Trying to Get to Brazil – Brazil, South America

Did You Know?
Did you know you need a visa to enter Brazil?
A tourist visa.
A visa to visit.
A card to make sure you don’t make money there.
A card that costs $118.60.

A fourteen-year reunion is delayed.
My foreign exchange student from 1992 is waiting.
She is worried.
She, who has lived in Brazil her whole life, did not know about the visa requirement.

I woke up Monday morning, excitement running through my veins.
One small suitcase.
One personal item to carry on the plane.
I’m taking a non-hassle trip.
No checked luggage, thank you very much.
The 405 is clear and the weather is nice and cool.
My friend comes into the airport terminal with me.
So lovely to be early.
We sit and I enjoy a cup of black coffee.
I take my time and decide I’ll check in.

I record a new, giddy, outgoing message on my voicemail,
“I’m leavin’ on a jet plane…”

Visitor Visa?
There’s no line.
I present my passport.
I present my itinerary.
The flight attendant says, “Visa?”
I say, “No, I’m just visiting.”
She repeats in the same monotone, “Visa?”
I say, “I didn’t know I needed one.”
She says flatly, “Yes…yes, you do.”
I say, “How do I get one?”
She says, “You have to go to the Brazilian Consulate in Beverly Hills.”

Beverly Hills instead of Rio
My friend, ever ready, with a laptop always on hand.
My friend, with Verizon card for internet anywhere.
He begins the research.
Most websites are quoting ten days to process the application.
All websites say I have to go in person.
So, with only two hours until my flight,
I depart by car…not to Rio, but to Beverly Hills.

The Process
I enter a room so silent and tense.
I enter a void with signs warning me to suppress my aggression.
I overcompensate and talk sweetly as if to my five-year-old niece.
“Is this the application I fill out?”
The woman – I think the security guard, answers in staccato,
“Yes. Then, go to suite 745. Take a passport picture, photocopy your itinerary, buy a money order for $100.00. Then, come back here and take a number.”

Portuguese is spoken around me.
Everyone is familiar with this procedure.
I, on the other hand, a novice.
I, on the other hand, clueless.
I am people watching.
I am biting my tongue.
I am studying how to act,
How to react.

And they are turning people in and out
Like an assembly line.
The moment I hand in my paperwork,
The woman behind the counter calls the next number,
I say, “When is the earliest I can go to Brazil.”
She says, “Come back Thursday.”
Looking past me, “92.”
I respond, “So, could I leave Friday, then?”
She ignores, “92?”
I look directly at her, “Could – I – leave – Friday?”
She surrenders, “Yes. I think so.”

So, I leave the little nook of Brazil in Beverly Hills.

My next step is to call to reschedule my flight.
I call, still with hope in my voice.
Nothing is going to make me cancel my vacation
The one spontaneous trip of my life.

The automated directory tells me to
“Press 2 for a change in reservation.”
The ticket agent’s voice is cordial and goes through rescheduling my ticket for
One week later.

“Our job is to sell you the ticket.”
And just when I think the inconvenience has ceased, he informs me,
“The fee for a reservation change is $475.00.”
I say, “No, no, no…I’m trying to go.
It’s not as if I overslept or decided to change my reservation at a whim.”
He presses play, “I’m sorry Miss, that’s policy.”
I say, “I wish you would have told me I need a visa to enter Brazil.”
The retort, “Our job is to sell you the ticket.”

The supervisor comes on and echoes him as if they were trained to repeat in
Gregorian chant.

She points out that at the bottom of the authorization form in size six font…
Just shy of the need for a magnifying lens, it reads,
“Passengers are responsible for all visa and passport documentation. In the event of visa/passport issues, ASAP tickets shall not be responsible for denied boarding.”

I, however, thought a visa was if you wanted to work.
I, however, thought a visa was if you wanted to study.
I, however, thought a visa was if you wanted to go to China.
I, however, thought wrong.

United Airlines takes my side,
“Your ticket agent should have told you.”

Still, does not budge,
Does not waiver.
Nothing I say causes a change from the automatic responses,
From the monotone responses.

Finally, I recognize I am not getting anywhere with these people.
I swallow my pride and bemoan the principle of the whole thing.
I authorize payment to my modest credit line.

At the time the plane takes off, I am back in my apartment.
I am a puddle sitting at my desk chair.
I am staring at my computer screen, thinking,
“I’m not supposed to be here.”

Vital Piece of Information
You need a visa to enter Brazil
If you are a U.S. citizen.
This piece of information cost me $600.00
Between the change of reservation fee,
Visa application fee plus taxes.
This piece of information cost me rescheduling work – twice!

I am writing to help prevent other travelers from encountering
The same obstacle.
I would also like to bring this to the attention of
So that they can better advise their passengers.
Happy Flying!

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