Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wheels Down... Sao Paulo Style

Some quick thoughts, a geography lesson, and minor comedy from my travels to Sao Paulo.

Continental Flight 31 from Newark to Sao Paulo got a late start after being delayed about 40 minutes (1040p take off time), however landed safely this morning just before 9am local time. Thankfully Katie (Sao Paulo CR Fellow from New York) had Continental Elite Access which allowed her early boarding and access to the overhead storage bins. Me, being her "travel companion", since we are both CR Fellows and all, was able to board early as well, and the large duffel bag and my backpack full of goodies were able to find a home before the mad rush to claim space began. I sat down in my seat, buckled in, and watched the melee we call stowing your carryons. I was also able to be a good Samaritan and "pay forward" Katie's good deed by switching seats with a young couple, not once, but twice in an effort for them to sit next to each other. I was still afforded an aisle seat which is a necessity after four knee surgeries (not to mention tweaking my back just days before takeoff).

It was a smooth takeoff which was met abruptly by turbulence over the New Jersey coastline. The flight attendants served what they would call the in flight meal, with options being "Beef Teryaki" or "Chicken Parm". I chose the latter option only for the dinner roll and the brownie as I just had a Smash Burger Grilled Chicken sandwich prior to boarding. Just about the time I polish off the brownie the gentleman in front of me, reclines the seat briskly into my knees which is met with a quick tap on the arm which is universal in all languages. I'm very confident that even if he knows a form of Jujitsu, which at this point in time I assume all Brazilian males know, that given my size there is not enough aisle space for him to put me into any type of submission hold. I'm not sure what he saves but I believe he apologized because the seat returned to its normal resting position. Then again, he could have cursed me out but I could not tell, and I was happy given the fact my knees gained a sense of freedom experienced by the Scottish when Mel Gibson lead them against "Longshanks". (see Braveheart if you aren't sure of my references).

With what I would call a manageable position, far from comfortable, I settled in for the in flight movie which is Captain America. I'm somewhat excited because I had not seen it yet but it looked rather interesting and after all, most movies based after comic books are pretty good. I unwrap my ten cent headset that was thrown into my lap by the flight attendant as she walked by, reminiscient of a LeBron James no look pass. I plug it in and realize that I am only receiving audio from my left ear. With the continued turbulence the flight attendants have retaken their seats for the time being, so I decide to continue with left ear only. Ironically enough, its the same issue I had on an international flight two years ago to Italy and figured that Delta and Continental must use the same cheap producer of these ear pieces. Back to the movie, which surprise suprise, a skinny nerd with a big heart has been selected for the "scientific military experiment". The experiment turns him into a musclebound war machine that even Hitler feared. The only thing more predictable would have been if Toby Maguire would have played the role.

In an effort to go around the turbulence, we continue heading east over the atlantic. Thats right, despite Brazil being in South America, our pilots and air traffice controllers have devided to divert us to somewhere I would call either East America or West Atlantic Ocean. Im pretty sure the Titanic's crew took similar actions to go around icebergs but nonetheless they are the professionals so I decide not to discuss with the pilots. I must have fallen asleep for a few minutes because somehow Captain America now has a shield and is running down a tank. I guess I missed that portion of the training session and figure to scrap the movie as its not worth trying to follow this plotline with only one ear. Besides, Ive talked to a few World War II veterans and I do not remmeber hearing anything about Capitan America or this Red person that is helping the Nazi's. Im pretty sure noone in WWII had lasers either.

The turbulence lasts ino hour two and we have finally gone far enough east that we have won our war with this weather front. I hold off the celebration because as I suspected, over the speakers the pilots address the cabins that we will now be an hour late getting into Sao Paulo. About this time, my friend in front of me is trying to get comfortable for our now, longer flight. His friends next to him have their seats run through the shins of the people behind them so he decides to do a slow inch by inch lean back. Despite his tactics, I am no fool. I've seen this before and he stops leaning back just about the time I was reaching a level of concern. I have decided compromise is almost always best and I informally accept his International Peace Treaty.

Hour three of the flight, approximately 245a, I realize that we are about to fly over Puerto Rico. Approximately 246a, I realize we just fly over Puerto Rico. I knew it was small but did not know just how small until now.  Im still surprised that they do not want to be formally recognized as a state, or the fact they are supported by the U.S and we had not made them become a state yet. Afterall, there are a lot more people in Puerto Rico that want to be a state than there are in Texas, a state that is about 75 times larger than the island of Puerto Rico. Ive never been to Puerto Rico but I think I will try to plan a trip to see our neighbors to the South sometime soon. I already know a few people that live there that I have met through E&Y training. I can now see the tip of South America on the GPS screen. We are currently cruising at about 35,000 feet at a speed of 550mph's with an estimated arrival time of 845am local time. I guess our eastward travel may not have cost us the full hour that we thought it did. Hopefully we did not need to stop in Puerto Rico for refueling, but then again Im guessing there is not an airport with a large enough runway for this big plane.

I recognize Trinidad on the GPS map, and I think that too would make a lovely place to visit. I did not realize they were so close to South America. Actually, how many times have I ever wondered where it you asked? Well, just about every four years during the Summer Olympics when the sprinters from Trinidad finish in the top 3 but never with the gold. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride so to speak. They have more second places finishes than the Buffalo Bills of the 1990's. Then again, check out this video of Don Bebe of the Billds running down Leon Lett of the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII. I he may have trained with the Trinidad sprinters so the correlation makes sense.

Somehow I fall asleep for about an hour and I'm excited to seewe have crossed over the northern border of Brazil. Brazil is the fifth largest lass mass country in the world just behind the United States, so crossing the nothern border when heading to Sao Paulo is like flying from Hawaii to New York and reaching the California border. I zone out for a bit and realize that we are now over the Amazon. I personally would like to see the Amazon in person but apparently the locals in  Brazil laugh at tourists who want to go to a jungle that you cant really navigate through. Given this, I probably wont try to set up an excursion through that neck of the woods. Besides, Ice Cube has already conquered the snakes that live there so no need to bother at this point.

Hour six is now upon us, only 2.5 hours left in this tin can. I decide to strectch the legs and head to the back galley where I strike up a conversation with the Flight Attendant about international flights and how often they do them, how they stay hydrated, and that it would be a great way to travel the world. A few exchanges back and forth and my tired english mixed with backpain and his english/portuguese mixture and we get on the topic of my purpose for coming to Sao Paulo. I explain the Ernst & Young Corporate Responsibility Fellows Program and the partnership with Endeavor. He seems somewhat impressed by the program, as anyone in their right mind would be. He then asks what I will be doing for money while I am "skill based volunteering" for two months. I explain that its actually a contribution by Ernst & Young to provide Fellows at not cost to High Impact Entrepreneurs in Latin America and he quickly points out that if I am paid its technically not volunteering. I realize his analysis is somewhat correct, but I quickly discuss in detail more information about the program and how it changes lives. He seems happy with my response and I have successfully defended my "skill based" volunteering.

Hours seven and eight arrive and the cabin seems restless. Lots of movement and conversations taking place that I have no idea what they are about. Im more worried about the dehydration of this long flight and despite the two liters of water I have consumed I still feel like I could use some Figi. The announce breakfast service will be provided quickly. I instantly perk up because Im hoping for some orange juice and an egg white omlet. One out of two isnt bad as Im handed a small tray of items including a glass of OJ. The tray contains a croussaint, a small packet of Smuckers Jelly (headquartered in none other than Orrville, Ohio!), and some cantalope. I deem the Jelly to be safe and polish down the croussiant but decide to pass on the catelope as Im not sure if its from the same farm in Denver that has been linked to Listeria. I managed to use some confusion by the flight crew to my advantage, by chugging down 3 glass of OJ. At this point, every ounce of Vitamin C helps. Suddently a small Brazilian child emerges from the middle seat a couple rows up and makes eye contact. He gives me a slight grin, almost to recognize my accomplishment before disappearing back into his seat.

A mad dash from the flight crew to collect the breakfast items before landing and we are starting our initial and final decent into Sao Paulo. I take one last glance at the GPS and notice that Africa is a lot closer to the Recife Brazil shoreline than I had previously believed. (its still pretty far but closer than I thought.)

The pilot eases the plane onto the run way and we have made it safely to Sao Paulo. Wheels Down.

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