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  • Kayla Cooley

Leaving my family // Airport Fiasco

Leaving my family and my boyfriend in the PDX airport was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. My dad and his wife, my mom and her husband and my boyfriend were all there to send me off. I had spent the third of July on my mother's farm, saying goodbye to my farm animals, and the fourth of July in Washington with my dad, stepmom, and boyfriend, watching the fireworks and eating my last bit of American food for a while. It seemed like everything in my life, after years of struggling, had finally fallen into place. I began to doubt why I was making such a journey. Traveling 6,500 miles (maybe more) away from home for six months, even though I had never gone more than a few weeks without seeing my family. Not to mention that my Spanish skills were very poor, and that I'd be going somewhere were most people don't speak any English.

I gave several rounds of hugs before I left, and as I was walking away towards security, I turned back to see them again (even though they always warn you against this in the movies) and saw my family there together, all conversing, and feeling like I was about to leave a little piece of myself behind. I couldn't even think about what was to come in all my time in Argentina. All I could think of, was the next 23 ours I'd be spending alone, unable to communicate with my people, and only to feel a building anxiety in my stomach about the unknown.

My grandparents and I on the fourth of July

As I prepared for takeoff on my flight, I was feeling a lot of nervousness, but I was much calmer than the moment I was saying goodbye to my family. I called my sister, texted my family, and was eating a snack. To calm myself a little more, I began looking through which of the free in-flight movies to watch. My first flight, from Portland to Texas, would leave me lots of time to watch a movie or two. I ended up choosing a sad romance movie (dumb on my part after just leaving my boyfriend) and ended up making myself sad (to no surprise... I mean come on Kayla). I decided to watch the movie "Fighting with my Family" to cheer myself up, which I really enjoyed.

In the Dallas airport, I had a short layover and stopped for my last round of Chick Fil A.

The flight from Dallas to Chile was long and stiff. I had a torn labrum and a fractured ischial tuberosity (fancy word for sit bone), so it was especially painful. I tried to sleep most of the way, and watched a movie too.

And now, for the most challenging part: The Chilean airport.

Wow. For someone who barely spoke Spanish, I really struggled. My connecting flight arrived in Chile at 7:20 and my flight to Cordoba was to board at 8am. The American Airlines app didn't provide a mobile boarding pass or terminal or seat number. I looked at the airport departure screen and found which terminal to go to. Since it was so early for the flight, the only airport staff there was a security guard. I asked him in broken Spanish if I was in the correct place for my flight, and he told me to go look at the screen. I thought maybe there was a kiosk at which I could print my boarding pass and find my seat number, but there wasn't. Then I thought that maybe I was supposed to purchase my ticket separately and that it wasn't provided in the flight package. I looked online and the price to purchase the next flight to Argentina was $1000. I began to panic. I asked a woman in the Pandora Jewelry shop for help and she told me to go to the entrance to ask for help. I began walking toward the entrance, and ended up passing it by a landslide. She meant the entrance to the area, I thought she meant the entrance to the airport.

I was walking very quickly, while also strapped into a ton of luggage and bags, and was sweating and stressing. I thought I could pass out. I finally stopped at a coffee shop and asked for help. A nice man let me connect to the shop's wifi to search for some details, and then sent me back to my terminal. On the way back, I saw the help desk that the Pandora woman tried to show me, and realized where I had made my mistake. As I was walking up to ask them for help, I received a notification from the American Airlines app that told me I needed to check in and print my boarding pass. I rushed back to the terminal and it was 8:15 by then. I walked up to the desk, which now had several women checking people in, and got my ticket printed. I sat down finally, hot, sweaty, and tired, and waited to board the plane.

After that fiasco, I felt a sense of pride for working through the problem, and realizing that things will work out most of the time, especially if I don't give up. Feeling that wave of stress leaving my body on the plane, I watched down below in awe at the beautiful Andes mountains, and for a moment, I knew everything was going to be okay.


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