Welcome to USA!...well, not exactly

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Nov 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
David's parents flat

Flag of United States  , Florida
Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's ironic, but it does reflect reality...USA doesn't have an internet cafe in every corner as we have been used to in the last 9 months. All hotels, bars and restaurants have free Wi-Fi which is great for laptop users. We even thought about purchasing one, but its too much of an investment and too risky too leave in the car when trekking around national parks.

In any case, on a positive note, all US public libraries have internet, and believe it or not, you show your passport, register and have free internet access (normally half an hour...although here we have no limit). So hurray to that!

So here is the entry for today...our ninth month by the way!

Yesterday we moved from La Antigua Guatemala to a hotel next to the airport at Guatemala City. We knew that security was a bit of an issue there (with an average of 10 murders per day), and the aspect of the hotel pointed in that direction.

All the doors were locked 24/24, there was barbed wire all over, pizza delivery was the main source of food! The hotel itself was not too great, but just OK for one last night. We spent most of the afternoon playing board games in the living room, although admitedly we had to check the instructions on internet for all of them (MasterMind, Chinese Checkers and Parchisee).

Anyway, the hotel was just across the street from the airport, although for security we still took a taxi (2 mins for $3...a fine rip-off for local prices) and arrived at the airport with 3 hours to spare.

We had been told that the airport and environmental tax were $33 per person, but far from it its only $3 per head. Something Ecuador should learn after charging 40 bucks and having the crapiest airport in the Tropic line! The airport at Guatemala City is modern and well supplied with eateries and the sort, and security was a question of seconds...they did detect David's lighter which he forgot he was carrying.

We boarded on time, and took off on time (good one American Airlines), but when we landed at Miami International Airport, just one minute before stopping and disembarking an electrical storm kicked off. The airport was declared "closed" and we had to sit for 1.5 hours inside the plane. Apparently its related to trade union issues.

Off we got, happy to arrive in the US of A and given we were the first plane to disembark rushed to passport control to avoid long lines of irritated passengers detained in other flights due to the storm.

David joined the US citizen line and quickly went by, while Vero and Marcos slowly reached the customs officer in the "rest of states" line.

Problem Number 1: when we handed over our passport and customs slip to the officer he requested a green visa slip. The stewardess of American Airlines had failed to give those out. So back to the end of the line and to fill in the slip. We were not the only ones...about half the plane had to go through the same procedure.

Problem Number 2: in the visa slip we filled in as "address: Pompano Beach, Miami, Florida". When we got to the same officer again he asked "what street?". We didn't have the exact address as David was travelling with us. He told us that we needed the exact street name and number.

So back we went and at the information desk asked them what we could do. At the desk, there was a latino officer who quickly started chatting to us in Spanish. We told him the problem and he was obviously enjoying the situation and kept saying "you will learn from this experience", "you need to know", and when Veronika got upset and started asking what the solution was he changed to macho mode and told Marcos "keep your wife under control" (in Spanish). Marcos knew better not to react to the stupidity and "power over insignificant issues syndrome" that the bloke obviously had and kept the conversation going.

We stated over and over again that David was in the luggage pick up lounge and that surely someone could call him there. They all stated that it was impossible. God knows what would happen if they did need to call someone in an emergency. Anyway...the officer was a (rude word to be entered by reader) so we gave up with him.

Soon another latino woman arrived and she quickly said "no problem" and phoned someone who quickly checked what address David had registered in Miami. She noted it down and off we went without any further problems apart from joining a longer liner for a third time. We later checked and the address was totally wrong...so much for security and procedures!

Luckily by the time we arrived at the luggage lounge the ruck sacks had just come out, so David didnt even have time to worry about us.

It was still pouring down heavily when we managed to get to the Thrifty rent a car offices. The procedure was quick, we got an upgraded model and $250 discount for no reason known to us (hurray!) and put all our luggage in the car. We checked the car for scratches and bumps, and found an obvious one on the right hand side. We were suprised that no one was checking the cars and making us sign on the state, so we asked for a form, and it turned out that if you don't ask...you dont get to state any scratches before leaving (at least with Thrifty). They let you ask just before you leave the security post and the guard there asks you if there is anything to declare.

The car is a nice white Dodge, with plenty of space, air conditioning, automatic drive and cruiser control (which has become our best friend against speeding and potential fines).

We ended the evening at Pompano Beach where David's parents (George and Olga) were waiting and kindly invited us to dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. A franchise restaurant but with good deals and food (although the waitress thought it was more of a stand up comedian job and was impossible to keep quiet).

The best part was seeing the salad bar! After 9 months of not being able to eat fresh salads (except at the family home at Santiago) it was a dream come true. It was just overwhelming how much, how good and how clean it was! 4 days later we are still healthy (or healthier!) so obviously we are in safe zone again...
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