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Monday, February 2, 2009

Leaving Belem

I fly up the Amazon from Belem to Manaus, following about a thousand kilometers of the river, but I see little of it because it is so cloudy. This was my first, and maybe my only, chance to see the river.

When I realized that I was flying back thru Manaus I regretted not taking a layover there to see the famous opera house that was built more than a hundred years ago at the height of the rubber boom. I thought about taking a taxi quickly into town to see it, but there just wasn't enough time. Maybe next time. If there is a next time.

At the airport in Manaus, we have to exit the airport only to reenter it to catch our flight to Miami. At first I thought it was just bad design, but it quickly became obvious that it was an intentional expression of the abuses of the national security state. At the xray machine, they had stationed the biggest, meanest thugs I have ever seen in airport security who were in no hurry to get us through the line. They confiscated Patricia's hair clip. Their only purpose seemed to be intimidation.

But then it gets worse. Dehydration, both on the plane and in the Amazon, is a problem, so I buy a (very expensive) bottle of water. Before I get on the plane, they have a line of mindless minions who once again search our bags, apparently to be sure that we are not carrying water on to the plane. I'm so sick of this over the top security paranoia that I challenge the minion—what's wrong with water? I bought it after security. If there was a problem with the water, they should not have let it through security. But the minion was determined to put the needs of the abusive national security state over those of human decency and survival. She claimed that it was the policy of TAM airlines. What a stupid policy.

So, I continue on thru the jet bridge just to run into more mindless minions with metal detector wands. Sheeze, this is worse than Colombia!

Finally I get on the plane, and it is almost completely empty. In fact, where it not for a group of about 10 foristas who missed their connection from Belem yesterday (and didn't bother to go see the opera house!), it feels as if the plane would only have the four of use who came on the flight from Belem. Furthermore, this is a huge wide body 767. There was some liberal guilt complex handwringing at the forum about the environmental impact of having everyone travel to the forum in the Amazon, and this just makes my proportion of carbon credits that much higher.

This is surely the most expensive flight to run that I have ever been on. But I don't feel one bit sorry for TAM. In fact, I think I'm going to keep their blanket as a souvenir.

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