Brazil: Confusion Upon Arrival

So far, this quick little trip to Sao Paulo is starting out weird. Just getting into the taxi seems to be fraught with mishap.

Applying for the travel visa to Brazil was somewhat annoying. You have to get a corporate invitation letter and purchase plane tickets… only then can you schedule an appointment with the consulate. And that appointment has to be scheduled two weeks in advance. Of course, the fee structure changed a week before the appointment, so I had to go back and forth between the consulate and the post office getting the money order amount corrected.

I think I prefer the United States Post Office bureaucracy to that of any agency dealing with travel or immigration. You don’t have to use the USPS, so they have a process that is convenient for the customer. Any bureaucracy you are forced to use doesn’t have to consider things like customer service.

But that has nothing to do with me standing in the Sao Paulo arrivals terminal for nearly an hour, thinking I lost my boss somewhere between immigration and the taxi stand.

The ten hour overnight flight from Atlanta to Sao Paulo was delayed on the ground, which I didn’t mind too much since the in-flight entertainment system has some nice games. After clearing customs in Brazil (another mandatory bureaucratic system) I grabbed my bags and waited for my boss, who was in line behind me in line.

And I waited.

And waited.

After twenty minutes, it was clear he wasn’t in line or near baggage claim. No problem, he probably slipped behind me somehow and is out front waiting for me. So I went through the “nothing to declare” line and started to look around.

No boss.

This is where the profanity kicks in.

Finally I do something I really despise … I turn my work cell phone on in a foreign country. Yes, the fees are ridiculous, but I need to make sure I can find the guy. I send a quick text message, telling him to meet me at the taxi stand. Obviously we’re just separated in the airport, we’ll meet up soon.

Ten minutes later, I get his return text. He’s already in the cab on the way to the hotel. Apparently he got his bags right after I did, assumed I saw him, and headed out into the airport. While I was waiting in baggage claim, he was wandering the airport looking for me. The taxi stand attendant told him I had already left, so he assumed I headed to the hotel and got his own cab.

Sometime later it’s all sorted out. I’m in a hotel lobby, waiting for my boss to meet me and head out for our first meeting of the trip. We’re both a bit low on sleep, since coach class isn’t the best place to grab eight hours of shut eye, but I’m sure we’ll make it through this meeting with no problem.

Maybe I’ll still have enough energy tonight to be a tourist. Only time will tell.

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