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MBTHA, Part II [25 Apr 2006|09:25pm]

The driver last night took me to the wrong hotel, again. This despite the fact that I told the English-speaking people helping me hire the car that there were two Hotel Continentals and that I was only staying in one of them, and that no, I did not think that my hotel was across from the city bus depot, and I showed them the address, and it sounded like they communicated all of that in Brazilian Portuguese.

So, the driver took me to the wrong hotel at the wrong address, across from the city bus depot.

Then he didn't know how to get to the right hotel. Also, he had already quoted me a ridiculously low flat rate (this was a driver-for-hire but not a metered taxi), and I'm sure he was a little peeved about that. He radioed in for navigational assistance, and got me to the right spot without too much delay.

Previous to the car, I rode a public bus. It was as crowded as I've ever seen any public transportation container. I was standing, and the woman sitting in the seat in front of where I was did something I've never seen in the US, which is offer to put my (somewhat bulky) backpack on the floor in front of her knees. I guess this is where my gender stereotyping comes in, because if this had been a large man, I certainly would have declined. It wasn't just her gender though, she also offered very nicely (well, I didn't understand the actual words she was saying, but they sounded nice) and seemed nice. I guess putting the bag there probably made her more comfortable too, since it wasn't in her face as I stood in front of her seat with it hanging in front of me.

The bus had another interesting feature, which was a second employee seated in the middle of the bus collecting fares by a turnstile. As people kept reminding me, labor is cheap in Brazil. So passengers actually did not pay until they were about a third of the way back on the bus. It definitely expedited boarding, but I still don't understand how they deal with all of the people crammed into the front of the bus who can't get to the place where they are supposed to pay. Seems like many of them would want to get off the bus before they made it to the turnstile.

Previous to the bus, I had to hire a taxi to get to a social gathering associated with the conference, from whence I was coming home in the above. Apparently the address I showed the taxi driver was not complete. This caused a great deal of consternation involving at least four different people (one of whom kind of spoke English), with the end result that the taxi would not take me. I then had to learn how to dial a Brazilian hotel phone and try to get more directions from a person on a bad cell phone connection in the midst of a loud gathering. Eventually we were able to understand each other. I got the rest of the address, returned to my four comrades in the hotel lobby, and successfully got a ride. "Good luck", one of the non-English speakers said to me as I rode off. He seemed to think I wasn't going to make it. But I did.

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