This is from my journal:
We ended up leaving for the airport even earlier than I had planned, but it worked out fine. We arrived around 3pm, and, thankfully, there were carts outside. Dad & I curb-side loaded a cart, and while he parked, I maneuvered it all inside. I was pretty happy when none of it collapsed. "Trainee" (he had no personal name-tag) couldn't get my reservation to load on the kiosk, so he sent us straight to a person--which I had hoped for to begin with. Renee was a huge help, once she recovered from the initial shock of four bags. She got my boarding passes through to Rio. I realized the bags were tagged for GIG (Rio) and I wouldn't be able to get them because I didn't have a visa for Brasil. She managed to change it, and got them tagged for ASU. Two had already gone down, so she doubled tagged the other two. (Yet another reason for my relief when I saw all four bags headed to the underbelly of the plane tonight!)
There was some confusion when I arrived in Rio de Janeiro. Customs agents passed me around until they handed my documents over to a man who spoke very good English. He told me how to get to my next gate area and told me to get a boarding pass. In the meantime, he would take my baggage claim tickets to make sure all four bags were truly checked through to Asuncion. I was overjoyed to have someone helping & going the extra mile to make sure my bags were right. He said he would meet me upstairs in the lounge area to return my claim tickets to me. I was about halfway to the lounge when fear set in. What if I'd been swindled? How did I know I could trust this guy? I was hungry & had to go to the bathroom, but I had forgotten to ask when (if ever, I wondered?) he would bring my claim tickets back. I spent the next two hours praying that this guy was honest and would actually show back up. I must have looked very relieved when he did finally come around the corner--claim tickets in hand. He was very friendly, and I was very grateful! Even more so when I saw all four bags together, ready to be loaded on the plane!
When I arrived in Asuncion, we were all sent straight to immigration with our passports. That went remarkably smoothly, despite the taped on "FEM" on my visa! [My visa was issued "MASC" so I returned it to the consulate in Miami for the proper gender; we didn't know if this would be a problem.] I then walked about 10 steps to baggage claim, where a man got my luggage & guided me through the customs process. I'm sure he was sore this morning after lifting those bags! (The heaviest was about 68 lbs, the lightest around 54 lbs.) He told me to walk past the customs x-ray machine with my purse & carry-on--those did not get screened. He put three of my four checked bags on the belt & collected them on the other side. The customs agents didn't even blink twice at my bags. As I was greeting everyone out in the terminal (double beso--a kiss on each cheek), he was still heading for the door. I said to someone, "My bags!" in Spanish, and someone stopped him. There were so many people there form the church, which was exciting, but I felt a little bit like I was in a comedy, and someone would soon say "We don't know them, they're not with us!" Thankfully, that didn't happen, so I must've greeted the appropriate people. As we talked outside, the man became Luggage Guard, and watched over the bags for maybe 20-30 minutes. He then realized this curb-side chat could go on a while, and relinquished guard duty to a church member. It was pretty good for $2 a bag, and I was grateful for his help.