On Saturday the 22nd, we got up at 4:30 in the morning to be at the airport before 6. My mom and dad came to help with luggage and see me off. I had no problems at the airport- Delta didn't charge me any overweight baggage fees, which was awesome! I think one bag showed up as 50.3 lbs but they let it slide. And I was SO grateful for that. The first leg of my journey took me to Atlanta, and I found my next gate with no problems. Both of my flights on the way to Miami (Louisville to Atlanta, Atlanta to Miami) were relatively short and I had no anxiety issues at all. I arrived in Miami a little before noon, and was startled at how big the airport is there! I hadn't been there before, and Atlanta seemed big to me, but they have easy access to the "plane train," the monorail thing that takes you around to the different concourses. There is also a people mover at Miami, but it is not conveniently placed. They are also doing renovations on several areas of the airport. So it took some time, but I got my bags, trekked back across half the airport to get closer to the right concourse, had some lunch, and parked at a charging station for a little while. When I saw online that other members of our team were arriving and checking in, I went to go check my bags. Unfortunately, my experience with American Airlines was not a great one. The clerk claimed that BOTH my bags were overweight, and said I was going to have to pay $200 to send both of them. I had not added any weight to the bags at any time, and according to their scale, one bag weighed 50 lbs and maybe 4 ounces. The other they claimed was 51 lbs. I told the woman that Delta's scales did not indicate that either bag was overweight, and asked if there was anything that could be done. She left to talk to her supervisor, who said I would have to pay for both bags (another team member said that her bag also came in at 6 oz overweight, yet she did not have to pay, because "it was less than a pound.") Fun. I ended up transferring some things to one bag, so only one was overweight, and then I was told to go to another counter to pay the overweight fee. My bag was loaded on to the conveyor at this time, and sent on to the airplane. The clerk at the next counter, who was supposed to just charge me $100 for the bag, ended up taking the person behind me first, and then needed change because he had no money in his till. Instead of taking care of my issue (a swipe of a card) first, he wandered off to find change, with no apologies or explanations, and was gone for over ten minutes. Finally, when it was my turn (again) he started joking about my bags getting lost. He seemed confused about his task (I should have just taken my boarding pass and left! My bag was already headed for the plane!) and I said "well, your colleague at the next counter put the tag on my luggage and put it on the conveyor belt. It is going to get to the right place, right?" And he was joking about it getting lost, "I don't know where it's going, I didn't see her do it. I'm glad YOU trust her." Just really unnecessary stuff. I told him that he was not inspiring my confidence in the competency of his employer, and he continued joking. He then swiped my debit card too fast to read- I had just used it at the self service kiosk and knew it worked, but he was doing it too fast. He said it didn't work. I asked him to try again, but slower, and he said "well why would I do that? It's not a different card, is it?" He was just such a terrible person, honestly. So I had to hand over ALL my extra cash to pay for my not-really-overweight bag, and went to find an ATM, after stopping and calling my mom to ask her to get people to pray that my bag would actually arrive in Honduras with my plane. The ATMs at the airport are apparently very old with iffy touch screens, so I couldn't even get the amount I needed to replace what I had to use at the AA counter! I stopped to get myself a snack and the card worked just fine, which helped me feel better! And I moved on to my gate and started meeting up with my other team members. We left Miami for San Pedro Sula at 6 pm!
The flight down to SPS was just fine. The flight was a little over two hours, and I plugged my headphones into the seatback and turned on a movie, and fell asleep. Customs in SPS was just fine, too! The airport there was pretty nice. We also found out that one of the guys on the plane- maybe one of the pilots?- sponsors a child with Compassion!! It was neat hearing about his conversation with one of our trip leaders, Allen. They gave him a business card and hopefully sometime in the near future, he will set up a trip to visit his own sponsor kid. :) And the hotel we were staying at was so nice! We had a buffet dinner at the hotel restaurant and I slept peacefully in my comfy bed! Side note: I was also excited on this trip to meet some people I've known online for quite a while. One of the sponsors from our online sponsor group, Marissa, was my roommate on the trip! We made great roommates and I'm glad to have her as a friend!
My friends know I love tiny food, especially desserts. So seeing tiny fruit tarts on the dinner buffet really made my night when we got to the hotel. :)
The next morning, Marissa and I stayed behind at the hotel while our group headed to church and then the beach. We were meeting our Manna kids later in the afternoon, and we were so excited! I got Zoila's bag of gifts ready the night before. We got her a sparkly zippered tote on clearance from lifeway, and filled it with four dresses, a sparkly shirt, shiny pajamas, silver glittery shoes, a Bible, a photo album, a prayer journal, a stuffed bunny, a swimsuit, and her blanket!! I also made a little gift for her mom Ana, who was joining us as Zoila's chaperone. I fixed up a little clutch purse for her, and included a leather keychain with a Bible verse on it (in Spanish), a sparkly blue bracelet, and a little devotional book. Marissa and I were really excited and nervous to meet the kids!! We ate lunch at the hotel restaurant and then eagerly awaited the arrival of our friends.
"Honduran style" salmon. All I know is that there were shrimp in the sauce. Everything tasted good, though. And now that I'm home, I miss eating friend plantains for every meal.
The Manna crew arrived before 1, and we met in the lobby. It was Russell, one of the missionaries who runs the feeding program in Honduras; his brother in law; a local pastor friend (who acted as translator); Zoila and Ana; Marissa's two girls and their chaperones (one of whom was her girl's aunt!) The kids were so shy and nervous, but super sweet. We went out to the patio to spend time together and chat. Zoila brought me a letter and some drawings in a handmade folder (she always makes the prettiest things for me!) She didn't have much to say, and her mom teased her about it. :) Apparently her dad told her that morning "not to be timid" and Ana said she was going to tell on Zoila!! She also suggested at one point that Zoila take some paper and write me a letter, since she always wants to write to me when she's at home!! We had a good time. We asked the girls if they wanted to swim in the pool, and of course the answer was yes. I went ahead and gave Zoila her gifts since her swimsuit was in the bag. She pulled the bunny out first and laughed, because we had been discussing her desire to have a pet rabbit (she borrows her grandma's sometimes, apparently!) Ana had said they didn't have any pets, but Zoila wanted a pet rabbit "probably because SOMEBODY else has one"~ she likes our bunny and the one her grandma has!) With each item she pulled out of the bag, she didn't squeal or act overly excited, but I could tell she was because she would look over at her mom, like "are you seeing this, too?!" Not that anything I brought her was fancy or expensive. But presents are always exciting, and I tried hard to get things I thought she would like! One of the dresses I brought is apparently a lot like one she had wanted for Christmas last year!! And I think she really liked her blanket, too. :) I was so worried that her clothes I bought wouldn't fit her, but she's so tiny- everything I thought would be too small fit perfectly! She changed into her new swimsuit and we headed over to the pool. Zoila wouldn't get in since I was just sitting on the edge, so I took my skirt off (I had bike shorts on underneath) and got in the water. I am NOT a pool person, so this was an act of love for me. ;) And she got in and had a good time! Marissa's younger girl basically learned to swim on that day- she started out not being able to do much in the water, and wound up paddling across almost by herself there at the end! We all got a little chilly since the sky was overcast and it was a cool day (for San Pedro Sula, anyway) so after a while, we got back out and dried off. Zoila changed into one of her new dresses and she looked beautiful. And I noticed that she brought one of the hair clips I sent her in a gift bag over the summer! That made me smile.We went in to the hotel restaurant and ate dinner. It took a long time for the food to come, so Marissa's kids drew and I showed Zoila how to play bejeweled. Then I got the wifi working again, and went online to show her some family photos from facebook. We had a nice dinner together and we could tell the kids were getting really tired (and we wanted everyone to get back to their hotel safely) so we wrapped up around 7 or 7:30, and said goodbye to everyone. We really had a nice day together! I think some people might have been disappointed by how shy and quiet the kids were, but we are totally ok with that. The fact that they had fun was most important, first of all. Second, we brought them to a strange city for an overnight trip to see us- they were out of their element. And third, it can be awkward to meet someone you've only had written correspondence with! But our meeting wasn't awkward, I don't think. I was happy and comfortable. Zoila just took a little conversational coaxing. :) Having her mom there was good, too. I think she would have had a harder time without her!
I'm so thankful that we were able to arrange this meeting. Kim, Russell, and everyone involved did such a great job coordinating in bringing the kids up from their hometown! It was fun being the "pilot program" for Manna sponsors meeting their kids (outside of the group visits Kim's teams have done, of course.) I can't wait to get Zoila's next letter and see what she has to say about our visit on paper, where she is more comfortable chatting! I have a letter to her going out this week, along with some prints of the photos I took of the two of us. She can add them to her glittery photo album I brought for her! And of course, the kids' backpacks of gifts will be delivered soon, too, so that should bring about more exciting mail as well!
I'll try to come back and post about trip day 3, with our first project visit, soon! :)