Tag Archives: Brazil

Quick notes / thoughts on Countries – Brazil

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Notes from Brazil:

  • TAM Airlines is amazing. Go for it. I mean seriously… free blankets and pillows and headphones and candy, and even actual meals!
  • Every country has guido frat boys. I got stuck on an airplane with them. Fist-pumping and yelling upon takeoff, landing, turbulence, and… well, every 5min it seemed. I now understand why guns can’t be brought on airplanes: I would have GLADLY decompressed the cabin to get those guys to stop yelling and let me sleep.
  • Pro-tip Brazil: when you have a language selector on your site? Set it to more than just Portuguese please. I can’t give you money in exchange for WiFi access if I can’t read the damn website / registration screen.
  • Fuck Brazil. Fuck Sao Paulo Airport, and most importantly? FUCK LAN AIRLINES! TAM = ok, LAN = the devil. See “My life in an Airport” for details on this one. 
  • Do not fly through Sao Paulo airport – if the bullet above this didn’t show this enough… its bad.  While the airport itself isn’t completely horrific, the people there are not helpful (with the exception of a few Federal Police officers) and actively malicious (I met three guys on layover, trying to get their connecting flight, who were being deported by the airline.  Deported for pretty much no reason besides it seemed funny at the time).
  • Reason #2 for not flying through Sao Paulo?  They put a skyscraper near the end of the runway.  From what I hear its not THAT strange for airplanes to clip or barely miss the building.

My life in an airport: Day 3

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While I was able to get to sleep almost instantly, I woke up just as quickly. I had been asleep less than 20min, and was completely unable to get myself to go back under. Every way I turned hurt, and the floor itself was sucking the warmth out of my body as bad as if I was sleeping on an iceberg. It was 12:30 already, and thus a new Orbital guard had appeared to take over the early shift; so I figured that he may be able to help me out with some blankets and such. Ha.

“Hi, its extremely cold in there, could I have a blanket please” ← Me, in nearly-perfect Portuguese… Thanks Danielle for helping me translate!

“No, I’m not cold. Its warm. Its hot. No blanket.”

This conversation repeats itself a few times, with him finally giving up and just yelling “HOT HOT HOT” at me in Spanish. Seriously… a 50+ year old dude was just yelling “hot” at me. To add a barb to his stupidity, about 5min after he finally stopped yelling he shivered, got up, and put on his jacket and hat to warm himself up. I looked at him with a “Really?” look, and he flipped me off. Yeah… mature.

After another hour of trying to sleep, I give up. Screw this, I don’t care about immature old dudes, I need a damn blanket. I double-check how to ask for blankets and pillows in Portuguese, pack up my bags, and walk up to the guard. The conversation went just about the same, and so I pull out my notebook and ask for his name, saying that I’m going to the Policia. THAT scared him something fierce, and so he asked me to come to the hotel, so that he could have someone translate for us. I go, and with the help of the concierge we decide that the guard will call for blankets, and if no one brings them within the hour then we’ll call the Policia to ask them for blankets, since it appears that they’re the ones who actually run the airport. Yay governments running everything!

Zero hour: 1:40. I had been reading, so I get up and head outside to talk to the guard. On my way to see him I run into a Reggae band from Jamaica who’s waiting for their flight. We end up hanging out and chatting for about 20min before I finally break through and talk to the guard.

“Its been an hour, can we call now?”

“No.”

“Umm… why? You agreed that we would”

“No… No. I don’t want to”

Ok, fine. Prick, I’ll do it myself. I walk towards the security checkpoint, and the guard watches me, looking confused. When he finally realizes that I’m leaving, he freaks out, runs after me and says that he’ll call them himself. He calls, and talks on the phone for a bit before hanging up and telling me that they’ll be here in about 15min. I’m a little skeptical, since it didn’t sound like he was actually talking to the Policia Federal on the phone (from my weak knowledge of Portuguese), but I held out hope that he wasn’t dicking with me. However, when 30min had gone by without anyone showing up, and without him looking one bit surprised by this fact, I started to get a bit annoyed.

I called him out on the fact that the Policia were late, and he didn’t even argue, saying that he’ll just call again soon. 15Min pass without him calling, so I ask AGAIN. “In a minute”. After another 15min I’m reading my kindle, relaxing and trying to calm down and accept that he won’t call. “Wait. No. Why am I accepting this crap?” My brain asks me. “Why, Mr. Brain, I don’t know! Thats a good point!”

I put away my book and get up in a fury, finally realizing how much of a liar and scumbag the guard has been. I mean, I can understand people doing whats best for themselves and not really caring about others, but seriously? This guy wasn’t helping himself, he was simple going out of his way to hurt me. He didn’t have other work to do or anything either; this whole time he was sitting and daydreaming, maybe staring off into space or working on his sudoku puzzle.

“Hablo Policia, o Voy a Policia.” I tell him. (Its spanish, for “speak to police, or go to police”)

“No… no”

“Yes. NOW. Hablo o Voy?”

At this point the guard is looking rather concerned, and one of the Jamaican guys asks me whats up. I explain the situation, and it turns out that they want in on the blankets. They were supposed to have reservations at the hotel, but no one booked the actual reservations and they’re stuck in the same area as me for a 17 hour layover. It stinks for them, but it gives me great allies against the guard. You should have seen how terrified the guard was when he realized that I wasn’t alone anymore, and the 10 scary black guys standing around his desk also wanted blankets. Haha… win.

One of the band members comes with me, and all three of us walk down to the policia station, though the guard drags his heels rather impressively, trying to keep us walking slowly. I honestly don’t care though, so by the time I get to the police station the guard is nearly 30feet behind us, looking forlorn. I wait around for one of the officers to finish with what their doing (helping out the passport officials), and it turns out that this guy speaks near-perfect English. I write down his name (Firmino), and we talk about my problem. He’s already heard my basic situation, and he asks me to explain what I’d like. I tell him the situation in about 5 sentences, at which point the guard finally catches up to us and starts word-vomiting all over the officer.

After 10min or so of the guard blathering non-stop at the Policia officer, the officer finally gives up and tells the guard to shut up (literally “ferme la boca”, or “shut your mouth”) and goes back to talking to me. He says that the Policia don’t have any blankets, but that we’ll go up and he’ll try to get the hotel to let me stay that night. Or if they can’t, to at least give me some basic provisions. Sweet….

Unfortunately the hotel is booked solid, and their completely unwilling to sell me blankets or pillows or anything. Totally surprising, mmhmm… <sarcasm> But in keeping with the “actually a good human being, unlike everyone else”, the Policia has me write down his name, and tells me to come see him if anything else goes wrong or if he can help at all. He had a 48 hour shift (seriously, its freaking insane), so he said he’d be around for a while. On top of that he recommended looking into legal action against LAN, since they were CLEARLY failing in their required duties to me. Ha, I like this guy a lot. He headed out, but not before reminding me to get in touch with him again around 10:00, since that was when the hotel said they’d have opening again. He also said that, if I could get LAN to bring my bags to him in the security area, he’d let me grab whatever I needed from my luggage (I’d have to pass it through security though, of course). Damn. Win.

I headed back to the holding tank empty-handed, but happy that I had finally gotten something done. I felt bad that I hadn’t been able to help the Jamaican guys, but they seemed to be doing pretty well. Especially since they knew that they were only going to be there for a few hours. I spent a few hours reading and watching my copy of “Into the Wild”; usually a really good movie, but in this case it was a bit tough to watch a story about a guy adventuring across the country… seeing as I was trying to do the same, but happened to be trapped in a tiny room at the time. Around 4:00 I finished up as much of the movie as I could watch, and layed down to try for some more sleep.

Fourty five minutes later I woke up, sure that I had died and gone to hell. I’ve always had troubles with neck pains… usually small aches that could be remedied by stretching or a light massage from a lady friend. Not this time though; when I woke up all I could feel was a blazing line of heat running from just behind my left eye all the way down to my jawbone. I couldn’t think, and was barely able to walk outside to ask for some aspirin. No one had any, of course, so I paced around the area trying to stretch the muscles out and relieve a bit of the pain. After about half an hour of stretching I gave up and sat down, working through some of the mental meditations that I had learned from random hippie friends. This worked a bit, but it took me nearly three hours to finally come back down to a nearly-sane level of pain… mostly thanks to one of the Jamaican guys giving me some of his stress medication (just a small-dosage aspirin really, from the ingredients).

Any thoughts of sleep were completely removed from my mind after this interlude, and so I watched the rest of “Into the Wild” and finished another one of my books, simply playing the waiting game. At this point I had two main goals for the day: Talk to the Consulate exactly at 8:00 when they opened, and convince LAN to bring my luggage to the security checkpoint. I actually waited until 8:02 to call the consulate (very polite of me, I think), and started getting shit done as soon as I was off the phone with them. They were sending a runner to the airport to meet some dignitary, and so he would bring me the forms I needed to get a temporary passport,as well as bring them back to the Consulate. Once the consulate had them it would only take half an hour or so to process the new passport, and then they’d bring it back to me at the airport. The whole ordeal would take around seven or eight hours, in theory, since driving to and from the airport took nearly three hours.

Everything went smoothly today, and it honestly was starting to seem like my earlier neck pain was simply a Karmic-balance for the perfection of the rest of the days activities. I had my passport pictures taken by the Jamaican guys, emailed them to the Consulate, and filled out the forms in person. I was even able to get LAN to bring my luggage to the checkpoint (with HUGE amounts of convincing, of course. I finally just told them to do it and stop whining, unless they’d prefer that I have the Policia tell them IN PERSON that it was ok), and was able to get my air mattress up into the room. As soon as I had the mattress inflated I was laying down to the best sleep I’d had in days.

It didn’t last though, and within the hour (seriously, in 72 hours I got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep) I was woken up by one of the LAN guys poking his head into the room and screaming my name. Freaking Banshee, I swear. So I dragged myself awake and stumbled outside where he quickly barraged me with questions and asked me for a credit card. What the fuck. Seriously? Yeah, he tried the old “jump the guy when he can’t think” trick. Nope. Denied. I told him to hold up, shook the cobwebs out of my brain, took a few sips of a soda I had left over, and then asked him to slowly repeat what he wanted.

Turns out that the Consulate had called saying my passport was ready, and LAN wanted to go and pick it up for me. Normally, that would be nice. But with them, I doubt they would have given it back. On top of that, he wanted me to pay for the driver, a total of $200 USD. So I called up the consulate to double-check this all with them… they told me that LAN had called them, not the other way around, and that LAN had said the driver would be on the house, as a courtesy to me. Ha. Lying cheating bastards. I asked if the consulate could send someone (I would pay, of course), and the duty officer told me that they’d send someone right away, and that I wouldn’t have to pay a dime. The only downside would be that it’d take a few hours. Fine by me, the earliest flight back to the states didn’t leave for another ten hours.

Boom, so now I have a passport, though its not in my hands it is on the way. I actually trust the consulate when they tell me something (unlike LAN), and so I set about getting my flights in order. Turns out a same-day trans-continental flight isn’t cheap (wow, I didn’t expect that!), but I was able to find a semi-cheap flight on American Airlines that went direct from Sao Paulo to Miami, and from Miami to Boston. And since I wouldn’t be able to continue my South American tour (more on that later), I was able to defray some of the cost by canceling a few of my other tickets.

All of this booking took me nearly two hours, so I had just enough time to settle in with a book for a chapter or two before the Consulate’s runner showed up with my passport. He was a cool guy, not one of the ones I had met before, and he let me know a few other little facts about the temporary passport that I didn’t already know. After we chatted he headed out, and LAN came over to talk to me about booking a new flight. They told me all about their amazing flights to the USA, and how they would lower the cost for me by $500 because of all this trouble (I later realized they planned on refunding the tickets I had already canceled. The tickets worth $700). I chuckled, and politely informed them that I would NOT be flying with them again, since <insert some BS excuse about airline miles here>.

The rest of the day went slowly, but inoxerably, forward towards my departure. I relaxed, but couldn’t actually sleep at all due to the exceitement of finally going home, and the adventure of finally being able to explore the airport. Not that there was much to explore, but still. Leave a cat in a cage for long enough, and a cardboard box will seem like a palace. A few of my adventures that day –

  • Met a really cool German couple; Jessy and Pepe. Or father and daughter? Not sure. I only think couple because when I walked up to chat, the girl vomited a whole line about how she has a boyfriend and doesn’t want to be flirted with. I laughed at her, told her my story, and we shot the shit about life and the universe for a while.I guess their emmegrating from Germany to Paraguay due to the political climate of Germany, supposedly taxes reach 70% when you take everything into account, and their just sick of insane politicians taking over. Rough, but I really cant imagine Paraguay being better. Anyways, we hung out for an hour or so talking about Europe, The States, South America, and everything in between. Really a fun time, I’ll admit. And Jessy… Damn. That girl is good looking. Pepe’s a lucky guy 🙂
  • I hung out with some Bangladeshi guys, and tried to help them stave off deportation. Yep, thats right. Deportation. Not because they were illegals in Brazil, but that they were traveling through Sao Paulo to Jamaica, through Panama. Are you confused? Good, because I was too. The story is as follows:Guys fly from Bangladesh to Sao Paulo. Fly to Panama. Panama sends them back to Sao Paulo because they had a 72 hour layover, which isn’t allowed. So in Sao Paulo, the airline confiscated their passports, until the guys could buy new tickets. For some reason. Well, they bought new tickets for the day after, and showed the Brazilians the confirmation numbers. Instead of returning their passports, the AIRLINE decided to start the government documentation to deport them. Seriously. WTF.So I tried to help them out, but unfortunately their kind of pushovers, and kind of whiny… they didn’t want to contact their consulate because they thought “consulate” meant “run by Brazil, not Bangladesh”, and thus didn’t trust them. I finally gave up after a few hours, and went my own way “to find lunch”.

My flight finally arrived, and I was first in line to board. I made sure to check in early, just to head-off any problems that may have arisen with my tickets. This turned out to be a VERY intelligent decision, because as it turns out, everything had gone wrong. Again. First off, my tickets weren’t confirmed, just reserved, because my credit card hadn’t gone through. So I called Schwab, and it turned out that there was a cap on purchases on the card: $500, vs the $2180 that the ticket cost. So they removed it, and tried again, and declined again. After five more tries and five more theoretical solutions, we found the problem: the airline wasn’t running it as a PURCHASE, they were running it as an ATM transaction. What. But so we fixed it, and moved onto the next problem: My baggage.

Turns out, again totally unexpectedly, LAN had not actually transferred my bags to American when they said they had. Nope, they just locked my stuff up in their office and went home instead. Thankfully American Airlines is awesome, and they were able to work everthing through, and after about an hour of fighting they were able to get my bags onto the plane. Of course, by that point my flight had come and gone, but since they were working with me the stewardesses actually pushed through a flight-change for me and moved me to a later flight. Nice. I like them. I finally boarded the flight, sat down, and prepared myself to get my first real sleep since arriving in Sao Paulo.

I didn’t sleep much, of course, but the flights to Boston went very well and quite quickly. From Sao Paulo to Miami I slept, ate (They served a rather nice meal), and chatted with the girl next to me. A Brazilian national, she’d been living in Detroit for a few years now and had just finished a little visit with her family. We talked and complained about Brazil and the world in general, and I did my best to help her ignore the upset stomach that she was wrestling with at the time. We stayed together through customs and into the next terminal, finding out that our flights outbound from Miami were docked right next to each other. By the time I boarded my plane to Boston we had shared nearly our entire life stories, and I was a bit sad to see her go, though we exchanged emails and I’m sure we’ll keep in touch.

<Sigh> the flight to Boston. Amazing, but soul-crushingly depressing at the same time. I had been gone barely more than a week, and here I was flying back home already. I slept fitfully for the entire flight (as much as I could, being wedged between a fat dude and a body-builder), got my gear when I landed, and slowly made my way back to Medway. From here? A new passport awaits, and a flight to New Zealand late in November. Other than that? We’ll see.

My life in an Airport: Day 2

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All in all I got about 45min of sleep, MAYBE one fully hour, before I gave up and started looking up plane tickets out of Sao Paulo. I had tried to find a way to sleep, but the fact remained that no matter where I tossed or how I turned, the only place to sleep in the room was on the cement floor… and cement is not a warm thing to sleep on. Needless to say, the Brazilian warmth didn’t do much to alleviate the cold, and the fact that I was dressed for Argentinian weather didn’t help much either. So I spent most of the evening with my jacket draped over my shorts, working with my laptop and charger on my lap keeping me rather toasty, if un-rested

I wasn’t able to find anything too usable (since I still didn’t have a passport I had switched to looking up advice on what to do in this situation), but luckily the internet kept me occupied enough that 6:00 rolled around fairly quickly. See, 6:00 was when the LAN folks had told me that they would come meet me, and we’d finish setting up my flights back to Boston, and I had believed them for some unknowable reason. Well, keeping with tradition (and acting as a harbinger for things to come) 8:00 rolled around with no word, and before I knew it 9:00 was knocking at the door while I was left wondering where LAN was, and more importantly when I would be able to get food. See, I hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday, and I couldn’t just go get food since the guard wouldn’t leave my side. I did chow down on the oatmeal cookie that I had kept in my bag (thank you David Siegfried’s old army rations!), but an single Oatmeal cookie, while amazingly tasty, can only keep a stomach happy for so long.

After 9:00 had come and gone the Security guard took pity on me and said that she’d escort me down to the food court so that I could buy myself a sandwich for breakfast. On the walk down we actually started to get rather chummy, even with the language barrier of her speaking only Portuguese, and my tiny bit of Spanish being only so helpful in this situation. Unfortunately my delicious breakfast was not to be, since when we arrived back at the Orbital area I realized that the croissant I had bought was… undercooked, to say the least. The nicest way to describe it was “amorphously chewy”, but honestly it was just an uncooked lump of salty bread dough. I ate the cooked edges of it, as well as a lot of the semi-cooked portions, but mostly just contented myself that it was enough to keep me rolling until lunch finally rolled around.

Around 11:00 the guard and I decide that enough is enough; 5 hours late is not acceptable. She dials LAN on her special security phone (again, I don’t think to ask what the number is so that I could call myself), and I finally get to talk to someone from LAN. She gives me a nice little run-around, and I start to loose my cool a little bit, I have to admit. She keeps telling me to keep waiting, and that their not going to return my ID, since they need it for these security checks they’ve been doing. I finally threaten to go to the Policia Federal if she won’t give me my ID back, at which point she tells me, in her words, “Oops, we’re really busy now. Can’t help you anymore. Call back for the next shift at 1:00”. And hangs up. Seriously.

Unfortunately I didn’t call her bluff by going to the Policia, and just layed back with my book and laptop until about 1:30. When I do finally hear from them around 1:40 (after I called twice, they never called back like they promised to. Noticing a theme here?) the guy on the line is very apologetic about the woman before, and tells me that their setting up a flight for me to San Francisco through Lima, and that it will likely be later that evening, and that they just need my ID to ensure that I’ll be able to enter the states once I land. He actually comes by at 2:00 so that we can chat face-to-face, but of course nothing real comes from the conversation besides him telling me that they’ll call the US Embassy to double-check my citizenship.

Around 3:00 I call the embassy myself to double-check that they were open to calls, and to make sure that LAN had actually called them up. I got through to the Duty officer (even though the Consulate was closed for the day they were still taking calls) and him and I chatted a bit about my situation, but from what he said LAN hadn’t gotten through to them yet. So I called LAN back, with the help of the security guard, and double-checked the number that they were calling. I even told LAN the correct series of numbers to enter to get directly through to the duty officer on staff. I waited about 45min and then called the Consulate back, hoping to hear that they had talked to LAN and that everything was set. They still hadn’t heard from anyone at LAN, and from what their phones were saying, not a single call had come through besides mine. I was finally starting to think that something was up when I called LAN back, and and he said that he’d come up to talk with me, since he hadn’t been able to get through to the Consulate’s office.

<sigh>… it figures that it would be exactly 4:20 when LAN’s screen of lies finally fell apart. At 4:00 LAN had said that they’d be up to meet me in 5min, so when I called back at 4:20 to ask where they were, the guard initially didn’t want to let me call. When she realized it had been 20min however, she looked as annoyed as I was and called them right up. I asked why they hadn’t come up, and this was the conversation (paraphrased, since it swapped between English, Spanish, and Portuguese)

Me – “Hi, its been 20min, are you going to be here soon?”

LAN guy – “No, we’re not coming because the consulate is closed and we couldn’t get through to them”

“No… their definitely open, I was just on the phone with them. Maybe I gave you the wrong number, can I check it and give it to you again?”

“No, no. Their closed. But it doesn’t matter anyways, since you don’t even have a ticket to fly out”

“Umm… what? When we talked at 2:00 you said that you had a ticket ready for me. What happened?”

“No, no. We never had a ticket. You have to buy your own”

In my mind – WHAT? Seriously? By basic international airflight law, if an airline brings someone to a country they are then responsible for that person if said person isn’t admitted into the country. If the person isn’t admitted, the airline has to fly them back to their home country. This was instituted to cut down on illegal immigrants and refugee’s, since it forces the airlines to check passports and visas before a flight leaves.

“So, you’re not providing me with a ticket? I thought we had discussed this earlier today and last night, what happened? Was I mistaken?”

“Yes, yes. You have to buy a ticket back to the USA with LAN airlines.”

“Ok. Then you don’t need my ID anymore. Can I have it back?”

“No, no… we need it. No.”

“Yes. I want it back. Where and when will we meet for you to give it back to me?”

“No… no.”

“YES. NOW. Where and when? Would you like to meet at the Policia Federal’s desk?”

“Ok, we meet in an hour. I’ll come find you.”

“No, where will I meet you?”

“I find you”

“NO! WHERE?”

“Gate 16, at 5:30”

“Ok, thank you very much, I’ll see you then.”

In my mind – Mmhmm… better believe it, you little shit. Stop messing with me, I am so over this little game you seem to enjoy playing.

Right here, this single conversation, is where this entire situation turned around for me. I finally realized that they were NOT interested in helping me, and were actually actively trying to screw me over. I stopped taking anyone at their word, and forced everyone to work on a pre-planned schedule. I even smartened up and finally started taking down names and phone numbers in my little notebook. That simple thing, the notebook, seemed to scare these people as much as the hand of God itself. And I used that fear every chance I could get.

So 4:50 rolled around, I grabbed my bag and headed over. I didn’t even wait for the security guard to come with me or give me permission, I just walked. Turns out I didn’t even need to get up, because before I had even left the main Orbital area the LAN people appeared, hollering out my name. Turns out they didn’t want to wait till 5:30, and had brought my ID with them. Of course, they didn’t have any of my other documents (including my baggage claim number and my flight information), saying that they had thrown it out after deciding they didn’t need it. Yet another example of their complete douchery.

I did remember to write down their names this time though, and started asking them about my baggage (since access to my sleeping pad would make this hellish concrete-room much more comfortable). They couldn’t help me of course, though I did file the idea away for later conversations with the Policia, since they would be the ones who would let me bring items through security from checked bags. From this point on the night thankfully went rather quickly; I met the new security guard when the shift changed, named Denis, and tried to get him on my side. It worked a bit, in that we hung out and had a fairly good time, but he didn’t actually work to help me out at all in terms of blankets or pillows or anything. Even though I totally helped him chat up a hot girl from Miami. Stupid Brazilian Guidos (Seriously, this guy could have been “the situations” twin off the Jersey Shore). I also tried to get a room in the transit-hotel, but they needed a passport and boarding ticket in order to reserve a room, for some pants-on-head-retarded reason, and thus all I was able to get was a second-rate massage at one of the little parlors in the terminal area. The massage was ok, it mostly just served to relieve some of the pain from sleeping on the floor, but the real bonus was the shower that I got to take… DAMN that shower felt good after nearly 36 hours crammed into a tiny room!

The rest of the night went pretty quickly, and I actually had a fair amount of fun even with the horrible situation I was in. Denis (the guard), a guy from Turkish Airlines and I headed to the Bar and had a few drinks, exploring Brazils selection of whiskey and rum. I was hoping that the booze would help me sleep that night, and when I finally spread myself out on the floor that night it seemed like the idea held true: I was out like a light within half an hour of laying down.