As each group of missionaries finishes their 18-month or two-year assignment, we host a dinner for them at the mission home, lovingly prepared by Paula.
It happened in Chosica, some 18 miles up the road from Lima, and covered two miles of the roadway.
However, let me ´splain. There are only two airports in the Mission, one in Jauja, an hour from Huancayo, and the other about seven hours north. This is the Jauja International Airport ('international' because people from at least two other countries have landed there).
If you look closely, you will notice several things. First, there are no runway lights. Second, there are no electronic navigational aids whatsoever. Third, there are openings in the fences in the distance. Before landings and takeoffs, workers are sent on bicycles to assure that no livestock get on to the runway. I am not making this up.
There are two flights a day, both to and from Lima, carrying 32 passengers each.
When it rains, the planes cannot come from Lima. We are in the rainy season, and up to 50% of the flights are cancelled because of weather.
Because of the 11,000-foot altitude of the airport, and the size of the planes, passengers are limited to 33 pounds of luggage. Period. This can be problematic for missionaries heading home.
With the help of the Church Area Office visa and travel guys, we were able to wangle enough tickets to get the missionaries out in two groups. We thought. However, though we could usually pay for overweight baggage, we could not do so for a bunch of people and expect the plane to take off. So, we were limited as to the number of people we could put on each plane. And meanwhile, everyone else was trying to get out of town also. Tickets became scarce for those turned away because of luggage.
Meanwhile, just to keep us interested, fourteen new missionaries from the Missionary Training Center in Lima were scheduled to come up by bus on Tuesday afternoon. They began sending them on the planes to JIA (Jauja International), the first ones on Wednesday.
However, once again the weight limit thing came in to play, so most of their bags didn't accompany them. The last two, making up the third group, dragged in on Thursday morning, so we started training a day late.
Over the first couple of days, we were able to fly fifteen of those finishing up in three groups to Lima to catch their now-rescheduled flights home. However, when the fourth group of six went to check in, three were turned away because of weight restrictions. "It's either leave three behind, or no one can have more than 33 pounds. Take it or leave it."
Three of the nice North American Sisters volunteered, and became our house guests, with their flight scheduled to Lima on Saturday afternoon.
However, a couple of brave souls in the Visas y Viajes section of the Area offices heard that there was a dirt road around the landslide, and on Friday decided to brave it to bring up the luggage left behind by the new missionaries. They made it, but it took about 13 hours, and they told tales tales of an extremely sketchy detour, with streams to cross, slippery mud, precipices, etc. They volunteered to take the extra luggage of the three Sisters trapped in Huancayo, so that they could take the plane down on Saturday afternoon and go home. Great!
The next piece of (apparently) good news was that a lane of road would be open on Saturday! Yippee!
So, on Saturday morning, the three loaded up in Huancayo with great big smiles, ready to see their families.
OK, not so fast. That would have been too easy. Sure enough, when they arrived at the landslide, a detail had been left out; one lane of the road was open, but only after 8:00 PM! Yeah, but their flight didn't leave for the US until 12:35 AM that night, so all was OK, right? Right?! Nope.
By the time the traffic jam in the other direction had been let through and their traffic jam allowed to pass, it was 10:00 PM, and they still had to contend with the infamous Lima traffic.
Sure enough, they arrived too late for their flight.
As this blog entry is posted, the three Sisters should be in the Lima airport, checking in for their flight north to see their families tomorrow, only five days late. We're keeping our fingers firmly crossed.
May your landslides be small, and your Mission be easier to get to.
Dave & Paula
PS It rained very hard on Saturday afternoon, so their flight wouldn't have gone anyway.
PSS The office Secretaries have been given permission to sleep in tomorrow, which will only begin to correct their sleep deficit.
PSSS Did I mention our sleep deficit? Five trips to JIA at all times of day made sure of that.