Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Journey to Brasilia

Demente and I pick the guitar, accessories and merchandise up from his studio and he drops me off at my apartment and helps me carry all the stuff in. When he leaves, we both have a list of things we need to do before we meet again in the morning to go to the airport and we only have about four hours until then. Despite this being an internal flight, it has the same stresses and anxiety that comes with gong on a full blown holiday abroad.  I immediately start washing some t-shirts and socks as I have nothing clean to perform in, and start the process of working out what can fit in my hand luggage. I separate things to go and things not to go and then lots off pulling out and putting back in again ensues, with many curses under my breath due to the fact that I am constantly aware of the time ticking away.
I suddenly panic as I become aware that my guitar leads have gone missing, so a quick call to Demente is made and he says he knows where they are but it would be quicker and better to call ahead and arrange for some to be made available when I get there.

Eventually, I think I have done everything, my bag has a box of Cd's in it and everything else is squeezed in around them. There is not even room for an additional piece of paper to go in. I finish washing my t-shirts and socks, ring them out and then hang them up. I know they are not going to dry, but every little bit helps. I look at the time and realise they will have exactly two hours drying time.
I set the alarm on my phone and drop into bed to attempt to go to sleep. I do sleep as I am exhausted from the swim earlier in the day.

The alarm never goes off as I have set it wrong.

However, I wake up at the time I set it anyway, which was lucky but Demente is due to ring before he leaves just to make sure.
I get up, grab a quick cup of coffee while I take the washing down and place it in a small, thin, green plastic bag. Then I stood in the middle of the room with a bag of washing in my hand and absolutely no room to place it in my bag. I had to hope that as Demente was bringing a larger bag in which I would place mine and all the Neurotics t-shirts left to sell, that there would be a little corner for my washing.
Eventually, I get the call, "I'm downstairs" and I struggle out the door with everything, lock up and hustle into the lift, I feel dreadful. Once out in the street, everything fits into Demente's bag apart from my little bag of washing

The solution is to squeeze the little green bag under some elastic straps, leaving a somewhat vunerable lump sticking out of the bag. Oh well it will have to do.
Originally I was to have someone accompany me on this trip but for one reason or another I am now to do it on my own. We get to the airport bang on time but strangely it isn't the airport, well it is, but it isn't the airport I will be flying from. Confused?

 Let me explain.

I had to get to this airport by a certain time to catch a coach to another airport to catch my flight. This throws a spanner in the works a bit because I was relying on Demente to mediate on any difficulties at the check in, with my baggage allocation, specifically if they  try to charge me for my guitar being an item of luggage. Instead, after putting my stuff in the hold of the vehicle, I say goodbye to him at the steps of the coach and then go and find a seat.
This is when I start to feel vulnerable, I am now, undertaking a journey to another city with no interpretor. The seat is luxurious, I could sleep here but my anxiousness wont let me,  I recline with my eyes closed to pretend to myself I am sleeping and there I lay for so long that I began to believe that coach was going all the way to Brasilia. An hour later and we arrive at another airport, and the flight is only meant to be an hour. I am on my own now as I disembark and collect my guitar and my bag with my vulnerable bag of washing sticking out of it. As I enter the airport, it is bewildering to a person without ease of communication and only two hours  sleep, so I find an official and get them to squint at my electronic ticket on my phone, they in turn point to a particular check in desk and i join the queue.
 When I get to a desk, I have been told that an interpreter would be found once they knew I was English. As I started apologising for not speaking Portuguese they looked a bit puzzled at what to do, but I was in luck, a Brazilain guy asked my if he could help as he could speak English. I accepted with great relief and thought to myself how friendly Brazilians continue you to be to me. This is how the conversation then went.

She says, what is in the big case?
He informs her it is a guitar.
She puts a sticker ticket around the strap of the case and it's in, no hassle. I am now just left with my large piece of hand luggage with the vulnerable plastic bag of washing sticking out of it.
She says, as it is big, you can put the hand luggage in the hold if you like.
What? And I don't have to pay extra?
My interpreter doesn't hear this and I decide not to labour the point because this conversation appears to have no mention of cost, so I hand over my bag gratefully. The woman looks at the bag and says something that is to be the final bit of communication from her that my interpreter needs to convey to me.
She says, that this little green plastic bag is a bit vulnerable here so it would be better to carry that on the plane. I readily agree and after thanking the helpful interpreter (he says he learnt his English when he lived in Ireland and really misses the Guinness, oh and the country. There must be a lot of Brazilians in Ireland because this is not the first time I have heard this story) I wander into the airport with loads of time and a little vulnerable green plastic bag of my washing on my hands.

The bag is beginning to split and my toothbrush (I have some toiletries in there too by the way, that's how strapped for space i was.) is sticking out of it. I feel silly walking around with it and wish I had a stick that I could tie the bag to the end of, like Dick Whittington. I don't know how that would make me feel less silly but these are the rambling thoughts of a tired man.

I decide that I may as well go through and wait on the other side, customs was a breeze, all this process is so much easier being an internal flight and being Brazilian. I then wait for the gate details and when they finally comes through I notice that more than one destination is scrolling around on the screen at the gate entrance and I become confused because I can't be boarding three planes at the same allocated time at the one gate. So I make inquiries to  an airport official, she doesn't understand me but gets a colleague that does, and she politely informs me that yes it is the right gate and it will board at the time stated on my boarding card, 10.17. Great, but I must say it did confuse me when we eventually started boarding at 10.12. it's at times like this, when you cannot speak the language of the country you are in, that you think, "Am I missing something here?"
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself here, I thanked the airport official in Portuguese (ah ha, I can speak something you see...) and she in turn smiles and glances curiously at my little vulnerable green plastic bag of washing. I retreat to look for a better bag as the split in it is getting bigger.
Ten minutes later I have failed to find a better plastic bag that I could appropriate, I cannot face the hassle of trying to ask for a freebie plastic bag, it would just lead to a very confusing episode and I am too tired to cope.
Ahh, free WiFi, now that's handy, I can while away the time until I leave, doing something useful on-line.

Here comes the rant...

If you offer free WiFi, why make it so difficult to use. I've lost count of the times I have not used free Wifi when it is offered, because just I wanted a little bit of information whilst I drink a cup of coffee, but I am forced into a sign up process that will...

  1. Eat up the small amount of time I have to drink my coffee
  2. Fill my inbox with spam
  3. and I will never use that account again because I am never likely to visit that cafe/shop/resturant again.

If you want to offer free WiFi let people connect straight away, some already do it, why can't all of you. Don't treat your customer like idiots, do you really what to frustrate them, surely that  is not the intention.
Anyway, back at the airport I find three, free WiFi connections available but all of them require a sign up procedure to get to the WiFi. I think to myself that I have time on my hands so I'll go through the hassle of signing up. More fool me, i try all three connections and each one rejected every email address I could throw at them, it was almost as if it would only allow an address with the Brazilian extension .br

Oh look, it's time to board the plane and I have not had one second of internet access.
At 10.12 precisely, it is time to board the plane. No, still not the plane yet, I have to get on a bus to take me to the plane. I ask the woman I spoke to earlier, "This one" I say pointing at the bus, she nods.
I board the bus that mentions nothing about Brasilia or my flight number on it, which takes me to a plane with no mention of Brasilia or the flight number on it. I make the stewardess look at my ticket just in case I'm getting on the wrong plane but she only looks at the seat number and gesticulates where in the plane it is. I find my seat and after depositing  my vulnerable, little green bag of washing, with a toothbrush sticking out of it, in the luggage compartment  I sit down, I think, if anyone now claims this as their seat then I'm on the wrong plane.
I am somewhat relived when i hear the announcements being made and although there wasn't one in English I did catch the word Brasilia in there. Phew!
Actually, the flight was lovely and I had a window seat so I just watched the stratosphere passing by until we
descended into Brasilia which curiously looked a bit like Harlow from the air. This is not surprising as Brasilia was a totally planned development, built on land where there was previously no town or city, in exactly the same way as Harlow was and around the same time too. Open plan living in an open plan time.

Once we had landed, I waited at baggage reclaim holding my little green vulnerable plastic bag full of washing with a toothbrush sticking out of it until I espied my bag and guitar  which I quickly pulled off of the carousel. First thing i did was check the guitar had made the short journey without being broken and I found it was fine. Great.  Then loaded everything onto a trolley and headed out to experience my first moments of Brasilia.
You know what it's like you exit the arrivals, the sea of faces looking for loved ones, the change of expression when they spot them, then you have the people holding up cards with the names of the travellers they have been tasked to pick up.
I arrive, and the sea of expectant faces locate their love ones, their expressions changing  to that of joy and there ensues a flurry of activity and hubbub as their bags are whisked up by friends and loved ones and they all disappear in a cloud dust out of the door to waiting cars, off  to adventure or home.
In the quiet that now descended, I was left standing there, with my trolley containing my guitar, big bag of merchandise and my little vulnerable green plastic bag full of washing with my toothbrush sticking out of it.

There was no-one to greet me

Don't panic, I thought, we have arrived's a little early, that's the reason for the no show of my Brasilia contact Gilmar. When it got around to the actual arrival time and there was still no show I began to worry. I cannot see any mention of Brasilia in this airport, maybe I've ended up in Rio or something, but my luggage is with me and the stickers on them say Brasilia so why is there no-one here?
I then realise that I have no contact number for Gilmar, I have no contact number for Demente, I speak no Portuguese, I am so tired I am nearly falling asleep standing up.

I am on my own.

I do have a number for Isabela which I try but no answer, she is at work so I leave a message.
Try the free Wi Fi? You've got to be kidding me?

I should never have been in this situation, it was silly not to have any contact numbers for  anyone but Demente have vouched 100% for Gilmar and I trust Demente 100% so i was confident that someone would be here, where was the problem in that? Oh yeah the problem is here. Demente and I had been too tired to think this thing through so early in the morning but here I am now with my tiredness feeding my anxiety.
I had £40 of access from O2 that I had used up in five minutes and they told me they would not charge me any more but would cut the connection at 50 meg, a further batch of Internet access will cost me £120 so I didn't want that. Therefore I had turned off the data networking to my phone but was now desperately turning it back on to use a bit of Facebook to get the telephone numbers that i needed before my 50 meg run out. I left some messages on Facebook and turned off the data networking again then after a short period of anxiety, turned it back on again and looked for a reply on Facebook. I then found a message from Demente saying don't fret, sit tight, Gilmar will be there don't worry.He had rung him and got no reply so he must be on his way.
Well, if he got involved in an accident what would I do? I was thinking the worst by now and thinking selfishly too.
Oh if only I had WiFi access, I desperately try Brasilia free WiFi and with one button press I am connected, no sign up, no email address or password required, no account to be made. I just couldn't believe the ease I was now connected. Why can't the rest of the WiFi world be like that.
I then had full access to Facebook and all my contacts if I needed help, Demente had emailed his number to me and I had sent mine to him.
Then without any fanfare Gilmar walks in with his driver and I am saved! The terminal I was to arrive in had been switched and Gilmar had been unaware he was waiting in the wrong place.

I was taken to my accommodation and the very first thing I did was to hang my washing out to dry and place my toothbrush in the bathroom.

Now, Brasilia here I come!

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