Thursday, August 11, 2011

Heading home

Yesterday I checked in one last time at CRV Lagoa then left Sertaozinho and drove back to Uberaba.  I had a couple of adventures when I arrived in Uberaba – first I needed to find a flight from here to Sao Paulo.  They don’t get many Canadians at the TRIP counter in Uberaba.  In fact they could only remember ever having one other foreigner check in there – he was from Iraq.  It took a long time but they got me a ticket and then got me checked in this morning.

After I got the ticket the next order of business was to find a hotel.  The flight out of Uberaba was supposed to leave at 8:00 AM but what with fueling the car and then returning it prior to the flight I didn’t want to subtract the drive in from the ranch from my get out of bed time.  I’ve been getting up at 3:30 AM because these silly buggers work on a time that is three hours removed from real time.  This morning I set the alarm for 2:30.  It took a little doing but I found a hotel which serendipitously was located about 1/2 a mile from the airport.  I certainly didn’t plan it that way, nor did I realize how close it was until I checked Google maps before going to bed last night.

Some last minute grief at Matinha kept me out at the ranch well into the evening so I ended up driving into Uberaba late at night.  The “road” from the ranch out to the highway would be called a goat trail in Canada.  I’ve done pasture checks for Assiniboia Land Management on trails that are better than the road to the ranch so I wasn’t wild about driving it at that time of night but you do what you have to do.

This morning I was welcomed back like a long lost friend at the TRIP counter.  The guy who spoke no English at all yesterday had practiced how to say good morning and asked his buddy how to say “aisle or window?”.  Then I went through security which was considerably different than what Homeland (in)Security would have put me through but I’m inclined to think I’m safer here than I would be in the United States. 

After I got through security I watched a grandpa go through.  He set the alarm off probably a dozen times, laughing and joking with the attendants the whole while.  Once he got through he leaned over the rope barrier to kiss what was probably his daughter goodbye.  But no terrorists need try entering here because they know everybody.  When I went through they were professional and careful but with the locals they used common sense – a property that is sadly lacking in our airports. 

When my flight was called my buddy came over to say “ma fren, yowah flah”  - made perfect sense to me.  Then again as I passed him on the way to the plane he grabbed my hand to say goodbye.  I could have used him at the stop in Uberlandia.  At Uberaba there was only one flight leaving so it was pretty clear – when a plane arrived, I needed to get on it.  However in Uberlandia there were 6 flights on the board.  I usually can’t understand the announcements even when they are nominally in English so there was no hope in Portuguese.  Fortunately they seemed to be keeping up with flight status on the arrivals/departures board so I trusted that and it worked out OK.

Now I’m waiting in Sao Paulo for my 10 hour flight to Toronto.  I’m still not sure where the Air Canada counter is but I think I was told that it only opens 3 hours prior to flight time.  It doesn’t seem to exist so maybe it comes into being 3 hours before flight time as well.  I’d be happy to get security behind me if for no other reason than that there’s a host of people in yellow t-shirts singing songs out here and the silly broad next to me thinks its necessary to sing along with them, loudly.  She claps loudly too.

(later – much later)

The TAM airlines counter eventually turned into an Air Canada counter – it’s a pretty low budget operation our national airline is running down here.  We got herded around like cattle, stood in line forever and finally dealt with some Air Canada stupidity, which I suppose was inevitable but was frustrating nevertheless.  My Aeroplan/Passport name difference bit me again and with the language barrier it was more difficult to deal with.  The difference between the episode in Regina and the one in Brazil was that the Brazilian attendant was clearly embarrassed that she couldn’t just check me in and did her best to get it sorted out as quickly as possible.  In Regina the attendant had received the mandatory injection of Air Canada attitude so she made it clear that the problem was entirely my fault. 

We had one last bout of bureaucratic silliness before settling in to wait for the flight.  When you enter Brazil you go through a police entry procedure which leaves you carrying around an entry document.  To return that we got to stand in line again after we cleared security but before we could go to our gates.  As near as I could tell we could just as easily have dropped them in a bucket but that would have put about 20 people out of work so I guess that would be a bad thing.

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