There is nothing I love more than an airport arrivals lounge. I do find them extremely overwhelming, but if I can find a relatively quiet place to sit back and watch, I am happy to wait for hours. They always present you with a great cross-section of society at one of its best moments, when people are excited and happy to greet their visiting or returning loved ones. It’s like catnip for an avid people watcher like me.

As we discovered when we arrived here, the Portuguese immigration people at the airport are just as laid-back and leisurely as the rest of their countrymen. There’s no rushing these things, you know? But I didn’t mind, as between the massive crowd of people coming through the arrivals gate and the people waiting for them, I had ample opportunity for people watching.

A large proportion of the people waiting with us were tall, lanky, immaculately dressed African men, most of whom had a large diamond (probably fake) in one ear, and all with fancy mobile phones in their hands. They were joined by equally dark and stylish women, some old with their heads wrapped in cloth, some young with short dresses and dangly earrings. One couple stood by and held their two young sons up to see the people gushing through the arrivals gate. Both little boys regarded me with their big, serious eyes, set in delicate faces and surrounded by heads of tight black curls.

Pretty soon, we saw the flight they were waiting for begin to arrive. The wave of pasty pale Brits pushing their mounds of luggage through the gates gave way to people with equally dark faces and stylish outfits, and the people around us started drifting away to find their loved ones. I never did figure out where they were coming from. It’s a mystery.

No matter who you are, it’s a universal truth: greeting loved ones at the airport is always a joy.

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