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Saturday, September 11, 2004

 

It's the country of the future... and it always will be.

Now, I love being in foreign countries. But the sheer awfulness of travelling to foreign countries always amazes me.

There is the getting to the airport, which involves spending forty minutes and paying fifteen pounds to travel two miles. (I'm convinced that getting from the city centre to the airport is harder in London than in Bangkok, which at least has some proper roads, unlike London which has narrow, windy little alleys that were designed for seventeenth century sedan chairs and weren't big enough even then).

Then there is the flight, which varies from unpleasant to Abu Ghraib. This time I made the mistake of flying with Varig, so the flight was Abu Ghraib, although in Abu Ghraib the prisoners at least got something to put over their eyes, which is more than the prisone^H^H^H^H^H^H^H passengers on Varig get. The sole in flight entertainment was some chickflick dubbed into Spanish with Portuguese subtitles. Too, I'm pretty sure the seats on their plane were smaller than usual. I felt like I was playing Twister in some medieval Cell of Little Ease. Oh, and there was the small detail that my flight was supposed to be direct to Rio, but the pilot decided it would be more fun to go via Sao Paolo. (Sao Paolo BTW is several hundred miles further than Rio). To be fair, the flight from Sao Paolo to Rio was fine. It seems that Varig's longhaul service is a disgrace to mankind but their domestic business is shit hot (the exact reverse of BA).

One interesting feature of Rio international airport is that many of the ATMs appear to be dummies. I had to walk to a completely different terminal to find one that would accept any of my cards. I suppose it never occurred to anyone that people in international arrivals might not have Brazilian bank cards. To get cash out of an ATM in Brazil (assuming it will give you any), you have to go through a ridiculous pantomime which involves:

1. Put your card in.
2. Take your card out.
3. Press the button to withdraw the maxmium amount of cash.
4. Put your card in.
5. Take your card out.
6. Do the hokey cokey and turn around.
7. Finally you put in your PIN #.
8. And you get your cash
9. And you realize it is worth about twelve pounds
10. Repeat Until (pigs fly over frozen landscape of hell)

The journey into Rio from the airport is interesting. The airport is on the north side, which is heavily industrial and smells like it, and is full of low-grade concrete buildings. After driving through this until you are quite sick of it, you go through a tunnel and suddenly come out into the Rio of your dreams: tropical, palm trees, sun kissed. (Well, today it's pretty cloudy. But metaphorically sunkist. It's full of girls in bikinis anyway, which is close enough). It's quite a contrast to the north.

One thing I did notice on the drive was the political posters. These are physically quite similar to the pictures of Saddam Hussein that used to be plastered all over Iraq, although the Rio posters are for rival political candidates, and they are everywhere. I think it is a seriously bad sign when the political advertising crowds out the commercial advertising, which seems to be happening here.

I'm baked from sleep deprivation so I guess I will hit the hotel room for a couple hours then go explore properly.

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