dropped my things on the desk
  • Forced myself downstairs to enjoy a custom omelette, coffee, and chocolate croissants. Mmmmm!!


By the time I got back upstairs it was 11am. The bus was leaving at 11:30am to go back to the airport, so I chose to shower in the waterfall shower instead of sleeping. I felt pretty good! (Also note that this whole time I have no idea where my big bag is … but I’m lucky that I pack extra things in my carry-on. I still have only a ginormous hope that my bag will make it to La Paz …).

Anyway, people push AGAIN to get on the bus and then AGAIN into the customs line (seriously people, we are all going to the same plane … do you need to be so friggen rude?), but finally we are back where we started.

Cue Drake – “Started from the bottom now we’re heeeere.”

I consider asking the flight lady if I can get first class, because, of course, it’s my birthday. But then she tells me the giant plane is almost empty. What’s this I feel? Oh, it’s fucking ELATION.

I sleep in a row of three seats for the entire two hour flight. We get to Lima, and I’m ready to be shuttled to my luxury hotel for the night. I figured I could do worse than to stay in a fancy birthday hotel (that last one went for $250/night … so …).

When I get off the plane, two Swiss girls and I realize are both headed to La Paz and inquire about our hotel process together. But to our surprise, the flight crew had boarding passes for us on a late flight! Not only that, but we also had a dinner voucher, a Peru calling card, and free entrance into the VIP lounge.



In the hallway, I tell the girls it’s my birthday and they burst into song, right there. Then we happily skip to the VIP lounge in our grungy backpacker clothes. We immediately get settled and order free beers and champagne.


Since then I’ve been eating mini sandwiches, mini croissants, mini brownies, and sharing stories with my two new friends. I also received this amazing birthday greeting from friends back home, the best HB serenade video from my favourite three year old, and got to Skype my brother. 20140617-222844.jpgI’m only missing that reliable and loving call from my Dad. But.

Well, you know.

All in all, the day has turned itself around. I was overdue for a birthday adventure anyway, right? Guess I’ll go to Bolivia now.




One response

  1. Pingback: A South American Birthday

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