My arrival in Ecuador was uneventful and leisurely, which was a good thing. I stayed overnight in Guayaquil, which is the largest city in Ecuador—about a million and a half people. My stay was at a Hampton Inn near the airport. It was a very nice room, particularly for the money. My brother, Leo, would have been proud of me, since my usual travel fare is more of the Day’s Inn variety. The gentleman who took my bags up to the room and got me situated (I don’t know if calling him a bell-hop would be appropriate, since he was in a uniform blazer, dress shirt,and tie.) did not accept my tip. I knew that tipping was not generally done in Ecuador. However, under the circumstances and being an American-owned hotel, I thought offering a tip might be the modus operandi. Instead, he said, “No sir, that is not necessary.” He took my hand in both of his and shaking it said. “I hope you have an enjoyable stay when you arrive in Cuenca. Welcome again to Ecuador.”
I received little sleep on Sunday evening, but was amazed how rested I felt on Monday. Even when we arrived in Guayaquil and had the two hour ordeal of waiting in line to complete everything through customs and procure our luggage, I was amazed how the entire day seemed to go by quickly. Lucky for me I did not have the usual type of restlessness, when trips are four hours and longer. The jets were small, so there was no hanging out near the restrooms like in my United flights to Hawaii, where one could stand, stretch, and talk to other passengers.
I already know from all my research that one has to be patient in Ecuador. Once I made up my mind that this processing through customs was not going to be quick, and despite the fact I was tired; it was easy to alternate between zoning-out and discretely studying people around me. Just as it was about to be my turn to place my carry-on baggage on the conveyor belt for its x-ray. I saw a line of wheel chair disabled begin to align along side of us. I knew we were in for a prolonged wait, but how could I begrudge people who were handicapped? Then an unusual thing happened. A hombre brings a long line of travelers and their baggage, and they are allowed to go ahead of us. The one man appeared to be responsible for both the luggage of the handicapped passengers, and their wheel chair movement forward as he lugged their luggage on the conveyor belt. Whenever he put luggage on the belt and then moved a wheel chair forward, the other man would begin to throw baggage on the belt from his new line of people. When the one man had finished with about ten or twelve wheel chair travelers, then we had to wait for the other man to finish with his group.
I could tell that the guard who supervised our placement of baggage on the belt, initially from his hand motions and body language seem to question this new group proceeding ahead of us. However, he soon told me and the others we would have to wait. I was waiting for the reaction of the young and feisty Ecuadorian woman standing behind me in line. She had been quite impatient, and was quick to ask me to move up more rapidly in line, whenever I left more than four feet between me and the person in front of me. As the people proceeded to place their luggage on the belt while we watched, I turned to grab a glance at the woman behind me. All she did was shrug in resignation. I may have perceived this entire situation wrongly. I assume, however, that from what I read of how business is frequently conducted in Ecuador; someone was given a financial incentive to move certain clients along more rapidly and conveniently at the expense of others.
Needless to say, Monday evening, I slept solidly. I arrived at the airport in Guayaquil Tuesday morning to learn that our flight to Cuenca had been delayed for two hours, because of technical problems. I got some more shut-eye while at the terminal, after I talked for awhile to an Hispanic man from the states and his Cuencano wife, who were traveling to Cuenca with their two young children. Their trip aboard Delta was a nightmare. I had problems with Delta as well when I flew out to Atlanta a couple of years ago. Delta was terrible at keeping us informed as to what was happening, and how long and when delays would be addressed. I traveled American Airlines into Guayaquil, and it was a pleasant experience. Lan Air was responsible for the two hour delay. It was funny, because the trip to Quenca by air was only twenty-five minutes, almost the time it took the flight attendants to explain to us what to do in an emergency.
The Ecuadorians have an interesting custom, when we flew in from Miami and landed in Guayaquil, and then landed in Cuenca; as soon as the jet’s wheels touched the landing strip, they would break out into applause. I don’t know. Maybe, they were holding their breaths the entire trip.