Monday, May 22, 2006


Never ever ever fly Varig.

This is the same airline which delayed us for eight hours in New York on the way here, which is fine, these things happen. But I knew I was in trouble when the seatbelt sign went off, I rose to go to the bathroom, and found the unit that holds the toilet paper had fallen out of the counter and crashed to the floor of the lavatory, depositing said roll of toilet paper into the toilet bowl for good measure. I tapped on the nearby flight attendant's shoulder and informed him of the exact condition of the lavatory. His response was, "Oh yeah, just push it back into the wall." It was all downhill from there.

Yesterday, we flew them again to come to Sao Paolo to stay. Our original flight left Buenos Aires at 2:30 and got into Sao Paolo at 5 pm. They changed this about a week ago to a different flight. This one left BA at 4:30 and got to Sao Paolo at 8:30. How did the flight get four hours longer? It included a random stop at another airport. Did they cancel our original flight? No.

We boarded already disgruntled, and starved because there's no decent food in the BA airport (sidenote: it's especially cruel that at this wasteland of cuisine, you can buy twelve pound packages of raw Argentinian beef to take home. I was tempted to buy that and eat it raw or try cooking it with my small matchbook collection.). The seats are all rock hard. The space between you and the person in front of you is such that when the woman in front of me reclined, it was awkward NOT to give her a scalp massage. I also could not have an open laptop in these conditions. When 'dinner' came yesterday, I actually laughed when I opened the entree. It was two pink tomato slices floating in a pool of slimy orange on some white substance that other classmates swore was bread. It was accompanied by a bowl of canned fruit salad (heavy on the maraschino cherries) and a dessert I didn't even open. Those of you who know me well know that I have never passed on a dessert in my entire life.

This plane was also equipped with footrests. "Delightful!" those of you who have flown in business class are thinking. But in this case, it removed any hope of stowing beneath the seat in front of me. It also only rested in two positions: one allowed me to put my feet two inches above the floor of the carpet and have my knees around my chin, the other prevented me from extending my legs fully under the seat but did let me experience a hard metal bar resting against my shins.

(Sidebar from our flight into South America) Did I also mention that at three in the morning, at the end of our NYC-Sao Paolo flight, since Varig was obligated to put us up in a nearby hotel for delaying us so badly and forcing us to take a flight the next morning, we went through Brazilian customs/immigration without stopping once. No passports were shown, no forms were handed in. We entered a foreign country as easily as you enter a shopping mall. This is a sidebar non-Varig story, but an amazing one nonetheless. When we got back to the airport after three hours sleep, they tried to make us go through immigration to exit the country and our total lack of stamps/evidence we had ever entered Brazil nearly shut down the whole airport. But a thirty second explanation from a classmate who spoke Portugese had them once again let 42 people through two checkpoints with absolutely no record. Unbelievable.

I'm back in Sao Paolo for real this time.


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