Of Missed Flights, Timely Embassy Visits, Soap Operas, and More

That time that TAM tried to steal my money:

Brazil Rule-of-Thumb: If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. I’ve said it many times…and it couldn’t have been more true last Monday and Tuesday. What should have been a rather quick, pleasant return to Santarém turned into a nightmarish 18 hours of constantly wondering “how does this country function?”

We arrived at the airport in Belém 1.5 hours early for our short flight west. Slowly but surely chaos enveloped the TAM check-in line and the next hour of waiting couldn’t have been any more Brazilian. Confusion, random check-in lines, ruthless cutting…you name it.  About 30 minutes before our flight we finally managed to reach the front of the line and encountered a wonderful (by “wonderful” I mean the worst human being ever) check-in lady named Georgia. She took one look at Donovan and I (probably realizing we were Gringos), called over one of TAM’s clueless stooges, and with no explanation had him escort us to the back of the line we’d just waited an hour in. It was at this point that I heard him tell another passenger in front of us “Sorry, you arrived here 30 minutes before your flight…there is nothing we can do for you.”  I’ll let you marinate on that for a second…

…It quickly became clear that TAM was about to pull a fast one and deny us service by claiming we’d arrived to the airport late and missed our flight (even as I write this…I’m still baffled). NEEDLESS to say, Andrew James Dallos does not roll that way.  Donovan and I turned around, marched up to the front of the line, and demanded service from Georgia.  Although she initially tried to ignore our presence, it became clear that we weren’t going to move and she eventually attended us. LONG story short, after some bickering, confrontation, and conversations with the supervisor on duty, they eventually told us our flight was full and rebooked us on a flight the next day and put us up in a hotel for the night.  Never an apology…never an acknowledgement of the f***edupness of what had just transpired. Blarg…blarg…blarg.

There are a great many positive things about Brazil and Brazilian culture, but professionalism, ability to deal with conflict, and admission of fault are not high up on the list. It is times like these that make me wonder…how in the world is this country going to cope with millions of foreign tourists in just 20 short months???????

…oh ya…the kicker: amidst the confusion Donovan left his passport with Georgia at the check-in desk…AND IT WAS NEVER SEEN AGAIN.

…if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.

Route 66: The U.S Embassy visits Santarém

As part of a new U.S State Department initiative in Brazil, over the next four years the U.S embassy is sending out Foreign Service Officers to 66 “less known” cities in Brazil and surprise, surprise…Santarém is on the list. This past weekend Donovan and I ended up hosting three folks from the U.S Embassy in Brasília and showing them around town (we were given three days notice to coordinate the whole endeavor).  We set up a little talk for them at UFOPA where they had the opportunity to meet our students, talk about exchange program, and discuss the visa process.   Despite my initial misgivings about the visit (it seemed haphazard and poorly planned), I think the weekend was a massive success for all involved. Our students really got something out of it and we actually had a pretty awesome time hanging out with the Embassy crew and picking their brains about life in the Foreign Service.

…the most amazing stroke of luck ever: the week after Donovan loses his passport, three officials from the U.S Embassy randomly show up in Santarém. GO FIGURE.  Literally, if they hadn’t come to visit, Donovan would have had to fly to Brasília and present himself at the Embassy to get another passport. You can’t make that stuff up.

Avenida Brasil Finale: “Bigger than the World Cup Final”

I admit myself somewhat embarrassed that I’ve been here in Brazil for nearly eight months and have yet to discuss one of the more curious aspects of Brazilian culture: soap operas. In case you’re wondering…soap operas are a very very very very very very very big deal here. Every night between 8 and 10 everybody and their uncle (and by “uncle” I mean aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, ect.) stops what they’re doing, turns on the T.V, and watches the latest juicy events unfold.  Brazilian soap operas are famous for their extraordinarily high production value and focus on the social issues of the day. In fact, you can find study after study arguing that novelas have had an immense impact on shifting Brazilian social values and significantly contributed to Brazil’s declining birth rate (many novelas  focus on small families and childless women for instance). Pretty fascinating…

Anyways, Avenida Brasil, the latest and greatest (it is literally the most popular novela in history) soap opera to sweep the nation, ended last Friday to great fanfare. The show focused on Rio de Janeiro’s urban middle class and has been a smash hit.  Many people feel that the focus on middle-class characters (as opposed to the typical wealthier urbanites) has allowed the show to resonate with everyday Brazilians to a much greater extent than past novelas. The Brazilian President even went so far as to cancel her major press event Friday night and the authorities predicted power outages throughout the country (luckily this fear wasn’t realized).  In the words of one news reporter, “The last episode of Avenida Brasil is bigger than the World Cup Final.”  Ummm…what? While I haven’t gotten super into the novelas (they are a nightly commitment that requires a…T.V), I must say that watching the city shut down for the finale was amazing to see.

…whether or not I think Globo, the producer of nearly every popular novela and all-knowing Brazilian news channel, should have the power to effect Brazilian culture and social mores the way it does…is a different issue altogether.

Other happenings:

  • Who’s ready for the Obama-Romney rubber match? Should be a THREE RING CIRCUS. Wish I could actually watch it. Also…if you haven’t seen this meme…lol…

  • Heh…Three…Ring…Circus…Romney…Binders full of women…see what I did there?
  • A vision of what Andy is going to do with his life in five weeks time has become slightly less opaque recently. That’s all you get for now…
  • I spent 8 hours at the shopping mall yesterday…doing absolutely…nothing. G.O.T T.O L.O.V.E I.T.

That’s all I’ve got for now. The end. I can assure you that I’ll have binders full of stories next Monday. Until then, have a splendiferous week.

Um forte abraço,

Andy

P.S Check out my Facebook album from the Belém trip if you haven’t already!

P.S.S Even if you don’t laugh at my corny jokes…I do…and that’s ALLLLLLL that matters :)

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