domingo, maio 23, 2004

So it’s been a week between updates. That’s okay, considering I am now in Brasil and will remain here until who knows. Things have been very busy, as one might have guessed. In order to get the whole story out, let’s see if I can do this in parts.

Monday morning I got up and ran all over town courtesy of Caryn and her Saturn, taking care of most of my last minute stuff like travelers checks, address changes (except I forgot the one for the University, so I have to see how I can go about doing that from here…), and then returned to the apartment to clean the kitchen etc, vacuum, and try to make my remaining possessions into little piles or put into boxes for Lis to easily deal with after I left. About half way through this process, I decided to check my email and buy another phone card to call Brasil so I would be able to communicate with Elves in Sampa during my layover in Huston to let him know how everything went. This process, which usually takes 3 minutes, ended up taking almost an hour due to weirdness of web pages and the fact that my mailing address had changed. I waited and waited, but the access code never came through.

I also called Continental cargo and the help desk after discovering that I could not check in online (apparently when you need to show your passport for the flight, they will not allow you to do this) and was there fore required to check in 4 hours before my flight, but I was only allowed to drop off the cats 1.5 hours before my flight. This conflict of times and its necessity of keeping the cats in cages either in the airport with me or in the car while I checked in was not settling well. After 3 phone calls, I decided to risk pissing off the ticket counter and check in at 4 PM so I could drop off the cats in good time.

About this time, 5 of my friends had wandered over to say farewell and come to the airport with me. I was awaiting Lis’ return from her conference, so I thought visiting with my friends would be an okay break. At 12:30 exactly, Lis opened the door and said in annoyance “well, are we leaving or what?” In a flash, my 5 friends were hauling suitcases out the door, vacuuming, shoving cats into crates, folding blankets, the works. It was quite impressive. Leave it to Lis to get my ass in gear. I think I never would have made it down here without her.

Once we had everything loaded (4 suitcases and 2 cats in Lis’ car and 1 suitcase in my friends’ car with all of them crammed in as well), we headed out. It was raining and stormy and a relatively poopy day in terms of Michigan spring time. Lis and I headed for the cargo area of Continental at DTW to drop off the cats, while the other car stopped for something to eat. Thank god for cell phones or I might have been out one suitcase.

The cats were petrified. Ona had gone into purring in excitement/freight mode while Lela had become a big eyed statue glued to the back of her cage. Both of them tore their dishes off the doors on the way over. Luckily the guys there had plastic dishes made to go on the doors of the cages, so this was an easily fixed dilemma. The cargo guys were very nice and reassured me that the cats would be okay. They were not, however, that knowledgeable on which forms they needed to check, and tried to take the forms I had had stamped by the consulate that were destined for the department of agriculture. After some explaining, they made copies of said forms and took those which I had had done for them specifically. I do not think they even checked the date of examination on the health forms. The cats were so scared. I really felt I wanted to throw up at this point, I felt so guilty for leaving them there. I was sure they thought I was giving them away. Indeed, it felt like that too.

Rush rush rush off to the airport! When we finally met up with my friends again who reunited me with my suitcase, I was very tired, hungry, and sweaty, and I still wanted to throw up. We made a little train of luggage to the check in counter and conversed with a very nice lady who allowed two of my bags to be over weight (after taking several things out of them to make them not THAT over weight – I am now short 4 pairs of jeans, all my jewelry, magnets, and a few other random items that I pulled out in a rush and stuffed into a bag) and paid my extra $100 for my 3rd checked bag. After this whole fiasco I was left with my two carry on bags, a small paper bag with some random items and some flip flops in it, and the bag we had filled to lighten my luggage. We decided to sit and rest for a bit, chat, make small talk, pretend like I wasn’t about to fly some 7000 miles with two cats…

When I came time to go, everyone cried. It felt so awful hugging these wonderful people good bye, knowing I might not see them again since they would graduate and leave to go who knows where. I cried even harder when I hugged Lis. I truly could not have gotten through this with out her. I don’t know what I would have done. She is one of the best friends I have ever had. My friends decided it would be best to wait and see my through the gates incase they didn’t let me board with the extra bags, which they didn’t. So I left them with Lis, taking a few random items that I could carry and stuffing them into the pockets of my cargo skirt, all the while with the crabby lady who checked your ticket at the head of the line to go through the metal detectors glared at me.

The metal detectors created a whole other fiasco. I emptied my pockets into the bin, took my lap top out, all that great stuff they have you do these days, and still, of course, I set off the alarms. I am prepared for this: with body piercings, one has to be prepared. So they set about “wanding” me, as usual, and found my belly ring, nipple ring, my anklets, earrings, the safety pins in my skirt, and then a phantom beep right next to my knees. So the airport security woman patted down the area, then wanded again. Still a beep. This went on for about 10 minutes, all the while Lis and the whole gang is watching from the other side of the metal detectors. Another security officer says “if you patted it down and didn’t find anything, it’s clear to go” but this woman continues and it still beeps, every time in that same spot, with no explanation. I am not really annoyed, since I have plenty of time to make it to my gate still, until another woman steps in and asks me to come with her into an office. The only nerve racking thing here is that all of my things are still sitting at the end of the x-ray machine and I won’t be able to see them while I am inside this office. The woman reassures me they are fine and won’t even let me approach them, almost yelling at me when I take a step toward them to motion what is mine and to watch it. So I go into this back office, where they pat down the area in my skirt a 10th time, and still finding nothing, examine my bare leg underneath it, and then finally wand it again. This time there is no beep. So now I am free to go. While putting all the stuff back into my pockets, I have a lovely chat with the woman who yelled at me earlier about the Jet program in Japan and Michigan State, before I wave to my friends one more time and run off to my gate. From this whole experience I can only say being mad probably won’t help, but being pleasant and friendly will make them feel guilty for having delayed you.

As I arrived at the gate, they were just boarding and I got 4 phone calls in a row. Everyone likes to wait till the last minute to say goodbye, you know? The people on the plane were also very crabby. Having to stop moving to put my bags into the overhead bin, I was met with the comment of “well, it’s not like anyone is trying to get on the PLANE or ANYTHING” in a nasty voice from a woman sitting below where I was attempting to put my bag. I just ignored her. I don’t have any desire to promote other peoples negative energy, especially Americans in flight. I think airports are just worlds of crabbiness these days. I don’t think there was one person on there that was really in a good mood. Even the flight attendants were unpleasant.

On my brief layover in Huston, I called my parents, Elves, Lis, Amy, and then my parents again. Kind of sad to make the last ever phone call on my cell phone. It’s true that you create the need for it when you get it. I miss it already.

The 9 hour plane ride to Sampa was relatively uneventful. The highlight, besides first being greeted by a fellow passenger with “GO GREEN!” and being seated next to a very nice woman who was also a mother with whom I made pleasant conversation with the whole plane ride, Continental now has this neat graphics system that allows you to see where you are in the flight with several kinds of maps, temperature, time, miles covered, speed, all right in front of you on the screen and in the aisle above. I was completely fascinated with this almost the whole flight and I think I actually fell asleep looking at it, only to wake up 4 hours later and look at it again. All planes should have this feature, its great fun and a good way to keep the kids from asking you “are we there yet?”

Now Tuesday, customs in Sampa was no big deal, despite all the complaints I had heard. I was finger printed and photographed without incident and went on to recover my luggage. Sure enough, one of my suitcases – that which had the shampoo and soap in it – was missing. I was aware that might happen since the flight from Huston to Sampa was really full, I had been told, so it was possible that one of my suitcases would be delayed by a day. No big deal since I was going to be there overnight. I filled out a report with the airport people (actually communicated in Portuguese for 15 minutes strait without too much misunderstanding) and continued on my way to get my luggage x-rayed again with customs. Consequently, since I had my computer, CD burner, and CDs all in two suitcases, these two had to be searched. This did not happen to me last year, so I was not anticipating opening up everything and clothing ended up all over in the process. When I finally met up with Elves, he had been waiting for me for over 2 hours. Since there was no one left to confuse us, we had no problem recognizing each other.

With all my luggage loaded into the car, we went to the cargo section of GRU to recover the cats. I was lucky to have him in this process, since he dealt with exports through Continental and had been in contact with the office already about the cats that morning. At this point, the story is a little hazy since I just sort of followed him from office to office, signing paper work and paying several fees. We first went up to the Continental cargo office and paid them another fee, got a receipt for this fee, went downstairs to the cargo bay area, showed them the receipt and they gave us another form to take to the department of agriculture office. Upon arriving at the department of agriculture office, we were told to go purchase 2 other forms from a different office (about US$1) and bring them back to fill them out at the office. After we did this, they took the consulate stamped papers (yes, I did not go through all that for nothing), took the other forms, filled out 2 more forms and we returned to the cargo office again. They guy who needed to look at them was out to lunch by this time, but we go to go back and visit the cats in the cargo area before going to lunch ourselves. Over lunch I told Elves the shortened chronicle of how Meuamor and I had met and gotten ourselves into this mess of cat importation and moving lives across 7000 miles – quite lovely. When the guy came back from lunch an hour later, we showed him the forms and he directed us to another office. Here another man took those forms and gave us another form and directed us to go pay the federal fee for importations at the federal bank branch in the building. After we did this, we were given another receipt and went back to the cargo office, but the only man who could approve it had now gone somewhere. We waited for a while for him to return, showed him the forms, and finally got the cats. They were relatively calmer than they had been at DTW, but still not happy. I gave them some water as we loaded them into the car for the drive to Elves.’

The cats got to spend some 14 hours outside of the crates, wandering about in a room at Elves.’ We made a makeshift litter box out of a plastic box lid and some soil from pots, which Ona promptly threw all over in the process of using it. A short while later the airport called to say they had found my suitcase – it had continued to Rio on the Plane, so they had just sent it ahead of me to Salvador. The cats enjoyed their time being crate free whilst I went out with Elves to a bar with some of his friends. This was the real test of my Portuguese and I think I held my own pretty well. We also spent some time plotting and sending emails to Meuamor to hopefully throw him off the trail, and playing with his lovely hyper active dog Ulysses. Sampa is cold, cold as Michigan in the spring, and consequently the suitcase that had been sent to Bahia ahead of me was that in which all my warm clothes (all two shirts and a jacket) were. So I shivered through the night in one of Elves’ sweaters, a pair of his pants, and some extra socks, with both cats sleeping under the blanket with me. In the morning, I couldn’t even bare the thought of showering in that cold, so we just stuffed the cats back inside their crates and headed for the airport.

Now Wednesday - at least with Varig we did not have to visit a whole other part of the airport to drop off the cats (since they ride with luggage, they are dropped off with the luggage), but I did find that I had to pay insurance for the cats to be on the plane, a fee I had not been informed of, nor had I prepared for by exchanging money. So we speed walked through the airport to find a bank with a less shitty exchange rate, paid the fee and then had our quick goodbye before I went through the gates.

Upon arrival in Salvador, I recovered all of my bags, the cats, but then found I had too much to carry on one cart. After several trips back and forth between the gates to look for my friend Sávio who was to pick me up and back to the Varig desk where they were watching my luggage, I had pay a guy to help me wheel it all out on 3 carts to wait for my friend to appear. He did so, about 40 minutes later. We actually managed to fit all of my luggage, me and the cats into his tiny car and he dropped me off at my new home, promising to return for me at 3pm to go to the school to surprise Meuamor.

I opened all the suitcases to look for my soap but I could not find it. I also released the cats, who after a short while, seemed like they were distressing a bit, so I brought in one of their litter boxes and showed them where it was before running upstairs to shower. When I returned down stairs, I was unable to find Ona. She has a tendency to hide under things when she is scared. I searched all over, calling her, but I could not find her. Even at 3pm, she was still unfound, but I assumed that wherever she was, she would come out when she was hungry, so I left some food out, and ran out to the car to head to the school.

I had had a certain scenario in my mind for this, but my friend had a different one. Upon entering the school, I was rushed into his office to wait in the dark. He went to find Meuamor and told him that the video he had requested for class was in his office. When Meuamor walked in he jumped, I think out of surprise that there was a person in the office when he was not expecting one than anything else, but quickly realized it was me. I laughed, he laughed, we hugged, kissed… It was better than I could have ever thought…

The whole rest of the day consisted of me being hugged, welcomed back, asked to come to a class, visiting classes, and being the “American” reference. Sávio told me to take the rest of the week off to settle in, be with the cats etc, and that we would start discussion on my school work on Monday. So that is where I am at the moment, catching up. I have unpacked, Ona was found under the refrigerator and recovered, and now both cats are leading relatively stress free lives, typical for Bahia and for cats, and nice for me too. I don’t know that this will be the end of this blog. Probably not. But the move has been made. Except for the loads of boxes as of yet to be mailed by my mother. Let’s see how long that takes.

For now, I’m home.

Um comentário:

Anônimo disse...

I love your writting, I would love to email with you. I married a brazilian and am in the process of getting ready to move to brazil. I would love to talk to you about the cat situation, I want to bring my two cats two. My email is
thank you