Thursday, October 11, 2012

American Airlines fiasco & a True Love Story!

Getting there:

Gil and I have been back from our European tour for almost a week now, but we have both been miserable with a horrible cold we caught on the last days of our journey.
I am feeling a little better now, so I should start sharing with you the first impressions and points of view from these two Brazilians in the Netherlands and Belgium.

American Airlines fight their management for benefits and jobs

Ok, so our trip started with the ever so nasty drama of American Airlines and their fight between the executives and the pilots. See, the executives screwed up big time, poor management, and now, in the reorganization efforts, they are punishing the workers, by cutting hours and benefits and the pilots are not putting up with it, can you blame them? I don't! I am with the pilots on this one.

Our plane was replaced and we had to wait for tests on equipment 

So, what they are doing now, they are following the rules, by the book, no, seriously, by the book like they never do. So, if there is a coffee pot malfunctioning, they ground the plane and wait for the new coffee pot. If there is one arm rest not properly attached, they call and wait for the maintenance personnel to repair it before they take off.

End result, we take our plane from Boston to New York's JFK with no major delays, but when we arrive in New York, the pilot requested a new Airplane, saying there was something wrong with the originally scheduled plane, probably some bird poop on one of the wings or something like that, God forbid we fly to Brussels with an Airplane containing bird poop on the wing.
This strategy by the pilots has the goal to delay as many flights as possible and piss off the public and pressure management to ease up on cutting the pilots benefits. Clever, but irritating if you are a passenger.

Understand more about American Airline's fiasco from this CHICAGO TRIBUNE report.

To be honest with you, I had paid so little for our tickets that I told Gilson I was prepared for all the insanity, we were armed with Valium, ear plugs and fluffy face masks, we should be ok.
We finally see the new Airplane pulling up, and sure enough, they had to run all sorts of tests on the new (old) plane to make sure it was safe to cross the north Atlantic.
Long story short, we boarded the plane 3 hours late, and sat on the tarmac another 3 hours, half of our first day would be consumed by American Airlines tit for tat little war.
As it turns out, it wasn't all bad. Gilson took a Valium before I did, and had his Ipod hooked up and the fluffy face mask before I could put the rest of our stuff on the overhead bin.
As soon as I sat down and got ready for the long flight, this bubbly, smiley Belgium lady, approaches me and says, Hello!!!! My name is Georgie, I will be sitting next to you, I am from Antwerp, Belgium, this is my husband Francois!!!! What is your name???? :)

I swear, it might sound cold and weird, but for some odd reason, I haven't spoken to people on airplanes for the longest time.
Maybe because I usually drug myself and put on the face mask and the ear plugs before the other person even sits next to me, I know, very UN-Brazilian of me.
I was just caught completely off guard and was wondering how long we would be talking and how tired I would be the next day in Belgium trying to find the right train on the right platform.

Georgie and Francois- The love story of a life time!

It turns out I had one of the best conversations on a plane ever!!!
And ended up in tears, all melted and sobbing like a 3 year old girl who just saw her Barbie shredded to pieces by a mean Pitbull. ( Ok, you got the picture, I got emotional as hell).

Ok, hear me out, Georgie is just one of these great, positive, bubbly personalities that you might want to punch on the face if she catches you in the wrong day, wrong mood.
But I was kinda mellow, and ready to see my long time friends I hadn't seen since 1989.
Georgie goes on to tell me she LOVES Americans because we are soooo nice, so positive, so polite and so gentle all the time.
I was scrachting my head and thinking, lady, you must have been in the deep South, because you are surely not describing anywhere in the Northeast...such as Boston, Philly or New York city! :)
Georgie tells me that they come to the United States once a year, her husband and her are semi precious stones dealer.
There is this International Semi Precious Stone Dealer Convention in Tucson, once a year.
So they meet Stone dealers from all over the world, she told me she buys and sells lot's of stone to folks in Brazil and all of Europe.
She actually buys stones from all over the world and sells them to sculptors and artists all over Europe and Brazil.

Georgie's Belgian Friends move to Petropolis- Rio de Janeiro

She goes on to tell me her best friend from Belgium, woke up one day and just said, we are moving to Brazil!! That is it, we want good weather and a beautiful landscape.
Her friends think Brazil have the nicest birds and they love carving birds on stone, so they decided to move to Brazil carve Brazilian birds out of rocks, granite and semi precious stones.
OK!!! It sounded odd to me at first, how random can that be? But really cool at the same time.
So, her best friend and the husband sold everything they had, applied for some kind of artist/entrepreneur VISA and moved to Petropolis, a medium sized town just outside of Rio de Janeiro.
It turns out, they became a reference in entire region for Birds carved out of stone, granites, amethysts and other semi precious stones.
The Belgian couple who immigrated to Brazil is actually making a ton of money, and Georgie knows, because they buy all their stones from her.
She is getting ready to go visit Brazil and see how her Belgium friends have adapted to life in the nice town of Petropolis-RJ.

Love story- Continued

I never miss an opportunity to ask European folks how much they pay in taxes, how much they pay for their health insurance and how is their health insurance in details, I also ask how much is gasoline, heating, mortgage rates, I know, I am a big sponge of information.

As it turns out, we pay taxes out of our behinds, and we don't get much in return what so ever, not to mention, we have no universal health insurance (with the exception of Massachusetts) and a pathetic Social Security system on the brink of bankruptcy after years serving as a cash cow for dirty politicians borrowing money from it and never paying it back, and then they say SS is broken, oh, don't even get me started on when they start calling it "entitlement".

So, Georgie tells me they pay 36% taxes, but that is because her husband and her make a lot of money, they make over 150 Euros per year, combined, so they are at one of the top brackets of the tax payers in Belgium.
Most middle class Belgian pay between 19% and 25% in taxes.
Yeah, that is a hell of a lot LESS than we pay in the United States, and they have UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE, we have Blue Cross Blue Shield for 1500 dollars a month  :(

PS: Sidetrack Alert! If you want, just skip this paraghaph when I go onto a little sidetracked rant of my own!! :)
See, Europeans don't have as many WARS, like we do all over the place.
I tell you, it sucks to be the POLICE of the world.
We would easily have enough money to afford health care for every one, plus have decent roads and bridges that are not falling in the water and killing dozens of people like the Minnesota disaster. We have bridges and overpasses on I-95 connecting Boston and New York that are being supported by wood beams, because the concrete has been completely corroded by ice and salt and heavy traffic of HUGE trucks. It's a shame.
But, priorities, priorities, we need to have wars all over the place, so our people are on their own when it comes to health care and our infra-structure is falling a part! SHAME!
I wish and hope that we can change for the better.

Side track alert activated, see, I am terrible!
Here I go ranting into the political arena when I have a beautiful love story to share with you that moved me to tears.

Ok, back to Georgie and Francois

So, after I talk Georgie to death about politics and taxes, she goes on to tell me, she has been married to Francois twice.
I said, TWICE!!! What! How? Why?
She goes on to tell me they fell completely in love for the first time back in 1963, and got married.
They were both young and had brilliant careers in Banking, they both were working and going to school at night and taking their Masters in Business.

So, they didn't want to have any children, school and career was the main priority.
Georgie told me this is their country's biggest problem, most people of her generation, folks born in the 40's and 50's, didn't want to have any children, their priority was money, and career.
Their population is aging fast, and there are no people to work in their factories.
The solution was to import immigrants from Morroco back in the 70's and 80's and started paying a lot of money for Belgian willing to have children.

So, Georgie and Francois. after 9 years of marriage, slowly drifted a part, they were still great friends, but didn't have much in common anymore, plus, Francois really wanted children, but Georgie didn't, so they divorced 9 years after their first marriage.

Georgie met another man called Pierre and felt madly in love with him, got married again and lived very happily with Pierre for a little over 30 years.
Francois was very sad, he always loved Georgie to death, didn't want the divorce, but finally decided to move on with his life, he met another lady, married and had one daughter.

On a beautiful crisp, sunny fall morning in Antwerp, Pierre suddenly had a massive heart attack during breakfast while reading the daily newspaper and died on the kitchen table before the paramedics even had a chance to arrive and start CPR procedures.
Georgie was completely devastated, sad and became gravely depressed.
Thoughts of suicide were constant and she had no more reason to live.

A couple months after Pierre died, Georgie finally gathered some strength and started cleaning up Pierre's closet.
Georgie found a box of pictures at the very deep end part of the closet that she hadn't seen since the 70's.
It turns out, the pictures were not Pierre's, but they belonged to Francois, and they were pictures of cars they had owed together when they were married in the 1960's.
Georgie and Francois both loved cars, they loved classic cars, sports cars and that was one of their passions and one of the things that got them together in the first place.
She decided to call Francois to tell him about the pictures, but was reluctant because she knew his present wife wasn't very fond of her.
She decided to call anyway, and told Francois about the box of pictures of their car collection from the 60's that she had found.
He had been looking for a picture of his favorite car ever, it was a special edition BMW, special custom trim from factory, special dash board, the car was made up to his specifications from the factory in Germany.
It was white, with a large Blue Stripe, like a race car, the car also had a cool blue dash board, matching the rest of the car.
The little BMW was a powerful 8 cylinder beast.
The fastest car Francois ever had.
It turns out, all the pictures from their favorite car in the 60's was in box Georgie found inside Pierre's closet.

1963 BMW similar to Georgie's and Francois! Picture a large Blue strip over the car

I love this BMW's style!! Love me some classi cars! :)

They arranged a meeting for the picture swap.
Francois started crying the minute he saw Georgie after so many years away, and she told him she was depressed and wanted to end her life, she saw no more reason for living.
That is when Francois told her, that he had always, ALWAYS loved her, and that he never wanted to divorce her and that he had been miserable all this years, he really didn't love his present wife and wanted nothing but another chance to make Georgie HAPPY!!!
Awwww! Isn't that awesome!!!!! So cool! I love a good love story!
Tell me! Doesn't it sounds like the ultimate chick flick plot, but it was a real story and I was completely melted in tears when she got to this part of the story.
I felt really privileged to learn about this awesome Belgian love story.
Francois divorced the woman he lived with for 30 years but wasn't happy with her and married Georgie again.

Georgie is so happy now, she can't even remember how she could have been soooo depressed.
They travel all over Europe now and sell beautiful semi precious rocks/stones they buy on their once a year trip to Tucson, Arizona.

I learned a lot about the Belgian people from Georgie's story, I learned their main staple food is FRENCH FRIES with Mayonnaise, and the love a bloody Steak! Who knew!!
The Belgian people are very well off, their income is 50% higher than the Dutch for example, they LOVE CARS, and they do not drive your stereotypical tiny FIAT like you might think all European people do, from silly Hollywood movies.

Georgie drives a Chrysler Minivan and Francois has a brand spanking new Chrysler 300.
They love large gas guzzler/American cars, they have driven Pontiacs, Buicks and Cadillacs all their lives and they are going thru a Chrysler phase right now.
Belgians have lot's of jobs, they have not outsourced jobs to India or China, they don't even comprehend the concept of outsourcing jobs.
It is just so stupid and obnoxious to export jobs and leave your own people homeless that they just don't get it. Can you blame them?

They don't get why we do it, or allow our Corporations to get away with murder it.

If you think things are SUPER expensive in Europe, think again, not the case, not at all.
Despite the fact that most things are made locally, in Germany, Belgium or France, they do not pay an arm and a leg for electronics for example, like we do in Brazil.
Their prices in general were slightly higher than they are in the US, but the quality of everything was so much higher it was totally worth the premium price.

Don't even get me started on the higher standards of food in Europe, well, everything really, not just food, no Garlic imported from China in the supermarkets we visited.
Gilson and I were in love with the creamy delicious taste of milk and pastries. Never tasted milk this delicious anywhere. Gilson says milk in the US tastes like Cauliflower, it must be all the hormones and chemicals. I really don't taste differences in the milk in the US or Brazil, but I did taste a HUGE difference in the milk we drank in Belgium and the Netherlands.

As a disclaimer for the first of my European posts, I will bitch and rant about things in the US that I found out are crappier and lower quality as in Europe, but I still love this awesome country that has been my home for the previous 15 years, and in time I will recover... ;)

Ufa! Enough for one post, I will write again soon with more exciting events and adventures in Europe.