Thursday, October 18, 2007
ACCORDING TO BOB: The view from the Andes.
Introducing a new little series of posts based around the observations of my good friend Roberto Troncoso (pictured) who we stayed with in Santiago. Roberto is a thoroughly interesting fellow with plenty to say about South America, Chile and conditions therein. So, here's the first one. According to Bob... the 29th of every month is gnocci day in Argentina. This roughly corresponds to workers' pay day and it is apparently traditional for Argentinians to spend their first cheque on gnocci at an Italian restaurant. Is this really true, I ask myself? Well, it is according to Bob.
More flight anecdotes. I'm not about to write a multi-thousand word diatribe (see posts in August after BRA flights) about flying around South America. However, we do still manage to find ourselves regularly embroiled in anecdote-inspiring situations. On the way to Chile, our flight out of Sao Paulo was delayed (it was a national holiday after all). Finally, we board at about 11pm and sit on the runway for some time. I doze off. I stir at the sound of the engines roaring into action and then out of nowhere my seat starts to jolt back and forth and suddenly I'm getting some wiry fingers jabbed into my ribs and, worryingly, it's not Rachel. I'm not sure if it was then or later, but at some moment I came to the realisation that on a flight of some 200 passengers I, with a stunning bolt of sheer poor luck, had found my way to the one seat directly in front of the absolutely crackers old lady.
Senhora Maria (as we discovered her name was) had taken off her seatbelt and stood up at just the time the plane's wheels were leaving the runway. She was muttering in my ear: "Chegou em Santiago? Chegou em Santiago?". In other words, the pause on the runway, the engines firing up had confused our elderly friend. She was under the impression we were landing in Chile. It took the rest of the four hours to convince her otherwise. Rachel seemed to be the only person, passenger or otherwise, who took the time to talk to her and settle her down in her seat. She would stay put for a whole 10 minutes perhaps, before springing up with youthful vigour from her chair to announce to those of us nearby that she wanted to exit the plane for we had surely arrived in Santiago. Each time she did this, I would get my hair tussled, an elbow in the eye-socket, or most amusingly a handbag dropped on me (a sleeping me, I might add) from a considerable height. Eventually, after running round the aisle after her nephew (a man in his 40s who seemed oblivious to her plight) she did what baby Nelson would have done - she sat back down and fell straight into a deep sleep for the rest of the journey. God bless the old dear, but I was praying she wasn't going to be on our return flight and, thankfully, our flight back from Santiago was devoid of bonkers women.
But, on our return we did however get delayed again, missing our final connection to Natal. (In fact, the delayed flight featured candidates from a "Mister Rio 2007" competition. With biceps the size of watermelons, I figured they would be the best guys to operate the emergency doors in the event of an emergency). So, it wasn't until lunch on Wednesday (and after one of my lessons had been cancelled) that we touched down in Natal. But it was worth it, every penny, every minute. What a great holiday - I promise some more detail of Chile next post.
Oh, and one more thing. We sat next to a chatty bloke on one flight who wanted to practice his English with us. He was from Sao Paulo, a consultant. He told us that BRA (that insufferable airline that so gyped me) approached his company to do consultancy - however, his company declined. The reason? BRA were not able to provide an account of their financial situation. Sensing they may not ever be paid, his company quite rightly pulled out.
Amusing uses of English. Continuing the theme of flying on airplanes, I'm constantly amused by the efforts of some Brazilian air stewardesses to deliver announcements in English over the airplane tannoy. I suspect they're reading off a card, or from rote, but aside from the dodgy intonation and pronunciation sometimes they mix up whole sentences.
My two favourites: "Please return your seatbelts to the upright position". Ah yes, we can't be having any seatbelts reclining noncholantly across our laps. Presumably we will have to buckle our tray tables too.
And from this most recent trip: "Please refrain from smoking cell phones until inside the terminal building". I guess the newer models are fully equipped with every mod-con... I'm just not sure which end to light up.