from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Brazil Dispatch 5

November 29, 2006
It felt very good to get back to Natal, even if it was just back to our hotel. We sure don't miss all the packing and unpacking every few days. Even so, we got kicked out of our wonderful hotel Sunday because we had such a good long-term rate, and they had filled it with an arriving Norwegian group paying full price. The lovely, generous manager called up her friend down the block and negotiated almost as good a deal at another hotel, but we find that the internet here only allows for one of us to be connected at a time.

Fidel, the owner of the house we're buying, only just returned from his (successful) surgery in Argentina. He is having his furniture shipped out next Tuesday, December 5th, so we will move in then, even though the paper work won't be completed till mid-December. We have begun looking at mattresses!

After some frustrating shopping for household goods here, we realized that the expense to buy everything plus the expense to store all of our stuff in New York doesn't add up. We have decided to ship most of our things here. (Unfortunately, we sold all the beds.) We will stop over in New York late January or early February when Newt has a business trip to California and I visit my Mother in Tulsa. Whirlwind shopping for needed items will precede getting our things packed off. I am working on estimates for this now, and I imagine that container shipment will be a whole story! Our furniture will probably arrive by mid-March, so we will have both a house and chairs more than six months after arriving here!

We were finally successful in getting a bank account in Brazil on the fifth try. The magic solution: we bought health insurance, and that company was willing to use our hotel address on the registration, and the bank was willing to accept the health insurance registration as proof of our address. As an aside, we discovered that we didn't actually have health insurance after all, because our certificate of marriage says "Sandra Jean Needham," and my passport, Brazilian CPF (like a social security #), and resident alien registration all say "Sandra Needham." The bank opened our account based on a form that is now moot with an address that is now incorrect (our secret!). The insurance agent returned to our hotel and started the whole process over again, now using my full name. I can just imagine myself lying in a ditch awaiting medical attention and being denied it because my driver's license, passport and Brazilian documents don't say "Jean."

We also thought we had car insurance, but discovered upon our return from Europe that installments could not be paid on a foreign credit card. Now we're trying to pay in full on our credit card, but have no word yet if that has kicked in. We are trying to drive very carefully in the meantime!

After two weeks waiting to receive his CPF card being forwarded from our hotel in Fortaleza, Newton was told that it was still in the backpack of the guy who had been dispatched to take mail to the P.O. Now that another week has passed, he heard today that it will go out tomorrow! When Newt's new dentist sent him to another location for x-rays, it was only after a series of photographs, x-rays, two different space-age contraptions rotating about the head, and mention of the upcoming mold to be taken of his teeth that he asked the question, "For a root canal?" The place specializes in orthodontia and the receptionist hadn't read the dentist's instructions!

To transfer money from our New York bank to be converted into reais requires a form that is typed and signed by Newton authorizing money to be wired to a specific bank account. We sent a stack of signed forms to our bank in Pomona, NY via "Sedex," the FedEx of Brazil (part of the post office system here). Because Pomona, NY must already be listed in the Brazilian system online in order to fill out the mailing form and it was not (as no one as yet had ever sent a Sedex to Pomona from Brazil), and because hand writing or typing the Sedex form is out of the question, the woman waiting on us had to call Brasilia to have Pomona, NY added to the system while we waited. As soon as it showed up on her screen, she could complete the form! It took 39 minutes and $38 to mail this envelope. That was Friday, this is Wednesday, and tracking still shows it in São Paulo.

To counter the frustrations of both the bureaucracy and the relaxed pace here - perfect partners - and for our own 'third world relaxed pace training' we rely on a visit to the beach for whole grilled fish, beer, the aqua ocean and great people-watching. It always works! I am convinced after people-watching here and on all those trains, subways and sidewalks on our trip that you can find a counterpart to most everyone you know in any given country. I found the perfect Japanese version of my Aunt Ruth, for example, on the train in Tokyo, and the Brazilian version of our friend Joe Cerruto sold us our car!

One more week in a hotel...


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