# April, May, and June: Travelling Man!

You know what, I don’t travel nearly as much as my President & CEO-ish friend Jim Caldwell does, but I managed to rack up a few klicks this spring.

## 28 April to 03 May: Winnipeg, Manitoba

I zipped back to Winnipeg for a few days to be there for my mom’s 76th birthday.  James and his sons were there the week before, so I didn’t have to fight for a bed 🙂

 Happy 76th, Mom – Flowers from Me & Eric, Orchids from James

I got a chance to visit with Eric and James Douglas, and a brief chat with Sandy.

It wasn’t all fun & games – mom had a serious medical scare while I was there, but it turned out to be a minor issue.  Still, it was good that I was there to oversee the excitement, direct traffic, and keep everyone up to date!

## 21 May to 04 June: Florianopolis Brazil

We have a sister GE/Alstom division Reason Technologia (RTB) in Florianopolis, Brazil – the south of Brazil – where it is winter right now.  They design and manufacture complementary equipment to ours here in Phoenix.  We are undertaking a joint effort… of course I can’t say much about the details!  But I needed to get to Florianopolis to get things kicked off.  In mid April, the call came to go visit.  Well what do you know, I need a travel visa.  Well the visa takes 2 to 4 weeks, and I already have a trip to Winnipeg scheduled for 06 to 18 June (Men’s Camp and other things), so time is tight.

I couldn’t give up my passport until returning from Winnipeg on 03 May, so was pretty tight for a trip.  With the passport out for Visa on 04 May, it came back 19 May (two weeks plus overnight transit), and I had planned on that, so was ready for travel to Brazil, plane ticket and all.  So… the odyssey begins!

### 21/22 May: Getting There

Ugh.  Well you know that I don’t sleep on planes, mostly because of my sleep apnea and the need for the CPAP machine.  Well plus, it’s not all that comfortable in cattle class anyway.  So with the 4 hour time difference, a layover in Atlanta and in Sao Paulo, I left Phoenix on Saturday morning and arrived in Florianopolis on Sunday morning.  Ugh.

So.  Do not assume that anybody in an international airport will speak English.  Really.  Yikes.  Sao Paulo was confusing & difficult.  I had a couple of hours, but it was crazy.  I think I missed the luggage re-check belt after customs or something.  Then I had to try to get my luggage onto the next flight, which, although booked through Delta and having a Delta code share, was actually a Brazilian airline, GOL… which is fine, except being fully Brazilian, very few people speak English.  Finally I found the domestic bag drop line and got to the front… and found a woman who spoke a bit of English… and she cleared the way for me to the bag check station and got the bag on its way.  Then, back to security, racing to the gate… just in time for the main call for the cabin… poor young ladies sitting beside me, I was sweating profusely from the stress and dashing through the terminal.  Oh well, we survived!

Celso, my host colleague at Reason, was leaving Sunday morning for a quick trip to Stafford, England, to meet with other colleagues about another aspect of the same project.  He was boarding his plane in Florianopolis while I was getting off of mine.  Fortunately, he left me in good hands – Leo, taxi driver who does most of the driving for Reason services, who speaks pretty good English.  Hotel.  Sleep.  Aaaah.

### 22 May: Where’s the Beef?  Everywhere!  (and Beer too)

In Celso’s absence, a couple of my other Reason colleagues picked me up later from the hotel and we went for burgers.  Bleh, you say – burgers.  No, no – these are serious burgers.  Amazing.  Well crafted, gourmet burgers, quite good.  Then you match them up with beer…

 Where’s the beef?  Yup, here it is.  Beer, too!

### 23/24 May: Freezing?

It turns out that I was not prepared for the weather.  It’s beautiful, because Florianopolis is an island “almost” attached to the mainland, and jutting into the ocean – but it’s humid, so when it’s +15C overnight, it feels quite chilly.   They don’t have heat in the hotel, because, well, if it never dips below +10C, why would you ever need heat?

The first day at the office, on Monday, I nearly froze my tail off.  On Tuesday, I wore my light jacket everywhere, but felt kind of silly.  So I had Leo take me to a large mall to buy a sweater.

They treated me very well at Reason.  And, kept me busy!  Between meeting people, learning about their roles, and seeing how their systems & processes work, I barely had time to worry about anything.

Leo drove me everywhere, but I wanted to wander around a bit too.

### 24 May: At the Mall!  Valentine’s Day coming in June?

Yes it was a beautiful evening, Leo took me to the Beira Mar shopping centre.  Something like eight stories!  But, only 4 levels of stores – the rest is access to parking on all sides.  What’s with all the hearts???   Valentine’s Day in June.  Well it’s not the same Valentine’s Day as in North America, subtly different, but it’s in June!

 Top Level of Eight
 Valentine’s Day coming up in June!?!
 Nighttime view of road along waterfront, from top of Beira Mar shopping centre

### The Credit Card Blues

So we found a sweater that fit me – well, actually two sweaters – and they were a good price – but my US credit card was declined!  Both of my US credit cards were declined!  Argh!  I had to put it on my company Amex.  Hope they don’t invoke the “zero tolerance for personal expenses” thing!

One of my US cards is a chip card but I have no PIN, so it was rejected flat out.  US banks, in all their wisdom, are using chip & signature instead of the chip & PIN like the rest of the world.  The other US card was rejected after a delay.  It turns out that they flagged it as a suspicious transaction, in spite of me having called them before going to Brazil.  Ugh.

### Money Changing and Stupid Credit Card Tricks!

So 1000 € is a lot of money – something like CA1500 or more.  Where am I going to get that?  Well, there’s a big money changing place in downtown Winnipeg, they can easily do it.  I went downtown, paid for parking, waltzed in, and asked for 1000 €.  No problem.   I have CA1500 in cash?  Heck no!  Well then, off to the airport with you.  Sigh.

At the airport, I tried to use my corporate American Express.  Nope.  My personal USA Visa.  Nope.  So I did a cash advance on my personal Canadian Visa.  Ouch.  Oh well, I’ll expense it later.

When I got to France, I found out that American credit cards just don’t work well there.  I learned my lesson last year in France, and recently in Brazil, and took my Canadian Visa with me, just in case.  I would guess that 3/4 of the time, the American Express card was flatly turned down.  The rest of the time, only say 1/10 of the time did either one of my USA Visa cards work.  Most of the time, I had to use cash, or put it on my Canadian Visa.  My Canadian debit card worked like a champ too, then again, I don’t have much in that account to draw on… so Visa it was!

### A Personal Driver with Car

It turned out that Mehamed arranged for a private car with driver, for me personally.  He picked me up at the airport and drove me directly to Rouen, where I was staying, about a 2-3 hour drive west out of Paris.

Now, Hocine, the driver, spoke very little English.  Oy.  And my French isn’t very good.  I’ll tell you though, my French got better over the 5 days I was there!  Thank God for Google Translate, which I have on my phone.  When I was stuck, I’d get it to translate, either way.  It worked fairly well.  There were times though, when he spoke so quickly that I was completely lost.  It was a bit frustrating at times, but we got along OK.

It was quite convenient and efficient, but also expensive.  Total cost was just under 1500 €… in cash!  I had to use French bank machines three times to get further cash advances on my Canadian Visa.  Ouch!

### Rouen – A Magnificent City with History

The hotel that I stayed at was literally 1/2 block away from the Rouen Cathedral.  What a magnificent building!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get inside – I slept a bit on Sunday afternoon after getting to Rouen, and by the time I was up & around again, it was closed for the day.

Hocine is from just outside Rouen, and is quite proud of the area.  He picked me up later in the afternoon and gave me a brief tour of the city, including a lookout where I could look down on all of Rouen.

### Dieppe – A Beautiful Coastal City

On Monday evening, Hocine insisted that I had to see more of France.  We did a small detour to Dieppe.  It was unseasonably cold, but still quite nice.  Again, so much history.

Apparently, this is a very romantic town – the place for lovers to go.  Hmmm 🙂

### Work on Remote Site

The actual work site is well north of Rouen, actually closer to Amiens.  It’s about a 45 to 55 minute drive each way, right near Restaurant le Coq Gaulois at Gauville.