September 21, 2008

arrivals and departures

So this never got posted. I’ve been traveling the past two weeks and I thought I would have so much down time I would catch up on old posts that I’ve been meaning to get up, but it seems that free-wifi has gone the way of the dinosaurs – or maybe it was just a fable that I forgot never existed anyway. So, here’s what I thought about posting two weeks ago when I arrived, and I am now posting as I leave the US (Tampa, nice old Florida airport, kindly still offers free wifi…) So sorry for the backwards posting….

Sept. 4th:

Well, I’m on my way to New York for a week to go to my dear friend’s wedding. I have a couple of blogs that I’ve been meaning to post but got behind on. Hopefully I’ll have a little time to catch up now. It’s been a year and a half since I last visited the United States – as I write this I’m sitting in Washington Dulles waiting for a connecting flight. The flight from Rio to Washington was 10 hours. I don’t remember it being so long in the past. I’m wondering if its like a car and flying slower saves on fuel.

There is a strange transformation that happens on the overnight flights from Brazil. This slide from Portuguese to English. You go through check-in, security, boarding, the shuffling of bags in the overheads and the negotiations for the armrest in Portuguese. The staff start out conversing mostly in Portuguese and somewhere around the time when the dinner service comes through you suddenly have a choice of frango or chicken. Then the movie starts, and you have a choice of Portuguese or English versions and then you drift in and out of sleep dreaming some in both language, hearing pieces of conversations in both, and at some point during the night everyone on the flight slowly slides into English and you tumble out of the plane and into the airport at 6am, blinking like a bug eyed marsupial in the bright fluorescents and the immigration officials are shouting orders in English (some of it heavily accented) and your fellow Brazilian travelers are suddenly quieted and they turn to one another for reassurance and confirmation that they are doing the right thing.

The smatterings of Portuguese conversations continue through baggage claim and customs and you might once or twice get confused and ask for where the nearest Starbucks is in Portuguese. But upon finding it, you know you are home and you excitedly start speaking English to who ever will listen to you, slurping on your grown-up sippy cup and telling them that you forgot how strong Starbucks is and sort of burnt tasting too. And you are suddenly struck by how nice everyone is. American niceness. English speaking niceness. Brazilians are nice too, but it’s different. Tottering down the concourse, someone suddenly changes direction in front of you and you bump into each other and he actually apologizes. This catches you so off guard that blubber, no, no it’s okay and you feel like hugging him, and you are so happy to be home that when the gate agent says “Hi how are you today” you feel like hugging her too, the gate agent.

But then you get on your flight to LaGuardia and the people behind you are speaking Polish or Russian (you never could tell them apart) and someone else is speaking Spanish and the flight attendants have accents and when you get there your cab driver will probably be Pakistani (which of course is a stereotype, but it will probably be true) but it’s unlikely that you will get a cab because you are still a cheapskate so you’ll get on the Q33 bus and catch the F train and it will be the same dirty orange bucket seat train that you were taking 15 years ago and there will be the same faces, the jaded hipster girl, the geeky writer guy in wrinkled khakis, and the balding Indian guy, probably a tech worker here on an H-1B visa, and the art school kid in skinny jeans reading Jules Verne, and the Puerto Rican kid in an askew Yankee’s cap and the bucktooth Chinese woman who smells like salted fish and every other possible ethnicity or combination of ethnicities it will all come back to you and you will realize you are back not just in the United States, but unquestionably home in New York, and you will love it and hate it in equal measure just like always.

No comments: