Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Missionary Conference, Part One
We knew we were going to beat the rest of the team to the airport (everyone but the Porters were on our flight; they had gone down on Friday for some vacation) so we checked in and had some breakfast. And coffee. Quick Portuguese fact for you: the word for breakfast is the same word as the one for coffee. So you say "I drank coffee" and it can mean "I ate breakfast" or just "I drank coffee". Sounds confusing, but it makes sense most of the time. When we finished our coffee, we found the rest of the gang, in various stages of awake. Some people hadn't woken up until 5:15, which is when their taxis arrived, so their mornings were a little more harried than ours.
We all made it on the flight without incident. It's a short hop from Salvador to Belo Horizonte, only 90 minutes. (It would have taken 12 hours to drive it.) With the time change, we arrived just before 9:00. Vans had been hired to meet us and take us to the hotel, but since the earliest we could check in was 2:00, we arranged to rent a van for the day and putter around town. Randy and Jenn were going to meet us at the airport, return their rental car and spend the day with us. We hooked up with our van driver without any trouble, but Randy and Jenn were AWOL. Alicia and I stood in the arrivals area forever but they didn't show. Messengers kept getting sent from the van to let us know the driver really really needed to get on with things, but we didn't have any way to get a hold of them. Just as I was getting ready to send the van on without me, Alicia spotted Randy and Jenn across the airport. They had made a wrong turn and spent an hour lost in downtown Belo Horizonte. When I got to the van, I discovered the reason the van driver was so antsy- he wasn't our driver for the day. He was going to take us to the "grocery store" and we would meet our other driver. But, he kept asking, why do you want to go to the grocery store on the other side of town? There are lots of closer stores. We didn't back down. The grocery store on the other side of town was Wal-Mart. There was no way we were missing that!
We spend a couple glorious hours at Wal-Mart (which, for the record, is still mostly full of Brazilian stuff) and then crossed town again to eat at TGIFriday's. It wasn't one of my favorite restaurants in the US, but we were all thrilled to eat tater skins and buffalo wings. Heavenly. The restaurant was empty but we completely overwhelmed it. Our waitresses spoke English, and said they'd had Americans come in before, but usually just a couple of businessmen. I hope they enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed our time there!
After stuffing our faces, we loaded up one more time to go to the hotel. It's a "farm hotel", so it was a ways out of town. Quite a ways. Down windy, bumpy roads. Somehow, even with our full tummies, no one got sick. (There wouldn't have been room for anyone to get sick- the van was stuffed with suitcases and people.) But we made it on time and were eager for the conference to start.