Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 1: The long and gruelling journey

Yesterday evening at 8:00 PM local time,  I left my house in Toronto.  I was feeling pretty good about myself;  I'd left barely anything to the last minute, and had spent the day cuddling with my boyfriend and taking my little brother out for lunch.  I was certain everything would go smoothly.

We got to the airport at 8:40, nearly 3 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave.  Immediately, the problems started.  The flight was delayed.  I hadn't brought my printed itinerary.  My single suitcase was just slightly above the weight limit.  I dealt with the first few problems relatively calmly.  Removing weight was easy,  I'd brought 7 lbs worth of Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks I wasn't sure I'd use, so I gave those back to my boyfriend to take back home.  The delay would just mean more time to say goodbye. 

I wasn't too worried about the lack of itinerary, so I walked up to the counter with my Brazilian passport.  At first, the guy couldn't find my name.  Then, he found my name, but it did not have a reserved itinerary, so he couldn't issue me a boarding pass.  He told us to call Expedia, and get them to fix my reservation.  As I started panicking, my mom called home to my dad, who contacted Expedia.  Or rather, he contacted their hold line, where he got to listen to bad music and advertisements for 45 minutes before getting a busy signal and getting disconnected.  He tried again.  The agents at the check-in counter started leaving. 

Another hour went by.  My mom decided to try to buy me another ticket directly through Air Canada (figuring she'd take it up with Expedia later).  Dad finally got through to Expedia, who denied all responsibility.  He convinced them to contact Air Canada, and was put back on hold.  The check-in counter was only going to be open another 30 minutes, despite the airplane being delayed.  Finally, somebody fixed the problem (we're still unclear who). 

I got a boarding pass and rushed through check-in, screening, and across the terminal to my gate.  Panting,  I arrived at the boarding counter to find that the plane had been again delayed, and was not yet at the gate.  I went to take a seat, and found one of my classmates, Fernando,  already seated.  Turns out he was on the same flight, travelling to São Paulo to visit family for a couple weeks.  I chatted with him and his mother for an hour as the airplane arrived.

We boarded, and I was excited to find individual touch-screens for all passengers.  My excitement was quickly followed by dread, as I felt my legs start to ache from the uncomfortable seats.  They didn't even noticeably lie back, and I'd forgotten to bring along sleeping pills.  I yearned for the relative luxury of my bi-weekly Greyhound bus rides.  The flight attendants brought around dinner.  Because of the screwup with my ticket, I did not receive the veggie meal I had requested.  I picked around the meaty sauce on my pasta,  finally giving up, still hungry.  I tried to sleep, and got about 2 hours of very interrupted, very uncomfortable sleep.

We touched down in São Paulo at 11:05 this morning, only 25 minutes behind schedule.  I rushed through customs and baggage claims.  I was so relieved to find my aunt waiting for me, smiling.  We paid her parking, and I acquired cash.  I was happy to discover that my debit card works equally well in Brazil as in Canada, although it is slightly more expensive to use. 

We walked out to the parking lot to find that my aunt had misplaced her car.  She ran around the lot, confused and panicked, before realizing that she'd parked in another lot slightly further away.  We drove back to her condo in Moema (an hour drive from the airport), and chatted about Brazil's changing society and laws as she fielded calls on her two cellphones.  I was terrified as she at one point answered both at once, and navigated Brazilian traffic at the same time.  Later, she mentioned that Brazil was tightening road safety laws, and I hesitantly mentioned that Canada had recently banned handheld cellphones in cars.  Turns out they're illegal in Brazil, too, which was slightly reassuring, although clearly, this law isn't universally followed :P

I had lunch with the family, as they detailed their plans for the weekend.  Tomorrow, we are heading out to Sertãozinho, 2 hours away, to visit some other cousins, and staying overnight.  My aunt is arranging my accomodations in Alphaville, and dropping me off there on Sunday.  Monday morning I start work.

So far, life in Brazil is fun, if extremely busy.