We flew to the Brazilian side, with an in-flight snack of LUCKY batata (a brand of potato chips), not knowing this was a sign of things to come. Our friends had advised us to stay on the Argentinian side, and thus my brain–finally comfortable with the beautiful Portugues language, switched to Espanol. Lucky, we thought when we saw our hotel, chosen for its off-the-beaten-path location in the rain forest, until we were told our rooms had no water. No worries. LUCKY kicked in when we were relocated–at our original 3 star hotel’s expense– to the 5 star Loi Suites down the road. So this is how the other half lives, neh?
We rejuvenated (as much as two not-so-juven folks can) at the tri-level pool, where rich-and-probably-famous couples and families lounged about. Most of the females, young and old, in their oh-so-Brazilian thong bikinis and bronze bodies. (Lucky, my husband thought.)
That night, under a canopy of stars, we listened to jungle sounds mixed with canned music from the hotel’s “Tiki Bar” (Saturday Night Fever anyone?) and I could swear I smelled campfires. The next day we discovered, a few meters down the road from these bronzed-skin cancer candidates, the indigenous people who cook over open fires beside simple homes of mud walls and thatched roofs. (Somewhere in the rain forest near Foz do Iguazu, a young girl now wears my “Hats Off to Reading” ball cap. –Thanks EAB!)
On the slow ramble of the Iguazu Falls train (I swear it’s the orginal Jungle Train adventure…), we met a family from Brazil, a young man who works in Buenas Aires and loved practicing his English, and a train-load of Japanese tourists.
What a contrast to see the wisely, sun-protected Japanese women in their lightweight slacks, long sleeve shirts, white gloves, and sunhats. No wonder they age so gracefully–without cosmetic surgery… And is it just me or does the Portuguese word for thank you, obrigado, sound curiously like the Japanese arigato? (Yes, I’ll admit it. In the middle of the rain forest, that ridiculous song kept zinging through my head: Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto—)
The majestic equalizer, Iguazu Falls, stunned everyone, holding us spellbound by the incredible wonder of Devil’s Throat and the lower falls. It is said that on the Brazilian side you can see the falls, but on the Argentinian side you live them. (See my facebook photos.) We lived them. Happy Birthday PZapp. Lucky indeed–not just the falls, but our entire trip. Which brings me to the wonderful people of Porto Alegre, Brazil, and my last school visits of the trip.
Each international school has been so different, but the multicultural staff and students and parents share a global perspective so necessary in this world of ours. Pan American School of Porto Alegre is smaller than the others I’ve visited, with approximately 300 students from P3 (age three, preschool cuties) to more of those aforementioned (Parts 1-2-3-4) , incredibly bright middle school and high school students who will soon be running our world. And you know what? I think we’ll be in capable hands.
I met them all–in writing workshops, with my fluency games, in assemblies–yes, I rapped with the high school kids–, and at our Porto Alegre “home,” where we were hosted by Olivia (7th grade), Elias (5th grade), Rebecca (2nd grade), and their amazing mom, Chispa (the Spanish word for spark–which she is indeed.).
It was their first week back after a two month summer vacation. (I know, I know–it’s snowing somewhere in the world as we dip into the pool to cool off…) With Carneval coming up, their school schedule is even crazier this time of year. But the students–as always–were so much fun!
PZapp toured Porto Alegre during the days when I was at school. But after school, Chispa and the kids treated us to a personal tour, as did the elementary principal Lorrie Turner, who accompanied us on a scenic boat trip down the river and then took us to her favorite restaurant in the cupola of the old Majestic Hotel, once home to writer Mario Quintana. I think the universe is doing its best to introduce me to this insightful author, whose home town is Porto Alegre. And I’m not complaining.
A Mario Quintana quote (paraphrased): “The clock on the wall is a terrible monster. It has devoured three generations of my family…”
Alas, the clock on the wall has forced us to leave PAS Porto Alegre and the staff and students, and Chispa and her three “sparks.” But we have once again made lifetime friends and so we say, “Ate’ logo.” (Until soon…)
Our final stop, Argentina–Buenas Aires and also the pampas (grasslands) area of San Antonio de Areca. Don’t cry for us….