Friends in Filadelfia

Since our last post from Tina Krahn’s house in Loma Plata, we’ve ridden the difficult and bumpy 28 km to the neighboring town of Filadelfia. We couldn´t have gone on from Loma Plata without the hard-working ingenuity of Paraguayan Chaco Mennonites, all conveyed in the humble tones of Low German.

I, Michael, took a tumble on the bumpy dirt backroads of Loma Plata when a piece of my front rack loosened and locked up my front wheel. I flopped softly onto the dirt, tired and unscathed, but my old Italian-made aluminum rack was bent beyond recognition. That´s where our fellow Mennonites helped out. Without even me asking, a mechanical student living at the Krahn´s told Tina that the shop he worked at could probably fix it. Tina’s brother, John Giesbrecht, also worked at this taller shop, and by the very next day I had a brand new rack welded together, this time steel and a stronger design. Though he had never worked with bicycle parts before and we could only communicate in our broken Spanish and bits of German, he took the time to figure out exactly the right fit for my bicycle. Proudly industria paraguaya. Vielen dank, John!

We made the 30-km trip to neighboring Filadelfia on the dirt road so bumpy that barrels bounced out of truck we were following. We helped the driver pick up the spares, but had a spot of trouble ourselves down the road when Matthew´s rear rack came undone. Thankfully our host Jacob Harder came by in a pickup just minutes afterward and we were able to tie up the rack and throw his panniers in the truck.

The next time we saw Jacob–a sociologist, teacher, and a rancher–was rubbing salt and picante sauce into the biggest chunks of raw asado that I’ve ever seen.  That night we met his wife Gati, a naturalist and reporter, and sat down over that asado and shared a wonderful meal with these scintillating conversationalists. It’s wonderful for us to listen to the English of people who speak it as a second or third language. There’s something about the way one has to navigate around words  that gives a non-native speaker’s speech a beautiful ring. Jacob and Gati’s speech is a treat to listen to.

We’ve been loving the fruit here in Loma Plata and Filadelfia, some of it quite different from what we´re used to. Both Tina Krahn and the Harders were overwhelmingly generous in offering us Paraguayan fruit, and we’re thankful, hydrated, and nourished for it. We also appreciated the unique jams made from the likes of guava and roselia flowers. Fresh grapefruit from several trees at the Harder´s has also been a treat.

The morning after our first dinner with the Harders we met Ronald Boschmann and gave a short presentation about how faith relates to our trip for Colegio Filadelfia. The high-schoolers were impressively attentive at 7 in the morning, and our translator Sonya did a wonderful job trying to communicate in German about our unique english word “vulnerability,” which is an important component of our trip.

The communities of Menno and Fernheim colonies have supported us so much as we prepare for this next leg. After giving an interview on the radio station ZP-30, we were fortunate enough to have a member of the El Palmar Mennonite colony just inside Bolivia call in to the station and offer to host us, so look forward to that next stop!

We´re not sure if we´ll have Internet access until we reach Santa Cruz, Bolivia in about 11 days.

Michael

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