So that’s why Gilliam named his movie “Brazil”.

My trip to the Brazilian consulate this morning was an exercise in frustration, and didn’t really make me feel encouraged to visit the country. I arrived with what I thought was proper documentation: My passport, filled out form, photos, vaccination, bank records and loads of cash to pay the visa fee. The pinched woman behind the glass (bullet proof glass it seemed, and after dealing with her I can understand why) asked me where I would be staying in Brazil. I told her that I didn’t know precisely, but that I hoped to visit Sao Paulo, Rio, and Salvador. She then asked to see my proof of transport into and out of the country, and I informed her that I wasn’t sure exactly when and where I would be entering the country, but that it would be near the end of November, leaving near the end of December. She then informed me that without this information, she would not even submit my visa application to be processed as it would surely be refused. Bewildered, I asked if it didn’t strain credibility just a little to think that no one ever enters Brazil without having this precise a plan? Is there no room in the bureaucracy for some leeway in planning? I am on vacation after all. She pursed her lips, said “No.”, and pushed my docs back under the glass.

So I am a little unsure of what do do now. I can probably come up with an address of a friend in Brazil to fill out the “where are you staying” part of the application. But the ticket in/out is a little harder. It would mean that I would have to make a decision about those dates exactly right now, which I am loathe to do. I realize that part of the reason this exchange had me somewhat annoyed is that it touches on one of the things I find problematic with modern life: The obsession with planning and precision. It sucks most of the joy out of life, especially when related to travel. It leaves nothing to chance or the imagination, and is the sterilized, pre-packaged world we increasingly live in. This world is increasingly estranged from the possibility of appreciating a changing and organic life experience.