(This page was originally posted on the intranet of my former employer, to share this experience with my fellow employees. It has been edited a bit from the original to remove irrelevant and proprietary information.)
I departed Kennedy airport at about 10:00pm Saturday night, hoping to get some sleep during the ten hour, 4600 mile flight. My first views of Brazil occured as I peeked under the window shade at about 8:00 the next morning. A bright and sunny day greeted me, with a few patches of weather near the surface, but most of the view was clear air over undeveloped land - seeing signs of civilization was the exception, rather than the rule. For the most part, the land looked exactly the same way it must have 10,000 years ago. A huge river ran parallel to our route, near mountains that I estimated at perhaps 2000 feet tall. From time to time, a patch of cultivated farmland would appear here or there... I would have provided pictures here, except that the photos showed only haze. As we worked our way toward Sau Paulo, we passed over Brazilia, the capital, a designed city built in the 1960s; before which the capital was Rio de Janiero. Brazilia was the first sign of buildings, highways, industry, and the other things we consider civilization, and it looked like they were getting nice weather.
The view on the way into Sau Paulo was that of a large city - huge expanses of terra cotta-tiled buildings outside the city, and many, many office buildings downtown. The airport is out of town, in a relatively unpopulated area, peaceful above.
Too bad the tranquility didn't last past the landing. The problem I ran into at customs is typical of the sort of situations that tourists get themselves into because they don't know any better. Having brought several spare circuit boards along with me, I stopped off at customs to declare them and was given the choice of either paying a 50% duty on $6000, or filing paperwork to let them into Brazil in five or so days. Seeing as the show would be over by then, there didn't seem to be much point in doing it that way. Apparently, the boards would have been easily let in with the right paperwork, but we hadn't filed it.
Anyway, I left the boards behind, to
meet up with Andre (the car service driver) just outside of customs. Instead,
I met a woman who introduced herself as Andrea. At first I though I'd gotten
the name wrong, but I discovered that Andrea and her husband Andre run
a husband-and-wife car service! We hopped in her little Kia and headed