Added 3 September 2006
This page is here primarily for friends and family, and really only the masochistic ones who want all the gory details. What follows are essentially my journal entries from the time we left Tucson until when we left our hotel in Sao Paolo to meet up our friends at the airport before flying to meet up with our guide Fabricio in Belo Horizonte.
T minus 2 days: Sunday, June 4, 2006
The trip thus far, as we just now passed the seven hours to go mark, has been rather uneventful, which is just how one would want air travel to be I suppose. All of our flights have been on time, and once the air, they've all been smooth.
We did have one rather amusing situation on our flight from Tucson to Houston. We were on a small regional jet with only one flight attendant. With only one person, the voice going through the whole safety speech was pre-recorded, and the flight attendant was lip syncing the words. What made this so amusing was the fact that the voice was female and the flight attendant was male. He wasn't exactly a small guy either. I think he understood how absurd it was too, as he was kind of playing it off (very subtly) like he was gay.
So far, I have only one complaint. The seats on the international leg provide the least amount of space of I've experienced on an overseas flight. If you're on a plane for 10 hours, it's nice to have a little bit more than average space. We don't have much more room than we had on that tiny regional jet to Houston.
And now, after several interruptions, we have 6 hours and 24 minutes until we arrive in Sao Paolo.
6 hours and 19 minutes.
6 hours and 14 minutes
6 hours and 11 minutes
I hate international flights. Shan's trying to sleep (apparently with at least some success). Maybe I'll read a bit.
T minus 1 day: Monday, June 5, 2006
Early a.m., STILL on the flight to Sao Paolo. Having sat for far too many hours on the way to Sao Paolo, I decided to stand for a while, leaving Shan both of our seats to "stretch out on." Ha! Still, she was able to get some sleep as I stood in the aisle. After a while, instead of partially blocking the aisle, I moved back to one of the emergency exits and stood there for a while and worked on a poem.
When I had a working copy of the poem, I went back to see how Shan was doing. She was still sleeping, but woke up not long after I got there. We then tried various intermingled poses so we could get fairly recumbent to try to get some sleep, but none worked. We ended up just sitting upright in our own seats and drifting in and out of sleep for the rest of the flight.
Here's the poem:
Watching you sleep
on a couple of seats,
yours and mine,
lends a lightness to my
own standing sleepless stance,
happy to have this chance
to see the child-like wonder
driving you way off yonder,
spending a fitful night
on a dreadful red-eye flight.
Head nods and body sways,
barely able to stay awake.
But though I can't sleep,
I see into your dreams
of jungles and jaguars.
And I, because
it's the thing to do,
stand watch over you.
We were both really tired when we landed in Sao Paolo at around nine o'clock Monday morning. Then we got off the plane and the line to get through immigration was so long that we had to walk away from immigration to get to the end of it. There were a lot of rude people who kept cutting in on the line, so I guess people are the same everywhere. Though the line moved fairly quickly, it took over an hour to get to the customs official. We passed much of the time talking to an American businessman who often travels to Brazil.
Once through immigration, we picked up our baggage and went through customs, which was quick and painless and we were out by about 10:30. Our last big hurdle before we could rest would be finding the hotel shuttle for our hotel. We found the area that appeared to be for hotel shuttles easily, so we figured all we had to do was wait a little bit, as the shuttle arrives every hour. Shan was a bit nervous about us being in the right spot, so she asked someone if we were in the right spot for the Hotel Melia. He said we were and that it should be there soon. So we waited. After a while, Shan was really wanting to get to the hotel, so I went to find a pay phone to call the hotel. The only problem was that even though I had Brazilian coins, the payphones don't take Brazilian coins, or even bills for that matter. They only take phone cards. So I had to go to the information desk to ask about phone cards. I went to buy a phone card and the smallest amount I could get one in was R$12 (reais, pronounced hayice), or about US$6. I went to go use the phone card, but kept getting strange beeping noises that I didn't know the meaning of, so I gave up and we waited some more. During this time we saw shuttles for many other hotels come and go several times, which made the experience all the more frustrating.
It was also during this time that we discovered that people are not the same everywhere. While sitting there waiting for the bus, several very friendly Brazilians asked us what hotel shuttle we were waiting for. Each went out of his way to make sure we were waiting in the right place. Each found out that the shuttle should be arriving soon. One, who's name (if I heard right) was Gilbert, was extremely helpful, and even used his own calling card to call our hotel to ask when the shuttle would be there. They said it had been there, but that another would come in 15-20 minutes. Not knowing how we'd missed it, since we'd been sitting there for 90 minutes by that point, we decided to wait another 20 minutes.
At the end of those 20 minutes, still no shuttle for our hotel, so after waiting for about 2 hours total, we finally gave up and hired a taxi for $30R. The taxi ride took all of about 15 minutes. I was so happy to have gotten Shan to the hotel that I tipped the driver $10R, quite a bit more than would be usual based on a guide book.
In retrospect, I should have just gotten a taxi right away. Due to lack of sleep, Shan was extremely tired, which is never a good thing. She handled it very well at the time, but the experience took its toll on both of us later. When we got to our room, and Shan discovered that there wasn't a bathtub, she lost it. She had been so looking forward to a bath and a nap that they were the last things keeping her together. I tried to soothe her, then called the front desk to see if they had a room with a bathtub. This turned into a comical situation, as I got transferred to several people, including housekeeping, trying to find someone who knew what "bathtub" meant.
As we would find out later, bathtubs are very rare in Brazil, as no hotels seem to have them and our guide didn't even know what a bathtub is. So needless to say, Shan didn't get her bathtub. The only thing that helped make the situation a little better was that at least the water was hot. So she had a long hot shower. And I do mean long! I know, because I gave her first dibs so had to wait for her to get done. Thought the shower at right is later in the trip, it is typical of what we would find throughout the country. Most showers are the heat-at-the-shower-head type. Some were pretty nice, but others required you to turn the flow way down to get hot water. Fine for me, not for Shan. Others were borderline deadly, with bare wires hanging out. Bare wires in a shower . . . A little more thought needs to go into this . . .
Add to all of this that the lariam medication she was taking was making her moody, and you can bet there was hell to pay. And pay hell I did, or at least visit it for a little while.
Shan had really hoped to do a little shopping our first night, since we would have some time. Since it took so long to get to the hotel, she decided to skip the nap and try to go shopping, and find a nice Brazilian restaurant to have dinner at. She asked the hotel staff about both, and was told that the International Mall was a great place to go. So they called us a taxi to take us there. The taxi is where thing really started to go down hill fast. As we were driving away, we discovered that there weren't any seatbelts. Shan is a stickler for using seatbelts, and wasn't happy. Just how unhappy, I wouldn't realize until we were quite some distance from the hotel and it was too late. I'll make a long story short, and just say that I was in BIG trouble for not stopping the taxi and finding another one. The combination of the lack of sleep, the lack of a bath, and the emotional side effects of the Lariam made her totally breakdown in the cab, and then again middle of International Mall.
What was comical was that International Mall was just a regular old shopping mall like you can find in the U.S. And all of the restaurants there were chains. They were almost entirely Brazilian chain restaurants, but they were chains nonetheless. We wandered around a bit in hopes of finding someplace unique, but we failed. We did end up finding some Brazilian food at a buffet style restaurant, but in general it was pretty mediocre, and there was a lot of stuff that we tried that remained on the plate. The only thing good that came out of the whole experience is that there was a "hipermarket" (supermarket) where we got some water. When we got a taxi to return to the hotel, I made damn sure it had seatbelts before we started out.
Back at the hotel, we got our gear reorganized for our in-country travels and went to bed for some much needed sleep. Then at around midnight, Shan woke me up because she wanted to talk about the whole seatbelt thing again. This time, at least, it in a more rational manner, and everything was alright by the end. It took me a while to get back to sleep, but eventually I did. Still, the alarm came way too early that morning, as we had to catch a 7:00 a.m. shuttle back to the airport for our flight to Belo Horizonte (pronounced Belo Horizonch) and the start of our tour.