Wednesday, February 17, 2016

We've Landed - Part II

It's been so hard to bring myself to finish this half of the post, but I'm just going to sit down and push through it. 

Touching down in Brazil, I was terrified of going through immigration and customs. I had no idea what to expect. The only other country I had ever been to was Canada, so I didn't have a clue what it would be like. I imagined that I would be separated from my husband and kids, since they were entering on a domestic passport and I was entering with a visa. Then I imagined customs would weigh and inspect and x-ray all of our luggage, tearing apart all my careful packing and charging us exorbitant import fees on our own belongings. We also brought a lot of cash with us (more than $5,000) and I didn't know if we had to declare that or frankly what would happen to it.

Thankfully it was all much, much easier than I expected. We arrived in Belo Horizonte and exited the plane to wait for the carseats, stroller, and guitar that we had gate checked. We gathered everything except for the guitar, which they told us was brought downstairs with the rest of the luggage. Cue small heart attack number one, because this was our first "okay, it's been stolen" thought. Spoiler alert: absolutely nothing was stolen or damaged during any of our flights - phew. I waited at the end of a long hallway with the kids while my husband collected everything, because we didn't want to block anyone's path. Also, we thought it would be easier if one of us concentrated on the kids and the other worried about our belongings. I give us a big thumbs up for the seamless teamwork and tag teaming during this whole move.

From there we headed down a long hallway and into an elevator (everyone else took the adjacent stairs, but we had the stroller) and down another hallway. At the end of the hallway were restrooms and directly after that was a huge rope queue line to go through immigration. One of these:

Thankfully, again, we were the only flight going through immigration and customs at the time, so it didn't take too long to get through the queue. It took us even less time, because in Brazil there are preferential lines for the elderly, pregnant, disabled, and for anyone with babies. Score! I was scared when they told us to go to the side, because I didn't realize they were putting us in the preferential line.

Immigration was SO easy. They just looked at our passports - the kids' Brazilian passports, my husband's Brazilian passport, and my American passport with my tourist visa. They opened the passports to our photos and looked at each one of us to match us to the photo. Then they asked us why we were entering Brazil and my husband explained that we were moving there after living in the United States for 11 years. They stamped my passport and we walked past the four connected immigration desks to the baggage claim, which was directly behind them.

Immigration didn't look this nice, but it did look similar, except the four desks were connected.

Entry stamp

Brazilian tourist visa

Cue heart attack number two. By this time we had been traveling for about 20 hours and the kids were in meltdown mode. Again, I stayed with them while my husband got the luggage. We were lucky to find an airport employee who grabbed a couple carts and helped load up our stuff. But before he arrived, we were jostled around in the chaos of everyone. It was really crazy and people had massive piles of luggage everywhere. It was my first taste of disorganization and pushing and shoving in Brazil (I'm pretty used to it now). There was some confusion about the guitar since we gate checked it but were picking it up with the checked luggage. We saw someone walk away with a similar one, so we started to get worried. We were delivering this for a friend after all. After what seemed like an hour (but was probably more like 20 minutes) an airport employee brought the guitar to my husband. So with some help, we took our carts and walked past baggage to customs.

I was really surprised by how informal customs was. I imagined a TSA style line where they tore looked through all your bags and decided what to tax or confiscate. But we had read that if you lived outside of Brazil for 10 years and moved back, you could bring anything (except cars) into the country tax-free for one year. So we had my husband's paperwork from when he entered the United States, to prove our case. Customs was actually one guy with a clipboard who stood in the hallway that was directly past baggage. Since we had so much stuff, he stopped us and asked us about our luggage. My husband explained that we were moving to Brazil with two kids, which was why we had three car seats and 8 bags. Which really is not a lot of luggage when you consider that 8 bags was everything we brought to Brazil. The guy wasn't convinced, so my husband showed him his paperwork and after a couple of minutes he said okay, you guys are good to go. WOW. wow. wow. wow. I could not believe how smooth everything had gone.

From here, we spent a few hours in the airport and met with Farley's aunt before catching our connecting flight to Governador Valadares. Since that was an adventure in and of itself, I'm going to detail it in its own post.

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