Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-

Bribing officials and Gay, Corrupt Police Officers in Rio

2007-12-16 to 2007-12-19

Honestly, I do not know where to start on this entry. How can so much can happen to a nice, quiet guy like me in 48 hours, I just don´t know… I better tell you about it.

So, I had booked a flight to Santa Cruz (Bolivia) via Sao Paulo and I took myself off to the airport, complete with my new passport. I was going through the standard check in process when I was asked where were my flight details for when I was leaving Bolivia. Huh? I have no idea when I am going to leave Bolivia, I said to them, I will play it by ear. They didn´t like that but they pressed on.

I was then asked to present my Yellow Fever Certificate. I had planned on getting my shot when in Bolivia because it was free but now they said that I wasn´t allowed to fly because I hadn´t got it already? I tried to explain that I hadn´t been to a country with Yellow Fever but they said the airline had their own rules and that I would have to forfeit the flight.

So I asked for a refund (minus what I presumed was a cancellation cost) but they said that technically I was a ´No Show´ and that I couldn´t get a refund. What do you mean a ´No Show´, I´m right here you moron?!! So then I asked if I could at least take the Sao Paolo leg of the flight but they said no again, claiming that it was all the one ticket.

Now I don´t quite know how to explain the feeling when that pith in your stomach opens wide and a wave of nausea engulfs you as you are faced with losing the money for the cost of the flight, the realisation that you will have to make alternative plans and that you can´t now make it to Bolivia for Christmas which you had planned to spend with friends.

I then asked if I could use the ticket as a credit for another flight and they said yes. So I booked myself on to a flight to Buenos Aires for two days later. I asked where could I get the vaccination and they said that it was free in the airport. Finally, some luck but that wasn´t to last. I went down to the guy and he was babbling something in Portuguese, getting increasingly upset that I couldn´t make out a word he was saying.

Finally, he pointed at a sign telling me that they were out of the Yellow Fever vaccine. Perfect I thought and was about to leave when he said something to me about the cert. We ´talked´ for about 10 minutes, wildly throwing our arms around trying to make the other understand. But when a couple came in for another cert, he made the signal to zip up my lips and keep quite. It was then I realised that this guy could be bribed.

When they left, the first thing I asked him in Spanish was, ´How much?´ and an evil grin passed across his face. He said he would have to talk to his ´amigo´ and then came back and wrote on a page that he wanted US$100 for him and the same for his friend. I went for my bag to leave, clearly I wasn´t going to pay anything like that, when he called me back and conspiratorially whispered that he was happy to forget his friend if I just gave him his $100. No honour amongst thieves I guess.

But still it was too high and I went for my wallet to show him how much money I had and he went nuts, indicating that if he was seen taking money he would lose his job. It was then I knew I could get him right down. A few minutes later, I was the proud owner of a Yellow Fever Cert backdated to November for the sum of $40. It meant that I could get in to Bolivia if I could just get there.

So it was back to the hostel, much to the amusement and surprise of all there. I explained what happened and then booked back in. So myself and my friends, the two Johns, went out to Ipanema that night. We first went to a place imaginatively called ´The Irish Pub´ and met Gerry. Gerry´s story was not an uncommon one around these parts, he worked hard and partied little for 11 months of the year on a building site and then he would take a month off over Christmas, come to Rio and sleep with prostitutes!

This was his third year in a row doing it and frankly his candid way of explaining the benefits of Viagra, prostitute negotiations and renting apartments for a month was endearing but ultimately creepy. We shot glances at each other and decided it was time to leave.

We were walking outside, laughing at our recent encounter and putting it down to another storytelling opportunity, when a police car pulled up alongside us and the officers got out. Now, Brazilian police are famously corrupt so I remember saying to the guys, ´Well here´s another story.´ Unfortunately I was all too right.

They first asked if we were Brazilian and when we said we were Irish, they said that they had to check us for drugs. Hmmm, the words ´probably cause´ seemed to mean little to them as they began to frisk the lads. I had taken my camera and money out of my pockets and when they checked them, they put their hands in my front pockets and then my backpockets too. They found the little black book I carry to get people´s e-mail addresses on my travels and for any insights and I hoped they didn´t think it was a drug dealers book.

Then I couldn´t help but notice that one officer was paying particular attention to my bum as he groped around my backpockets. Then he took his hand around to the front and without hesitation, dropped his hand inside my boxers and gave my private parts a right rummage around. I couldn´t believe it, I had heard of the Long Arm of the Law but this was just wrong. I was being violated by these cops and there was nothing I could do about it. Any resistance would have meant a beating and a trip in the car to somewhere.

Then when he was finished, they left with a ´Good night´ and off they went. I was livid and felt dirty but a barman in the next bar said that we had got off ´lucky´ because often, they would plant drugs on tourists when they were frisking them and then you would have to pay an exhorbitant amount of money to avoid any jail time. I didn´t feel too lucky though and the barman apologised as he said that the police force was a huge embarassment to the nation, due to their corruptability. They were also extremely fond of fondling aswell I was going to add but it was a moot point.

The next day was a slow one in the hostel as myself, Madison and the two Johns were all leaving. Before I left though I was invited to play futsol (a street version of football) with Eliseu and his friends. So there I was, a few hours before boarding my plane, playing futsol at midnight under lights. These guys had some extreme skills and they were so passionate about everything, scoring, fighting and complaining!

So I got to the airport and when the security person told me to wait for a moment while they checked my details with their supervisor, I felt that nausea coming back, oh no, what could happen now? But it was all ok and I took two flights down to Buenos Aires. They were unremarkable save for the fact that I was asleep on both before we took off and I had even managed to sleep through one of the landings aswell!

So back in BA, but leaving again today to get back on a bus, those old reliables, up to Salta which is a big step nearer to Bolivia which is taking on Holy Grail like significance as I try and make my way up there for Christmas!

If I don´t write another entry before Christmas I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and successful 2008.

And here´s my Christmas present (courtesy of Chantal). This web page is beautiful and really resonates with me, I hope it does for you too…


Next :- Travel Tip # 172….. NEVER, NEVER EVER…..


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