Helping Honduras …


Leaving Honduras is not easy (the long, whiny post)
June 7, 2016, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Home two days now.  Not unpacked.  Neither physically nor spiritually.  But I have slept a lot.

Sunday, our day of travel, was long, as usual.  Up very early to meet in the hotel lobby by 5:30 am.  Luggage and people “ferried” to the big bus (it’s much too big for the streets of Copán) in the little bus, which would carry our baggage to San Pedro Sula.  On our way by 6:15.  We had snacks and water, and a bus able to accommodate a bigger number of people, so we were able to spread out.  Scott and I rode near the front — frankly, it’s just more comfortable there for our old bones.  With one “pit stop” along the way, it still took us nearly four hours to get to the airport (a distance of about 114 miles) — this is mostly a two lane highway with lots of curves and speed bumps.

Getting out of Honduras will try the patience of a saint, I think, so most of us were quite frustrated.  It started with checking in ourselves and our bags at the United counter.  This year we were a relatively small group, less than 30 people.  But the United counter agent was not quite ready for us.  Passports were collected and boarding passes printed.  So far, so good.  Checking the bags was not so good.  The agent decided that one bag would be checked to each person.  Makes sense — first bag is free.  Baggage tags were printed and put on bags indiscriminately (not matching each tag to the person responsible for each bag) — he said this would be “fine” because we were in a group.  The remaining twelve bags, including five personal suitcases, were tagged.  Again, tags were not matched to the owners of the bags.  I hung around until I saw my own suitcase tagged and put on the conveyor belt.  At one point the counter agent told US to hurry, because he needed to close the counter to go do his other responsibilities at the airport.

Next came getting through Honduras Immigration to leave the country.  It’s just like coming into the country.  You stand in a long line.  When it’s your turn, you go to the immigration official,  who checks your passport, your boarding pass, and your fingerprints.  Before going upstairs to the security checkpoint, you have to stop at a checkpoint, where someone else looks at your passport and boarding pass.  Up the escalator (a fairly recent addition) to stand in line for the security check.  Again someone checks passport and boarding pass.  This is a small airport (about seven gates), so there is one security checkpoint with one people scanner and one bag scanner.  There is no TSA precheck, so off come shoes, etc.  You may not hold onto your passport or boarding pass to walk through the scanner.

Scott had purchased a small carving at a shop in Copán and didn’t think to put it in his checked bag.  That meant a manual inspection of his bag.  There were several people in our group who had been behind us, but the time required for the inspection of the little Mayan carving, wrapping it back up, etc., etc., etc., meant that we were among the last to get to the gate.  There was an up side to that: the overhead bins were full, so our carry on rolling bags were checked free — to Dallas.

The flight itself was just fine.  There had been no time for lunch, but the small bag of  Chex Mix I bought were very satisfying.  We arrived in Houston on time but were told we had to remain seated because of “late” baggage (ours?) that had been stowed aft.  Something about the plane tipping.  Really? They gave up on that one quickly.

Blessings to whoever came up with Global Entry!  We whisked through Immigration and went to collect our bags.  We had so many bags between the two of us that we needed two carts.  We got to bypass the long line at Customs and went on to recheck our baggage.  With a great sense of relief, we saw that we had an hour left before our flight to Dallas was scheduled to leave.  Up the escalator.  Our faces fell.  How had we forgotten that we had to go through security again?  If you’ve never been through security in Houston, imagine a cattle yard, with too many cattle for the space available.  Imagine people barking orders at you.  You get the picture….  Once through that, we still had to get from Terminal C to Gate B83.  Up another escalator to the train.  Ride to the next terminal.  Walk a long way to Gate 83.  It’s one of those small gates, in a pod of five or six gates.  I ducked into the restroom as they called Group 1 to board.  When I got back to the gate, Scott told me that they had abandoned boarding groups to get people on the plane as quickly as possible — there was weather coming in.

The rain came before all of our missioners were on board.  Heavy rain.  But the rain slowed, and we were able to leave the gate and get in line for take off.  I don’t know whether the rain picked up again, but it was light enough that we took off only a little late.  We were up and above the weather quickly.  I enjoyed the bag of peanut M&Ms Scott used to bribe me not to stop anywhere on the way to our gate.  They were delicious.  I shared them.  ☺️

The flight to Dallas was uneventful, and we returned to the same section of Terminal E at DFW from which we had departed. We had a long walk back to baggage claim, but after one long bus ride and two flights, it felt pretty darn good to stretch our legs.  All but eight of the team bags were there (eventually).  We hugged, said good-by, and headed home.

Many thanks to Larry for shepherding us through the long, difficult day.  And Gracias a Dios that my back spasms had stopped by the time our trip home began!

Post script: the eight missing bags were there the next morning when Larry and I returned to DFW to look for them.  We learned that a couple of missing gate checked bags had also been located.

The eight prodigal bags

The eight prodigal bags

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