(part one of Thirty Days in Brazil: Fiber in a Faraway Place)
This was my first time outside of the United States.
It's a twenty-hour flight from the Tri-Cities Washington to São Paulo, Brazil. That's three flights, four airports two layovers, and two hours spent with a broken cargo door on the Salt Lake City tarmac. By the time I disembarked from the ATL->GRU flight, passing through Brazilian Customs (managed by your friends and mine, Policia Federales), was little more than a formality despite my nervous fidgeting about the extra laptop crammed into my carry-on.
I got in line. I checked the time as I shuffled through the queue. My passport was stamped by a bored agent, my baggage arrived on the conveyer belt, and I was out the door and into a smog-stained morning with very little fanfare.
My first breath of São Paulo is muggy, smoggy, and filthy. There was no one there to meet me, so I grabbed a taxi from a stand manned by three identical, smiling Brazilian women. Meeting the driver, I gave him the address of my hotel, somewhere west of me. It was time to head to the suburban enclave of Alphaville, in the northwestern reaches of the metropolitan area.
He smiled and nodded enthusiastically as he loaded my luggage into the back seat. I am accelerated slowly into the crawling twitch game of traffic.
Out along the canal, motorcycles are a cacophony of beeps and shrieks of rage as they zoom between heavy traffic of battered old cars and shining, newer models. To one side, a canal littered with trash runs: to the other, industrial areas, slums, and streets piled on top of streets on top of highways in a vain attempt to bleed the clogged arteries of São Paulo. Overhead, Gisele Bündchen gazes like some sort of debauched, bikini-clad saint, giving bedroom eyes to some several billion Brazilians.
The sky is yellow.
Alphaville is too clean, too Americanized, crouching under palm trees, glass-windowed buildings, under Gucci posters and hotels for foreigners like me. Dell reps rub shoulders with Cisco on the way in and out of taxis: Brazilians in the latest American fashions take the train and the buses with impunity. With my straight nose, dark hair, and build, I blend right in until I open my mouth.
Some four hours after landing, I make contact with my hotel room, a shower, and my coworkers. Six hours later, having not slept, I'm at work. In the Brocade colocation facilities, it soon becomes obvious that gear is stuck in Customs, fiber contractors are useless, and most of my time spent in South America will be fixing the mistakes of project management, my fellow coworkers, and the company as a whole in order to make a deadline that's two weeks off.
It's spring in Brazil. Do you know where your NOClings are?