Friday, 19 October 2012

XIV Argentina: The Delayed Night Flight

On August 5th, having slept much of the way to Buenos Aires after the very early morning take-off from Mexico City, i was caught napping by the fact that it was winter; cold and quickly dark outside. A connecting flight was supposed to depart for Rome, but queueing for the check-in we learnt it would be a few hours late, a delay which steadily lengthened in the time honoured way one comes to expect of air travel. A compensation though was that this afforded me a slightly better glimpse of Argentina. More than anything else i was struck by a sense that, though i couldn’t understand Spanish, the local people (mostly airport employees), and the way they expressed themselves, seemed just like the sort of people and their exchanges that one comes across in Britain. Competing claims over the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, of course, have been a running sore in relations between the two countries, but there are great cultural similarities, not least the Argentine passion for sport, which after all takes in not only football and rugby but even polo for heaven’s sake! Later i understood that there is in fact a solution to the question of sovereignty, provided that there can be sufficient good will on both sides. The Crimean peninsular, legally part of Ukraine, is semi-autonomous, with an almost entirely Russian-speaking population, and with a Russian naval base leased from the Ukrainian government. The UK could very likely negotiate better terms for the retention of a British naval and/or military presence on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, as well as safeguards that would enable the islands to remain culturally British while legally Argentine.

   Eating supper at an airport restaurant in the company of a backpacker from Australia, on an adjacent table there was a young priest with a party of excitable young people, who at intervals would suddenly burst into loud hymn-singing. They reminded me of an almost identical group i’d been part of, which travelled from London to Cologne for the World Youth Day[1] in 2005 – and then it dawned on me that they must be World Youth Day pilgrims themselves, on their way to that summer’s event in Madrid. This was verified by the priest, to whom i was glad to give a Spanish language prayer card, and the standard of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

   In the small hours of 6th August, the feast of the Transfiguration, since my luggage with my warmer clothes and sleeping bag had been checked-in, i had to try and make do with a cardboard box to get some sleep in the cold departure lounge - a totally inadequate arrangement, i can confirm. By the time of our descent to Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci airport i had come down with a cold.

[1] Giant gatherings of young Christians, taking place usually every three years, instituted by Blessed John Paul II at Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 1989. The next one, in Rio de Janeiro, is scheduled for 2013 only because of the World Cup due to be hosted there in 2014.

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