01 December 2014

The Best, Last Day

13 January 2014

I don't remember if we ever had a plan for our last day in South America. We might have planned to spend the day at the pool or souvenir shopping. When the day finally came, our mission was clear: see our Argentine friends. It turned out to be pretty easy. Lisandro and Juan met us at our hotel. Once we stored our luggage with the concierge, we were off.

Our foursome walked the streets of Rio in beach attire - much like everyone else. I had a moment when I thought I would buy stamps and send postcards, but it passed quickly. We ended up having lunch at the restaurant where Ang & I ate during our first full day in Rio. It felt nice to come full circle. It felt even nicer to be meeting friends in Rio.

We spent the rest of our time together on the beach. I bought a hat. Lisandro showed he's part dolphin. I tried to explain that, in "let's dance the last dance," "let's" and "last" are not the same word. It was by all account a heart warming and fabulous end to our vacation.

By then, Ang and I were expert travelers. We boarded a bus on our own and with full knowledge of where we were going.

Final transportation note: please notice the sign on this bus window. People are to yield their seats to the obese, pregnant, baby-carrying and elderly. I had never seen such a public acceptance of obesity as a disease. Obviously, I thought it remarkable.

As we were on the bus, I started romanticizing Rio. I started thinking that it wasn't the danger zone that I had been led to believe, that it was more stable than Argentina and that the dangerous reputation was unfounded. Then I took off my rose colored glasses and looked out the window.

There are bars in front of every apartment building and gates for every business. They're friendly looking and blend into the overall aesthetic, but they are there, protecting courtyards and restricting access. Whatever happened to make bars so commonplace must be serious. And even though I never saw it, it would be naive to pretend otherwise.

As we awaited our taxi for the airport, we were in less than ideal traveling shape. Our phones were close to dead. We had limited funds and we were getting hungry again. We planned to get ourselves properly sorted and charged at the airport, because we were planning to arrive with at least two hours before departure.

The airport was insane. It seemed as though there were a lot of closed check-in areas, leading to a lot of long check in lines. I think it took close to a half hour for us to even see our check-in area. Shortly after we did, the airport lost power.

I've never seen anything like it. One second you have a bustling international airport, and the next, everything is dark. My first thought was "of course I don't even have a charged phone." My next thought was "how long can thousands of people stay calm in a powerless airport?" It was the perfect environment for an epic mass meltdown.

The lights came on long enough for the boards and monitors to reset, but it went off just as suddenly. The airport power cycled four or five times before we were able to check in to our flight. Once we got to the terminal, there was no way to determine how delayed our flight was. There was one eatery open and it was mobbed. Still, I stood in line because some rations are better than no rations. Ang gave me the last of her reales to buy a sandwich and get some change so she could get a Coke from the vending machine.

Eventually, our plane started boarding. But I didn't have my food or Ang's change. So I waited. I honestly thought boarding would take a lot longer. I did get my sandwich - and it cost exactly all the reales Ang had given me. I was the last person to board the flight and had nothing to show for it except for a chicken & cheese sandwich and an orange Fanta. We giggled our way back to America.

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