Our last meeting for the weekend and before heading out of town to do the tourist thing (yea!) was at the National University. Mike spoke to the President and the heads of all the satellite universities in the country to introduce them to what Transformation Paraguay was all about and to set up meetings where John Maxwell would speak and then have the teaching of the Round Table. With a new president and new ideas, this was the perfect time. It felt like we were at the United Nations, the head table had flags on either end and four chairs, each with their own microphone. All the other tables in the room had two chairs with a microphone between them. This was a formal setting but Mike was able to squeeze a smile out of them.
Five hours from Asunción is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Itaipu – a dam that until recently was the largest in the world, (China now has one bigger) but Itaipu, is still the largest producer, and the pride of all Paraguayans. A must see. Raquel, who is a Transformation Paraguay volunteer, and a lovely soft-spoken lawyer from Ciudad de Este where the Dam is located, accompanied us and we set off on our road trip.
On the way down Raquel tells us how her sister from the U.S. came at Christmas to visit and was bit by a mosquito that was carrying dengue fever! She was sick in bed the whole time she was there in Ciudad de Este! Apparently they are seeing a lot of cases this year. Yikes! I had brought mosquito repellant from home because I’d been bit a lot when we were here before Christmas, but that was in Asunción, and now we were heading to Ciudad de Este. Ignorance certainly is bliss, and we were not feeling blissful at all. We were not only going to C.de Este but we were also going to the Falls which are in the middle of the jungle! We plastered ourselves with repellant and prayed and thankfully we did not get even one bite.
The night that we arrived we went to a place where they have a mock-up of the dam, listened to traditional Paraguayan music and then headed out to the dam in a large tour bus. There were over 20 buses going, all filled with Paraguayans or Brazilians, we didn’t meet one American tourist! The idea of this tour is an overview of the immensity of the dam and the surrounding grounds (10,000 hectors).
Watching as it is lit up against the night sky and the frothing water pouring out from the side that regulates the level of the lake was spectacular!
The next day we had an appointment for a private tour. Gabby (who brought the Transformation project to Paraguay) used to work with the director of Itaipu – good to know people!
The dam began construction in 1975, American and Italian engineers won the international competition to work on the project, and it took 9 years for the first generator to begin production. The enormous lake that formed above the dam submerged the largest waterfalls in the world, the Guaíra Falls. The rocks that formed these waterfalls were dynamited as well. It is the most expensive object that has ever been built! The Paraná River, on which the Dam is built, separates Brazil from Paraguay. The Dam is shared equally between the two countries but it is Brazil that put up most of the money to build it, so Paraguay entered into a 50 year contract with Brazil to pay them back in electricity (far below market value) and millions of dollars annually. It will be paid in 7 years from now – what a boost that will be for Paraguay’s economy.
There is a line down the middle of the control room with Paraguayan engineers on one side and Brazilian engineers on the other. The line cuts the desk that is in the middle of the room exactly in half!
That evening we were invited to the restaurant of a couple that will be Round Table facilitators in C.del Este. Their restaurant is in their home and it was beautiful!
He had a crazy story to tell. As a young man he was training at the Olympics to represent his country in the javelin. The Olympic Committee pledged to give him money monthly for his expenses and to enable him to train, but he never received any of it. He wrote to the committee and complained. Soon after, at the Olympics, he was given water from someone on the committee and he passed out. They took him to the hospital and was given a shot. Later he was tested for drugs and failed the test. He was out of the Olympics! He was devastated. Turns out the winner of the Javelin won with a lower score than he had recorded himself while training. He had already broken the South American record. This incident has plagued him ever since with bouts of depression. He and his wife are looking forward to facilitating the teaching of values and principles, he for one has tasted the consequences of leaders who don’t live their lives by values and universal laws. We prayed for this wonderful couple who are making their way, building their business and cooking up some great Italian style food.
We stayed at a new hotel that has only been open for 6 months. The owner’s daughter, a 27 year old and her 23 year old brother who is in his last year of law school are doing a wonderful job managing it. They are enthused about bringing the message of values to their city. 65% of Paraguayans are under the age of 30. They want change, they want a better life for their children, and they are excited about Transformation Paraguay. They will host all the transformation meetings in this city in the conference rooms in their hotel.