Transition from Canada to Colombia – Ask Someone Who Knows

December 30, 2015

the light at the end of the business class seat tunnel

the light at the end of the business class seat tunnel

My trip began with an overnight flight from YVR to Toronto on an Air Canada 777. I booked a business class flight on points which became available two weeks before my departure.

For my trouble and the extra points, I got a lie flat seat, priority boarding and a meal.

The “lie flat” seat was a brown leather contraption with this narrow lit pillowed area beyond your feet. There was a pictogram control panel menu offering massage, heat and lie flat vs upright mode. There was a huge TV screen and a  tray that popped up and out like a horizontal guillotine.  After take off, I took the seat for a ride. For lie flat the seat back collapses down while your legs are pulled into the narrow pillow area. The sensation was like being pulled down into a drawer or capsule. Once inside, it felt a bit like a coffin. After all the fussing I still could not sleep. All I could think of was the line from a Billy Joel song “who needs a house in hackensack when that is all you get for your money”.

In the lounge in Toronto, there was the usual assortment of business types, vacationers  including a platinum blonde American family in matching gap and a couple of gays with shaved heads and colourful scarfs. It was all very hush hush until platinum mom told platinum dad about the hot breakfast. The latter jumped up, knocked over his plate of toast and sprinted. This was the last I would experience of Canada.

Once I got to the gate for the YYZ- Bogota flight, it was as if I was already in South America. There was all this energy, people talking and laughing, papi this and mi amor that, lots of leopard prints and babies with pierced earrings and head bands, screaming, crawling, eating on the floor and hanging off of their mom’s. Dark brown eyes looking directly at you from all directions.

YVR-BOG is served by a 767 that is showing its age.  I had a business pod, a blue green contraption that looked like an 80’s dentist chair. No coffin just an unfolding seat and a little bench for your feet.  With the help of a blindfold that looks like a training bra, I slept well. The head of service was very friendly and helpful. A middle age british gal who was all sweetness with me Mr. feebie business class customer. But you just knew that if you crossed her she would go all honey badger on you.

I arrived in Bogota around 2:30 pm. There is a 160,000 peso charge for Canadians. There were 4 counters to process the new charge, all were staffed but only 2 were open.  The woman showed me her shiny new debit card reader and asked me to pay with credit or debit.  However, card after card came up with the same  “communication error” message.  The woman was blaming me but the same thing was happening at the other counter. The men at the two “closed counters”  continued to do whatever they were doing unperturbed as the line behind me grew with impatient travellers. After much gesticulation and “no fonction” they decided to escort a group of us into the terminal to change cash and return to the counter. We were told to leave our passports (I did not) and of course when we got to the cambio, were asked for our passports. I became the money changer for the group, in plain sight I took money from the others, provided my passport, provided my finger print and so on. Technical adherence to the rules is all you seem to need in Colombia.

As we passed the baggage area I asked our escort (the same guy who said you do not need a passport) whether we have to collect bags at the baggage area if we are on a connecting flight- He said yes of course (so I knew what not to do)

By the time we got back, the debit cards were working (someone had forgotten to plug in the connection). I paid, then had my passport checked and I was in.

Well, I am not in Canada anymore and will likely be dealing with these kinds of situations in most of the countries we visit during our trip.

The thing I learnt from this, is to ask someone who knows not someone who acts like they know. People that work in the airport only know about the department they work in. The cleaners and customs people do not know what goes on in F/X or baggage because they do not exchange funds and likely have never travelled.


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