At 4:30am on Monday morning, I found myself walking through airport security at DIA with a sonic anemometer in hand. That is, carrying a 32" long piece of (expensive, delicate) scientific equipment that has pieces of metal jutting out in all directions, making it near impossible to pack in any hard suitcase or box that would legally fit as checked baggage. So I carried it on, much to the amusement of TSA security officials. My thought was that if I looked as oblivious as possible and stared back at people as curiously as they stared at me, all would be fine. This theory worked.
We arrived in Manaus around midnight on Monday, and made it through Customs with no problem. (They seemed to be more worried about Brazilians bringing home electronics in than the sonic anemometer...). On Tuesday I learned first-hand why our equipment took 3 months, instead of the supposed 5 days, to clear Brazilian Customs. Bureaucracy in this country is amazingly inefficient. An example: to buy two wrenches at a hardware store, you have to take them to a desk, where the receipt is printed. You then take the receipt to the cashier, and pay for it. You return to the first desk to get your stuff, which is carried by a third set of employees to the final inspection, where every item is checked against the paid receipt. At which point you can leave with your purchases. Because that makes sense.
We had an appointment with the Receita Federal for 8:30am on Tuesday morning for the Final Inspection. Suffice it to say: 4 hours, one very meticulous official, and no less than 40 photographs of 8 pieces of equipment - every serial number and country of origin was checked on every power cord. If one number had been off, then we could have lost the whole shipment.
But all is well (for us - some other groups are not so lucky!), the equipment got through, finished arriving to the Brazilian institute in Manaus, and now we are testing to see how it reacted to 3 months of shipping. Back to work... Tchau!