Dang pirates always confiscate my balls.

It wasn’t until four hours into the day’s travel, one flight done, one more to go, that I solved the mystery of all the weird people in the new Bogota airport. Yeah it’s a new airport, but why the facepaint, eye patches, and bobbly headbands?

Creepy mannequin in Cuenca

Cuenca has creepy mannequins.

Traveling for long periods you tend to forget things like holidays. Which is too bad, because I normally love Halloween.In my experience it’s not very big overseas though. I only remembered it in 2008 by the one kid in a dinosaur costume on the street in Belgrade, and last year in Belgium its only manifestation was a party whose posters subtly promised a prominence of bikinis in the crowd.

I’d pondered going all-out on macabre zombie makeup and bloodstains, then boarding the plane with an utterly nonchalant lack of explanation. That would have been a better idea 12 years ago though, before airports lost their sense of humor.

All too often they’ve also lost their kindness, but not yesterday.

Our check-in guy was so damn helpful and friendly that I just sent an email to his company saying so. (Do check-in staff work for the airline or the airport? He had a logo on his sweatervest…)

Then there was the staff in Bogota. They were helpful. Over and over and over and over…

Remember the soccer ball K earned by doing public aerobics in Quito?

It’s been with us since, in a series of plastic bags on every bus and in every hostel. The plan was to deliver it to the orphanage outside of Cuenca we were supposed to visit four months ago, but we couldn’t get in touch with them, so just kept carrying it. We will finally visit the orphanage the day after tomorrow. Two days.

Did you know you can only take a ball on a plane if it’s deflated? Otherwise it might explode, scaring the pidgeons we have apparently become when we fly. When we flew out of Guayaquil in August they had a needle in security for just that purpose.

Sunset in Curacao

Would have been a nice place for water polo, no?

We never did reinflate it in Curacao, despite our oceanic water polo intentions, and it was still flat when we took off from Curacao. In flight it magically reinflated. I understand the lower pressure would make it look full while we were flying, but shouldn’t it have gone back to empty when we landed?

I am clearly not a physicist, and the damn thing was too inflated to pass muster in Bogota.

I stuck a paperclip in it but no air would come out. The guard tried a pencap to identical noneffect. They said to send an airline staffperson to take custody of it. The first three ladies made excuses for their laziness, so we tried our gate staff, who sent us to another gate who sent us to another gate where my new favorite person, Ernesto, tried valiently to help us, going back to security with us.

We’d have to check the ball in as luggage, under the plane, which meant going to baggage check, which meant leaving the secure part of the airport, which meant entering Colombia formally, which meant going through customs and immigration, twice.

We did all that, checking my watch regularly reassuring ourselves that I hadn’t changed the time zone, so that couldn’t have been our plane that just took off. But that’s a nervous feeling. It’s for a bleeping orphanage, for god’s sake! I always feel like orphanages are kind of…corny. Too much. But this time it was real! Orphans! Need a soccer ball!

We carried that thing for four months.

After 4-5 miles of airport hallways and two dozen staff, we were at the right place…but couldn’t check it without its own bag, which they could not provide.

We carried that ball from June until Halloween, dozens of crowded buses, hours of crimped fingers holding it, and we lost it, failed, two days before delivery. Son of a ball-popper.

K started crying and I was so mad I would have defenestrated an Albanian. I guess that’s revealing about our personalities (not the Albanian part specifically, just the anger).

The silver lining is that 99% of the staff we dealt with was friendly. Bogota just opened a new airport, and they have yet to aquire the cynical bitchiness so common elsewhere. May those yellow sweatervested ushers maintain their smiles for as long as possible.

We’ll buy a new ball in Cuenca tomorrow. Coulda thought of that earlier I bet.