A little over a week ago we said goodbye to my mother who had decided to venture outside of her comfortable new life in Colorado, endure long flights and layovers in airports whose signs were in unfamiliar languages, and trusted her youngest boy and daughter-in-law to whisk her around a country totally foreign to her. And it only seems appropriate that I write about my mom’s visit a day after we celebrate Mother’s Day in Paraguay.
After finishing up our close of service conference, we rushed to the airport so that we could meet her as she exited customs. As luck would have it, the flight came in a little late, so we had plenty of time. We waited in an area a little ways from the exit where my mom would be coming through until people from her flight began to trickle out the door. It caught us a little off guard when she was about one of the first people to appear from her flight. Not only that, but she was accompanied by an airport official. Oh, no. What had Ma done now?
It turns out that she was trying to get into the country illegally. Well, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. You see, Paraguay requires a $160 visa that can be purchased upon arrival in the airport. However, it’s a cash-only affair and we had failed to mention that helpful tidbit when trip planning with her. Oops. Not to worry though. We got things straightened out in fairly short order and hopped a city bus to downtown Asuncion.
We got to our hotel, she showed us the goodies she had brought with her to keep us in chocolate and coffee a while longer, and we hit the hay.
The next morning, after a nice relaxing breakfast we split up into a couple of groups to tackle some sight-seeing and adjusting travel logistics. Allison went with my mom to check out the Peace Corps office and I went to the bus terminal to figure out how we’d get back to our town that day as the only two bus companies that go to our town were one of the few that had taken the Paraguayan Labor Day seriously and weren’t running that day. We met up again to explore Asuncion’s massive cemetery, La Recoleta, before starting the seven-hour trip to our home.
With a very limited number of days in Yuty we did as best we could to give her the grand tour while keeping things at a relaxed pace. We kicked things off with a tour of the yerba mate factory (one of the two main industries in our town).
The follow day, spending the late morning and lunch with our friends at the children’s soup kitchen was all but obligatory. That afternoon Alba, our friend and one of the cooks from the soup kitchen, came over to spend some time with us.
For supper we tried out a new restaurant in town with our friends Igor, Sanny, and their daughter, Lluvia.
Sunday morning saw a very unique event for our town: a peace march. In the last couple of years some uncharacteristic and shocking acts of violence have taken place here. As a result, the community of Yuty decided to band together to speak out against the violent acts themselves and to express their frustration at the seeming lack of justice against the perpetrators.
We met up with our friend Elva at the march who took us to her home in a nearby community to partake in the traditional Sunday Paraguayan asado and explore the uranium wells that once promised to bring prosperity to their town but were abandoned following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that sent uranium prices plummeting. Needless to say, it was an honor to be able to be part of this family gathering.
Shortly after lunch we began our journey to the Iguazu waterfalls. Due to a slight miscalculation (we had 1 less day with my mom than we originally thought) we were leaving a day early and didn’t get to our hotel in Argentina until 4 am the next morning. My mom was a real trooper with this slightly more intense travel plan change. We went to the falls later that morning, and even after having seen these waterfalls before, they were still a sight to behold.
We wrapped up the visit back in Asuncion with some souvenir shopping and a trip into the bowels of the famous Mercado 4. It was such a wonderful experience to be able to share with my mother a little bit of what Allison’s and my life has been like over the past couple of years. And I think she sure didn’t mind all of the “what a beautiful woman!” comments thrown her way. Thanks for the visit, Ma!