It was our last week here in Paraguay and our last road trip. First stop was Coronel Oviedo, going to their Palacio de Justicia and training 70 judges, magistrates and heads of departments. Then on to Ciudad del Este which is on the border of both Brazil and Argentina. As we approached C. del Este we began to see trucks parked on the side of the road. Mile after mile of trucks lined up! The explanation was that they are not allowed to cross the border during the day, so they line up and wait for 6:00pm then cross all through the night. There must have been 5 miles of trucks waiting in line, some end up having to wait 2 days to get across the border. What a hard life to be a truck driver here!
We stayed at the Megal Hotel, a hotel owned and run by a local family who were at one of John’s meetings. Mike had three trainings in the city and one was with teachers from the area, this is where we met Marlene who runs a private school with 600 kids. They use the ACE curriculum which is all in English, supplementing it with a couple of hours of lessons in Spanish. She and Cecilia her friend, who also owns a private school, offered to take us to the Argentinian side of the famous Iguazu falls. We saw the Brazilian side when we were here in February.
The Paraná river forms the border between Paraguay and Brazil and the Friendship Bridge is the only crossing. All traffic has to filter onto this three-lane bridge. Talk about hectic! I can see now why the trucks have to wait until the night to cross. There are no big electronic signs, lights or warning of any kind, just a single policeman standing with an orange cone in the middle of the bridge making us merge into the other lane as he changes our two-lane to a one-lane. It works, but another tough job!
In order to get to Argentina we had to cross the bridge to Brazil and then cross into Argentina. There is no border to go through to get into Brazil, people are free to pass back and forth, buying, selling, working and living on either side. Further down into the country there is a formal border to cross, but for 20 miles or so it is open and free. Crossing into Argentina is not as easy. We had to get a visa online and print it out ahead of time. When we arrived at the border apparently there is another number they wanted that was not on the visa. (There was no mention of that on-line.) We were sent to the side to wait and after some back and forth to the office (were they wanting money?) we were allowed to pass.
The falls are magnificent from both sides. The Argentinian side has a walkway above the falls, under the falls and winding through the jungle.
I saw a Toco Toucan fly by, what a thrill to see one in the wild!
There is a little shuttle train that took us up the Devil’s Throat and on the platform there were many Coatis – a strange-looking animal that looks like a cross between a racoon, an anteater and a possum. They are not afraid of people and will take food right out of your hand so you have to be careful.
There were also a lot of these birds (Southern Lapwing) running around on the ground looking for scraps, also not very skittish around people.
Returning home from the falls and just before the Brazilian border we were pulled to the side of the road to pay an eco tourist compulsory tax. $20 Argentinian pesos per person, not a lot of money, but that felt uncalled for since we’d already bought a visa, paid for the entrance into the park and eaten there. After some discussion back and forth the two ladies with us had to pay but we were let off the hook because we were from Canada.
We left C. del Este early the next morning, the lineup of trucks was gone! That they all got through in one night was surprising! After miles of driving and constantly passing trucks, bikes and carts we didn’t notice the random police outpost and were pulled over for passing a slow truck on a double line – again. This was the second time this happened to us – the first time was on the way into the city. We were guilty of course, but the fine was $800,000 Guarani ($150) and half a months wages for an average person! Wasn’t that a little extreme? We were given the option to pay by mail, they would keep our license or registration and mail it back to us when they received the payment – ya right. So the negotiations started. The first time Mike asked for the name of the policeman and his number so we could check with the president of the court justices, (we were on our way to do a training with them) if it was actually the right amount for this infraction. Of course the policeman didn’t want to give his name, and the fine was reduced to $100,000 G. a little less than $20. So this time Mike just asked the policeman to give us a break – we were Canadian, we have been here 6 weeks working with your justice system, we were leaving tonight. He eventually let us go without a fine – Paraguayans are nice – but I think it’s time to go home 🙂
The plan for us was to come to Paraguay this time and travel around the country taking the message of values and principles and the Round Table method to the more remote areas of Paraguay making the Transformation Paraguay truly an entire nation thing rather than just something that happened in the faraway capital. They say we’ve seen more of Paraguay than most Paraguayans! It has been fun touring the country, getting in a little tourism, meeting people and making wonderful new friends and learning about their culture and way of life. It has been a marvelous experience and one we will treasure for the rest of our lives. It has been a privilege to sow into this country the seeds of values that has the ability to open people up to God, the author of these universal values, to change their hearts and habits, to transform not only individuals but neighbourhoods, towns, cities, states and the entire country. It won’t happen over night, but we are looking forward to hearing stories and change that is taking place in this country over the next several years.
Our last night the Transformation Paraguay team got together in the home of Ana & Julio. Everyone was so kind and grateful for the time we spent here in Paraguay.
Chow Chow for now Paraguay. Tranquilopá – chill, take it easy!