Sunday, April 5, 2020

Goodbye, Brazil! The Joys of Modern Air Travel – Curitiba, Brazil to Los Angeles, California – 2 June 2018

2 June 2018 – Well, my rapture date is upon me and it feels odd. I’m going down to the restaurant for the 11th time for breakfast. The ladies that work there pretty much know me even though we never speak. I usually get that look that says “are you still here?” I get the feeling they think I’m stuck or have a problem where I can’t leave. They were actually quite correct till today. I’m leaving today. I gave the restaurant a quick look before I walked out the door. It fed me eleven good meals. Thank you, ladies and restaurant for your service to me. I had some time to kill and few more pictures to take. I stopped at the front desk before going to my room and asked about a taxi service to the airport. The receptionist explained how it all worked and I told her I would get in touch with her when I was ready to leave. 

Ever since I left the restaurant it has been a misting to a light rain. So, on the way over to the square I kept close to the building trying to stay out of the rain. I took several pictures and tried my best to keep the rain drops off my camera. I did get two nice pictures so I was happy. On the back side of the hotel there are two large concrete statues in “Square Nineteenth of December.”    Possibly 30 Feet / 9 Meters tall. It was a man standing and a woman sitting. I wanted to get their pictures. I think that park or that day has some huge significance related to labor issues in Brazil. I could be wrong, so don’t kill me if I am. Other than that, I don’t know anything about the Square. 

I went back to the hotel and prepared all my bags to leave, checked the room that I didn’t leave anything behind and got my AeroStitch riding jacket ready to fly. I cleaned everything out of my pants pockets to have no problems with Airport Security. So, I was ready for the Afonso Pena International Airport. I waited in my room till after 12:00 p.m. At 12:00 p.m. I re-inspected my room to make sure I didn’t leave anything behind. Everything was good……….so I grabbed my bags and coat and said goodbye to this room. I went downstairs and checked out of the hotel. I then asked the receptionist to call for a taxi for me. I got the correct amount of Brasilian Real from the receptionist for the taxi. I didn’t want any money issues when I got to the airport. I thanked her for all her help and she apologized for Brazil because of the trucker strike and some other idiosyncrasies which caused delays for me. It was nice of her to say that and I wanted to say something back but just didn’t have the words. 

I moved my bags out of hotel, getting them nearer the taxi pick-up area. I kept them under the walkway because it was still raining. In less than 5 minutes the taxi was there. I asked about the price of the taxi and he told me the price. I had enough money so I was good to go. It rained all the way to the airport and when I got there, I paid the taxi driver first. He then jumped out of car and helped me with my bags. I found a cart that I could load my bags onto and push them into the airport.
I’m back on my own again, in a strange place and I need to retrieve my airline ticket. American Airlines would like everyone to check in through a kiosk. Well guess what, it was all in Portuguese. I saw that coming. The American Airlines lady working with the kiosks was mad at me because I didn’t know how to use the kiosks and refused to help me. Now, getting on my airplane turns into a thinking game. I walk around pushing my cart till I think I’m in the right spot and get in line. The line was 30 Feet / 10 Meters long. I get in line and wait my turn. I get up to the ticket counter and hand all my paperwork to the lady. She sees it and is instantly mad. You can always tell. The tone of the voice instantly changes. She did not like me. Whatever the issues were she and I had to worked through them. I personally didn’t know what the issues were but something was wrong. I just knew she was very pissed. I received my ticket to Sao Paulo, Brazil and all my bags where checked into the belly of the airplane. Whew, that’s over with. I parked my luggage cart where a group of them were randomly parked.

I set about finding the gate where I was leaving from. But first, I had to get through airport security. I removed every piece of metal from my pockets, good luck charms and watch etc.etc. There was no metal on me when I walked through the security arch. I got through without anything ringing off. My laptop, motorcycle paperwork, shoes, wallet, coins and riding jacket all got through without a problem. I felt lucky today. I put myself back together and started hiking in the direction I thought my gate was in. I’m keeping my eye open for some bottled water. I’m sweating profusely and I need to re-hydrate. I finally found my gate……it was sort of off by itself. I found a seat to set near the gate and parked until my flight was ready to depart. I eventually did find a bottle of water to quench my thirst. 

I was going to work on my blog while I was waiting but I had writer's block. My brain was not in the typing mood. I was thinking about all the different experiences I had, the difficulties I had to work my way through, and the people I had met. I was thinking about James Sr., Elis and James Jr. and how much help they provided me in shipping my motorcycle out of Brazil. I owe them a lot of thanks. 

Four o’clock eventually came around and I embarked on the plane and left. We landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil and I immediately sought out my next gate. It wasn’t that big of a deal, my flight to Los Angeles, California didn’t leave till 10:30 p.m. I had to touch base with another ticket counter. I needed some kind of an update on my plane ticket to Los Angeles. I wasn’t the only person, there were others. I stopped by the ticket counter and they updated my boarding pass. So off to find my gate. 

As I’m walking the different concourses, I spot a hamburger joint. I continued walking until I found my gate. I then walked back to the fast food restaurant and ordered a hamburger, fries and a drink. My server spoke English so the ordering process was not so painful. The hamburger was really good but there was no improvement on the crumbling bun situation. So, the hamburger / hamburguesa eating gets a little messy. Now I'm headed to my gate, where a Flight Information Display System is located. So far, my Flight Number 0216 has not come up on the display. I have time to walk around and take the 50 cent tour. 

As I was walking around, I was going to stop and exchange my left over Brasilian Real into US Dollars. I approached the Currency Exchange Kiosk and told them I had about 50 Dollars in Brasilian Real and would like to exchange it for US Dollars. He showed me the exchange rate and transaction fee and I almost threw up. Before I approached the Currency Exchange Kiosk, I calculated the value of my Brasilian Real. I knew what the exchange rate was and knew roughly how many Dollars I should receive. I also know there is a transaction fee involved but had I accepted his exchange rate I would have gotten about $30.00 Dollars for my $225 Brasilian Real, which should be worth $50 US Dollars. I would have given this Currency Exchange Kiosk 35 to 40 per cent of my money for free. Can you believe that? What a racket. I told the guy behind the glass that his exchange rate is extortion, and if he lived in the United States he would go to jail. I will bring all that money back to the U.S. and exchange it somewhere in the Los Angeles, California area.

I went and sat back down by the Flight Information Display waiting for Flight 0216 to Los Angeles to pop up on the screen. While I was waiting, I checked on my motorcycle status. I see it has departed Bogata, Columbia and was presently in flight to Los Angeles, California. The gods are with me. I’m down to one hour before I depart so my flight number should pop up shortly. Well, blow me down and call me picklepuss! My flight number 0216 just came up and it’s confirmed that we will be flying tonight. I was able to relax a little. In the area where I’m seated, the chairs are filling up with maybe 5 chairs open. Anyway, it’s busy so this one lady has her carry-on bags and coat filling two chairs alongside of her. She’s taking up three chairs. So, this married couple in their 50’s or 60’s walked over and asked her if they could sit down in the two chairs holding her coat and carry-on bags. She said no, they're my chairs, find somewhere else to sit. So, they asked politely again if they could have the chairs because they were a little tired and she dug in her heels. “No!”, she exclaimed, “I’m using the chairs for my stuff can’t you find somewhere else to sit?” The married couple walked off looking for somewhere else to sit. I thought to myself, if I wasn't in such a good mood, all of her stuff might have ended up on the floor and I would have sat in those chairs. Anyway you look at it, she was wrong and will probably burn another day hell because of it.

I have one more picture I would like to take. It's a picture in front of the Portao / Gate 307 Display. That’s my departure gate and I would like to send it to James Sr., Mary and my brother in Los Angeles, just to let them know I’m leaving Brazil. I asked the ticket lady if she would take a picture of me. Well, her English was less than pigeon English and she thought I wanted to take a picture of her. She flipped out and started getting very loud. I was getting scared and about to run away. She was going nuts. Then she stopped when she realized I wanted a picture of me under the Portao / Gate 307. She took several pictures for me which were very good and then she disappeared. I’m not kidding, that was one of my crazier scary moments of my trip. I thought for sure the police / policia were going to come running and take me away. That was some scary crap. I went back to my seat, sat down and tried to blend in. I didn’t want that to happen again. Oh my god!

If you can believe it, my plane came in, the passengers have just dis-embarked, they refreshed the plane and refueled it. All the people were getting excited about boarding the plane. It’s only a matter of minutes before the plane loads. I’m sitting and waiting. Ok, here comes the announcement and people are flocking to the Portao / Gate. I’m waiting for all the people to load……well maybe not the last 50. Anyway, so I head to Portao / Gate with my ticket in hand feeling like I’m leaving one world to enter another. Then out of the blue, a man walks up to me speaking fluent English and says, I’ve been randomly selected to be searched. Please follow me. I said, “what the hell?” I said I already went through all the Airport Security. Well, we want to do a more thorough search. They said they wanted to check my shoes, the bottoms of my pant legs, my hands, the tops of my front pants pockets, the cuffs of my coat and wipe the key board of my laptop. I didn’t say anything but I was pretty pissed. When I came up negative on all the cocaine checks, they let me board the plane. I’m like the last person getting on the plane. The flight attendants were looking around to see there were any stragglers before they closed the door of the plane. Of course, I was a little steamed up about this cocaine search and it gave me something to think about on the long flight home. 

The flight left on time despite me being the last person to get on the plane. I have a 12 hours 35 minutes flight. The flight attendants were serving drinks and I asked her a question. I addressed her as stewardess and she literally straightened me out. She said she was not a stewardess but a flight attendant. I think if she would have had a glass of soda/pop/water she would have thrown it in my face. I’m not sure what the difference is but it must be significant because it sure riled her up. I will look up the difference between stewardess and flight attendant when I get home just so I don’t keep making enemies. 

Later we were served a meal and put to bed. Just prior to landing in Los Angles we were served a small roll. We landed sometime around 10:30 / 11:00 a.m. If I went through customs I can’t remember. If I did, it must have been so insignificant and so fast it didn't make an impression on me. I met my brother Larry and his wife Tonya in the baggage area. It was so great to be able to speak English again and communicate. I found somewhere in the LAX Terminal where I could exchange my Brasilian Real for US Dollars. Much less hassle than in Brazil. We collected my two bags and were off to his home. Oh, what a night. I will have to contact Mary when I get back to Larry and Tonya’s home.

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