Getting there is NOT half the fun.
24.11.2011 - 25.11.2011
Rewind to a cold day in March 2011. Matt and I are piled up in the bedroom on a rainy Saturday. Matt is reading a book and I am doing what I always do when stuck indoors...surfing the web looking for the next great place to visit.
“I want to go to South America,” I hear from the other side of the bed.
I turn my head slowly to stare stupidly at the man who NEVER utters a vacation opinion.
“You want to ...wha huh?”
“I want to go to South America,” he repeats and returns to reading his book.
I am not one to back down from a challenge. Fifteen minutes and a freakishly low super saver air miles rate on USAir later, I am sitting there scratching my head not sure how it is that I now have 2 round trip tickets to Rio de Janeiro or what I am going to do with them, exactly.
In the fashion of “Four Christmases,” we would be flying out on Thanksgiving Day. Unlike the movie, however, we did not lie to our parents and tell them we would miss the holiday because we’d be inoculating babies in Burma. We told them the truth...that we were blowing off Thanksgiving to go to exotic Brazil for 10 days.
We probably should have lied. Lying to our parents would have been preferable to telling them the truth and then enduring 9 months of “parental worry.” They did not see going to Brazil as "exotic." The viewed it as temporary insanity.
“Do you have to get shots to go there?”
“Are you going to the Amazon? You’re not going to the Amazon are you? They have snakes there that can swallow you whole.”
“Will you get malaria?”
“Don’t drink the water. Or eat the food. Can you take your own food with you? Never mind, just eat things in packages. Don’t eat anything fresh.”
“I don’t think they have running water there.”
“Can you take a gun?”
“Have you seen the movie ‘City of God?’”
“Don’t stop to help anyone on the side of the road. They’ll steal your car and rape you.”
“Why can’t you just go somewhere normal, like Cleveland?”
To our parents, we may as well have been heading to Syria or Uzbekistan. They were certain that within 24 hours of arriving, we would be kidnapped, drugged, and someone would steal our kidneys to sell on the black market.
Not only did we dismiss our parents as having “overactive imaginations,” we ignored the fact that Rio de Janeiro is regularly touted as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, that Brazil is considered by many to be a third world country, and that nearly every travel site we visited for information was loaded with disclaimers like, “Don’t wear expensive things. Dress down and try to blend in,” or “Don’t carry much cash and never let your camera be in plain view of others,” or even “Don’t walk the streets after dark; if you do, look purposeful and walk quickly.”
We were blinded by visions of string bikinis and late night caipirinhas.
We should have read the fine print.
Fast forward 9 months.
Thanksgiving Day. There was no turkey and dressing for us. We spent Thanksgiving flying to Charlotte, enduring a 4 ½ hour layover (which passed much more pleasantly thanks to US Air club passes), and then making a torturous 8 ½ hour non-stop flight from Charlotte to Rio trying to sleep at a 90 degree angle while sitting next to a woman who sounded like she had tuberculosis.
We were on our way to Rio de Janeiro with only the language skills required to order a milkshake.
“Eu gostaria de um milkshake de.”
After a $299 Rosetta Stone course in Brazilian Portuguese and several months of trying, this was the only phrase I could actually utter in Portuguese. Not because it was particularly useful, but because it was the only one that stuck in my memory due to the immature fact that every time I heard the Rosetta Stone lady pronounce, “Milkey Shakey Day,” I laughed so hard I snorted. I found the language difficult and, unlike the Italian I picked up pretty quickly years before, I simply couldn’t retain even the simplest of phrases.
Unable to sleep on that long overnight flight, I found myself looking over our itinerary. It had been a tough trip to plan. There was a definite lack of good travel information to be found. I had purchased books and I had scoured the internet, but had turned up very little. Not only was it tough to plan, I was totally unaware when I hit the “BOOK IT” button on US Air that fateful day in March, that Matt and I were both required to get travel Visas, which involved about 1,000 forms, including copies of our bank and credit card accounts to “demonstrate financial means commensurate to those of an international traveler,” and to the tune of $160 each.
I had managed, however, to put together what appeared to be a pretty good trip. Because US Air only flies into Rio, we chose to explore only areas in the state of Rio de Janeiro. We would split our time between 4 different locations: a historic fishing village, an exotic tropical island, the urban madness of Rio de Janeiro, and a swanky coastal resort town.
The flight attendant came over the speaker to announce that we were beginning our descent into Rio de Janeiro...
Fasten your seatbelts, folks, as some turbulence is to be expected. Due to extreme challenges presented by the location itself, our lack of proper tools such as maps or language skills, and an oncoming bout of the flu that we didn’t know was already incubating inside one of us...this turned out to be one crazy ride.