Saturday, July 02, 2011


After a very long, line-filled trip, we've arrived in Rio. I have to say it was one of the worst arrivals in the city I've ever experienced.

We had a foreshadowing when, while pulling away from the jetway in Atlanta, our plane lost all power. The auxiliary power failed and we were left in the dark, literally, with no lights, engine, aircon, or PA system for the attendants to offer an explanation of what had happened. My stomach was in knots as they finally managed to recover power and we taxied toward the runway on our merry way.

The flight itself was uneventful. Arrival in Rio, however, was awful. The line for immigration stretched outside the labyrinth where weary travelers wait for processing by the federal police, all the way into the corridor that circles the airport where you first get off the plane. We waited in line for over 30m just to get in the proper line for immigration (foreigners vs brasileiros). We waited another 40 minutes in the foreigners line, thinking that because I don't have Brazilian residency we had to go through with the tourists. Apparently we were wrong and could have sped through the locals' line. Now we know...

Baggage claim and customs were a crowded mess. Imagine a metro car during rush hour, with people smashed up against each other, others trying to push their way in an already super crowded train, and others desperately attempting to wiggle their way to the door in time for their destination station. That's what the entire arrivals section felt like. Another hour and we were finally out.

The saga didn't end there, though. Exiting the airport we got stuck at a blitz, what people here call police checkpoints. We idled on the highway for another hour. We are used to blitzes, but this one was different. The army showed up, and soldiers on motorcycles pulled rank and "took over" the military police blitz. After quite some time, an escorted convoy of buses zoomed by. They were from the Jogos Militares da Paz, the Military Games for Peace (now there's an oxymoron for you!). We thought all was ok after that point, but when we finally inched our way to the actual checkpoint, we saw 4 officers with dead serious expressions, guns loaded and actively pointed towards the occupants of the vehicles going by. They were not messing around. We had to lower the windows and hope that all was ok as we drove past. This is definitely not common in a blitz. These guys were ready to shoot, a testimony to what kind of trouble they were anticipating coming through the blitz that morning.

Four hours after our plane arrived, we finally made it to Rico's mom's house. My comment to Rico was that I'm glad this wasn't my first impression of Rio, otherwise I don't know if I'd be motivated to come back for another visit!

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