There are few times in my life where I can say that I’ve been overconfident about something. However, my first trip to Brazil could be the exception to that.
It was the afternoon of January 1, 2017 and I can vividly remember hopping out of the shower to answer a telephone call from the airline I was currently working for. I was on reserve, which meant that crew scheduling could call me at pretty much any hour of the day and expect me to be at the airport, ready-to-go, within 3 hours. I remember answering the phone feeling so nervous about where they would send me, but was pleasantly surprised to hear that I would be going somewhere new… wherever MAO was?!
I quickly got off the phone, Google searched where I was going, and found out that it was Manaus, Brazil! Never in a million years, would I ever have dreamed of traveling there. To say the least, I was super excited about the trip.
(Fast forward a few hours to departure time) I approached the gate and was happy to see that another young flight attendant was aboard. She and I quickly became friends and planned to go exploring together the next day. We were told by a senior flight attendant that we must go swimming with the pink river dolphins, which we were both ecstatic about! For once in my life I felt like I was finally living the flight attendant dream.
Upon arriving at the hotel, my friend and I inquired about a tour, but were told that tours did not operate on that specific day of the week (Monday). However, the desk agent would call around to see if she could arrange one for us. With our hopes shot down, my new flight attendant friend and I decided that we would just explore the hotel.
While we were sitting by the pool, we were pleasantly interrupted by the desk agent who asked us, “Can you be ready in 5 minutes? I arranged a tour for you!”
Not having much time to consider the offer, my friend and I said “Sure!” In the back of my mind I figured it would be fine… we both traveled to foreign places before on our own: how much different could Brazil be? That is where my overconfidence came in.
We were soon picked up from our hotel by someone in a beat up car that looked like he was off the streets. Considering that we had no money, we had to stop by an ATM on the way to take out money for the tour. Whatever we took out in Brazilian real, it was the equivalent of $60 USD.
We paid the driver the money and he told us that he would walk us to the dock where the boat would pick us up. When we arrived at the dock, he found out that the boat already LEFT! Feeling sorry for us, the driver arranged to have a puddle jumper boat take us to meet the larger boat. Because my friend and I did not speak Portuguese, we had no idea what was going on and thought that this was all part of the tour.
Eventually, we did meet up with the larger boat and got to see real-live monkeys, eat a traditional Brazilian meal, and swim with the pink river dolphins. Things seemed to be all rainbows and sunshine until the tour guide approached us and asked “Did you arrange transportation back to the hotel?”
My friend and I looked at each other and our hearts sank. “We didn’t know that we were supposed to” I said. “We thought that was included in the tour.”
The tour guide shook his head. “It usually is,” he said, “but because this tour was arranged on a day where your hotel is not a pick-up location,” you will have to get a taxi.
At that, my stomach started spinning circles. My friend and I did not take out any extra money to get a taxi! I quickly said a prayer and am so thankful to God that He intervened.
It just so happened that another couple on the tour overheard our conversation and told us that they were flight attendants, too. They had extra money and said that we could go back to their hotel with them. From there, we could arrange for another taxi.
The plan seemed viable, until we were met with opposition from taxi drivers- none of them wanted to drive all of us back for the $12 that we had! Luckily, one driver (with a rosary hanging from his mirror) agreed. To this day, I believe that must have been a sign of divine intervention.
To further complicate matters, when we arrived at the couple’s hotel, I was told that they would not accept credit cards to pay for another taxi and that I needed cash. Again God intervened because I was somehow able to talk to the desk agent in a foreign language and convince him to let me use a card. Eventually he did, and my friend and I made it back safely.
Upon returning to the hotel, I felt weak. I overestimated my abilities and God TRULY intervened to save me. If He had not strategically placed the couple that were flight attendants on the boat with us, my friend and I would have been stranded. It was truly a miracle that we made it back alive.
I remember calling my mom to to tell her about my adventure. Meanwhile, I noticed that she had called me 37 times over the past few hours to tell me that there was a prison outbreak in the area and to get back to my hotel IMMEDIATELY! She was so relieved to find out that I was ok, but terribly mad at me for not answering. (For the record… I did not have cell phone service in the jungle).
When I look back over the whole situation, I still shiver. Although I had fun, I severely overestimated my abilities and had a distorted perception of Brazilian culture. It makes for a good story, but I hope and pray that my children never do something like that someday. I can see how upset my mom must have been.
Ways that I could have prevented this would have been to ask more questions and avoid stereotyping Brazilian customs/culture as being the same as any other Latin culture I encountered.