We (Shane and Julian) did not have a very smooth trip from Amherst to Rio. George had already arrived in Rio three days prior, and had reported by the second day that his cell phone was snatched away by a motorcycle-ridden robber. The Peter Pan bus ride to New York flew by with dreamy thoughts. Our journey started getting cranky in New York. After a quick, late lunch in a Sbarro’s, we emerged from the restaurant to find that we were trapped by a downpour, having nary a hope of trudging to the subway station without being completely drenched by the weeping sky. We then spotted a shuttle was parked mere yards away from where we were shivering, and after a brief inquiry found out that it was the shuttle to Grand Central station. Too bad it was already full. We waited and waited and waited, and finally the shuttle came – it was a Mercedes! We hopped in after learning it would bring us to Grand Central for free. At Grand Central, we dashed off towards a sudden call of “JFK Shuttle!”by a large woman standing close to a white shuttle, with our luggage after us, the tip off our minds, and with a wide-eyed driver incredulous at our hurriedness and lack of gratuity.
This second shuttle happened to take almost two hours to get from Grand Central to JFK, our anxious glances at our watches accentuated by the hysterical chattering of two French women seated in front of us who were apparently only 40 minutes away from their flight. Well, we weren’t too much better off, with a little over an hour to spare as we sped off towards the terminal entrance. It wasn’t before we were physically seated in the airplane’s cabin that we could take a relaxed breathe.
The first leg of the flight was from JFK to Sao Paolo, and went through without much incident. My initial drowsiness disappeared as the icon for the movie “Sherlock Holmes 2” appeared on the small seatback screen. I admired Holmes’s wit and fighting skills for two hours before dozing off.
The next morning brought another bad turn. During a 3 hour layover in the Sao Paolo airport, I (Julian)was almost cheated out of $1000 by the money changer, and then we had to sit in two similarly stuffy airplanes for about two hours because the first plane’s brake was discovered to have been malfunctioning and the second plane’s crew had to switch off with the first plané’s because of some mysterious documentation issue. After a 2.5 hour delay, we finally lifted off again, only to come back down to earth in about an hour and 20 minutes.
The cab ride from the airport was an experience. It was quite ironic that we were in Rio de Janeiro for a Conference on Sustainable Development, but for quite some time the air in the miles adjoining the airport was smoggy and noxious. After close to two hours of being stuck in traffic horrible enough to be reminiscent of Los Angeles, and another 15 minutes’ meandering on muddy roads that populate the foothills near our hostel, we finally got out and had our feet on terra firma.
The road was Rua Ary Barroso, which pointed to a steep windy path of a road. After exchanging glances of doubt, we started ascending the slosh-filled path with our luggage. Once the path diverged and we took the wrong turn, only being directed in the correct direction after a valiant effort from a middle-aged construction worker. Oh, and did I mention that much of the muddy path was littered with construction material thanks to a high-decibel renovation job that runs from 7AM to 5 PM daily right outside our hostel window? At any rate, we finally, with heavy breathes and soaked clothing thanks to the sweltering weather (yes, winter in Rio can still be sweltering), trudged into our hostel lobby, where we were re-united with our comrade George. When George came back to the hostel at around 5PM, we realized we hadn’t eaten since 4 AM, and proceeded to drag George out of the hostel and onto the streets to stare at us munching down spaghetti and salmon and fries. We enjoyed the short walk from our hostel to the Copacabana beach, and joked and chatted freely. The relaxing times won’t be long. George, Shane and I are bracing for the serious work – the hectic and sustained dosage of emails, power points, speeches, interviews, side events, and articles starts tonight.