That one time I smuggled a wheelchair into Brasil


In 2004 I was going with a group down to Sao Paulo Brasil to fit people for wheelchairs. The crate of wheelchairs was going to show up late do to some shady business and we decided to improvise. We brought our own.

For 24 hours I was riding in a souped up quickie sport wheel chair. From the time we got to the airport in California until the moment we got to Brasil I was pretending be disabled to get the wheelchair to Sao Paulo. Going through airport security, boarding the plane, going through customs, using the restroom. I was in PT school so I could make it look like I needed a wheelchair.

Not only was this great experience to go through because now I can empathize with patients who are in a wheelchair full time but I have so much more of an appreciation of how hard it is to be in a wheelchair all the time. In addition I knew I would be giving it to somebody in Brasil.

We ended up donating the wheelchairs to the Brazilian national wheelchair team. We played them in a wheel chair basketball game. We started in our wheelchairs then we got out and played them on our feet and they still beat us. We stayed about a week and a half in Sao Paulo. While we were there we saw a domestic soccer match, Flamengo was playing a team in Rio de Janeiro for the championship. It was absurd, so much energy. The opposing fans sat in another area, they were throwing bottles and started a fire in the stands.  It was so rowdy and there were cops with shields. It was definitely something to experience.

This was the first Portuguese speaking place I had been. While in Sao Paulo I would hang out with some locals. We would go out to a restaurant and get something to eat but what I noticed was after we ate our food we would sit there and continue to talk, not just for 1 hour, not for 2 hours, but 3 hours. This was really strange to me because in the United States we eat and then leave. Time is money and we don’t spend that much time talking and catching up. They were much more relaxed, much better at interpersonal communication. It was so different.

After Sao Paulo we traveled to Rio De Janeiro for a few days were we saw tons of favelas. We visited Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer and did ever touristy thing you should do while in Rio. The beaches in Rio De Janeiro were the best I had ever seen. The group I went with was very special.

The infectious feeling to travel was growing.

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