Tuesday, April 15, 2008

El Abbot y Costello del Sur

As many of you know, my boyfriend Jimmy and I have been engaged in a godless gay romance for over 10 years now, and to celebrate our decade-long dance with the devil, we decided we wanted to go to Rio to see the big Jesus statue. No, really. I've wanted to see that statue since I was a kid. (Gays can still love Jesus, what?) We'd never been on an international trip together before and, even though Rio de Janeiro is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, I reeeeally wanted to see that Jesus.

The Jesus I wanted to see, looking down on the regular bloodbath that is Rio de Janeiro

The trip didn't really go as planned, even allowing for the extra ransom money we brought in case one of us was kidnapped. Here's the story, courtesy of emails I sent to friends and family north of the equator (the equator is that invisible line that circumscribes the globe where all the fairies and hobbits live, right?):

Hola, folks:

I'm writing con noticias mas horribles. As you all know, Jimmy and I embarked on our ten-year anniversary trip last week. We were going to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil because we wanted to sit on a beach, drink, and see the big Jesus statue (not necessarily--but probably--in that order). I got a vacation package from Expedia and things were all set. Then, after our first flight was cancelled due to weather, we got to JFK the next day for our rescheduled flight on Argentina Airlines to Buenos Aires and then on to Brazil. The attendant who checked us in gasped when she didn't see visas for Brazil in our passports. Yes, we needed visas to go to Brazil. The only South American country where an American needs a visa to be let in? That country is Brazil.

Brazil is a country in the world that likes to ruin Americans' vacations

We gasped too. I looked at Jimmy and, as shocked as he was, his expression said it all: "I knew some kinda bullsh*t like this was gonna happen." So! The woman said that we would have to get off the plane at Buenos Aires and go to the Brazilian embassy there. She said she was once able to get a visa for Brazil the same day (she also had an American passport) so she told us she thought it would be doable. We decided to go ahead and fly because we were desperate to get out of NYC and Buenos Aires is definitely not NYC.

Obviously, I felt (and still feel) like an incredible idiot for letting this happen. In all the traveling I've done I've never needed a tourist visa and so it never even crossed my mind. I just never thought about it. In all the web surfing I did in preparation for the trip (keywords "beach," "jesus," and "bejesus") I failed to type in the magical keyword that would have alerted me to this visa issue: "American." In recent years Brazil has apparently been making it harder and harder for Americans to get in, in retaliation for the U.S. making it harder and harder for Brazilians to get into the U.S after 9/11. That's right. I blame Bush.

The view from our room at Sarmiento Hotel

The view of me getting a nosebleed while on the phone with Expedia at our room at the Sarmiento Hotel

We arrived here in Argentina very early Saturday morning after a very long and emotionally weird flight, and when we were trying to arrange a new connecting flight, we were told that, duh, the Embassy was closed on weekends. So we got a hotel room downtown and proceeded to enjoy the city for a few days. (It's beautiful! I've always wanted to come here, so it's very lucky that our connecting flight wasn't scheduled for, say, Atlanta. I would have wept.) We've had some great food here and done a lot of wandering around.

Me on a bridge reading an article

Yesterday Jimmy walked into a sliding glass door at this expensive coffee house that we stopped in for an energy boost ("That glass was really clean!" he said), spilling his expensive coffee all over the door and providing the waiter and the two seated customers with a story that they'll be able to tell their grandchildren. (When we left the shop, we were standing outside discussing where to go next and we could see that, indeed, inside the cafe they were all still laughing.)

Jimmy takes a breather after walking into a door

This is a really good article

This morning we got up early and went to the Brazilian embassy, prepared for a fresh load of humiliation. But actually, the woman was very nice when she told us that there was no way in hell we were getting a visa before Thursday noon. She even expressed it in English (with the help of a bilingual cheat sheet). So we're here and nothing else has gone wrong yet, except that our flights home have been cancelled by the airline because we didn't show up for the rescheduled flight to Rio this afternoon because WE DON'T HAVE F**KING VISAS!!!! (sorry, Mom). I'd spent an hour on the phone with Expedia yesterday telling them of this very real possibility and they said they were contacting the airline. This obviously didn't happen. So I have to go fight with Aerolinas Argentinas tomorrow morning and demand that they rebook us on the flight that we've paid for or I'll walk into one of their walls with an expensive cup of coffee.

A traditional Argentinian abortion rally

Me getting ready to petition the National Congress for a visa to Brazil

A statue in Recoleta of Eva Peron running away from the Brazilian embassy

Today we went to pay our respects at Eva Peron's grave. (Have I ever uttered a more gay sentence in my life? Probably not. How about this one: tomorrow we might go see a Spanish-language version of Cabaret. Just because.) It was in this gigantic labyrinthine cemetery/mausoleum-type thing at La Recoleta, which is at an old church called Basilica del Pilar in an upscale neighborhood here. Very beautiful place. Best of all, there were TONS of cats lounging around the graves. A dirty, flea-addled alley cat sunning herself at the foot of a statue of the Virgin Mother just makes sense, for some reason.

Cats in Argentina like to hang out in cemeteries

Eva Peron's grave, a great place to meet other tourists

Jimmy gets ready to spill hot coffee on a few unsuspecting tangoers in the San Telmo district

One positive thing that I can say is "Thank God the Argentinian economy collapsed at the turn of the century." Prices here are very reasonable. When Jimmy and I were in the taxi from the embassy to our next hotel I heard him say dreamily "I see cheap shoes" as he was gazing out at a shop window. Indeed, we chose an excellent city to be marooned in. Hopefully we'll be able to leave at some point, but hopefully not before I get a few new threads. The brand new bathing suit I bought in NYC especially for Rio, which mocks me every time I open my suitcase, can be easily smothered with a new faux-leather jacket, if the price is right.

Me in front of a giant obelisk, the closest Buenos Aires gets to a giant statue of Jesus.

Me among the colorful people of Buenos Aires

Boobs. And a soccer game. In the Palermo district.

Another highlight: we met the world's bitchiest waitress. (Really, she beat out waitresses I've had in London AND Paris. Combined. That's talent.)

More pics soon!


edwardbruce said...

I wouldn't worry about not seeing Jesus. I've heard he's overrated.

Anonymous said...



Unknown said...

I hope you come to Brazil again and get the needed visa to know all things around. Believe me, its much easier to get your visa to come here than a visa for us to go up there. Anyway, dont miss out Brazilian Northeast, ok?