Jesus Avina, going into his third year at Shimer College, joins us to write of his travels through South America, where he is interning with Revolver Magazine through a grant from Shimer. His story begins in a Southern California Airport, sunshine streaming through the windows, and anticipation in the air:
Here we go. Get your popcorn.
I arrive at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX looking for the Aeromexico terminal. After a few minutes I find it and am immediately greeted by a friendly old man that asks if I am American or Mexican. Ah, the perennial question, excited for the trip and worried about check in procedures I forget my prepared ideological (and as it turns out official) answer and say I am American born with Mexican heritage. Check in went without a hitch. After a reminder of my swine flu rights (no returns/only exchanges for an earlier flight out of Mexico if needed). I sent my adieus and off I was through the quickest security check I’ve gone through.
Most of the terminals in my gate were Delta. Whether for this reason or not they were really nice and up kept. About an hour after my CPK lunch the Aeromexico staff came up to the counter and began preparations for boarding. The crowd was a motley crew of old ladies, one or two backpackers and stylish business men and women. To my pleasant surprise I got a window seat. The flight itself was nice- A 737 midsize airplane (about the size Southwest uses) flying us from LAX to Mexico City. I got panoramic views of the Salton Sea but missed (despite my efforts) Mexicali as we probably flew east of the city. I also got a nice view of the Sea of Cortez and the Sonoran Desert. The descent into Mexico City was great! I got a beautiful view of Chapultepec at dusk.
The airport was nicer than I expected. I had some time to kill so I had a drink while reading Choke and watching the soccer game on TV. At the terminal I asked for a window seat, and the LAN staff were awesome. My window seat was luxurious. I had no one next to me and was able to watch Frost/Nixon and Mall Cop on my teli screen (one per seat).
The flight was mostly uneventful. I was fed dinner immediately upon take off accompanied by a nice glass of wine. I woke up after a 6 hour nap and as I got my first glimpses of Chile we were fed breakfast.
SCL is smaller than I expected for an international airport (it seemed about the size of MDW in Chicago). While waiting to exit the plane I could see the airport personnel with heavy layers of clothing. My first experience with Chilean winter.
My plane arrived along with two other international arrivals and the queues at the immigration booths were long. After about 30 minutes and $131 in reciprocity fees I found my arranged transport via taxi van to my hostel about thirty minutes away in the heart of Santiago de Chile.