• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Whenever you search in PBworks or on the Web, Dokkio Sidebar (from the makers of PBworks) will run the same search in your Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Gmail, Slack, and browsed web pages. Now you can find what you're looking for wherever it lives. Try Dokkio Sidebar for free.


Arturo C-G

Page history last edited by Arturo Chavez 12 years, 6 months ago

YouTube plugin error Flying Solo

By Arturo Chavez


     There is no sound quite like that of roaring jet engines. This was what I was thinking as I walked down the jet way and onto the waiting Boeing 767. I stood confidently, even though I was not feeling so confident inside. I stood there next to my brother Georges as we waited behind the other passengers ready to board the airplane. I heard passengers speaking several foreign languages. I think I heard German and French.     


     I had never flown on an airplane alone before. I have flown countless times with my parents. I have flown on school trips before. Flying alone is very different than flying with other people. However, I was not really alone; I was very happy that Georges was with me. 


     Having a twin brother is great. It is like having a friend with you all the time. You go to the same school, and you share everything. Ever since ever I have had to share with my brother. When we were babies, we would share our toys and our parents’ attention. As we have gotten older we have grown a little further apart, but we still share many things. We do different things and have different interests, but we share a room, parents, a sister and school along with many experiences.


     The last few days had been rather exciting but not as nerve-wracking as this moment. Two days before my journey began...


     It was 7:30 p.m., and I had just finished packing and was resting on my bed trying to think if I had forgotten anything. A few minutes later we left for Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. My father would accompany Georges and me to New York, and then the two of us would fly on to Zurich, Switzerland.


     It was a long, two-hour ride to Phoenix in my father’s BMW. It was late, about 10:15 p.m. when we arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. We were going to take Jet Blue Airlines. The airport was pretty busy considering it was nearly 11:00. The plane would leave at 11:30, and we would arrive in New York at about 6:30 in the morning. I was pleased to  be traveling on Jet Blue because there is satellite television to watch on every headrest.

It always feels strange when I go through security screening. It is creepy the way the security guards look at you. At the airport the idea of, “innocent until proven guilty,” does not apply. The guards must examine you to determine if you are a criminal or a terrorist.

Before long we got onto the plane.  After takeoff I watched the sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris, until I fell asleep, uncertain of how the next day would turn out.


     I woke up to some turbulence. The sun had risen. The white and pink clouds were below us, and the yellow sun was barely above the cloud.  It was a beautiful sight. 

     About one hour later we arrived at JFK airport. My father walked through the airport with such confidence, just like the hundreds of other people walking around like busy bees. He looked as if he walked through JFK everyday. Once we were out of the terminal we rented a car and drove to my grandparents’ house.


     One month earlier my grandmother had broken her leg. This was the reason my father had accompanied Georges and me to New York. My father planned on visiting my grandmother in the rehabilitation hospital. He would stay in New York for two days while Georges and I would continue on to Switzerland that night.


     We went to my grandparent’s house in Irvington. Irvington is a town on the Hudson River in Westchester County. Westchester is just north of the New York City. When I arrived,  I was shocked. The house was in chaos. The house was always a mess, but this time it was worse than ever before. Usually the mess was confined to the basement and office. This time the dining table was covered with newspapers, magazines, and piles of mail. Without my grandmother, or Bonne Maman as we called her,  keeping the house in order, the place was a mess. My grandfather, or Bon Papa, was  the opposite of organized. The basement was perhaps the place where the mess was the worst. It was a big basement, however it seemed much smaller when you were surrounded by the five-foot high stacks of boxes, books, magazines, and relics from the past.  There were four aisles in between the stacks of stuff, things that had probably not been touched in over thirty years and most likely more. There was the garage, which in theory was to hold two cars and have extra storage space leftover. In the garage there was Bon Papa’s Subaru Legacy and next to it was an old, green Mercedes Benz. It looked like it could have been  in one of those commercials where they compare the new Mercedes model to the fifty year-old one to show how they have advanced so much but have not lost their “classic look.” The body of the car was in great shape, but I was not sure if it could be driven. However, you probably would not even notice the car because it is hidden behind stacks of junk. There are boxes piled on top of the car as well. That was what you would usually see downstairs, but the upstairs was usually cluttered but in decent order.

Georges and I went to sleep on the second floor where we usually would stay. At about 1:30 p.m. it was time to wake up and go to visit Bonne Maman at the rehabilitation hospital.  I was excited to see her because the house in Irvington seemed very sad without her in it.


     Bonne Maman’s rehabilitation home was very luxurious and had a good view of the Hudson River. She seemed pretty happy there. She liked that she did not have to cook and clean as she usually did at the house. It was a sunny day, so we took her outside into the garden, which had lovely flowers in bloom. I thought that the rehabilitation home, while more positive than a nursing home, was still a strange and not very fun place to be.

That evening we left Irvington to go to Newark Airport. The airport is in New Jersey, but I would guess that more than ninety percent of the people who go there are really going to New York. After all, who really wants to go to New Jersey?  My father took us to the airport in the Mazda CX-9 that we rented earlier that day.


     When we got to the airport,  there were hundreds of people scurrying around. There were long lines at the check-in counter and at the security checkpoints. There were TV screens around the airport so you could check your flight’s status. There were eight large flat-screen televisions filled with flight information for flights going to Tokyo or to Johannesburg. Georges and I went through security, at which point we had to say goodbye to my father. I was nervous, but I knew I was capable of taking this extra responsibility of traveling without an adult.


     Then we decided to explore the airport. The airport was huge. It had a train in order to travel from terminal to terminal to terminal. The airport was like a shopping mall; it had stores like Brooks Brothers and Brookstone. Then after a half an our I looked at the television screen to see if our flight would be on time. To my surprise the flight had been changed to a gate in a different terminal. We would have to get to Terminal B in less than ten minutes. I had thought that we had plenty of time, goofing off right next to what was supposed to be our gate, but now Georges and I were in danger of missing our flight.

We rushed to catch the Air Train. We were lucky that we were able to get on the air train as soon as we arrived. The train was pretty fast, so we got to Terminal B in less than four minutes. We had six more minutes until our plane would leave. We briskly walked toward the gate, but our pace eventually evolved into a jog and then into a run. I looked at my watch, which said 8:47, two minutes late!  I was shocked; my heart skipped a beat, but I continued hurrying to the gate.


     I was relieved to find a long line of people trying to get on the plane, and I saw that slowly they were passing through to the jetway. Apparently there were many people like us who had had to hurry to the new gate.  


     Now the real adventure was about to begin. I was constantly touching my pocket to make sure my passport was still there. The line was moving slowly,  but I could see the door of the airplane. It was a wide-body airplane. It had two aisles and seven seats per row. Georges and I were on the left side next to the window. I was pleased to see that the plane had television screens in the back of every seat. However, the plane looked rather old. When I sat down in my seat next to Georges, I saw on the screen the Continental Airlines logo saying welcome in English, Spanish French, Italian, Japanese and Chinese. There was a safety video that mentioned that Continental Airlines has the newest jet fleet. I found this extremely hard to believe given the age of the aircraft we were sitting in. When we took off, I heard loud clunks and squeaks coming from the airplane. When the pilot opened the flaps on the wings, I heard a loud ripping noise.  


     The flight wasn’t really that bad after all. It was a six-hour flight, but I did not mind that one bit. Sitting in the plane was relaxing compared to what had been happening earlier that day. I found out later that the plane was, in fact, very old. I recognized the software on the television screens in the seats, and I remembered the same exact remote control and games from the time many years before when I would fly from Tokyo, Japan to Newark Airport.


     When I arrived in Zurich it was the early morning. The airport in Zurich seemed to be in slow-motion. The people were walking much more slowly,  and the escalators were super slow. Zurich is in the German-speaking area of Switzerland.


     Georges and I did not wander around too much, and we went almost directly to the exit where we met my aunt and uncle. Tia Maria Elena and Tio Jorge were happy to see us, and we left to go to the mountains where we would ski. However, before we left we had to stop at the market where we got some chocolates for the road. We drove away from Zurich toward Arosa. We planned on visiting Arosa, Scuol, Davos, Klosters, and Vaduz.

Arosa is a town in the mountains next to Chur. Chur is the oldest city in Switzerland. There is a cathedral that we visited in the older part of town. To get to Arosa you must either drive up a long, winding, narrow road or ride on a train that will take you up the mountains. Since we had rented a car, we went up the road. We stayed at a hotel called the Seehof. The hotel was very modern. The only strange thing was that there was only one television channel in English. The channel was BBC. I watched a lot of news that week.


     BBC has this reporter named Richard Quest. He had the most annoying voice. The G20 summit was underway. Quest’s advertisement for his show was, “I am Richard Quest, and I mean business.” Then he said, “after it is all said and done do they really know what they are doing?” He said this in a thick British accent.


     The rest of the day we explored the town and rented ski equipment for the next day’s skiing.  One of the interesting things I noticed about Arosa was that the roofs of the buildings had tall stacks of snow on them. The strange thing was that the snow was in layers. Each layer was about 1 or 2 inches thick. Some of the stacks were nearly 6 feet tall. It was a new experience to have to keep track of my stuff and to be without my parents for so long in a new country where I did not know the language.  


     The next day began with breakfast at the hotel. They had many varieties of cheese and cold meats, like ham and salami. There was also lots of delicious yogurt.

Later we left to go skiing. The mountains were beautiful. There was a huge amount of snow, especially considering that it was already spring. The snow was so bright that everyone had to wear very dark sunglasses.  


     We had a very interesting skiing instructor. Her name was Trudi and she was very mean. She was an excellent skier and an excellent teacher. So even though she was not the nicest instructor, she knew what she was talking about.


     Later that week we all went up to the highest peak. It was called the Weisshorn. From up there you could see all the jagged mountains. It was amazing to see, but it was much colder than down in Arosa.


     Every night we ate at the hotel’s restaurant where we sat at a table under a deer’s head with its long antlers. I would tired after a day of skiing and would go to sleep almost immediately, even though there was a huge jet lag.


     Over the next few days I had to take on new responsibilities to keep track of my stuff, organize it, and to wake up on time. Tia Maria Elena was very nice to us and made sure we knew what we were doing. For the rest of the week I skied the green and red (intermediate) slopes. I ate lots of interesting foods that week that I had never eaten before.


     We would now go to Scuol, which was also in the mountains. However, we were not going there to ski. In Scuol they had thermal baths. We were going to stay in a more traditional hotel, unlike the Seehof in Arosa which was more modern.


     The special thing about Scuol is the water. The town is very old and in the middle of pretty much nowhere. To get there you must drive through scenic yet narrow and curvy roads. On the way there we passed through the town of St. Moritz. St. Moritz is one of the most famous ski places in Switzerland. Bobsledding is claimed to have been invented there. St. Moritz is also known for being extremely expensive. In St. Moritz there is an airport only for private planes, and there are designer clothing stores such as Louis Vuitton and Versace.


     Scuol is more traditional. The roads are made of stone. It was interesting that there were many BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis in the streets since it did not look like there was much business going on in Scuol. In the middle of the streets are faucets for getting mineral water. There are several different waters, all of which naturally come from that area. There is a flat, regular mineral water, a bubbly mineral water, and one that has extra amount of iron in it that tastes like blood.  


     The thermal baths are unusual. Part of the pool is outside, so you can be in the water where it is cold in the water and be comfortable.

Scuol is near the borders with Italy and Austria. So one one day we went over the border into Italy. Once you get into Italy everyone speaks Italian, and the architecture is completely different. It was amazing because it was only a few miles away from where everyone spoke German.


     Then we traveled to Davos and Klosters. To get there from Scuol there was a train which you drove onto and then sat inside your car during the ride. It went right through the mountain. On the other side were Davos and Klosters.


     Davos and Klosters are right next to each other, yet the inhabitants have different mindsets. In Davos everything is modern, however in Klosters things are much more traditional. Both Davos and Klosters are famous places to go skiing.


     On our way back to Zurich we stopped in Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein is a very small country. There really is only one city in Liechtenstein, and that is Vaduz. In Vaduz there is a castle where the prince lives. We went up the hill to see the castle, and we saw the prince. It was amazing we saw him walking around his castle and sitting on the grass barefoot. There was even a McDonalds restaurant in Liechtenstein.


     It was the last night in Switzerland, so we explored Zurich, which is the largest city in Switzerland. We ate fondue which is a traditional Swiss food. Fondue is melted cheese and bread.


     It was amazing to be in Switzerland. The mountains were more beautiful than any I had ever seen before. I was sad that it was already time to leave Switzerland.


     When I returned to the Zurich airport to return to New York, I was interrogated by a rude airline employee who angrily asked questions about what we had packed in our bags and who had packed them. We flew back on the same old plane that we had arrived on. It even made the same, strange noises that it had made on the way to Switzerland.


     When we arrived back in New York, we met Bon Papa with whom we would live for a few days before we returned to Arizona.  When Bon Papa took Georges and I back to his house in Irvington, it was just as empty as when we had been there the week before. It was even more strange then last time because my father was not there. I had never lived with my Bon Papa before. It was rather sad. We had to help cook our own meals and learn how to do our own  laundry. When I asked Bon Papa if we were going to have any fun, he answered, “No fun; this is survival.” Bon Papa is one of the most ridiculous people you will ever meet. The funniest thing is that he is actually 100% serious about what he is doing. Bon Papa does things like preparing a speech for dinnertime conversations, which are mostly monologues. Bon Papa will do things such as taking four hours to get groceries or spending fifteen minutes trying to decide about how much pasta to cook. Bon Papa made doing our laundry an all-day event.


     After a few days we went back to Tucson, but I would never forget how to take care of myself. I am sure that these skills will help me later in  life.  I also know that I want to go back to Switzerland again someday.  Maybe next time my parents will be able to come too.


Comments (1)

Victoria said

at 8:59 pm on Sep 21, 2010

Very good story. Flying alone sounds fun! It was very descriptive; I liked how you let us get to know the other people, like Bon Papa and your father. I liked the Star Wars opening to your video

You don't have permission to comment on this page.