I will eventually stick in the photos where it says "insert photo" but we are only here for a minute at the internet cafe, so here is the text! Photos are on facebook! Descriptions soon to come, as well.
5 Flights, 4 seventy-pound suitcases, 3 countries, 2 people, 1 destination: Brazil.
(include photo of us leaving)
After days and days and hours and hours of flying, we arrived. On the last flight Humberto could not even sit still. After three days of hotels, international flights, speaking Spanish in Panama, English in Miami and Portuguese in Manaus, a gente não podia aguentar maissss. We just could not handle anymore traveling. Humberto and I said that if for some reason we would have to take another plane somewhere, or if we were delayed in Cuiabá, we were just going to stay there, build a house, and tell the family to come see us. Never in my life have I endured a trip that was so stressful, so difficult. In all of my travels I had actually had someone try and swindle me to my face, so bluntly. I will never, ever, travel to Panamá again.
Here is one story:
Preface-- I had spent weeks checking, making sure, and double checking the limits on carry-on bags and checked bags, to the point that I had it memorized. The airline we chose allows for 2 bags, each person, up to 70 lbs each, and one carry on and a personal bag. We had no problems checking in in Miami, they said everything was fine.
However, in Panamá, we arrived to the airport and the first official for the airline said nope. Too many bags. I said to him, in Spanish, that I was positive we were fine becuase of what the website had said. He said ohh, okay, go ahead. So we proceeded to the counter. This is where the "fun" began. First, the guy at the counter said that we had to pay $40 each for an exit tax. I understood this becuase there are many countries that have this, however, I don't remember learning about that on the website. After I questioned about it, in Spanish, the guy said, no everyone has to pay it. I said alright, here is my card. He said he would only accept cash. I said that I refused to pay in cash, without receiving an offical reciept. He then asked me to hold on, went and talked with the other employees, returned asked how long I had been in the country, which was less than 24 hours. He then replied that we did not need to pay anything because only those who stay in the country for more than 24 hours are required to pay the exit tax. This was his first attempt at taking advantage of us.
THEN, he looked at our bags and said there was no way for us to take two bags on the plane each. I quickly responded that the rules I saw on their website AND receieved confirmation from their headquarters in Miami confirmed that we could each take two bags that were 70lbs each. He replied, "ooooh nooo.... that has changed. In Panamá, becuase of the new fight against terrorism, each person is only able to take one. We would have to pay for the others. Of course, in cash. I said he was crazy, that I didn't believe that the law had changed that quickly and that I wanted to speak to his superior. He left, came back and asked me if I understood, well, Spanish. He continued to tell me about how he was doing us a huge favor becuase what we were trying to do is no longer allowed, and that he could get in trouble for it. (Hint for those who aren't accostomed to Latin America, this is a direct request for a bribe indicating that our things would not arrive in Manaus as we had hoped without it.) Humberto slipped him a $20 and we continued checking in as if we had never had a problem. Oooh Latin America.
We liked the food in Panamá, however.
(insert photo of my snapper, humberto eating salad, me and my beer)
And we liked the fact we were on our first sort-of "vacation" together.
(insert photo of us hugging, insert photo of panama at night)
The flight to Manaus was gorgeous. I didn't get to see it last time on my way in becuase I arrived around 5am or something awful, so it was the first time I was seeing it! (I was so tired when I was heading back to the states last time I don't remember even looking out the windows hahaha!)
(Insert 4 pictures from manaus airplane)
In the immigration line, I met a man who was in my situation! His wife is Brazilian, he is American, and even more interestingly, he lived the majority of his life in Humberto's state, only a few hours from his city, and at one point he lived in Ji-Paraná, too! He invited us to share his taxi to the hotel he stays at all the time when we he travels through Manaus, and since he was in the process of moving his family to the states, he travels ALOT through Manaus. I was reaaaaaaaaally nervous becuase I just saw this as another scam, but Humberto had a really good vibe from the guy, and we decided to trust him.
(insert humberto and his first beer in brazil after 5 years, humberto and ben)
I am glad we did becuase he was staying in a GREAT hotel, we shared a GREAT meal and a few beers (humberto's first beer in Brazil for 5 years!), and hours and hours and hours of great conversation. He knew everything about Humberto's state, all of the history, and loved sharing it with us.
He showed us around a plaza that has typical food from the area, a Churrasco de Gato (a small barbecue operation) and a stand that sells typical food from the Amazon. We got to talk with the owner and try all sorts of stuff!
(insert photo of churrasco de gato and photo of the stand, me and the owner)
And our hotel's driveway was paved with paving stones. Humberto just laughed and yelled "FLAVIOOOOOOOO!"
(Insert 3 photos of our hotel)
We were taking the same flight together in the morning as well, so we had breakfast together, grabbed a taxi together and he helped us with everything at the airport (including letting us know that Manaus had two airports, by the same name. One bigger, one smaller, and that OUR flight was leaving from the smaller one. OOOOOH BRAZIL. How do you function when you do crazy things like that.)
Here is a picture of Rondonia from the plane:
(insert photo of rondonia)
Anyhow, we arrived, his brothers
(insert photo of humberto and adriano, photo of humberto and ariel, humberto and nicole)
helped carry all our bags to the truck, we went to his each of their houses, which have been constructed since Humberto left 5 years ago and then headed to his parent's farm. We arrived completely unexpectedly--as they thought we were arriving tomorrow. It was such a beautiful reunion. His mother crying, his father fell to his knees and thanked God for delivering his son back into his arms. Humberto was so happy, as well were his parents, the rest of his family, and myself. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of this moment because I too was emotional, Humberto's one brother took a video with the video camera to save it.
Less than an hour after arriving we went to finish cleaning the cow they had just killed for the party the following day. Here are pictures from that:
And here are some pictures from the party the following day. We stayed up until 3:30am partying, singing, talking, mingling with the about 50-60 people who showed up to welcome Humberto home and to meet his bride-to-be. I met a girl who works with Bolsa Familia, the program I have been studying this past semester and she promised to take me to her next evaluation session next week. I am excited!!!!! Also, one of the guests asked how long I spent in the United States---she thought I was BRAZILIAN! :) For those who are learning a language, this is about the best compliment you can ever receive!
(insert photos of party)
Here is a cute photo that I took Sunday morning. One of my friends on the farm. He and his family hang out here with us.
(insert photo of monkey)
I hope that this was interesting for you to read, I can't believe how long it took to type. I will try and write a little every day now instead of waiting a few days to write so that it is not so long and drawn out.
Beijos to my family, I miss you all so much. Até a próxima entrada :)