trip to Paraguay
may also have been my final one. Whether
it was the lax security at the Brazil-Paraguay border, the open air market feel
to the city, the constant paranoia of being ripped off, the questionable van
ride back across the border (legality is still questionable) or just the
terrible weather of the day, my only experience in Paraguay was… sketchy. Although I knew it was close to the border of
Brazil in Iguazu Falls,
I never really had the intention of visiting Paraguay. Knowing that it was part of Mercosur, I
figured it might end up being part of our coursework so I guess I should have
assumed that we would make a venture across the border.
The day was full of disgusting weather from sunup to
sundown. There was torrential rain, wind,
and the poor drainage systems of both Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad del Este were not very well-equipped to handle the monsoon
of the day. When our bus got near the
border, we were informed that it was not legally cleared to cross into Paraguay. To me, this was just a glimpse into the soon
to be interesting events of the day. Obviously
this meant that walking in the elements was in store for us. Most of us didn’t have the foresight to bring
rain gear, but lucky for us people were using the informal market to sell
ponchos to us for 2 reais each. After
gearing up (sort of) against the weather, we continued our exodus into the
promised land that was Paraguay.
I wasn’t exactly
sure what things to expect when we got there, but certainly what I
wasn’t expecting at all were the feelings of lawlessness and piracy that were
very prevalent there. We were told on
the bus ride there that 40% of the goods sold in the market of Ciudad del Este
were contraband in one way or another.
While that was shocking at first, after our visit that number seemed
rather low. Everywhere we turned we were
harassed non-stop by pirates trying to make a [dis]honest buck. The popular item “in stock” seemed to be
iPods. Telling us we were “getting a
great deal” they would attempt to sell them to us for $20-40 more than retail
in the US. When we asked why the price was so high, we
were told for “convenience fees.”
Apparently picking pockets and stealing off delivery trucks has a hidden
value associated with it that we were not aware of. Speaking of picking pockets, I was carefully
watching the whole time since these characters weren’t the most trustworthy
people I’ve ever run across.
The ride back into Brazil will always be remembered as
one of the shadiest things I’ve ever seen.
Leaving the central market, we were ushered into 2 vans for the ride
across the Brazil-Paraguay border. Yes
that’s right: 2 vans for 26 or so people.
Our van including the driver and… crewman (?) held 16 people. We crossed the border without anyone ever checking
our passports or even stopping the van.
On the way out of Paraguay
while sitting in the van I spent 6 reais for 6 pairs of socks from a merchant
walking past. I needed white socks so I
didn’t care what was on them, a mindset that came back to get me. It turns out 3 of the pairs were a women’s
size 7 and one pair had a Brazilian flag with SPAIN written below it. I will cherish those socks forever as a
souvenir of my questionable trip to Paraguay.