Sunday, August 5, 2012

A long day

Here is the story of the longest day of my life--
p.s. you might want to grab some popcorn

I woke up on the morning of August 4th and began to finish my packing. It still hadn't really hit me that in only 30 hours I would be in Brasil. My parents helped me finalize my packing and paper work and then we picked up Grandma and headed out to the airport as a family. We made it to the airport with plenty of time and were checking my bags when we ran into Laura Kuehn's parents, who had just left her as she went through security. We then continued up to where I would have to pass through security and ran into the Hanson family. If you did not already know, I was on the same flight out of MSP as Laura Kuehn and Annika Hanson. We then went through the security line as a family and as we were reaching the end of the line, it was time to say goodbye to my family. I think we handled the goodbye as a family pretty well, but who knows what went on after I went through security ... *cough*cough*mom*cough*cough* I made it through security fine and walked down the terminal to my gate where I met Laura. We chatted for a while and waited for Annika to show and then we all boarded the plane together. Unfortunately, we were not able to get seats next to each other. 

I found 30A, put my wallet and book into the seat pocket in front on me, and settled down into my seat. After that, the flight went by quickly. I was lucky enough to be sitting next to a kind old man by the name of Doin (which is a name I have never seen/heard before). Doin and his wife had just finished a cruise which ended in Alaska. I spoke with Doin about my plans for exchange and after a while he began to tell me about his experiences as an ROTC participant right out of high school or college. He said he really needed the money, so he was sent to Germany and was getting paid $27/month! I took German for a couple of years in high school so it was fun to exchange a couple of phrases with him as we compared his experiences abroad to what we though mine would be like. Not only was Doin a well traveled fellow, he was also very thankful for every thing that he had. He wouldn't go five sentences without saying "...and I'm just so thankful that....". Listening to him be so appreciative helped me settle my nerves a little because I began to realize how thankful I am for all the support and help that I am getting with my exchange. Unfortunately, my conversation with Doin had to come to an end as we landed in Atlanta. Annika, Laura and I exited the plane and began our walk over to the tram station where we are going to catch a tram to Terminal E and the food court. 

We had probably been walking for ten minutes when I did the casual "feel up my left butt cheek" maneuver, just to check if my wallet is there. I froze as I realized my back pocket was empty, which means I had to have left my wallet on the plane. "WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO STUFF LIKE THIS" I screamed to myself inside my head as I skipped steps back up the escalator to try and get back to my arrival gate as fast as possible. I did the best speed walking I could as I raced back to Gate A3. Just as I got there, a lady walks out of the "plane exit walkway" or whatever it's called, with a wallet and a book. OOFTA, I thought. She smiled and chuckled softly at me as she handed me my things. By this point, I was dripping with sweat and had already endured enough embarrassment to last me a couple of days. I found Annika and Laura and they giggled at me as we walked our way to Terminal E (again) and then the food court. My last meal in the United States was a $7.95 burrito with a bag of chips and some apple juice. After almoço (lunch), Annika and I had to say goodbye to Laura because Laura's connecting flight brought her through Sao Paulo and Annika and I would be traveling through Brasilia.

After saying goodbye to Laura, Annika and I found our gate for our departure to Brasilia (E14 maybe?). We were hoping to get seats together, and Annika still had not received her boarding pass for that flight out of Atlanta. Apparently, we had some good karma coming our way because after speaking with a man at the check-in counter, he got us seats 35A and 35C, with no one in between us. What this means, is that on a full flight, Annika and I had somehow managed to get 1.5 seats each. We had the back right row of the plane all to ourselves. It turns out that we had to sit on the plane an extra hour and a half because there had been too much baggage loaded onto the plane (an extra 2700lbs). As we were sitting on the plane, the flight attendant announced that they would be unloading some baggage because the plane was overweight. That was just an added stressor because now we don't know if we were going to meet our bags in Brasilia or if they were going to arrive in our cities MAYBE within the next couple of days. Finally our flight departed from Atlanta and we were on our way to Brazil! It was a looooong flight and I got little to no sleep at all. Annika helped me with some of my portuguese and we played some sudoku and eventually we made it to Brasilia.

Now that we were in Brasil, we had to re-check our bags, and since we were using different airlines for our connecting flights, Annika and I had to say goodbye to each other. After a little bit of confusion as to which company we were each supposed to be with, we said goodbye and went our separate ways. FUN FACT: Because the flight from Atlanta to Brasilia was delayed 1.5 hours, I now only had 25 minutes to make it through a long baggage check line, security, to my gate and onto my plane (while speaking Portuguese). After skipping ahead in line and rushing through security, I made it to my gate with less than a minute to spare and got a nice scowl from the woman at the Gate 1 information desk. This flight was only two hours and went by quickly because I just drank sprite and watched "Crazy Stupid Love" the whole time. Go ahead, laugh. Maybe I enjoy romantic comedies, maybe I don't, you'll never know.

I got off the plane in Cuiabá and had to re-check my luggage again. I got to the desk and showed the woman my passport and itinerary and after a while she looked at me and said "Não". She then mumbled some Portuguese that I did not understand and I came to the conclusion that she could not find my name on the flight list. So she called a supervisor over to give it a try. Meanwhile, I'm freaking out on the other side of the desk because I had no idea what I was going to do if they came to the conclusion that I am was supposed to be on that plane. To my relief, they eventually figured it out and I began to my luggage on the scale. First bag-good. Second bag-BEEP BEEP BEEP. Apparently, I had not looked at the luggage restrictions close enough and when traveling with TRIP, your second bag is only allowed to be 18kg, mine was 20.5kg. So after more broken english on their part and terrible Portuguese on my part, I ended up having to pay an extra 74 Reais (about 34.5 US Dollars). I had plenty of layover time so I waltzed through security and grabbed some Pao de Qeuijo (Brasilian cheese bread), which was absolutely delicious.

I boarded my last flight of the day and ended up sitting next to a wonderful, attractive, Brasilian woman by the name of Valquiria. She was flying home to Sorriso from Rio de Janeiro and had been doing some lab work on genetically modified cattle. She was extremely nice and smart and helped me with my Portuguese as we talked about Rotary Exchange and how her father owned a bunch of land in Mato Grosso (the state in which I am living). The flight was only about 50 minutes so we had what felt like a quick conversation and we were already in Sinop. We walked off the plan together and into the baggage claim area. I found my bags and as I was exiting the area, I was confronted with a huge sign that read "AVERY Bem Vindo ao Brasil" or "Avery Welcome to Brasil". Not only was there a huge banner with my name on it, but a bunch of smiling Brasilians waiting to hug me or shake my hang and say hello.

I hopped in the car with my host mother, Milanea, my oldest host brother, Graciano, and his wife. We drove to a churrasco (barbeque) and had a wonderful meal with fantastic meats and a bunch of lovely people. We then drove home, or to what I will be calling home for the next few months. A small green house, half of which is essentially outside. I immediately loved the place. They showed me into my room, which included a bunch of little gifts laying on my bed, then the shower and the bathroom, then the wifi, etc.. By this time I must have said "Obrigado" or "Thank you" enough for an entire army. Partially because people had been doing things for me all day and partially because it was one of the only words I knew. We hung out at home for a while and drank some Brazilian pop. After that, Graciano too me on a tour of my city, Sinop. We drove past the church, my school, downtown, and eventually ended up in a town square-ish area where we sat on the grass and drank Terere, which is an infusion of yerba mate prepared in cold water, and must be drank out of something similar to the size of a regular coffee cup. After that we went out to dinner at a local pizza joint and then headed home to rest. Finally. I had a wonderful conversation with my younger host brother, Gabriel, where he told me all about the family and showed me a bunch of family pictures and videos. After that conversation ended, I began writing this post.

I have now been awake for almost 42 hours. I have met so many great people and it has been one of the longest days of my life. It has also been one of the best days of my life.
But this day has really taken it out of me. I'm off to bed.
Thanks for reading! Boa noite! Obrigado!


  1. We are at home, loving your stories and cheering you on for the adventure of a lifetime! Wishing you all the best. Beijos, Avery....Vicki

  2. Just read your posts, Avery. Thanks for taking the time to fill us in.

    The store seems a little lonely without you ... although I just had a nice across-the-counter chat with your dad.

    All the best ...

    -- Charlie

  3. Avery:


    Pat and I are reading your blog and grandma Pat really enjoys reading it.

    It is really exciting to read about your big trip. Great pictures..

    Much love,
    Bill and Pat

  4. Avery- Now you know how I felt when you "stole" my passport in London! ;)