Foz do Iguaçú and the value of experiences

I happened to spend a couple of days at Foz do Iguaçú last week upon my return to Brazil. The small city, situated at the triangular border with Argentina and Paraguay, features incredible waterfalls, Cataratas do Iguaçú, shared also with the Argentine side. The falls are said to overwhelm Niagara even, insofar as the flow volume is concerned. Now, I never ventured to Niagara in any of my Toronto trips.

However, here at the Foz, I decided to witness the phenomenon, and strictly that. I cared not for other glorified attractions/tours/museums/sites infused throughout the region. And I did for a relatively small cost and time investment - a 20-30 min regular city bus straight to the park entrance, a very modest admission fee, and a simple two-hour exploration of the most impressive vantage points without the annoyance of guided tours.

The site indeed impressed. The jungle enveloped the region. The clear and sunny sky radiated upon the falls. Rainbow textures glittered along the river. I was glad to be here on this clear day, and twice as glad to have allotted two days to the region for account of the furious rainfalls the day before. I also left the park a little moist.

Would anything have changed had I not visited these falls? Would I have undertaken a special trip to Foz do Iguaçú if I hadn’t purchased a considerably economic ticket to Brazil arriving specifically here? Would I have dragged myself to the site had the journey presented significantly more complex maneuvers? You know my answer. Did the falls inspire me to any extent? Only to write this post and reinforce my stoic inclination.

My approach to such natural wonders is precisely that - stoic. I had already explored my “experience appraisal” heuristics in this post, and the Iguaçú falls was another in the series of experiences leaving a charming memory footprint, but no inherently lasting effect.

On the contrary, I can evoke a natural retreat in the confines of my mind anytime I please. I simply visualize wonders I had already known, wonders I have yet to physically engage, and wonders that exist but in the realm of my imagination. The precious, ephemeral present moment is the only one I know for sure. Did my visit to the falls actually take place? I snapped a series of jaw-dropping photos, yes. But so had others. The falls are firmly implanted in my mind. Yet do the memories represent a product of my own experiences? Or did I construct these visuals as I had other imagined memory retreats? Not so relevant anymore, I dare say. Stoic philosophy renders this questioning superfluous. Frankly, I also consider it as such.

However, let not this writing acquire a too melancholy of a shape. I love a good time. I simply prefer a good time of value, in accordance with my definition of valuable. Again, the aforementioned post details my parameters. Insofar as this particular visit, a series of rather trivial situations arose that I already consider more valuable than witnessing the natural phenomenon. For one, the immigration and airport obstacles I faced in the course of my arrival I found quiet impacting. Without immersing in detail, it reaffirmed and strengthened my rapport with the Brazilian attitude, if one were to make generalizations without succumbing to prejudice or “overfitting”.

On that note, I learned much from incidental local interaction on the nature of this charming, yet at places inadequately maintained city. I enjoyed the chatters with the cute receptionist over ice-cold Yerba-Mate. And the experience of exchanging notably loud remarks in Russian with a randomly encountered group of Russians on a Brazilian public bus never fails to entertain. Such trivial experiences occur all the time - if you welcome them. They are free, entertaining, and often educational. They leave more of a lasting impact.