Wow! I thought as I got off the phone with my friend Bill Ledbetter, who just invited me on a business trip with Corey Carroll to Brazil. We work together in the import furniture business.
While the days passed quickly, I was eager to go on my first trip out of the USA. We flew out of Atlanta on April 24. Arriving in Miami and checking our baggage through customs on the international flight that would take us on to Brazil, we grabbed some lunch at Miami International Airport. Unknowingly, we were headed for trouble later in the day.
Although I had a new passport and visa to get into Brazil, my travel companions did not. They had applied for their visas earlier and were unaware that if they didn’t use their visas within ninety days of issue they would have to endure reapplication.
Everyone from the travel agency we booked our flight through, to the agents at the airlines and customs offices in Atlanta and Miami, didn’t discover the errors on my friends passports.
When we started to board the international flight out of Miami the Brazilian customs officials wouldn’t allow my friends to board.
Our bags, sent to Brazil without us, had all our belongings we needed for the trip! The three of us had a real sense of concern when we realized our bags might be lost. My companions more so than myself because neither one of them had packed a change of clothes in their carry-on bags.
However, I had packed everything from toiletries to shoes and underwear in mine. We had to spend the weekend in Miami so we could go to the Brazilian Consulate to have Bill and Corey’s passports updated on Monday morning.
My friends made plans to go shopping and get the necessities they needed since our luggage went on without us. It pays to try and think through all aspects of a trip before departure.
During the weekend, Bill called ahead to speak with Alex Duarte (our contact in Brazil) to go to customs and try to intercept our baggage. The customs procedures are to send the baggage back to the country of origin! Fortunately, Alex did have our bags secured in Brazil until our arrival.
Visas for Everyone
As it turned out, the weekend we had to stay in Miami worked out just fine. We enjoyed fine food at Diego’s Tapas restaurant off Biscayne Boulevard shortly after the guys finished with their shopping spree. Then afterwards we went down to South Beach for some nightlife at the Hemisphere Lounge.
On Monday morning, we arrived at the Consulate General of Brazil. Bill had to call Alex again at Rudnick and have the owner fax a formal invitation for our group to come and tour the factories that make our furniture before the Consulate would issue my friends new visas.
After payment for new visas to the Consulate, my friends received updated passports and we prepared to continue our trip.
On Our Way
Finally, we flew to Brazil on Monday evening. Because of the eight-hour flight, it’s best to wear loose fitting clothes for comfort. We started our descent into São Paulo just at daybreak. The sky was a beautiful tomato red with wispy clouds on the horizon.
We arrived in São Paulo on Tuesday about 9:00 AM Brazil time. Our trip would take us to several places; São Paulo, Porto Alegre, São Bento do Sul, and Curitiba.
We stopped at several places between cities to absorb the culture, enjoy the food and beautiful views of the countryside along the way. The views of rolling hills and wild fruit that flourish on the roadside in Brazil are just stunning.
While diving around in and around São Bento do Sul I had the opportunity to photograph some of the local patrons at the fish market and a young man driving oxen along the way. It seems as though life here is a much slower pace than were used to back in the USA.
Most everyone in Brazil speaks Portuguese with only limited English. Since I am a Southerner, I had a real hard time understanding their language even though I do speak a little Spanish.
The two languages are similar. If I could have planned earlier, I would have studied Portuguese to improve my trip.
On Wednesday morning, we were scheduled to tour the factory that makes our bookcases. I got up a little early so I could enjoy the sunrise and take some photos of the curious pine trees that grow here in Brazil.
A fog bank moved in overnight that just added to the serenity of the morning. This tree produces a large pine nut the locals sell on the roadside much as we sell boiled peanuts.
Used in many of their dishes we enjoyed them at the Novotel São Bento do Sul hotel in Santa Catarina where we stayed on the first leg of our trip.
The view from my hotel room was only part of the skyline in Rio Grande do Sul where we stayed after arriving to tour the factory that makes our chairs. The owners of the factory threw a party for us after we finished our business that afternoon.
We enjoyed traditional Brazilian food with our friends that night with beer and a new drink we enjoyed called “caipirinha.” This traditional Brazilian drink prepared with cachaça (pronounced kah-SHAH-sah) made from distilled sugarcane has a delightful flavor.
It is simple to make “caipirinha.” All you need do is place ice cubes in a glass, two ounces of cachaça, juice of 1 lime, raw sugar and presto, “caipirinha.” The locals like them as much as we did.
Our trip ended with a Brazilian style “churrasco”, you know, BBQ! Meats grilled on spits over an open fire. Much to my liking, we had all kinds of side dishes and since we stayed longer than we planned, I even learned to speak with the locals just enough to get by.
When we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our departure back home to America, all we could say to our friends was “Muito Obrigado!” (Thanks for your generosity!)
Starting out we thought this trip would be more of a disaster than we could bear; but we were pleasantly surprised as the turn of events and the people we met were wonderful.
The Brazilians are warm and friendly and have a wonderful sense of hospitality. I hope to return here someday, for more than just a business trip.
David Walters is involved in the office furniture and related services business. If you would like to contact him, you may send him an e-mail at: email@example.com