Well our trip started out on Friday the 23rd. I went over to Mike’s house and picked him up and we headed for Jennifer’s house. From there, her dad took the three of us to the airport. Joyce and Abbey would meet us there. Also meeting us was going to be Joey McKinney. Joey McKinney is Lori Hagewood’s oldest brother that also lives in João Pessoa. His family is in the US until the end of July reporting, fundraising, and relaxing. Part of the reason he was meeting us at the airport was to take some stuff down for them. Luckily we were able to take all of their stuff down plus our stuff, so it worked out really good. We left Nashville and flew in Miami. We really didn’t have much time in Miami before boarding our plane to São Paulo.
In São Paulo though, we had plenty of time between flights. In fact, almost 12 hours between flights. We had to hang out in the main airport area because they couldn’t check our luggage until 4 hours before our flight. Luckily there were a couple of World Cup games that would be on the TV that helped to pass the time. While we were in the unsecured area of the airport, Mike made a new friend. It was a lady that said she had been working but needed to contact her family that was someplace far away. So Mike got her a phone card and later ended up getting her some chocolate cause she said she wanted it. For the 7 or so hours we were in this part of the airport, the lady would hang around were we where. Once time came we could check our bags, we did and went through security. I packed my camping mattress since it is fairly lightweight I figured I could get a little nap in sometime during that 12 hours in São Paulo. I was able to get an hour before the next World Cup game started. The flight we would board would fly to João Pessoa with a stop in Recife. It was raining in Recife and João Pessoa, so that leg of the flight was REALLY bumpy. Sitting next to me on that flight were two girls with a strong British accent. They didn’t speak Portuguese but understood a few words. So when the pilot said we were making our decent down into João Pessoa… they thought he said the plane is going down (as in crashing). When we finally landed, they were so happy to be back on the ground again. The flight is only like a 20 minute flight, but when your maximum altitude isn’t even 7500ft and your in rain clouds, its gonna be a bumpy flight. I already suspected it based on the previous times I have flown that leg. When we arrived at the airport on Sunday morning around 1:30 AM, Julian, Juliana, Ricardo, Marcos Paulo, and Hunter were waiting for us. Julian and Juliana were able to take the girls and their luggage to their place. Before we could leave though, Hunter had to change out a tire since it was flat.
Luckily, the have church on Sunday afternoon, so we were all able to sleep in really late. I think I was the first person on the team to wake up at 10:30. We headed over to the church building and I got to catch up with some old friends. I should have remembered the surprise they like to spring on guests at the church. Chad, Jesse, and I have all had to do it, I could have warned Mike, but it slipped my mind. You see, they like to ask you if you would like to say some words tonight. You know you can’t just say No, even though you haven’t prepared anything. That’s what they did to Mike this time. They asked him if he would like to preach at the service tonight. So that’s what he did, with Hunter translating.
Monday was the first day of EBF (Escola Bíblica de Férias) which we would literally translate as Vacation Bible School (VBS). We showed up earlier on this day because we needed to make sure all the decorations where hung, crafts were ready, etc. Mike taught the adult class, Joyce and Abbey did crafts, Jennifer helped take the 3-4 year olds, and I helped out with activities. Wilson was still in transit thanks to Varig going Bankrupt.
Here’s a picture of the kids singing.
Afterwards Joyce, Abbey, Jennifer, and I hung out with some of the church members by going to the movies with them. It was an English movie with Portuguese subtitles, so it was easier to follow than other movies I’ve seen (dubbed into Portuguese with no subtitles).
Day 3, 4, 5:
These days seem to be about the same. We had free mornings and would usually meet up around lunch. One morning I went to Robinson’s place to try and fix his computer. I wasn’t able to do it, but I told him what the problem was and how he could fix it. It just involved getting updated drivers for his TV tuner card. One morning Wilson, Mike, and I got to see Ricardo present the statewide mission that the church in João Pessoa has. After lunch, EBF would start up. We all pretty much did the same jobs all week. Wilson took a group of kids around. On Wednesday, they moved Abbey from crafts to taking kids around. During the singing, we got to get up and do some of the actions that go with the song. This can be quite entertaining. The evenings again were spent hanging out with church members.
This was our only free day we had. We started out by going to the church and helping sort out food from the Food Drive that they also had during EBF. All in all, there were like 93 different kids with an average attendance of 64 kids per day. Over this time period, almost half a ton of food was collected that would be taken to 30 different families.
We went to Picãozinho with some of the church members and folks from AIM. It was pretty cool. I had never been snorkeling before. We had a really late lunch and then headed to Jacare to see the sunset. Julian took us last year to see it, but we were 15 minutes late. This year though, we arrived in plenty of time to see the sunset and hear the guy on the saxophone play as the sun went down. Afterwards we had planned to hang out some more at Juliana’s place, but it as it turns out, we had a lot of last minute details that needed to be worked out. Since all of us had at least 1 leg on Varig, we had to deal with cancelled flights. Mike, Jennifer, and Me were actually able to take a bus paid for by Varig from João Pessoa to Recife and continue on our regular itinerary. Joyce, Abbey, and Wilson had to drive up to Recife early on Saturday morning to see if they could work out a flight.
Our flight was a little late leaving Recife which means we were also late to arrive in São Paulo. Since we were switching to American Airlines, we needed to get boarding passes from the AA counter. So once we get up there, our plane had already started boarding and was scheduled to take-off in 20 minutes. The lady at the counter was kept saying… “You must try”… “Security line is really long” “You probably can’t make your flight” “But You must try.” She was right… The security line was really long. It didn’t look very promising for us. At least we weren’t the only ones trying to get on that flight in the line. There must have been about 20 other passengers that had the same concern as us. The lady at the counter also mentioned that the next two flights to the US were full. AA actually did the right thing by delaying the plane hence allowing the passengers that were in the airport a chance to board the plane. The flight back was a 10 hour flight. On the plane were about 70+ Brazilian teenagers participating in something called California Study Vacation. While many of the kids had some English skills, it wasn’t necessarily a requirement for the chaperons to have English skills. Also strange was that the flight attendants didn’t seem to have any Portuguese skills. They were a crew based out of DFW. The flight attendants weren’t able to communicate well that they wanted people seated when the seat belt sign is illuminated. (For those that have every flown a Brazilian airline, you probably know the importance of the seat belt sign.) I’ll save the story about one of the chaperons and a flight attendant for another post maybe.
After going through US customs, we were able to quickly recheck our bags and head to our next gate to board our final flight to Nashville. We were rushed the entire way back, but we made it. All in all, the trip was really good and I want to go back again. Next time, it HAS to be longer than a week though. One week was just entirely too short. Anybody want to join me next year?