09 June 2009

Ciudad del Este

I know why you can never leave the Hotel California. It's a tangled maze of hallways, courtyards, rooms, and stairs in the middle of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and happened to be the location of the last AFS camp of the semester.
Friday morning I got on a bus to Asunción with Jana (German exchanger in Pilar) to meet up with the Gran Asuncioñeros whom we got on another bus with to go to Ciudad del Este. I got to meet a lot of people who've been here since August, along with seeing a bunch of my friends from February again. Most of the people are from Germany, but there are also a few from Austria, Belgium, Iceland, the USA, France, Switzerland, and Turkey. Ciudad del Este is about a 4 hour bus ride from Asunción, but as these last two weekeds have taught me: long bus rides are WAY more fun when the bus is filled with 40 other exchangers!! My bus (we were split into two groups) watched some movie with Elijah Wood, but everyone else in the movie had a reallly thick Cockney accent, so I found it easier to read the Spanish subtitles. I guess that's a good sign! The other bus was lucky- Slumdog Millionaire, subtitled in Portuguese. Ya gotta love movies that come on DVD-Rs in a cellophane bag with a office printer labels...

Friday night involved a tasteless dinner and some frisbee injuries at about 1 AM. Saturday was a little more exciting. We went to the Itaipú dam in the morning. It's the largest hydroelectric project in the world, and is on the Paraná river, between Paraguay and Brasil. We got to visit both sides of it (Paraguayan and Brazilian) but didn't have very much time. The sheer size of it is absolutely amazing. I tried to take pictures of it, but they don't really do it justice. After the damn, we had some sessions with the volunteers where we got to write letters to future exchange students and ourselves. We also played a pretty intense game of ultimate frisbee involving an immobile tennis net, some unripe passion fruit, and nice neighbors of the hotel.
Later on Saturday, we watched the Paraguay-Chile World Cup qualifying match. Even though Chile won, it was still fun seeing a bunch of foreigners outdo the Paraguayans with support for the team. Even with this loss, Paraguay is still in first place for the division, tied with Brazil at 24 points. Chile is in third with 23, Argentina 22, Uruguay and Ecuador tied at 17, Venezuela at 16, Colombia at 14, Bolivia at 12, and Peru has a measly 7. Technically Brazil is ahead of us because of goals scored, same with Uruguay and Ecuador, but points-wise, we're tied.
Sunday we began the day with a trip to "Salto Monday" (not monday, it's guaraní) which is a decent-sized waterfall. It's absolutely beautiful. I'm not sure why we didn't go to Yguasú, but either way, Monday is beautiful too. After not enough time there, it was back to the hotel for a pretty emotional goodbye/last session. A few hours later, it was back on the bus to Asunción. We had some amazing Chipa in Eusbio Ayala and got into the city around 8. From there I went to a volunteer's house for the night. They told me I was leaving at 8AM to go back to Pilar, meaning I got up at 6AM Monday morning to get to the terminal in time to buy my ticket. There is no 8AM run to Pilar. The first one is at 12AM. I ended up going on a taxi tour of the city, and watching the England vs Kazakhstan game at another volunteer's house. Everyone except for the empleada (maid) was asleep for most of the few hours I was there, but she seemed to enjoy ranting about Paraguayan politics to me and gave me some amazing grapefruit juice.
The bus ride back to Pilar was as smooth as it can possibly be on roads built by a corrupt dictator, and we got back only 4 minutes behind schedule, which is pretty great in any country and amazing by Paraguayan standards. Now I'm back in school, getting ready for exams. Unfortunately, my school is considering moving exams back a few weeks until after winter break thanks to Swine Flu. I know it's mostly passed out of the news in the US, but it's just starting to arrive here, and if it sets in, it's going to be bad. The medical care just isn't here, and even if there are vaccines, the people most at risk won't have access to them. Masks are starting to become a bit of a trend, but nobody's seemed to notice that wearing a mask, then taking it off to drink tereré out of a straw that everyone present is sharing doesn't make much sense. I just hope it doesn't get worse here...

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