Day 1: Medic

A day ago I was throwing a snowball at Alyssa welcoming her to a white Christmas with my family in Idyllwild. This year we had the largest gathering yet. The Geiberger Clan minus a recovering Kathy, my family, Mary and Joe all came like in past years, but this year we added on Jenn’s family. I was hoping all would go well and it did, the first big holiday with everyone together was a big success no small thanks to my mother’s talent as a host. It’s such a shock to now find ourselves in a hot, balmy Belize.

Usually our travel days are pretty uneventful, but not today. First was a super early wakeup to make our 635a flight out of LAX meant we were up by 230a, out the door by 3a, in line for the 330a bus to LAX. Jenn’s family is joining us on this trip so they spent the night at our place. Chuck was up by 1.

Waiting at the bus Alyssa asks Chuck what’s in his breast pocket and he pulls out a 3 foot long piece of toilet paper and says “snot rag”, waves it in the wind and then stuffs it back where it came from. Later at security they asked him to empty his pockets, so he takes out the tissue and puts it in the bins with everything else. TSA wasn’t as amused as we were.

We made it through security and to our gate with about an hour to spare, plenty of time to read up on my new GoPro I got for xmas and am hoping to use for our dives this trip. Step 1: Insert a microSD card into the card slot. Wait. It uses a memory card? I didn’t find one in the package. I only packed what was in there! The terminal has a few BestBuy vending machines but none of them have microSD. I started to have to weigh the risks of using my microSD card out of my phone and decided if I can’t find one in Belize before we’re diving, I’ll just back up my phone to this laptop and use that card for the camera.

Our flight to El Salvador goes off without a hitch. We’re flying a TACA flight which my parents in the past have joked stands for Take A Chance Airlines, but for half the flight time and a lot less money, we’re gonna take our chances! Really the flights are on a pair of new planes operated by Avianca the parent company for TACA. Two hours into a 4 ½ hour flight though and an elderly gentleman in the row next to us starts having a seizure! First we just hear cries for help coming from near the emergency exit, then it becomes clear that something is wrong with one of the passengers. I get only a quick glimpse through the hubbub of an outstretched arm curled up in convulsion and knew immediately it was a seizure, not that I knew what to do with that knowledge. Then someone calls out for a Doctor and nearly half a minute later two doctors are pulled from first class, one an American tourist going to Belize, the other an Argentinian we believe. The Doctors are quick to get the man’s head up and the stewardess to bring oxygen. Apparently a common problem caused by seizure is a deprivation of oxygen. I caught another glimpse through the throng of people at one point and saw a man not seeming to be breathing and blue in the face, still. I think he’s dead. I have no idea what’s supposed to happen next, but the doctor doesn’t seem flustered and soon after its clear they have the mask on him and he’s breathing. Things slowly return to normal.

Arriving in San Salvador, the seizure patient is met by a medical crew and seems to be doing pretty ok, he’s walking and talking though clearly shook up. We have a short connection, only one hour. Our next task is to find our new gate and if we have time catch a bite. As we walked by a store I noticed in the store window a microSD card. Bingo. Sure enough our little flight isn’t boarding yet, so we rush back and buy the card, then buy some subway as it’s the only thing ready fast enough.

Our plane is packed, all seats taken. This time we’re on an Embraer 190 I think it’s called, we flew one like it to SeaTac once from Long Beach; they’re nice little jets, perfect for the quick trip to Belize. It’s really set in now, an hour and we’ll be at our destination. I’m downright giddy.

Landing we look for a taxi, we’re told to expect $25 to town and are quoted $40 for the 5 of us. We balk, but everyone holds the line and eventually a guy brings us a laminated sign showing the prices, $25 for the first 2, and then $5 for each additional person to make it $40. Capitulating, we get in the taxi instead of looking for a taxi on the road. In the end this was a good call. The ride was longer than we thought, and the road a long ways from the exit terminal of the airport. It also turns out taxis don’t run on meters in Belize, so it’s not clear we’d get a better deal. Our driver was really great too, very nice and had lots of tidbits to share.

Checking into our rooms, ours show their lower price but are comfortable enough for us. I’m happy to not spend a fortune. We then met up again and headed out to a nice dinner. We’re told we need a taxi at night as Belize City is rough and there is danger of being mugged. I’m not convinced but we figure it’s worth the $6 to not find out.

Tomorrow we’re off to the islands, and hopefully some water activities. I need to check in with the dive shop that has our names down and show that we’re here, and maybe our stars will align and we can get in on an easy house reef dive with a group doing their 3rd tank. I’d like something easy for use to start back in with. I feel pretty confident, but I worry there will be something I forget that will put me in danger. I’m sure Jenn feels the same way. Diving needs to be taken seriously. Otherwise we might just have some fruity cocktails and hang out in the hammocks for a day.

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