Caffeine and Cinder
(This is my travel journal that I kept during a medical mission to Paraguay; part one can be found here)
September 25, 2015. 06:00 – 07:15
Café Pascucci & Gate 46, Terminal 3, GRU
The long haul from Heathrow left a lot of room for desire unlike my seat in coach, most of which was obscured by the seat of the guy in front of me that was twenty centimeters from my face. He was almost in my lap when the seat, most likely defective, was reclined further than the others, just from him sitting in it. I didn’t know this was possible, and being an engineer, I was frustrated about the inability of my chair to make the same maneuver. Despite melatonin, the discomfort of the shoebox seat I sat in prohibited sleep.
The heavy elderly woman next to me mumbled and coughed, from time to time. Surprisingly, she disappeared for several hours at a time, so it seemed. I was looking for her on the floor at one point so as to not step on her by accident while navigating my way to the toilet. I have no idea where she went on a full flight.
We arrived in São Paulo before the sun. At another security check, just past the keg of confiscated lighters, I wondered whether it would be considered strange to carry a copy of Fahrenheit 451 through security. After an aphasic clearance, I stopped by the restrooms to freshen up. I thought about the water as it poured anxiously out of the motion sensitive faucet caressing the soap off my hands. I brushed my teeth without it using my British Airways toothbrush.
The caffeine at this café in Terminal 3 is well worth the extended wait, and quite popular amongst the other travelers as I have to share a table with a complete stranger. I hope he didn’t hear that thought; fatigue and caffeine have an interesting way of making your thoughts propagate.
The extended wait made me think about whether I should solicit another café, rather than a place that under employs staff. That instant a second employee showed up. It was interesting to order, not knowing Portuguese and still getting what I asked. The guy was nice, knew only a little English, while repeating the muffin choices for me, three different times, each time the selection changed. I settled for lemon, once I could pronounce it “limón.”
The sun came up with an orange glow and radiant shine off of the fuselages outside. When I had walked off the plane there was an odor of forest fire and my thoughts turned to clear cut rain-forest. I am not sure how close the fire was to the airport, but that is what came to mind. Growing up in California, I have smelt it, seen it, and now I recognize it in the sun’s orange glow. Something is definitely burning. You can see it to the east. The hills, and some planes, visibly undulate in the shifting haze which ebbs and flows like dirty fog. People are unfazed by it. A man across from me wears a Fire Rescue hat, a CAT jacket, and boots. Perhaps coincidentally, because if he was part of whatever is going on beyond the airport, his nice tan boots would show signs of cinder.
The airport has woken up and I see others with their kids playing or curtailing behaviors, and I miss mine. I don’t feel so tired, but I know it is a long day and I will soon feel tired again.
September 25, 2015. 07:45
TAM 8140, Seat 24A to ASU
As I board my plane, an A330 to Asunción, and walk the aisle toward my seat, I notice the three gentlemen in first class looking like cartel men portrayed by Hollywood. One of them is complete with a short sleeve dark patterned button-down, greasy hair, and sunglasses. I can only guess why he is wearing the sunglasses, but I’ll leave it to my imagination.
After helping a lady with her stowage, a bright and heavy bag depicting the Union Jack, I find my seat, 24A, complete with two headsets. Everyone looks normal and well dressed in casual attire. Jeans, sweaters, etc. I have no idea what anyone has said to me while boarding except Gracias and Abrigado.
Out my window I spot a Swiss Air flight to Zürich being towed into position. Looks like I took the long way via London. My flight does not look full, maybe fifty percent. The haze outside is starting to thin. I still don’t know what to expect, it has been twenty-two hours to get this far, so I will just go with it.
The stewardess closes the overhead bins and offers toffees. I randomly choose the lemon pie flavor. I didn’t even know flavored toffee like this existed; luckily it is more toffee than lemon pie.
I discreetly transfer the cash for my visa to an accessible place and get handed an disembarkation card. As we lift off, plumes of smoke are visible on several forest hillsides, just north east outside the hilly city of São Paulo. A strip mine is below and perhaps a shanty part of town with tight small buildings and dirt roads. Banking south, the greater part of the city is revealed, and the haze begins to blend with the clouded sky.
The mini monitor in the seat back in front of me flickers with bleeding colors against the burgundy and drab motif. There is minor turbulence, probably related to the huge puffy clouds out of my window. For breakfast, they serve coffee with cornbread. I am not sure what to think, but I like coffee and I like cornbread. It has been a while since I had cornbread, and for some reason it was just what I needed. The cornbread was perfect but the milk in the coffee was not. I’m not sure if it was due to the very long journey, or that the cornbread was actually that good. It could have been some of the best I have eaten; well done TAM Airlines. We will be landing soon; I can sense the slight declination and altered frequency from the engines.
The views expressed on this website/blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or Operation Smile. The author encourages your help and support by donating to support medical missions by Operation Smile via this link: http://support.operationsmile.org/goto/schoutens
This blogpost-series are pages of my personal journal leading up to and during my first medical mission to Asunción, Paraguay. I hope this series encourages you to serve global communities and/or donate to a wonderful organization that improves the lives of children and families around the world!