Communications Officer Sara Fajardo is traveling in Guyana, reporting on CRS programs and sharing her experiences with us.
I’m shocked when the lady at the ticket counter at Trans Guyana airlines asks me to step on the large scale normally used for luggage. I hobble on, my over-30-pounds of gear securely on my back, my small overnight bag at my feet. I lean on the counter. Stand up straight she tells me. Looks me up and down, pulls out a calculator.
Tap, tap, tap, she pounds the large dark gray keys with her finger. Looks over the passenger ledger and types in numbers. Looks at me, types in some more numbers. I was on the wait list for a plane to Mabaruma, deep in the jungle. Planes only leave three times a week to this part of the Guyanese interior. Flights can only accommodate 10-14 people including the pilot. Reservations, the airline advises, should be made three months in advance. I’d been on the wait list since February 26.
Our partner, father Jaime, who is working with Amerindian children on their computer skills was also on the flight. “I’ve been praying you get on,” he tells me as he shakes my hand. He’d been waitlisted before.
It isn’t looking too good. All the seats in the outside waiting area are taken. Packages are piled up in every direction. Father Jaime had just returned from a trip to New York. He has heavy computer equipment with him.
A tall thin man who was placed on the waiting list after me is waved through. I stand up, “I was here first,” I protest. The counter attendant looks me up and down. Looks at my bulging backpack. She then asks me to step on the scale.
“He’s skinny,” she tells me. I look at her tight bun, impeccable uniform. She’s no nonsense. “He only weights 100 pounds,” she adds. She again gives me the once over, “you, and your packages are 192.” I have to stop myself from laughing. Decide that it must be my gear and not my penchant for chocolates that have tipped the scales. She types in more numbers into her calculator. “You weigh too much,” she adds.
I feel like a prized pig at the county fair. I’m comfortable in my own skin, I find it all extremely amusing, I’m literally too “big” to travel. They won’t let me on the plane. Father Jaime is called over. What to do? I need to get to our project. It’ll take two entire days to travel by land.
Another attendant intervenes. Picks up the phone, calls a few people. She is tall and thin. Kindly explains that they have new planes and can’t take the usual 13 passengers, they have to reduce the weight by 100 lbs.
“We give priority to ticketed passengers and their things,” she says, “then to people on stand-by. We try to accommodate, but someone brought a lot of bread and that’s perishable.” I can’t believe it. I’ve been kept off the plane by a 100 lb man and a box of bread. She makes another phone call. They can book me on a flight to another part of the jungle for tomorrow. I’ll have to take a speedboat ride for two-three hours to make it to my destination. Father Jaime promises to send someone to pick me up. I’m assured that I have a flight home for Friday, that I won’t be considered “too big to travel,” upon my return.
- Sara Fajardo
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