Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
46Trip End May 29, 2008
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Ohhhh, Paraguay. I like to fondly describe this country as the Kansas of South America: its land-locked, relatively unknown and unvisited.... and its really flat. We decided to make a detour here to visit friends of Asaf´s family, the Ceglas, back from when he lived here when he was a wee-tot. We took a quick flight down to Asuncion from Bolivia, and Enrique picked us up and whisked us back to the house and then to their office for lunch with Sofia, his wife, son Danny, and Enriques brother. Afterwards we took a nice stroll through the city center, a loop which we would repeat once or twice more during our stay. Asuncion is very small, no skyscrapers for sure, but with some nice buildings as you will see in the pics, and a picturesque waterfront. Our first day there was insanely hot-humid, to the point where I needed to walk suuuuper slow as to minimize sweating. In retrospect, I wish I had used that first day to lay out by their pool, because luck have it the weather turned on me once again and it turned cold/cloudy for the remainder of our stay
What was different about our stay here from our other destinations is that we got to live on the nice side of things for a week, a side much different and sheltered from the rest of Paraguay. In reality the Ceglas are your average white Jewish family in comfy surburban home - we could have been in Long Island the whole time, its really no different. Yet once you pull out of the guarded driveway and drive about 5 minutes the truth comes out to haunt you, and this is what really got to me while we were here - the sharp contrast, this undeniably unbalanced divide between rich and poor. I noticed in horror all these kids - like 12 years old say, hanging out on busy street corners with babies on their hips, begging for money. Sofia explained that most of the time these babies are ¨borrowed¨ for these purposes and aren´t even related to the kid holding it....there was recently a story on the news about a woman who found out her nanny had been hanging on the street with her own baby doing the same. And I saw lots of other kids, tiny kids of probably 5 or 6 years, weaving through cars on busy, semi-highway streets, selling gum or other crap. Its heartbreaking and I really just had to look away each time and try to reassure myself that they all probably (hopefully) have homes and food in their bellies. But still...it doesn´t seem right. Yet this is the reality of South America - and the world in general for that matter - there is and always will be those who have money and those that don´t
Despite these thoughts of mine, I had an enjoyable, relaxing week here - just reading, watching tv, seeing bits and pieces of the city - and of course eating good food. They made sure we tried all of the Paraguay staples such as chipa (a type of cheesy bread/roll), asado (barbecue...and yes, I tried different bites of pork and beef. Im so proud of myself/amazed), oh and the family all loves ice cream....my kind of people. We are much grateful for their hospitality - it has been wonderful to stay in a clean environment for a change, not have to think twice before stepping into the shower without a flip-flop, you know. Normal people things. And after all this relaxation I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle our final 3 weeks in our final country...Argentina. Bring it on!
Back home in NY when the South America only existed in my head and I was naive about travelling I sat with my parents and Enrique, who so often stays with us during business trips, talking about how we´d swing by his house during our trip like it was on the way to the local supermarket. About four months later, with thousands of kilometers behind us let´s just say my notions of travelling matured a little; to say it simply, distances in South America are really big
Even though I revisited Asuncion with my parents about ten years ago my memory of the city and country was practically non-existant so this destination was not only one intended to be a time of relaxation but also to revive a peice of my childhood. Between the ages of 4-5 I lived in Asuncion because my dad was serving a term in the Israeli embassy. During that time we became close friends with the Ceglas who have remained close ever since and today I even consider Enrique like my Paraguayan dad. Unfortunately, nothing much could be revived because my old school has no teachers from the time I attended, my old house is just another house and I could only muster up faint memories of the city. What I did manage to do was build new fond memories thanks to a relaxing, pampered time that Enrique and his family provided for us. Between filling meals and too much rich ice cream we slept alot and watched a bunch of movies while our every need was cared for by their maids. The city was a nice but typical and nothing really stood out from what we have seen in a SA city so far. On the other hand I didn´t expect much so we weren´t dissapointed at all. In the end we left well rested, too full and were happy that we had gone. Many thanks to the Ceglas for their warm hospitality.