We had flown into Iguazu in Argentina from Buenos Aires, and a week later were due to fly out of Iguazu to Floripa (which is three syllables easier to write than Florianopolis and apparently acceptable) via Sao Paolo. Iguazu’s airport is small and about half an hour drive from our hotel. Two hours to get there and check in should be plenty. Paola pops off into town to reclaim for an earlier diverted flight and do some shopping, and I finish the packing. A panicked Paola reappears with the news that while in the airline office, the person she was talking to casually let slip in to the conversation that there are no international flights from Iguazu in Argentina.
At this point, for those not in the know, I should highlight a small, but somewhat essential detail. There is also an Iguazu town on the Brazilian side of the falls. The Brazilian Iguazu also has its own Iguazu airport. And there is obviously a border crossing between the respective Iguazus in Argentina and in Brazil.
So the cabbie’s incidental comment alerts us to the fact that our flight is actually from Iguazu in Brazil. To add to the challenge, Brazil is an hour ahead of Argentina, and so the flight is to leave in one hour, not two.
Those of you who know I am Palestinian (albeit one flavoured with South London) may imagine that I should be more than averagely equipped to deal with checkpoints that delay you in a short trip from ‘A’ to ‘A and a bit’. And this checkpoint would be bereft of the gruffness and violence of the Israeli military. Unlike those that segment the West Bank, however, this was one we weren’t expecting to cross. And so, new tickets purchased via Rio, we land in Floripa about six hours later than planned. Late enough to find that the hostel we’d booked fairly last minute was designed for twenty two year old pot smoking travellers with an aversion to washing and a love of cockroaches. Ever resourceful, Paola walks across the road, and convinces a lady who had not yet truly opened her hostel to let us in at midnight, and so way past the eleventh hour we end up in a small but pleasant apartment in Floripa.
Floripa will be proposing a new sport to the International Olympic Committee this year, and we were privileged to see it in action when we walked out of the apartment the next morning as a man floated past us on a skateboard holding a beach umbrella as a sail. With a skateboard riding dog. Not a form of transport I’d seen for going into the City in London. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
And then, around the corner, into a shop to buy some buckets, spades and a ball from a shop which it turns out is owned by a man from Gaza. I guess if you are unable to make money at home on the beach, you find a beach where you can and set up there. Two Palestinians meeting unexpectedly in Brazil rarely makes for a quick conversation, and so Paola goes to 73 different shops, checking in on me after each one with increasing frustration, gets her hair done as well as three of the kids, buys, writes and posts postcards to everyone we know in Twickenham, takes a class in baking typical Brazilian bread, and makes loaves to feed the hungry hoardes, gets her hair cut again as it has grown long in the interim, sees our two eldest children through university by which time the Gazan and I have moved on to reminiscing about 1948. There are 7 decades still to catch up on, but with the threat of divorce hovering over me, I decide to call it a day, and we leave with the ball and beachware as gifts, Suleiman in true Palestinian style refusing to take payment.
I think I will like Florianopolis.