The mission of the Program for Assistive Technologies for Underprivileged (PATU) is to allow students to practice engineering skills while they develop strong communication and teamwork skills, gain global perspective, and learn social responsibility through projects for persons with disabilities that otherwise could not afford assistance.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And the adventure continues

Day 2 of our "travels" started with an easy (but boring) drive to Bloomington, IL (thanks, Dr. Opar!), and a nice easy flight to Atlanta. We were finally on our way! Day two ended while we were on our 10-hour Delta flight from Atlanta to Rio De Janeiro--we took off at 10PM with no hitches. I was soooo tired I was certain I would fall asleep immediately.

Boy was I wrong! I could not get comfortable, quite likely because of the extra weight I'm carrying around, and was only able to steal 1 hour of sleep during our flight. Both Andy and Chris did not have trouble sleeping at all, but Rachel and I made eye contact several times throughout the night, so I know she was having the same troubles I was.

Getting through passport check, baggage claim, and customs was a BREEZE, and I feel silly that I ever worried about that part of the trip. However, once we left "international" space for "domestic", it was like we entered another world...one that didn't speak English anymore (duh, it's called Brasil, right?). The Gol flight staff herded us to a counter where the ticket agents spoke a few words of English so we could get checked in to our next two flight (to Salvador, then finally to Ilheus). We got ourselves and our luggage all checked in without a hitch, with over an hour to spare! Just one more stopover to worry about and we'd be home free!

Or so I thought! We were early, so we sat patiently in the waiting area near our gate. It was even too early for our flight to show on the departure TV screen. We all seemed to be watching this screen very keenly for our flight, just because of all the problems we have already encountered. And what would you know, but as SOON as there is enough room at the bottom of the screen, our flight shows as CANCELADO. Chris, being the sweetheart he is says "Uh, what does 'cancelado' mean?" He knew full well what it meant, but he was trying to break the news lightly. I immediately jumped up and headed to the information desk. Oy!

There was a lot of fast Portuguese being spoken as other passengers were also unhappy with this news. I don't know Portuguese, but I do know Spanish, and often can understand a bit of what is going on if I listen closely enough. Not here. Too much fast frantic talking! But one thing I did hear--"Ilheus". They were asking for those of us who's final destination was Ilheus! Maybe we still had a chance.

They pulled all IOS (Ilheus airport code) passengers aside and told us they were going to take us to the other airport in Rio to get us on a flight to Ilheus from there. Hot dog, that was exciting news! So we followed our Gol airline staff member to get reticketed and bused out...only to find out that this option was no longer going to be possible and the only way we could get to Ilheus was on a set of flights leaving at 10AM tomorrow morning (Rio-Sau Paulo-Ilheus).

While this broke my heart and pretty much broke the last nerve I had (leaving tears to well up in my eyes), what was I to do? I was at the mercy of the nice Gols gentlemen they assigned to us that could speak English. After what seemed like forever, but was really only about 30-45 minutes, he came back and helped us into two taxis. He had rebooked our flights for tomorrow, arranged to pay our taxi transport to and from a hotel, and put us up in a SWANKY hotel which includes comped meals at the fancy hotel restaurant for the duration of our stay (and even allows us each a 3 minutes call to home!). Thank you, Sean Paulo for taking good care of the foreigners who couldn't speak Portuguese!

Did I also mention that the hotel is on a gorgeous beach and has a pool/bar/hot tub/awesome setup on the rooftop? While it is seriously frustrating that after 3 days we are STILL not in Ilheus, we could definitely be stuck in worse places than Rio de Janeiro. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach (after much needed showers and lunch).

We hope our friends from Sweet Briar had a wonderful day with Patty today! We WILL see you tomorrow, God willing!

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