The Night Flight

June 7 – 8, 2017:

I flew United airlines to Bogota. Yes, that United, the one that drags people off planes. Anyway, I had been so concerned with the weight of my bags (50 lb limit), and the number of bags I could carry domestically in Colombia, that I did not think to check bag limits for United. I brought around 150 lbs of equipment to Colombia. 

I got to my flight (slated to depart 11:59 CST) at 09:45 PM, which for those of you who know me, that’s really impressive.

Below is a timeline of my activities:

09:45 PM: Arrive at IAH international airport

09:49 PM: Try to check in at kiosk – kiosk closes

10:00 PM: Check in with real humans

10:02 PM: Humans tell me I am only allowed 1 carry on (I have 2) and that I need to pay $150 – 200 USD or repack my bags.

10:02 – 10:15 PM: Frantically try to repack my bags, I have around 2 lbs in each checked bag to play with in order to stay under the 50 lb limit. Luckily the lady helping me took a liking to me and let me sneak by with a 52lb bag. She said she didn’t want to charge me $150 extra (bless you woman!!). Phew.

10:22: Go through security, get flagged for things from my backpack in my back pocket I forgot to take out in my frantic dash. Get frisked by the security lady – hands in waistband of pants etc.

10:24 PM: Bags get pulled. My recorder for frog calls always gets flagged by TSA (and I always forget). I get asked if I am a journalist, I chuckle – “no that’s for frogs”, I am a biologist I explain hastily.

~ 10:26 PM: Catch last few minutes of the warriors game with my giant backpack on– EPIC COMEBACK!!!! Go KD! !

10:30 PM: Currency exchange – closed. (luckily I have some leftover Colombian Pesos with me, enough to get by for a few days I think).

10:31 – 10:40 PM: Reorganize backpack to make small for plane.

10:40 PM: Women’s restroom – closed. Wait for diaper baby changing restroom. Try to brush teeth – I forgot toothpaste, I floss instead and splash water on my face.

11:15 PM: I am last in line for group 4 boarding. I am told there is no overhead space and I need to check my bag (internal screaming begins M*R**@@*@*HDHA&&)

I get onto plane – THERE IS OVERHEAD BIN SPACE – continue screaming with fury in my head. I am now carrying 5 separate bags including a laptop and I smush them all under my middle seat (this is a redeye people).

12:00 AM – 5:00 AM: Take off. I proceed to get NO sleep – the chairs do not recline and they are incredibly erect. I try every possible sleeping position to no avail. No, I do not want dinner at 1 am United – leave me alone. Person in front of me has their TV on the entire ride which glares into my eyeballs.

5:00 AM: Arrive in Bogota. Make it through immigration and customs sin problemas. Eat a chicken empanada and attempt to find my gate.

At this point I scuffled between gates multiple times because I couldn’t find my flight on the TVs. I bought a duffle bag to put all my belongings in so I was not carrying around 5 bags. Turns out the shitty duffle bag was $63 USD. I didn't care when I bought it but checked my bank statements letter, yowza! 

07:00 - 08:30 AM (Jun 8th): I finally board my flight to Santa Marta where I am met with ALL my luggage and my three Colombian friends and field assistants in the “new” car (burro 2.0) we purchased for field season.

09:30 AM: Arrive at my collaborator (Beto) house. At this point I am exhausted, I’ve slept maybe 2 hours and I am hungry. I am doing a pretty decent job speaking Spanish (at least in my mind) and I am told “alright Nikki, you’re driving to the University”.


Immediately thrown into Colombian driving, I take up the challenge and figure out a few things that need to be dealt with (i.e. the steering is incredibly difficult to make a turn, it’s a crazy work out).  I make it to the University and back with everyone alive and no accidents, so I consider that a success for my first day.

We come back to the apartment and split four large beers. When everyone leaves, I immediately pass out for 4 straight hours. Once I woke up I meandered down to the little Mercado (market) beneath the house, buy bread, cheese, yogurt, and water and whip myself a little egg and cheese sandwich, while I sip the remains of an old beer. Now that’s what I call a success.  


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