Live and Learn

Another phrase we hear all the time.  I am full of them.  I would defiantly say that running all over the world is an experience where you live and learn.  As we head for destination number 223 one would think that I have learned a lot over time.

I have made a few mistakes along the way.  My goal was for us not to show up for a plane and for them say the flight left yesterday or at a hotel and they say we have no rooms since your reservation is for tomorrow.  The hotel situation should not be an issue since we are life time Platinum and they always hold a room for travelers like us.

The trip we just came off down to Antarctica went off with out a hitch.   There we were at the airport 3 hours early, for our flight to San Paulo and was advised that we did not have a visa for Brazil.  They showed me the IATA information and low and behold they were right and we were not getting on our flight.

You have to remember that my mindset is that we are running all over the world so there must be a way to make this happen.  If not today, in the near future.  Catherine and I put on our sad faces as they explained in very broken English that the reason we were able to travel there last year was because of the Olympics and Brazil relaxed their visa requirements during that period of time.

The last three years at UPS I was responsible for this neck of the woods out of the MIA domicile so you would think I would know better.  I had a Brazilian visa in my old passport but it had expired the later part of last year and it never occurred to me to get one for the new passport.

I have gone to government websites to check requirements many times but not this time.  Maybe I was becoming complacent or road weary.  Moving passed the reason, we had to get to Brazil.  Did I mention it was Saturday around 2pm.  The frowns and dumbfounded look worked and we were given the phone number for the Brazilian Consulate.

The airline said it was an emergency number so I gave it a try.  Low and behold someone answered but they only spoke Portuguese.  She handed the phone to a translator and was told to be there at 5pm.  The address was confirmed with a WhatsApp message from them.  Loving being connected after 10 days at sea to and from Antarctica.  We jumped in a cab and there we were on our very lucky day.

Turns out some very rich folks had a similar problem and they brought their entire family, three kids each to the consulate.  If it was not for them I would have had to go to their website, fill out an application and make an appointment sometime next week to get it done.

Three hours later we were dragging our bags a half a mile back to our hotel.  They had rooms so dropped off our bags and had the finest steak and Pisco sours to cap off the long day.

Live and learn really comes to mind in this case.  I knew better but need this real life experience to get me back on game.  Many times when we tour with a group they walk you thru the obstacles of international travel and I guess I had just let my guard down.  No harm no foul but we were not out of the woods yet.

I usually use Orbitz for our own international, off-line travel.  Don’t really like them but in the past they have gotten the job done.  I am not kidding anyone when I say I spent hours on the phone getting my reservations squared away.  Midnight and it was still not resolved and I was thinking of throwing in the towel.  That thought process is really not in my DNA so after 6 hours sleep I pressed on.

Something to keep in mind when you use one of these website, travel agencies, you get 24/7 service but you have to go thru them if there are any changes.  Contacting the airline directly is an exercise in fertility.  Not sure how they make any money with all the time spent trying to figure out solutions when dumb dumbs like myself fail to go the extra mile to make sure they have all the required documents.

My sister had to cancel a flight to St. Kitts, the first part of this year, when she found out the hard way that you need at least 6 months, before it expires, past your return dat,e to be allowed to leave the US.  Another one I witnessed that is seldom used is to show up at the airport without the credit card you booked the overseas trip on.  Africa is a country that this required.  They do flag your reservation but it is not easy to spot.  You can also do it anytime prior at the airport if you are flying somewhere else.

Checked some flights on-line and with a game plan gave it one more try.  Each time I called them they had to call GOL Airlines to see what changes and fees would apply.  It seems since I did not make our flight we were no-shows and it was undecided if we had a return flight with them still.  I pressed the issue and they caved and honored our flight back which you could no longer book online.

Fees and additional cost for new flights, be damn, I was not going to be denied.  Slight problem was that San Paulo was not our final destination.  Catherine’s brother, Larry and his wife, Eliana lives near a small airport, ROA, Ribeirao Preto  I puddle jumper was required if you did not want to make the 4 plus hour drive and our options of getting there the next day at any cost was becoming impossible.

Marriott has a hotel near the airport so the plan now was to arrive late at night and fly to see them the next day refreshed.  Granted it was two days late but late was better than not at all.  GOL sold us the ticket and Aerolineas Argentnos is the airline we are presently on, who happens to be a sky team partner so all is good.

Yes they have a lounge and yes we took advantage of all they had to offer since we caught our cab at 2pm and the flight left at 8pm.   As I normally do I stood on my toes, like I needed to, and asked if the exit row was available and a few key strokes later we were handed tickets and were happy as clams.

You would think I had planned it this way.  We get to breathe the air of a different city and still get four nights of family time with Catherine’s brother and wife.  I have not added up the additional cost but as long as we are staying in nice hotels and experiencing all this together, no big deal.

As we were on our way to the airport another live and learn experience came to mind.  Picture you are driving down the highway leaving the hustle and bustle of the city and on both sides of the road there is green space.  Now picture families having picnics and playing soccer and flying kites.  I was awe-struck at the scene and they were along the highway the entire way.  They even had signs that clearly said that this for forbidden but I guess it was just one of those rules that was meant to be broken.

It is one of those scenes that you try to describe to others but you really have to see for yourself.  I learned that since the city was laid out the way it was this was the perfect place to enjoy the sun and grass on a nice Sunday afternoon.  Just goes to show that no matter where we are everyone is trying to do the same things to enjoy life.  Some have to improvise to accomplish what others might take for granted.

As I explained in my last blog entry called, “This is a life changing experience”, in most cases it might just be a once in a life time experience.  Probably won’t come back to spend any time in Buenos Aires and not sure I will witness highway side picnics ever again so it is easy to say that was a once in a life time experience.

You never know so we just continue to put one foot in front of the other as we run all over the world.  I try not to take things for granted but did have a conversation with a guy that has no real plans of retiring and had mentioned that he would be 70 in 14 years.  That took me by surprise since we never know how much longer we have on earth.  Maybe that is why I live for those once in a life time experiences.

I understand those that are, for no fault of their own, probably will have to work till they die but as this guy went on about how he has 10 million in the bank and could live on 1K a day and never run out of money I just kept shaking my head.  I say to anyone that listens that retirement is the best phase of life and a great life lesson both my parents taught me was that you really only have at best 20 years to enjoy it.

That is my goal and I am sure each of us has what that might work best for them.  I hear all the time that they love their job but have to ask does it love you as much as your significant other.

Catherine and I’s circumstance are very unique.  I had open heart surgery almost three years ago and when I was told that would be necessary I had just finished my 50 something marathon.

Catherine was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s about the same time so for us we both knew that right now was all we could be sure of.  I never take the time to think, I will be 70 in so many years, but I do make sure I put on my seat belt and look both ways as I cross the street.

I take, live and learn, to heart.  You can read it in a book but to actually experience something is how I learn best.  Little known fact is that I did not do so well in College but excelled in flight school since we had class in the morning and jumped in an airplane that afternoon to apply that knowledge.  That is how my brain is wired and as I say many times that is why there is chocolate, vanilla and rocky road.  Different strokes for different folks

I learned a valuable lesson from the guy that loves his job.  That is how his brain is wired and it works for him.  He is a happy man and that is how the world should work.  I had to live the experience of that conversation to learn that since in my mind I think I have it all figured out.  People often say we are living the dream but in actuality so are a lot of other people.  They are living their dream, it just might not be yours.

I Hope I did not go off the deep end so top of decent is coming up with customs, bag retrieval, immigration, hotel shuttle, check-in and bed still a few hours away I will close out for now and hopefully can add some great pictures of Brazil to add.

The airport Marriott was very nice and kind of wished we could spend more time there but we can’t do or see it all as I often say.  I Had not been on a prop plane since our trip to Africa last July.

Outside our window at the Marriott in Sao Paulo. Jogging track included

Brings back memories, back in the days when I use to fly props

It was only a 50 minute flight and then we can rest up for the next four days.  No planes, trains and automobiles.  I have been to Campinas, VCP, several times with UPS but up until now have never heard of Ribeirao Preto, ROA, let alone how to pronounce it.  That was the hub for Passageiro, the airline we used to get there from Sao Paulo, GRU.

The ATR 172 was a great jet prop aircraft and the flight was on time with plenty of room at our seats.  It was only about 1 hour drive to their home in Bebedouro.  Larry was a chemical engineer at Cargill, for years and him, his wife and three children have traveled the world with them.  He retired about a year ago but still does some consulting work for them and others but his real passion now is farming.

He has been able to transfer his talents and experience as a chemical engineer to the farming industry.  This part of the world is noted for sugar cane and oranges but in effort to become self sustainable he is converting the 100 acre farm to bananas, oranges, passion fruit, tree of life and Tilapia.  I did get a chance to help out with the passion fruit by pollinating some of the flowers.

Catherine and her brother Larry

Passion Fruit final product

Bamboo Lane

In the passion fruit fields

Passion fruit about 2 weeks from picking

Every farm has to have their own church

Drone in the air in the banana field

Reach in and pollenate, hope there are no bees

Larry is standing on a mound

Larry got to try out his drone as he surveyed his property.  Him and Eliana have great plans for the farm and have been helping the community along the way.

Larry’s drone flight with us on their farm

This is another example of live and learn.  I don’t think any description of the farm would have done it any justice but it was easy to tell that lifestyle is not for me.  They have two puppies at the farm and one, 2-year-old, mini pin at the house and we had to check Catherine’s bag real good to make sure he did not try to take one or all of them back to ATL with us.

This is going to be one of those dreaded long days back to ATL.  4am wake up, one hour drive to the airport, 1 hour flight to Sao Paulo, 3 hour layover, 2 1/2 hour flight to Buenos Aires, EZE, 6 hour layover, 10 hour flight to ATL.  Since we were on Sky Team partners there was a lounge in both airports so the layovers weren’t so bad.

As I mentioned ROA was the hub for the first flight and they loaded 5 airplanes out of the same gate in 30 minutes.  Since they were not making announcements in English I had to make an educated guess when our flight was boarding.  Very efficient and somewhat chaotic at the same time.  I was a bit concerned when we taxied out 10 minutes early but we did in fact get on the right airplane.  Another first for us on this trip was that we had to check and retrieve our bags for all three flights.  No checking you bags to your final destination since the flights were booked on three separate reservations.

Off we go into the wild blue yonder 

I guess you could say Larry and I are on parallel tracks when it comes to retirement.  He is using his experience from his previous job to fulfill his dream of farming.  I, in turn are using my navigation experience from aviation to help me run all over the world.  I really enjoy the challenge involved in trying to figure out how to safety get from point A to B learning as I go along.

I call Catherine, Captain Obvious, from the Travelocity fame.  Sometime I have to use her talents of noticing the obvious as we navigate airports, etc.  I sometimes can’t see the trees for the forest and that is something she is really good at.  The small sign might be out of my sight since I am taking in the big picture and she never seems to have a problem.

While I was trying to check in for my GOL flight they have on their home page a place where you can change languages.  Seems simple enough.  Click on the Icon for USA and off you go.  Not that simple because the programmers decided that only certain words needed to be translated.  First question in English was Nationality.  The possible choices were now in Portuguese so with Larry’s help he showed me the Portuguese phrase for United States of America, Estados Unidos da America.

They went back and forth the entire site and in most cases I was able to figure out what information they wanted.  I have notice this in many countries over time but you would never think that would be a problem.  Live and Learn.

I am going to try something new and produce these blog entries on a more regular basis.  Some people who I talked to say that is more appealing to folks that read blogs.  One lady from the posse has a reminder go off on Sunday and she takes a few hours to write and publish her blog every Sunday.

Over the last 826 days of us running all over the world I usually hold off until we get back from one of our trips before I work on it and try to have it finished before we go back out again.  The blog entry would then cover about 30-60 days and have been rather long.  I have broken this 21 day trip into two separate blogs.

The last one was, “This is a life changing experience” and that covered the period from ATL to Buenos Aires to Ushuaia to Antarctica and back to Buenos Aires.  This one will cover Buenos Aires to and from Brazil and back to ATL.

I think putting one out every week or so might be over kill so I hope to find a happy medium.  The craze now is Podcast but not sure I am ready to make that leap.  First I don’t like to hear my own voice and the second is that I can’t seem to bring myself to listen to them.  When I read I usually read the first and last sentence of each paragraph and if it is interesting I will read the whole paragraph.

If whatever I am reading is very interesting I will read the whole thing but with pod casts you are forced to listen to the whole thing since you have no way of knowing what you missed if you skip ahead.  I was told that, just because that is the way my brain is wired, does not mean others would not be interested in what I had to say as opposed to write.  Goes back to what I said earlier, that is why there is chocolate and vanilla.  Live and learn.

I will work on what I have written so far in Pages and copy and paste it over to word press when I have wi-fi in the Delta lounge in BA add the pictures and see how it turns out.  I guess the other down side of a pod cast is that there will be no pictures or videos.  Maybe I will make a slide show podcast.

Oh happy day.  We both got the last two business class seats for the 10 hour flight back to ATL so all is right with the world.  I am trying to figure out if goat rope is one word or two.  Air France ticket agents switched over to Delta agents and they made us wait to check in.  No big deal since we arrived 6 hours early and as I said before they have a Sky lounge in EZE, patients is a virtue.

We are going to have to get Catherine a new passport when we get back to ATL.  The Visa took her last free page and on our trip back and forth to Brazil the agents tried their best to find a free spot while I promised to get her a new passport.

Well as I close this one out I must admit I learned a lot on this trip.  I Need to stay on my A game if we are going to continue at this pace and also just because what you are doing is the answer to your dreams does not necessary mean it is the same dream of others.


Ironic, Passion Fruit Cake for dinner on our flight

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