Estamos juntos!

On Tuesday our group finally came together at the entrance to the Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden) in Asuncion, Paraguay. We went directly to the Bolivian embassy, where we needed to submit copious amounts of paperwork in order to receive “notas explitivas” which we would then submit to receive visas a la frontera (border). Among the documents we had to submit were police reports, which none of us had received in our lives, reporting that we’d not yet committed any crimes during our three weeks in Paraguay.

Our ventures during the day gave us a brief and bumpy image of the Asuncion colectivo (bus) system — the buses vary from modern-looking tour buses to old Mercedes and Volkswagen school buses, painted in all varieties of bright colors, capital letters, and confusing line designations. Their activities vary from carrying people to their destinations to waiting at the roadside for a tire change or engine fix. This system returned us to the home of our generous hosts, the Epps: Siggi, Arnold, Tamara, and their son Gabriel, absent during our visit.

While we waited for our notas explitivas the Epps were faithful in feeding us thrice daily and sharing with us the third meal of the day. Our dinners together were a delightful combination of ingles, castellano, y aleman (English, Spanish, and German), and a string of confusing attempts to discover the meaning of another word. On one evening we offered to make an American meal for our hosts,  and after considering several options decided on grilled cheese, tomato soup, and deviled eggs: clasico. Our meal, for the record, was a hit with our hosts, who greatly enjoyed the grilled cheese, and asked for the recipe for our hacked tomato soup (tomato extract y crema de leche).

During our time with the Epps we also had the opportunity to spend time with our good friend Martin from Goshen, his sister Sarah (shout out to an incoming first year), and their friend Sam. We enjoyed some up-and-down-the-river, communal cooking, and like-minded liberal conversation.

In the back of our minds during our entire stay with the Epps was the question of our notas explitivas. We weren’t sure we would be able to get these letters — needed for our Bolivian visas — before the weekend, which would effectively push our departure date to Tuesday, a whole week late. Today we went to the Embajada Boliviana en bici and faced for the first time downtown Asuncion’s traffic: there aren’t really lanes,  there’s a mix of semis, buses, miniature garbage trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and the occasional horse-drawn cart, and all of them are driving like there’s no tomorrow.  Fortunately we survived this first of many traffic experiences — also we received our notas explitivas today, and we plan to depart tomorrow!

We’re very grateful also to Dave and Judy Schmidt, who have been more than generous in welcoming us into their home. I, Matthew, also need to thank them personally for their overwhelming hospitality in my first days here before I was able to join my friends. Their provision of a home away from home is the sort of helping hand that can save an experience from being marked forever as a bad one, and their unflinching welcome has been inspiration and a salve to an aching heart.

Tonight, also, they have welcomed all four of us into their home, and we’ll depart from here tomorrow morning. We plan to stop by la Escuela Agricultura San Francisco, where Leah and John Eads are working, to see visit with them and see the school’s cheese-making operation. We’re very excited to be on our way, and also to witness some high-quality fermentation.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we begin our journey in earnest. Our route takes us through the Chaco on the Ruta Trans-Chaco — we’ll be going over rough roads in very dry territory and are prepared to camp out for the first night or two, in the absence of people. Our next update may not be until we reach Santa Cruz (~2 weeks), but we’ll see what we can do in Loma Plata or Filadelfia (6 days). Thanks for reading, and for your thoughts, prayers, and emails to date.

Levi, Abe, Michael, and Matthew
from Asuncion, Paraguay

3 responses to “Estamos juntos!

  1. Wonderfully informative, both verbally and visually! I look forward to following you four brave guys on this trek, and will remind God daily about this!🙂

  2. Lois and I will read all your postings on Panamericacycle. We look forward to your arrival in Santa Cruz. We will pray for you and will ask Prairie Street to pray for you. This is a very exciting journey

  3. Greeting to Levi, Abe, Michael, and Matthew. Good to heart that all the details are falling in place for you guys. It is interesting reading your postings and the issue and feelings that you are dealing with. They are so similar to what the five of us experienced forty years ago as we prepared to leave Hesston College on our trip. Even though we were all friends, as the four of you are, there were a lot of struggles in learning to life together in isolation from the world as we had known it. Following is an excerpt from the book, Travels with STAND, about a conversation that I had with some friends at the Mennonite VS unit in Costa Rice a little over two weeks into our trip.

    I had given some thought to bailing out at this point, possibly spending some time in Costa Rica and then heading back home. They were very understanding of my feelings, but strongly recommended that I stay with the group and encouraged me to continue to work at our differences. They assured me that what I was experiencing was not unique to me, but a common experience for people when they are faced with the changes and challenges that our group was experiencing. When you took time to really analyze what we were each experiencing, it was quite amazing. We were coming from an active social life in college to isolation, a completely new and different cultural context, loss of communication and contact with our families and friends, and at least for two of us, the pangs of love sickness. After our conversation I felt much better. That weekend was a much needed respite from our constant traveling and forced togetherness. I think that all five of us appreciated the break and left with a much improved spirit and outlook. I felt that that was the turning point, at least for me. From then on I made a renewed commitment to work on my contribution to the group dynamics and our ability to communicate with each other.

    I will be thinking about you guys and praying for you on this adventure. You will have a great time!

    I’m attaching several pictures of the road the last 100 miles that we traveled in Bolivia. Will be interesting to see how they compare to what you discover there.

    Blessings, Steve Ramer

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