SKIP has a funny of way of sending volunteers on their way home. We form a tunnel, or puente, from the steps of our house to the front gate that opens to a busy street. Departing volunteers run from the stairs to the street as everyone yells and whoops, our hands clasped above our heads making a tunnel. It just takes a small kick for the door to slam and the volunteer to be left alone on the street as cars stream by in a fog of gasoline, dirt and honking. Ok, so maybe we don’t slam the door on them, but the thought does creep in sometimes. As a longer term volunteer, and volunteer coordinator at that, I’ve already made 29 goodbye cards. That’s beside the point. There are also many kinds of volunteer exits. From the more normal ‘waving out the window’ in tears, to folding like a circus clown over their suitcase, under their surfboard, their arm hanging out the window, to one volunteer leaving in an ambulance escort. At least she made it to Lima in record time.
Last night, a volunteer decided to double-check her flight time before buying her bus ticket. Unlucky for her, August has 31 days and not 30. Lima, the capital of Peru, and the main site for all international flights, is a 9hour bus journey from Trujillo. She had 4 hours. The entire volunteer house in a tizzy, we ran around packing her things, people jamming bits of her clothing into suitcase pockets, others packing a snack bag, and half the house searching for her passport. Finally, we rushed her to the smaller airport to try and catch a last minute flight to Lima (which only takes one hour). We spoke to everyone who looked even remotely official and was about to try and bribe someone to let her take someone’s place before they told us that the earliest flight was actually delayed an hour.
I’ve missed practically every mode of transportation; flights, train, buses, ferries. I’ve even managed to miss things while I was waiting AT the departure gate. Thankfully, I’ve also had some wonderful luck; my friend once got a ferry to turn back around to get me (which meant that I actually made my flight on time). All this to say that I now have an anxiety about missing things; an anxiety that has gotten so bad that even when I was at the Lima airport 5 hours early, I couldn’t stop checking the departure board, my cellphone and haranguing the check-in lady. My policy is that I’m not safely on my way until I’m physically sitting in my seat, seatbelt fastened, tray table and chair back in their upright position.
All this to say… I wish I had better advice. I usually ask my grandma. Then my stepmom. A drunken Irishman once told me that a “the door won’t open unless you knock.” This before asking me to marry him. Hopefully you have some wise sages in your life. And if you’re about to travel, remember to check the days in the month, to take deep breaths, and to knock.