Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Finally on Our Way to Brazil!

By Renée Ferguson, Senior Direct Mail Associate for Christian Children’s Fund

At last after months of preparation ― the passport and visa applications, the immunizations, research, list making, and the shopping for supplies and gifts -- these efforts will be put to the test and our questions answered such as:
“Did I pack enough or too much?”
“What if my luggage is too heavy for the airline restrictions?”
“Did I bring the right voltage adaptors or converters?”
“Will my sponsored child like her gifts?”
“What will my meeting with my sponsored child be like?”

This morning 17 CCF sponsors, donors, and staff grappled with these questions as each traveled from 13 different cities and nine states to Miami International Airport -- a few had even arrived a day early.

As instructed, we gathered at the TAM Airlines counter around 4:00 p.m. for the 7:15 p.m. overnight flight to Brazil. Everyone brought their own expectations for the Study Tour. And what a whirlwind tour it would be! We were going to visit five cities in four different states in Brazil, board planes for two domestic flights and stay in five different hotels.

Sprinkled throughout the growing, snaking line, members of the group leisurely made each other’s acquaintance over the next hour or so. Behind the smiles and handshakes each seemed to secretly compare the others’ luggage quantity to their own.

After a long wait, TAM employees started appearing at the counter. Could we be on our way, finally? Well, not quite. As any seasoned traveler knows, you should expect the unexpected.
What would one unexpected adventure be this time? Try a computer glitch with the luggage tagging system. The airline staff attempted to creatively get bags tagged and accounted for while a short-sleeved, plaid-clad computer guy peered over his glasses at the screen to investigate.

With the issue apparently resolved, the staff started reaching for our passports and ticket information. And then the line began moving. One by one, we went up to the counter and checked in. We were finally on our way!

The flight would make one stop in the jungle city of Manaus and another in the city of Belem ― to pick up and drop off passengers before finally arriving in Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern state of Ceará in Brazil.

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