Jo'burg to Sao Paulo - and no, no further!

Trip Start Apr 10, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, April 10, 2006

I'm writing this in my little room in the house of Sophia Lopez and jose Garcia. I'm staying here while I study Spanish at the escuala de espanol cooperacion in Antigua, guatemala. But first, before I get to telling about what life is like here, let me go back a week to my disastrous first few days in latin America...

I left SA last Monday and had a pretty uneventful flight through to Sao Paulo in brasil - arrived at 3.30pm in the afternoon, had a few g 'n t's in the bar and amused myself somehow - slept very uncomfortably on a hard cold airport floor! - for the 10 hours I needed to wait until I could check in at 2.30am for my 4.30am flight to Guatemala. Very excited, staring in wonder and amazement at all things new, listening hard to see if my smidgen of Spanish would at all enable me to make sense of the Portuguese spoken around me - generally just feeling fab! Until time came for check in...

"eeh, you canno check een meez froneneneman".
"pardon? What do you mean?"
"eeh, you canno check een meez froneneneman. Wher iz your veeza for panama?"
"my visa? What visa? I am in transit for one hour in panama before I catch my flight to guatemala - my travel agent said I don't need a visa if I am in transit"
"no, that eez no correct. You neeed a veeza for panamaa and you need a teekit out of guatemala."
"what? That can't be right. She definitely said I did not need a visa - she even phoned some one to check! And I don't have a ticket out of guatemala because I don't know how or when I am leaving - I will probably go by bus to mexico or to Honduras - I haven't decided yet."
"oooh, no that eez a beeg problem meez froneneneman. You need a veeza for panamaa and you can only git waan een da morneeng when eet openz and you need a teekit from guatemala all de way back to sao Paulo. Oderwize how are you goeeng to come back heer for you flight to south Africa in one yeer?"
"what on earth do you mean? I'm starting my travels in guatemala and I'm not sure where I'm going from there but somehow over the next 12 months I will find my way back to sao Paulo for my flight back to south Africa! I certainly do not need a ticket from guatemala to sao paolo - there are also ways other than flying to get around!"
"aah no. that eez no correcto. You need a teekit back to sao paolo."

...So to cut a long story short, I was not allowed to board my flight, and I spent an extremely stressful and expensive 2 and a half days in sao Paulo, phoning Panamanian embassies in london and brasil, phoning the travel agent - who completely denied all responsibility for anything (after giving me completely incorrect advice !!!), emailing and faxing info to various parties AND dealing with jetlag ! - all to no avail because eventually I had to buy a whole new ticket!! Absolutely crazy. My poor mom is now stuck with trying to sort the debacle out because the only way I could get a refund was to go back to the travel agent in south Africa! (note to you all - don't trust travel agents!)
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