Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Destination Brazil: Travel Blog Entry #1

Well I'm in Brazil, or Brasil as the natives call it. I've spent much of the first day getting my feet under me and resting up. We expected the weather to be miserably hot, and while it's humid, it's not terrible. It's a lot like Missouri in mid-July.
The Chacara (orphanage/home) is surrounded by coconut trees. Today, when the sun came up at 4:30 a.m. I could hear the birds singing. Things don't stay quiet around here long.
A group from Texas and Mississippi are here building clothes closets for the boys' rooms. Each closet, from what I can tell, will have four drawers and a large space to hang clothes in it. It took a while to get supplies, so the group is working non-stop to finish 12 shelving units before they fly out on Thursday morning.
The language barrier is frustrating. I love to ask questions and find out things about people, it's one of the things I do automatically when I meet new people. Right now I'm limited to gestures, the mixture of Spanish words I know from everyday life, and finding words in the dictionary I bought in the Sao Paulo airport.
Portuguese is truly a mixture of Spanish and French, but I took neither language in high school or college. I'm wishing that I had taken one of these romance languages, so I could at least have a basic understanding of what people are saying.
It truly is strange to be the minority here. At the airport in San Paulo, I was trying to ask a clerk a question about a hand-painted scarf. Someone heard me struggling and she stepped into serve as a translator.
So for now, I'm carrying my dictionary with me, and hanging around people who speak enough English to help. While most of the boys living in the orphanage do not speak English, they will laugh and help you when they can.
The Trip to Brazil
As I prepared to leave Missouri, someone asked me if I was worried about flying--especially with the new rules established by the TSA and the government. I will say this, while lines were long, for the most part, the TSA people were very helpful. A woman at the Tulsa, Okla. airport told me what to say when I carried on my contact solution and extra set of contacts (they are in a "liquid"). Fortunately, the guards consider that a "medicine" so I got here ok with them. Otherwise, you simply have to make sure all liquids in your carryon luggage are three ounces or less and will fit "comfortably" inside a one-quart ziplock bag. Don't try to bring a lip gloss on the plane. A woman in front of me in Tulsa, Okla., found out the hard way as she watched the screener toss away three tubes of gel.
Another woman in Florida had two bottles of peanut butter removed from her bag. I guess it's considered a gel-like substance.
This new rule will most likely keep us from bringing back some Guatanal ( fruity a ginger ale drink made by Coca-Cola). Several people asked us to bring it back, but unless we can find a way to put it in our packed luggage without causing an "explosion" they are going to be out of luck.
Comparing airlines
It's interesting to see the differences between Brazilian and American airline companies. While American companies work like clock-work, Brazilian airlines seem to run on their own time schedule--actually like the country, but that's for another column.
For example, on the American airline we flew on from Tulsa, Okla., to Dallas, Texas, our snack consisted of something to drink. Between Dallas and Miami, Fla., we could purchase a "snack box" for $4, which included cheese spread, crackers, a beef stick and a package of raisins. If we wanted to watch the in-flight entertainment, we needed to pay $2 for the headphones.
Walking on the Brazilian airlines was like stepping into the "golden age" of travel. As stewards walked through to make sure everyone was buckled in before take off, they passed out toffee candy.
Then, because it was an overnight flight that included a meal, they came back around with hot paper towels--so you could wash your hands.
They also gave us a kit that contained a travel-sized toothbrush/toothpaste combo, eye mask and comb. (A similar product on American airlines can cost between $2 to $4).
Our in-flight entertainment was free, and each seat came with a set of headphones. The choices included movies--The Devil Wears Prada and Over the Hedge to name a couple--television shows, or music. The last time I traveled on an American plane with similar options, watching satellite television on the two-hour trip cost me at least $5 (not including the headphones).
Of course, this was my first international flight, so I truly don't know how American companies stack up when they travel outside of the states. So maybe this is the exception, rather than the rule, but it made the seven-plus hour flight go faster.
I'll write more about the boys, shopping in Brazil and life in the community around the orphage in future blogs.

Cutlines for all four day 1 pics

Flat Stanley waits by the TAM (Brazilian Airlines) sign in the Miami International Airport, ready to board the flight San Pablo, Brazil. Kaylea Hutson |

The view from the plane as it leaves San Pablo. Kaylea Hutson |

My traveling companions for this adventure, Janna Stevens and Debbie Mayberry, after we arrived at the Maceio, Brazil airport. Kaylea Hutson |

Janete and Greg Hailey prepare to leave the Maceio aiport with our luggage. They brough a seperate truck to haul our suitcases (six total) back to the orpahage. Kaylea Hutson |

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