So, if ever you find yourself in Panama City en route to Brazil, and you realise that you’ve not had a yellow fever shot, and you might need to postpone your flight to São Paulo, here’s my advice: don’t worry about it and just fly to Brazil. They don’t check. The immigration was cursory at best, and calling the customs disinterested would be offensive to people who are disinterested. I had my form filled in and ready for inspection, but the customs lady didn’t feel the need to stop chatting to her colleague and, without even looking at me, held out her hand for the form and waved me along with the same form without even looking at it as she flapped it in the direction of the exit.
It seemed to be a long flight. It was only six-ish hours, but I was already knackered from my Sunday evening of travelling, and spending twelve hours in Panama City airport. Sitting on the plane in my window seat with no air-conditioning for an hour wasn’t the perfect way to begin the flight either. For some reason, I forgot to change my preferences on Expedia before booking this flight. I do like a window seat on short flights, but for longer flights, they’re just a pain. I was sat there with no leg room, and without the chance to stretch a little into the aisle.
One of the stewardesses seemed to take a dislike to me straight away. You’d say she was quite attractive, looking like a cross between Kylie Minogue and Kim Gordon. When she was bringing the Brazilian immigration and customs forms around at the start of the flight, I asked if there was an alternate customs form that wasn’t just in Portuguese. She got chippy straight away and told me that “it’s nothing to do with us, it’s Brazil’s form, they decide which language it is in.” After that, everything she ever did – food, drinks – she seemed to be sneering at me. Thankfully the Brazilian guy sat next to me helped me out with the form.
I flew over the Amazon and Equator. Not that I knew it, though. There was just a bunch of clouds out of the window. I guess I might’ve seen a tributary of the Amazon, though. I did see Martian Child, though. Nice aeroplane film. I like John Cusack, and there was a tear in my eye at the end. Must’ve been a bit of dust or something, lads, honest.
A little air travel-based aside: am I alone in thinking people’s hands look a bit freaky when they do this (below) on a plane? And doesn’t it feel a little bit like they’re invading your precious personal space?
Cities tend to look the same when you arrive at night. Airports have the same stuff going on; the taxis might be different colours, but they smell the same; and the roads are all multi-lane highways that fly along past road signs for places you don’t recognise and unfamiliar store names on the side of big buildings. São Paulo is no different. Except when I got close to my friend Juliana’s place in the Jardins district, and then suddenly I began to notice that all the buildings had huge metal fences and guards. Security seems to be a big thing here.
As does crazy pronunciation of letters. My whole understanding of the Latin alphabet has been turned upside down. Hearing Brazilians talk is like listening to someone from Romania trying to speak Spanish: there’s the odd word you understand, but the rest of it is just a noise. When Juliana explained how to pronounce Brazil’s currency, the real, my mind felt slapped silly. I was, of course, not expecting it to sound like the English word “real”; more “ray-al” like the Madrid football team. When she told me it is pronounced something close to “hey ice” I kinda realised that I won’t be able to muddle along knowing a bit of Spanish.
Still, I can say caipirinha and obrigado, so what more do I need?