quarta-feira, 2 de março de 2011

Travel log - Europe - Day 1

Day 1

Well, as I had promised some people I know I would, here it goes the first log of my adventures in Europe in December 2010 and January 2011. If you search this blog you are going to see I have already tried to tell my friends and some strangers about my adventures there in 2009. Unfortunately (for some readers), the other entries are all in Portuguese. It comes easier to write in my own language and most of the people who had shared experiences with me there would understand. But this time is different. One thing that happened in the other series of texts is that I never managed to finish them. It took me about six months altogether to tell people about what had happened in those 18 days and I never managed to get past the day 15 or 14 I guess. Anyway, one should take advantage of a certain period of inspiration and written production and write as much as possible here. The task is harder now since I spent 27 days there instead of 18. However, I can use of some help in the first days because the trip is not mine in fact. It was a dream of someone, a very special friend so I went along with her, sharing her dream and she will definitely help me here in the first part of the trip because there was a puddle in the way. You will hear of it later on. Be patient, fasten your seat belts and read.
The first day was kind of busy. There were some documents to be taken if we had problems at immigration and my printer was not working properly. So I had to take the bus and go to the university in order to print all the papers. Well, no problem as to that, you would say, since the flight was at night. But I had to start and finish packing (yep, I am a last minute person - a procrastinator). I had no idea what to put in the suitcases so I asked the best PEOPLE: those who had NEVER traveled to Europe in the winter and for that long. My friend Marcio went to my house and I also started a videoconference on skype with this friend of mine, Carol, and we were packing simultaneously and one was helping the other with all the packing while Marcio was always reminding us of something or suggesting what could be taken out and all. Of course, hindsight we took a lot of stupid things we never worn and forgot some important things, but it served us well as a lesson for next time.
Then, with the bags ready I headed for the subway and Carol’s family would take us to the airport. She had to tell her father we would take off one hour before the real time so he agreed we should get going. He likes to cut it thin but we did not want to try our luck.
At the airport, the lines were a bit long, but my parents had called and told me I should wait for them as they wanted to give me hugs and farewells. Besides, my computer was with me (as I would leave it with mom), Carol’s family had left as they couldn’t wait for embarking. The clock was ticking and it seemed they would never make it in time. I would have to carry my heavy computer to Europe and would not hug anyone. They finally arrived a bit sad as they thought I wouldn’t be able to be there on time and luckily the gate line had reduced considerably.
So security check and all, first of many, there we were boarding the plane towards Istambul. It was quite strange to imagine we would go so East before coming back to Paris, but by then I had already stopped trying to understand the (illogical) logics involved in airline schemes.
The flight itself was quite an adventure. First of all, we hadn’t been able to get seats together so we had to keep waiting the boarding finish and try changing seats. We did so, and we sat on some very nice places, but a huge family boarded late when we thought no one else would and we had taken their places. So, back to our seats. I told Carol she could sit next to me because there was an empty seat. So she did. But the screen of that seat was defective and she would not be able to watch any movie and it pissed her a bit. She sat between me and a guy she later discovered was a member of a band of a very popular Brazilian singer. I slept a lot and would wake up sometimes only to gobble whatever they were serving to go back to sleep some seconds afterwards. At a certain point over the Atlantic the plane got into a very turbulent zone and it would shake and shake. She was awake and we, the guys beside her, weren’t, and not even a lady crying she was going to die nor the bumping made us wake up. She had to suffer the turbulence, the lady crying and a strong desire to go to the toilet all on her own (as she was kind enough not to wake any of us to go to the toilet). OK, one has to admit she did sleep as well, and her book tried to sneak out (making a lot of noise), but the guy took it from the middle of the aisle and she couldn’t believe the book had fallen from her lap onto the aisle making a lot of noise and she had not perceived it.
So after some hours, big meals (I ate mine and whatever Carol wouldn’t), TV series and a lot of drooling we were landing in Istambul. The point more to the east I had ever been to. Of course, we were so excited about getting out of there that we barely paid attention to what the pilot was saying. And of course this turned out against us. As we landed and went through immigration, I told her we had less than 20 minutes to go to the other gate to get our flight to Paris. So we started to almost run to the gate. When we got there, what a surprise. It was empty. Too late? A very impolite attendant informed us: It will open only in half an hour. So we realized we were 1h10 earlier. We had run for nothing. During the flight we had remembered that with all the fuss about having the documents ready we had forgotten to write down the addresses of the people we would be with when we were not in hostels. We had everything on emails but nothing on paper, no telephones, zero. The solution to this would be to use her cellphone or my netbook to access our emails to write down the addresses and phones. We found out that a café would give us wi-fi access so I had a Turkish coffee in Turkey while Carol tried opening her email on her cellphone. After almost half an hour we had managed to write down all the data on napkins. It was precarious indeed, but we had time to write on better sheets of paper in the flight. By the way, I guess it was there I realized I had lost the baggage claim ticket somewhere in Guarulhos. Problems looming?
Well, at least no problems flying to Paris, the next curious thing happened when we were going through immigration. The previous trip, the guy in Amsterdam had asked our documents and asked some questions, but he released us quite briefly. Carol was freaking out because of this. She was afraid they would send us back to Brazil or would say the documents were not reliable. It turned out that they barely looked at us, kept talking, stamped the passports and told us to go on. It took less than 2 minutes. And I told Carol that was that. She was in shock. After all those butterflies in our stomachs, the possibility of being extradicted or held at the airport, he had barely talked to us. We walked about the airport and I felt very sad because we had planned spending the night at Charles de Gaulle Airport and I had done that before and it had been awful. But things changed this time. We found a place with some armchairs, really cosier than the benches of the last time. And it was not only us. A bunch of people were there, sleeping or reading, and waiting for the other day. We were not so tired so we took turns sleeping and staying awake. At a certain moment of the night someone even turned off the lights of the part we were. An old lady kept reading in the half-dark but we were glad we had no problems through the night. Well, this was so until we decided to head for the station to get our train to Belgium.

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