Friday, February 27, 2009

SA Cruise: Rio de Janiero: Running out of money

December 20 Rio de Janiero
We were picked up at the airport and taken to our bed-and -breakfast, the Castel Valentim, a beautiful castle- like five- story Victorian home in the hills of Santa Teresa area of Rio. As we pulled up to the curb, we heard the strains of “Happy Birthday to you” coming from the house. Turns out that our host, Luis, was throwing a big birthday party for his girl friend’s father. Luis tried to get the booking agency to change our reservation, but they just told him to invite us. So he did. We dropped in for a few minutes, then retired to our small room, right next to the party. (We were staying in a bedroom in our host’s apartment.) The music was very loud, but we were so tired that we just fell asleep. It was kind of fun to see how they partied.....music, food, friends and drink.

Dec 21 We had a panoramic view of the city from our balcony. We could see for miles and miles, to the samba-drom, the beaches, soccer stadium, rain forests.

Our host, Luis, was great. He told us places to go, things to do, and sent us off with a paper listing his phone number, address, how to get where we were going etc. After catching the taxi across the street, I dropped the paper into my bag, never to be seen again. Luckily, I remembered just enough to get us around. We spent the morning at a hippy fair near the beach of Ipanema. Actually it started as a hippy fair 40 years ago and grew into a big handicraft and art fair. Very nice. I almost bought some stuff but I kept thinking we didn’t really need anything. That saved us later.

We headed to Sugar Loaf (a tall peak with a cable car up to a magnificent view) where we were “found” by an English speaking guide. He took us to an overlook of the city then to the “Christ Statue.” I found the statue very touching. I could tell that to most people, it was just a tourist attraction, but it touched me to see Christ holding out his arms as if to say, “Come to me. I’m watching over you.” It seemed sad that so few people seemed to care.

We were taken last to a special store high in a building, through looked doors and guards. When we finally got to our destination, we were treated to a personal tour of the gems of Brazil! Plus a sales pitch. Greg got me a small amethyst I can wear on a necklace.
We took the cable tram to the top of Sugar Loaf and were there at sunset to see the city and the harbors. We ended that day at a restaurant much like the Rodizios at home. We went through the salad bar then returned to the table to find bowls of rice, beans, bread, fried bananas, etc. So much food! Of course, they brought around skewer after skewer of meat and a really good bread I think called pao queso (cheese bread). A melty kind of cream cheese inside a fresh roll on a skewer.
By the end of the day we were about out of Brazilian money.

December 22
Here’s the problem. We were not able to get cash at the ATM’s with our credit card in Argentina. No problem to charge things, just to get cash. We called the kids who followed through and thought the problem was fixed. No problem on the ship. We got $300 US in cash on the ship. Found out we had the same problem in Brazil. No cash from the credit card. We had to make our cash last for the whole last part of the trip. We had to sign our lives away to get some of our dollars changed into local money..Brazilian reais (Hay-eyes). But we just about ran out.
We needed to find a Bank of Brazil to get more cash. We caught the bus (2.20 reais each. About $1.00 each) That left us with a total of $1.50 in Brazilian money. First we didn’t know how to get off the bus. So we rode it to the end where everyone got off. Then we didn’t know where we were or the bank was. No one spoke English. I would say “Banco de Brasil” and someone would point and say,” frente” (I think) meaning who knows what? (I thought it meant “straight”) so we just kept walking and asking every so often. Finally we reach a Banco de Brasil. No cash there. Someone on the third floor spoke English and drew us a map. So we walked a bunch more (no money for anything but walking).

Finally got to the money bank. They didn’t speak English, but by now I was good at point and grunt communication. I pointed to my credit card and wrote down 160. He pointed and grunted meaning “ give me your passport” (a standard request so I understood his point and grunt). He spent a long time on the phone and we finally got the money. This allowed us to get a taxi to Copacabana beach area where we could eat at McDonald’s again (their internet connection was down so we had to use real money.) and use their bathroom again.
Greg got to swim in the ocean there and I got to relax on the beach. We wandered onto a feshuada (?) (Buffet-type restaurant) near the beach where they weighed your food and charged by the kilo. (I wonder what the “retained” kilo weight is at the end of the meal?)

December 23 We didn’t have too much time to do anything in the morning, so after showers, we walked to the grocery store downhill about a half mile away. Looked through a gateway between large old buildings and saw a slum-type street with shantys going down the hill. All hidden behind a gate. We caught a bus going back up and had to a shower and wash all my underwear because it was so hot and humid (plus I sweat like a pig). Took less than an hour to dry it on the balcony...hidden. These were the clothes we would be wearing on the airplane for the next day and a half, so we wanted to start out fresh.

After the fiasco of getting on the plane from Sao Paulo to Rio and running out of local money, I was praying constantly by this time. I think it helped a lot. When we checked in to go back to Sao Paulo, the girl spoke English. No hassle with the luggage. Our boarding pass said we left from gate “?” so we asked someone along the way and of course, he gave us the wrong information. I found another passenger who spoke English and was on our flight and he watched to see that we did everything right. (I’m getting pretty good at looking helpless.)

December 24 So we really and finally got home. I was so relieved to be in America where everyone pretty much understood us and we could be helpless in our own language. We listened to Christmas carols from Las Vegas to Lynndyl and arrived at 7:30 p.m. Christmas eve. Three kids were home from college, plus one friend plus two more kids who live here, were all waiting for us. It was so good to be home.
We bounced from country to country and back again. US - Canada - Argentina - Uruguay - Chile - Argentina - Chile - Uruguay - Brazil - Canada - US.
We had traveled a total of approximately 18,500 miles, hitting 6 countries: USA, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil.

1 comment:

Cindy Beck said...

Wow, what a trip! It filled me with anxiety when I read you ran out of money and had to walk to the Bank of Brazil! Now I'm completely convinced that I only want to travel to English speaking countries. :) (Ha ha.)