Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nikon Coolpix Camera is Monkeyproof??

I've been volunteering at a wildlife organization called Inti Wara Yassi in the Bolivian jungle for the last two months.  We have about 700 animals with over 20 species.  I walked a puma named ¨Gato¨ through the jungle for about 8 hours each day for the first month and now I've been walking another puma named Leoncio.  In order to get to Gato´s cage, I have to walk past two of our monkey parks.

The first thing anyone must know if they are going to be around monkeys is, they are like trained thieves.  They will steal anything they can get their hands on and you will never get anything back.  Therefore, it is very important to lock up everything you bring around the monkeys securely.

One particular day, I forgot to lock one of the pockets on my backpack and when I walked through our monkey park, one of the monkeys jumped on my back and went through my backpack.  The monkey got my Nikon Coolpix camera out of the unlocked pocket.  He proceeded to take the camera out of the camera case and then figured out how to turn the camera on and off.  He did this for about 10 minutes and then figured out how to open the battery compartment.  After opening the battery compartment, he took out the battery and the sim card and threw them out of a tree and into the jungle somewhere.  Then he started banging the camera on a tree and continued to do this for another 10 minutes until he got bored and then threw the camera out of the tree and into the jungle.

The next day, three of my friends and I went back to the tree that the monkey was banging the camera on to see if we could find any of the camera components.  We ended up finding everything: the camera, camera case, battery (half chewed up), and sim card.  I was shocked that the camera barely had any scratches on the screen; despite the fact that the monkey spent 10 minutes banging it against a tree.  And I was even more shocked when I put the half chewed up battery and sim card back in the camera and the camera still turned on and worked perfectly.

The Nikon Coolpix may be indestructible; or at least ¨Monkey Proof¨.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

...Getting to Bolivia - Part 1: Never Ever Fly Delta Airlines to Lima, Peru!

I finally made it to Peru; however, my final destination was Bolivia.  Sweet, I was only 1.5 days into my trip back to South America and I was already going "off the beaten track."  I landed in Lima around 10:00pm and missed my connecting flight to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, due to the so called "mechanical problems" - aka: "plane on fire" - from the day before.  I was exhausted to say the least - I guess I was a little justified given the fact that I had been on and off airplanes for the last 1.5 days.  After I got off the plane and into the airport terminal a flight attendant took me and two other people who had missed connecting flights to a different departure gate and told us to wait there for someone from Delta Airlines to come meet us and help us sort out our flights.  After waiting for over an hour, which is a normal amount of time to wait for someone in South America, I decided to leave the terminal, go through customs, and talk to someone at the Delta ticket counter.

I found the manager for the Lima Airport Delta Airlines department and she turned out to be the most rude, unhelpful, and just down right MEAN customer service person I've ever met in my life.  As soon as I inquired about getting a new flight to Bolivia, she immediately told me that Delta was not liable for my missed connecting flight - despite the fact that my Delta plane caught on fire! - and that there was nothing she could do for me.  Because Delta Airlines doesn't fly anywhere in Bolivia, my connecting flight was with a different airline; LAN Airlines.  The horrible Delta manager woman told me that, because I had booked my flight with a different airline, she would not issue me a new ticket for my connecting flight and said I would have to pay almost $500 for a new flight to Bolivia.  We argued for a while and she eventually issued me a hotel voucher, taxi voucher, and 3 meal vouchers, but continued to tell me that Delta would not pay for me to get a new connecting flight to Bolivia.  By this time it was after 1:00am.  So, I finally gave up arguing with the woman and decided that I would take the vouchers, check into my hotel, get some sleep, and deal with everything in the morning.

The next morning, I called Delta Airlines in the States and they where awesome!  They accepted all responsibility for the connecting flight I missed to Bolivia and issued me a new ticket with Taca Airlines.  Hooray, after more than 2 days of traveling, it looked as though I was finally going to make it to my final destination - Hahah... so I thought anyway.

My new flight was scheduled to depart at 9:30pm that same night.  Just to be safe, I decided to get to the airport 3 hours early and arrived in the terminal around 6:30pm.  I went to the Taca Airlines counter to pick up my ticket and the ticket person informed me that, because the ticket was actually issued through Delta, I had to get my ticket for the Taca flight at the Delta counter.  So, I walked over to the Delta counter, but there was absolutely no one in sight.  I couldn't find anyone that worked for Delta anywhere.  I asked the people at the surrounding ticket counters and quickly learned that no one from Delta would be at the airport until 8:30pm.  My flight with Taca Airlines was scheduled to depart at 9:30pm and I knew that it would be nearly impossible to get my ticket, go through security, and board my plane in time to make the flight.

I started asking around and was eventually able to get in touch with the mean Delta manager - the Wicked Which of Lima - on the phone.  She again informed me that Delta was not responsible for my missed connection to Bolivia and said that whoever issued me the new ticket made a mistake.  The Wicked Witch of Lima was furious that I had gone around her authority and called someone in the States who would help me get a new flight.  She also informed me that no one from Delta was scheduled to be at the airport until 8:30pm and refused to call any of her employees in early, let alone come to the airport herself.

The Delta crew, including the Wicked Witch of Lima, finally showed up at the airport at 9:00pm; half an hour late.  The Wicked Witch of Lima kept telling me that the person who issued me the new ticket made a mistake and she wouldn't issue me the ticket until she had it officially authorized by Delta Corporate.  Therefore, by the time Delta Corporate pretty much forced the Wicked Which of Lima to issue me my ticket, it was 9:45pm and my plane had already departed for Bolivia.

It took 3 days of disaster after disaster, but this is when I finally broke down.  I was so calm and collected up to this point, but I was so exhausted and upset that I couldn't hold back the tears.  I sat down on the floor with all my bags in front of the ticket counters at the airport and cried for about 15 minutes.  Local Peruvian people kept coming up to me and asking, "necesita medico?" - Do you need a doctor?  Meanwhile, the Wicked Witch of Lima started yelling at me for crying and blaming me for missing my flight.  She also immediately informed me that she would not give me any more hotel or food vouchers and that she would not help me in any way - what a b-i-a-t-ch! 

So, here is where I am now:  I am stuck at the Lima airport by myself with all my bags and nowhere to go.  I know one person who lives in Lima, but I met this person while traveling about 2 months ago and I don't even know if they will remember who I am.  What to do next?   

Haha... Getting to Bolivia - Part 2 is to be continued...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back To South America With a Fiery Start; LITERALLY

After a great 3 weeks at home - in "The OC" - to visit family and friends for the Christmas holidays, I got on a plane to head back to South America.  I was scheduled to fly from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with one layover in Atlanta, Georgia, and then another in Lima, Peru.  Hahaha, little did I know that this is not what my itinerary was going to be.

Everything started out normal.  I got on my first plane in LA, which departed only 30 minutes late - pretty good for the Los Angeles Airport - and landed in Atlanta just as planned.  I had a 1-hour layover and my second plane departed as scheduled.  Things where looking pretty good so far.

However, I think my "unconscious-self" decided that I had to start my trip out with good story because this is the point when things started to take an interesting turn.  I say "unconscious-self" because I think those crazy people who think they can control their own destiny may be on to something.  There are tons of self-help books about using "positive thinking" or "feelings" or whatever - you get the point - to attain all the things people want in life; which can probably be summed up for 95% of the American population as money, love and health.  For some reason, Americans rarely seem to include or encourage travel or adventure in the category of "things that will lead to happiness."  (Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, lol... of course you are the exceptions to this generalization!)  Anyway, back to the point at hand: "positive thinking, feeling, or whatever" books to attain what you want in life.  I think I've come to the conclusion that maybe these crazy people are on to something because, every time my travels seem like they are going in a calm and collected manner, something comes up to make everything just a little more interesting.

For instance, about 30-minutes after my plane got into the air from Atlanta, I started to notice a faint smell of smoke.  Hmm, smoke on an airplane - I could be wrong, but that probably isn't a good sign.  Soon afterward I smelled the smoke, the pilot came on the intercom and very calmly informed the passengers that we would be emergency landing at the Orlando airport in Florida because of some "mechanical issues."  Surprisingly, given the fact that you could smell smoke while on an airplane, all crew members and passengers acted as if everything was completely normal.

As soon as we landed in Orlando, about 3 fire engines came screaming up to the plane.  Interesting: I smell smoke, we just emergency landed, and fire engines are racing to the plane.  I wonder what in the world could be happening... Yes, my plane was ON FIRE!  Obviously, since I am writing this blog to tell the story, everything turned out to be fine.

Eventually, everyone got off the plane and we were told that we would be boarding a new plane in 4 hours.  I know what you're thinking - 4 more hours waiting in an airport.  But, it wasn't that bad because the airline gave everyone meal vouchures that were good for anywhere we wanted to eat in the airport.  SWEET, free food!  

And on to the next disaster...

After 4 hours in the airport - and an uncomfortably full belly from a gigantic dinner at Outback Steakhouse - I boarded my 3rd plane of the day.  (Haha, yes I'm still a vegetarian, and no, I did not eat a steak at Outback if that's what you are thinking).  So, it was looking as though I was going to land in Peru around 7:00am and still have about 5 hours before my connecting to Bolivia.  Unfortunately, an hour later, the plane was still sitting at the gate in Orlando.  The pilot finally came on the intercom and informed everyone that there was a leak on the plane that maintenance was not able to fix and that we would be getting off of the plane and getting on a new plane the next day.  We were also informed that everyone was going to be issued hotel vouchers.  However, it took the airline personnel 3.5 hours to do all the paperwork and give everyone the vouchers, so I wasn't able to check into my hotel room until almost 4:00am.

And on to day-2 of "trying to get to South America"...

At 12:00pm the next day I got on another plane bound for Lima, Peru.  The plane took off and stayed in the air.  There were no mechanical issues and I finally landed in Lima around 9:00pm - YAY!!!  I finally made it to South America.  However, since my flight to Lima arrived about 1.5 days late, I missed my connection to Bolivia.

Haha, the "Getting to Bolivia" story is to be continued...

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Blog Post - Current Update

Here´s the quick update on the last 7 months in Carissaland:

I met up with my friend Amberley in South America in August with the intention of spending 2 months snowboarding in the Andes Mountains and then heading back home to the States to go back to work. 

Obviously, I did end up snowboarding for 2 months - and it was awesome to say the least - but, when it came time to go home, i just couldn´t leave. So, Amberley flew home to Australia and I stayed; I guess it was time I learned to be tough-skinned and travel on my own. So, I changed my plane ticket and decided to stay in South America until Christmas. I left my snowboard bag with a friend in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and headed for the beach in Chile.

I spent the next 2 months surfing and treking through Chile and Peru and had an amazing time. But when Christmas came near, I knew that, once again, I wasn´t ready to go home yet. There was just too much more that I wanted to do in South America. So, I went home for Christmas for 3 weeks to see the fam and visit friends and then flew right back to South America.

And so the adventures continue...