After an excellent time with the Harders in Filadelfia, we departed for Mariscal Estigarribia with the expectation that we wouldn’t be making another post for as many as 12 days: surprise! After saying our goodbyes to Jacob and Gate, packing our belongings back into panniers, filling up water bottles, and making a final stop at the supermercado, we headed out of Filadelfia on Saturday morning with full stomachs and high spirits.
The most direct road from Filadelfia to the Trans-Chaco lured us by cutting 20km off of our total distance, but it’s shorter distance came at the cost of deep sand and unforgiving bumps. However, we took it slow and reached the Trans-Chaco with only one thrown pannier. We’ve yet to get a flat, and we’re all holding our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The rest of the ride to Mariscal Estigarribia was smooth biking; the road was nicely paved and traffic was minimal — we are told that it’s the last such road we’ll encounter before the frontera with Bolivia.
Upon arriving in Mariscal Estigarribia, we were surprised by the clearly marked and open (recall that this is Saturday at 15:30) migration and customs office at the edge of town. A fellow in an immigration/customs shirt took our passports inside and shortly thereafter brought them back out with exit stamps. Shortly after receiving exit stamps we made our way to the Centro Educativo EFATA where we were warmly met by Marcial, a wide smiling pastor of the local Mennonite church. Marcial invited us to sit around a while and share conversation, and later opened up one of the classrooms for us to sprawl out and sleep. But the evening was just beginning; we attended the Mennonite church youth meeting of about 70 students that included a group scavenger hunt, theatrical performances of Bible stories, and a snack of mate cocido and biscuits.
We’re just getting to the point now where there are no English speakers. It’s been somewhat of a difficult jump, going “cold turkey,” but we’re grateful for the gradual immersion that we’ve had. On our way out of Asuncion we had four days of minimal English contact, then we were treated to 4 days of English-speaking hosts in Loma Plata and Filadelfia. We couldn’t have asked for a softer landing. That doesn’t make the present reality any easier to bear, though. It’s hard to be the one nodding and smiling without an ounce of comprehension inside the old cabeza.
This Sunday has been an excellent, enjoyable, and educating one. We’ve experienced yet another expression of the Paraguayan Mennonite Faith — this one special for its missional characteristics and lively youth participation. We were treated to breakfast at the youth pastor’s house and another lunch of asado y chipa. Each time we eat asado, now, we say to ourselves, quisas la ultima vez! Maybe asado will follow us to Bolivia. Nadie se puede saber.
Our time at EFATA, though brief, has been enjoyable. We loved playing futbol with our new amigos Diego y Diago, pictured below, and trying our best to comprehend castellano. Despite our slow learning, we were able to have many enjoyable conversations and lots of laughs. Tomorrow morning we leave for Santa Cruz, this time anticipating (for real!) a significant break in communication.
Until next time!