As I write this I’m lying in a hammock that’s hanging from a mango tree. The mango tree is in the front yard of a tiny bright pink house. The house is two bedroom with a small kitchen and bathroom/shower next to that. The door to the bathroom is a curtain. In this house lives a family of 6 (now 7 including me). It’s the husband and wife with two daughters and they take care of two additional kids (their niece and nephew). The tiny house is on a big lot of land that holds 2 cows, over 35 chickens and 2 dogs. The chickens and dogs roam freely and many times are just wandering in and out of the house. We are so far from a major city that they don’t have WiFi out here and they barely get cell service. This is where I’ve been spending the past 5 days & I’ve loved every minute of it, but sadly today is my last day here. I’m going to miss it so much.
—The little pink house I spent an amazing time.—
My days here have been some of the most relaxing I’ve had on this entire trip so far. I really needed this, especially after being crazy sick in Brazil. Not only that, but even before I got sick I was honestly longing for home because I was exhausted of the constant moving and having to figure things out. I think this has saved me. Okay, no I know this has saved me and the rest of my trip through South America.
As I lie here I’m reflecting on the past 4 days and can’t stop smiling, because even though I did a lot of nothing it was amazing.
—The mango tree, the kitchen table and the hammock.—
I guess I should start with how this all even happened in the first place. Way back when I was in Bariloche I met two american girls who were in the Peace Corps and were volunteering in Paraguay. We befriended each other and took the long 25.5hr bus ride through Patagonia and then went camping in El Chalten. After those few brief days hanging out with each other we became close and by the end they let me know that if I made my way through Paraguay to let them know because they’d love for me to see the real Paraguay, the countryside and well now I’m here and can’t believe it. I had messaged them before hand and had told them I honestly wanted to do nothing, because I was exhausted and needed a break and they said perfect because in the countryside of Paraguay that’s what you will be doing… a lot of nothing. It started with 2 nights staying out here, then 3, 4 & it’s now gonna be 5 nights.
My instructions to get here were to take a bus from Ciudad del Este (near Iguazu Falls, Brazil) to San Jose de Arroyos and get off at Calle San Antonio where I’d see a big red store sign that says “Comedor Mary” and from there take a motorcycle to Monte Alto. Yeah that was it. I left Brazil at 6am and was so hungover from the night before I just wanted to arrive. Ugh I had promised myself to not drink before a transportation day but it had honestly been weeks since I had a beer and well in my dorm room was an amazing group of people and we got drunk together jaja. So anyway 5 hours later I finally arrived after asking the attendant a million times to not forget about me and my stop… Calle San Antonio.
When I first arrived I had no clue what to expect. I arrived and everyone was sitting outside under the mango tree. Hannah (my friend) walked out and greeted me. We both couldn’t believe I was here. She took me into the house to drop off my things and showed me the house. It was minimal and tiny and reminded me of the tiny house I stayed in when I volunteered in India. After she showed me the house we sat with everyone under the mango tree and chatted and got to know each other while drinking terer. Terer is the typical drink of Paraguay & way better than Argentine mate …….. Before we knew it, it was lunch time. We brought the kitchen table from the back of the house to set up everything under the mango tree. We had lunch and then passed time by talking. Later in the afternoon we went to the Arroyo a small creek that runs near the house for a swim. It was nice and relaxing until a group of guys arrived with blaring music and got a bit annoying so we left. We are all on motorbikes and I had let Hannah know that learning how to ride one was my new years resolution. So she said she was going to teach me and I would ride the bike on the way back and so I did. I couldn’t stop laughing. She told me how to switch gears, break and everything. So I hopped on and so did she and we took off. I never realized how easy it was to ride a motorbike. I just went. The turns were a bit hard, but I got the hang of them. Before I knew it we were home and I accomplished my New Years resolution… okay kind of did.
That night we had a small dinner and just spent it outside talking and doing a lot of nothing. I quickly learned that here you just pass time. Later that evening Hannah left to Asuncion & the next morning I was all alone with the family.
Monday morning we woke up to rain. The family let me know the breakfast was ready. It was just bread and coffee. I never drink coffee, but thought it would be rude if I said no, so drank it anyway. After eating I hung out on the hammock and read a chapter of the spanish book I have been carrying around with me since Montevideo, it’s called “Mexico Profundo”. Then Diana took me into town (the older daughter). I used the ATM and we went to the grocery store. At the store I bought everything for pasta with chicken, everything for hotdogs and lots of soda. I paid for everything. It’s the least I could do for everything the family was doing for me and well I wasn’t paying for accommodation either and I don’t like just being somewhere for free. Then we made our way back and it started raining. We put everything up. I rested and watch the rain and then it was lunch time. We had beans and rice soup (a typical Paraguay dish). I did a lot more of nothing and before I knew it it was dinner time and we had milanesa with rice. It was very good and actually reminded me of my moms. Then I went to sleep early… like before 9pm.
Tuesday morning I woke up at 6:30am but then went back to sleep and woke up again at 8am. Breakfast was ready and I had two hot dogs and two eggs. I was a bit shocked, but ate it anyway because that’s what I do. It wasn’t raining so I started digging a little canal from the water fountain that was under the mango tree out to the street so that the water didn’t stay in the center. Moments later it started raining and because the kids didn’t have school because the road were impassible. They asked if I knew how to play UNO. I said, “of course” and we played 3 games and had a blast. Then it was lunch time and she made the pasta with veggies and chicken. Then the rain continued and I worked on my blog a bit offline. Then the rain finally stopped and we realized a chicken fell into the well. That was a huge ordeal and hilarious. The neighbor came and helped us get it out with a basket and longer rope than we had. We rescued the chicken and thankfully it was alive. After that I finished fixing the little canal and now the water drains out to the street. Then we all got in bed and watched Tarzan. Then later I mentioned I wanted to get my haircut and Diana said she could take me into the big town to get it cut. I asked if anyone in Monte Alto (tiny town) cut hair and she said “yes”. So she took me there and I got my haircut. My hair is now short along with my beard… I don’t know if I like it. I’ll just let it grow out again. She charged me $3 for my haircut and trimming my beard. I gave her $5 and she was shocked. She didn’t want to accept the tip, but I told her to take it, because that is what I pay at home and it’s okay. She smiled and thanked me. We got back home and hotdogs and OMG I had 5 of them… I swear I’m such a fat ass. I think here I’ll gain the weight back I lost while I was sick in Rio de Janeiro. Then the neighbors came and we chatted about a million things. Mostly about life and random things. I’ll get into that later. It was another early night in bed by 9pm.
Wednesday morning was a great day even though it was a dark foggy day. Woke up had breakfast then hung-out with the kids on the porch. Then Diana and I went into town to go shopping. I bought more food for the whole family along with a few other things they needed. I bought everything we needed to have pizza for dinner along with 2 kilos of meat and lots of vegetables. Also bought them soap, conditioner, a dustpan, detergent and just other things they needed around the house. On the way back it started raining again, but we made it back safely. The rain carried on so I took out my laptop to look at the LP for South America and plan the rest of my South America trip. After this I only have 4 countries left Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Can’t believe I’m more than halfway done with South America. That’s just a crazy thought. Then we had lunch and the sun finally came out. Jorge the 15 year old nephew had mentioned that he would take me to a huge he hill we can hike and see over the land. So we went. What we didn’t know what that we’d need to cross the creek. When we arrived we realized we weren’t prepared. The creek was very high with a fast current because it had been raining nonstop the last 3 days. So we came back. I laid in bed and decided to watch a movie on my laptop. I watched The Help. I love that movie. It’s crazy how all that happened like yesterday in the concept of time, but they always make it seem like it was ages ago and that things are much better now. When in reality it is still so bad and racism is still ingrained into the fabric of the country. Ahh but that is a whole other subject for another time. Before I knew it it was dinner time and we all had pizza. The kids all looked so happy eating. And then evening came and including myself passed out before 8:30pm. Oh and I forgot to mention that I crashed the motorcycle too. Yes Diana needed to run and errand to the store near by and asked me to drive her. Well the roads were still wet and muddy from the rain and well the bike skid from under me and we both fell. Nothing happened to Diana thankfully, but I threw myself out from under the motorbike and got all muddy. I screamed at her to take photos before I get up and well did. I shared it on Instagram you can see it here. The crazy thing is we fell in front of a neighbors house and I told Diana great now when we get back everyone is going to know… and yes we got back and the whole family knew. Turns out the front neighbor saw too from far away and told everyone. Ahhh small town life. We all laughed about it though.
Today is a beautiful day in Monte Alto. The sun is finally out after 3 days of nonstop rain and gray skies. I’m sitting here under the mango tree writing this. Time seems to not move here. It’s only 2pm and its felt like hours have passed, but oh how I love it. This is what I needed. Even before I got sick in Rio I was already longing for home. I was exhausted from the constant moving and was tire of dorm rooms. What is crazy is that I’ve only been on the road 3.5 months and wanted to go home. Ahhh, but not anymore. After seeing Iguazu Falls and now spending time here I’m reminded of why I want this and am doing what I am doing. Even though I have decided I am going home for 2 weeks in July. I mean why not? I figured I’ll be in Bogota, Colombia and that is not far from home. So yes I am going home for 2 weeks then carrying on to Europe, Asia and then Cairo. Once I’m in those place I am really far from home and won’t be able to afford to go home. I’m really wanting to go home because I miss my parents so much. Yeah I can’t believe I’m saying that either but I am. I want to see them, my nieces and nephews, my whole family and my friends and Erika’s baby too. So yes I will go home see everyone get rid of all the clothes that doesn’t fit me, but new ones and carry on. Ahhh anyway that is 3 months away. For now let me continue enjoying the present. Anyway this has been everything… my plan was to leave tomorrow at 5:30am, but just found out the neighbor is going to be slaughtering a cow tomorrow at 4am and he said I can attend. I can’t believe tonight will be my 5th and final night here. I honestly don’t want to leave, but must carry on.
It’s crazy here I am in the middle of no where in Paraguay with a family who honestly doesn’t have much at all and yet they have given me everything. They have provided me with a bed to sleep in, a shower to bath in, a place to have three fully cooked meals each day. Yeah I have bought food for all of us several meals, but how could I not. At the moment they are both not working and barely getting by with the little they can make with side job and money they have made earlier in the year selling cattle and chicken. I have also helped them feeding the chickens every afternoon. Oh how I love doing that.
You know everything that has been said in our many conversations one of my favorite is when Julio the father told me. “You know Jaime we may not have much, but we are happy and we sustain ourselves with what we sow. It’s not much, but it’s enough for us to survive.” and what breaks my heart though is when he says, “I’m poor” and that is the reality of things yet he doesn’t let that deter his happiness. What blows my mind is how they have so little and yet they are willing to open their home to a stranger. Literally a stranger. I mean they didn’t know me at all before I arrived. All they knew was that I was a friend of Hannah’s and here I am. We have had many meals together and enjoyed each others company. They have taught me so much about Paraguay and the simple life. They love that they are not in a big city working day in and day out to survive. Here yes they’re fighting to survive, but at least it’s relaxing and peaceful. They even love the fact that they can nap just about every day. Who doesn’t love naps. They’re universal!!!
Even then though with all this talking and after spending 5 days here I understand them, but don’t think I could ever actually comprehend them. I don’t even know if that will ever make sense. I mean it’s just something I’ve never had to live and will never be able to relate to in that aspect. It’s not my reality, but it’s the reality of so many people on Earth. I think that is something we realize when we travel. Many things are hard for us to comprehend, but these things change us. They honestly do. I have seen the little people live with around the world and here and it reinforces the way I see things now. I can be happy with very little. That is something I have tried many times to explain to others especially at home in the USA where life is about consuming. That is our culture we buy buy buy because these things are what will make you happy and well that is not true. I know I’m carrying on to another subject, but it’s what I do when I travel I see other peoples way of life and compare it to home. I know things will never be the same and it’s comparing oranges to apples, but at the end it’s the same everywhere. We are all here trying to make a living and trying to survive in this crazy world we humans have created. It was man that created the concept of time and it was also man who created currency. So now we all must deal with it instead of just living off nature. In the end it’s this family who has very little that in a way is surviving the way life on Earth was intended. Just live each day as it comes and sustain yourself with what nature gives you.
Ahhh sorry for the long tangent it happens when I have time and let my thoughts flow on paper or in this case on my iPod. The kids should be coming back from school soon too. I’ll spend the rest of my evening chatting with them. Then I will have dinner and go to sleep. Tomorrow I’m waking up at 4am to see the slaughter of a cow. A cow that has roamed free and ate free and has zero hormones or chemicals. I mentioned that to them…. that they’re eating much healthier than I ever will in the USA. They were left speechless. Makes you wonder who is living the better life?