Wednesday was travel day.
First, a note about international travel. This is my 20th flight to Brasil. About 30% of the time, something messes up. Usually, I end up getting to Brasil the next day. Sometimes, I get home a day late. I stubbornly do not allow for this and leave Brasil without allowing an extra day before work. I ordinarily get a 7 day break every month. Allowing for travel, I spend 5 days a month in Brasil with Monica. If I left early, it would be four and over time, it would have been an extra 20 days of time in Brasil that I would have sacrificed in an attempt to please the fickle travel gods.
So I worry. I’ve been caught in traffic jams on the way to Rio and missed the flight home. I’ve had flights cancelled. I’ve missed connections because the planes were late. I’ve missed the flight home once because of the impossibly long line to get through the international gate in Rio. I’ve had to call work and arrange to have someone cover my shift – I really hate to do that. I worry and fret until I’m on that last flight to Philadelphia – because until then, anything can happen. It’s my opinion that Philadelphia and Rio are probably the worst two airports in this hemisphere for on-time flights. No part of this journey is fun, and I am counting the months until I can stop doing this.
We left the house by taxi at about 10:30 to go to the bus station for the trip to Rio. Leandro had to do some paperwork to do at UERJ, and his mom and I went with him. The most convenient bus was an Executive class. It costs about $3 more, but it’s a much nicer place to spend two hours than the regular bus. The trip over the mountains is fun if someone else is driving. Once we arrived at the Rio bus station, printed Internet instructions in hand, we headed for another bus, local line #266, which took us to UERJ.
UERJ is an urban school, operated by the government. It looks like almost any other concrete government building – just much bigger. We arrived around 2pm and after a bit of wandering around, found the office where Leandro was to officially sign up as a student. Of course, as soon as we found the office, the building’s power went out. Since the computer’s didn’t work without the power, we waited about a half-hour before it came back on.
About 90 minutes after the power came back, it was announced that everyone would have to return tomorrow, as the computer network did not come back up when the power did, and the system was necessary to process the students. Monica phoned her aunt (she lives nearby) and made arrangements for Leandro to stay there overnight. He was to take the bus home on Thursday by himself after getting his business done at the university.
Monica and I then took a taxi from UERJ to the airport, where we had time to get a meal. My first flight was on TAM (a Brasilian carrier) to Sao Paulo, where I was to catch a Delta flight to New York. This TAM flight was continuing to Miami after stopping in Sao Paulo. Due to this weirdness and the tight schedule, I chose not to check any bags. Also, schlepping bags to UERJ would have been a bitch. The carry-on that I brought was bad enough.
Because my ticket said Sao Paulo, the Policia Federal in Rio did not stamp my passport or take my entry card when I got to the front of that long line. The TAM flight left about a half-hour late and the hour-long flight became a 90 minute flight because of an in-flight hold (congestion at Sao Paulo). Of course, I spent much of that time fretting about missing my connection. When we land, we don’t get a jetway – we have to wait for someone to roll up steps to the plane and then we board a bus for the terminal – more delay….
At the Sao Paulo airport, I had to find a Delta agent, who was nice enough to ticket me to New York and assign someone to take me to get my passport stamped. I was able to bypass the HUGE line (that I already waited through in Rio). It was a good thing, because I just had time to visit the bathroom before my plane to New York was boarding. We had to take a bus to that flight, too. The Delta agent in Sao Paulo could not ticket me for my Philadelphia flight because of the very long layover there – more about that later.
Once safely on board, I sent Monica a text message to let he know that I was going to be okay and settled in for the 9 hour and 15 minute flight. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my normal exit row seat, and I really didn’t have to leg space to get comfortable. Once the woman in the seat ahead of me put her seat back, I was doomed. Sometimes it sucks being tall.
Delta serves a nice meal early in this flight – it’s much nicer than what American serves. Chicken or pasta? I always choose the chicken. Mmmmm. Oh, and I get a mojito with my dinner!! One free drink with dinner – if you want another one, it’s $5. Why doesn’t American do that?
After dinner, it’s time to take a nap – hopefully for the rest of the flight. The lights are dimmed in the cabin and I try (unsuccessfully) to get comfortable. It ends up being a long night – my knees are uncomfortably stuck in the back of the seat ahead of me. I nap a little here and there until about 90 minutes before the end of the flight, when the lights come back on. We get a light breakfast – banana, fruit bar, croissant and OJ and touch down at JFK just before 6am.
We go right through immigration (no line!), and customs is a breeze because I didn’t check any bags. I take the Air Train that runs through JFK to it’s end at Jamaica station, where I buy a ticket on the Long Island RR to Penn Station in New York ($7). At Penn Station, I buy an Amtrak ticket to Wilmington ($70). Why am I doing this? It turns out that my original 8:30 am ticket to Philadelphia is no good – the airline no longer flies that route. Delta gave me a ticket for a flight that leaves for Phila. at 5pm!!! I’m sorry, I’m not going to spend eleven hours at JFK – I bought that flight with an 8:30 am flight home and Delta changed it.
The Amtrak train was very nice – much more comfortable than Delta’s seating, and it arrived in Wilmington at 10:00. I walked home, arriving at 10:15, exactly 24 hours after leaving home in Volta Redonda (27 if you count the time difference).
Delta gets good marks for food and service (especially getting my passport stamped). Unfortunately, they lose those kudos (and then some) for giving me a flight 9 hours later than the one that I signed up for (costing me about $80 in train fares). Oh, and I think that their seats may be closer together than AA’s seats. My left leg still hurts. Also, I should mention the staffing weirdness. I took a TAM flight to Sao Paulo. TAM’s flight attendants were – well, let’s just say that they were young and attractive. But Delta’s? They must assign these flights on the basis of seniority – really, a few of those women were my Mom’s age. It’s the same on AA. What’s with that?
Anyway, I’m home now, and the house is pretty much back in order. We’ve got food, the kitchen is cleaned up and the laundry is all done. I really wanted a shower when I got home (and I needed one, too) but the only towel available was one that I brought home with me. Good thing it was clean. Really, seeing how I was gone for a month and Drew was on his own, things could have been a whole lot worse.
I’m ready to call it a day (or two).
I’ve got work in the morning,
oh, if you click on the pictures, you get a much better view of them. I’ll work on getting pictures posted full size in later editions.