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In which I report the following things which I have learned since last we spoke:

Bathroom scales routinely underweigh luggage, by as much as six pounds according to the Taca check-in guy, who also assured me I would really like the airline (and if not, then what? Jump ship?). Luggage limit, 50 pounds per piece. Made it, whew!

The Boingo flashylight luggage tag won much admiration, and was not stolen by any of the airport staff in Kennedy, San Salvador, Lima or Santiago.

Homeland Security brings partially shaved-headed, partially gelled, bandana wearing neck-tattooed young men in frayed jeans and oversized shirts to the airport as a special service before they got on my flight with me. When said men were given a minute to go to the store and get something before the flight, they chose orange fanta.

Taca Airlines might win the award for most pasta served within 15 hours, including the pasta (or chicken) I was offered at 11:30 last night. I applaud their willingness to feed us frequently (3 times between 11:30 AM and PM), but think it is cruel that they laud cucumbers as a refreshing treat and then fill that side of the tray with a brownie (tasty) and Tillamook cheddar cheese and a saran-wrapped roll.

Diet coke comes in a redbullish-dimensioned can in El Salvador.

Flying from Lima to Santiago on a 10 PM flight is a sure way to get three seats to yourself to lie down in. I recommend belting yourself with the middle belt and sidesleeping. Dreamy.

Americans are a chatty bunch, especially from Kennedy to El Salvador. Met some teachers, a real estate guy, and a woman who worked in my school district as an adult, and as a teen went to the same high school as me (and my father some 50 years ago). Lovely, all of them. Hello if they’re reading.

The North Face has fabric companies all over Latin America and a crack team of project managers who go around and check them out, then wear giant (noise-cancelling) headphones on the plane.

SAG (Chilean agricultural police) gives planes coming into Chile a tiny little aerosol can which the crew (tripulación in Chile, sobrecargo in many other countries, which just makes them sound overburdened) spray around the upper luggage holds, and then announce only in Spanish, which I suppose if you don’t speak Spanish would leave you wondering what the heck that just was.

SAG no longer has the pretty dioramas near the luggage pickup with the popcorn and beans and other prohibited items. Now they have a 60-second sound blip that says things like, peanuts, almonds, raisins, dried fruit, peas, beans, legumes, seeds, cuttings, etc, etc, and has people (two, in my case) who accost you to be sure you’ve declared (I had). Plus a bunch of literature including a bookmark with an apple wearing a mask, which I guess gets you swine flu panic and agricultural protection all in one. I mean to take a picture of this, but not this second.

I was not hassled about the coffee, but was asked about the two glass jars I had in my luggage. I told them it was almond butter (which it was), and they hassledmenot. I guess they were just making sure it wasn’t honey. This was the first time in the last 3 that I came back from the US that they didn’t make me open my bags, but they also didn’t help me to heft them onto the belt to take them through the xray machines, which at 2:30 in the morning seemed kind of mean.

Searing headache and short vomit episode aside, I am glad to be home. And no, I didn’t drink the water, anywhere, though I did eat insipid pasta, twice. Connection?