Here we are back in Paraguay for another 6 weeks. After going home last February, Mike has been to El Salvador and The Dominican Republic – two countries who would also like to see transformation come to their nation. There is lots of work to do and much need for values in our world. Then on April 27th our 7th grandchild was born, I’m missing our little Sofie already!
We’ll spend our time in Paraguay travelling around the country addressing the regional Departments of Justice training magistrates, judges and heads of departments representing all of the 17 States of Paraguay. At the request of the Ministry of Justice, each person who is trained will facilitate a Round Table of 5 people at each office represented.
It was a 5:00am start on our first 3-day trip of 1000 kilometres. We passed through many small towns with red dirt packed cobblestone streets that must be hundreds of years old. Paraguay is the oldest country in South America. Our first stop was the Palacio de Justicia in the town of Paraguari. To our surprise, it is quite a bit colder than we expected. A chilly 7 degrees in the mornings, but warming up to 65 or so in the afternoon. Everyone is bundled up in coats, scarves and hats sipping their hot maté – a bitter tea made of various dry herbs.
In the hot weather it is teraré using the same herbs but filled with ice cold water. A cup with a metal straw is packed with the herbs and filled with either hot or cold water from a thermos. The cup is then shared with others until the liquid is gone. This idea of sharing the teraré is part of their culture, they don’t like to drink teraré or maté alone.
Often in the public bathrooms the only toilet paper is a large roll out by the sinks. You have to remember to get your square before going into the stall. But in general they are clean and free and when there is toilet paper – a bonus! Breakfast on the road consists of a thick tortilla like pancake made of yuca flour and cheese, very dry and bland, or an egg type frittata made with egg, flour and water – fried in lots of oil. Coffee with hot milk or Coke. Chipa is a staple, a hard dry dense biscuit also made with yucca flour. An acquired taste that I didn’t like much at first, but it’s growing on me. Difficult to eat healthy while travelling or keep up any exercise program as we often arrive late and always rise early.
At our second stop in the town of Pilar, we went to the bus station to pick up more books. I missed the picture, but there waiting to pick someone up was a horse pulling a small cart. We are in the country! Our hotel reminded me of the guest rooms at the Bible School in Mexico, a little damp, a little musty. Funny how smells can take you right back to a place and time. Travelling with Mike is also reminding me of when we were newly married and travelled with the New Dimensions. Mike played the drums for this group and we were excited to just be travelling all together, everyone paying their own way, staying in a Motel 6 or less than ideal beds in someone’s home – but it was fun. I guess we are missionaries at heart and feel fulfillment in touching people and making a difference in their lives.
Mike has been with presidents and heads of state, he’s been on stage with John Maxwell and hung out with him privately but he’s not too proud to travel around the country addressing the local government institutions of small towns. He is friendly and talks to everyone, from the cleaning lady, waitress or cashier he makes them feel important and appreciated. This is something I’ve always admired about him and love him for it. I’m blessed to be able to travel with him and watch him work.
On to San Juan Bautista and Ayolas. This area of Paraguay is flat and desert like. The ‘highway’ is one lane each way only, but straight and not a lot of traffic as there are long stretches between these small towns. It feels like we are in the Wild West as there are many men on horseback and lots of cattle. Always the stray cows and horses to watch out for on the road and certain sections are in bad disrepair. In this town we were also invited to the local cooperative of businesses, we were expecting 180 people and 300 showed up, most arriving on scooters. All together in these 3 days there were 800 people trained as facilitators of the Round Table representing 4,000 people studying and discussing God’s principles and values. Always after a training there is a lineup of people wanting to take a picture with Mike, he is starting to be known around the country and is often stopped on the street, in stores and at the airport.
Back in Asunción we went to a new mall that had just opened. A beautiful four-story mall with every brand name store you can imagine, a large food court with lots of nice restaurants and several huge flat screen TV’s in the common area. The European cup was playing so this area was jammed with people. On either side of the mall are two huge modern high rise business towers. The story is a very rich older Guatemalan man is the person who had this built. He has to spend $600 million dollars each year of his excess, and is married to a much younger woman who happened to be raised in Paraguay. In this ‘new’ downtown area of Asunción there are a lot of video billboards all calling for your attention, it’s visual clutter for sure and reminds me of Time’s Square, NY. Very impressive and quite a contrast to the little towns we have been visiting! With a couple days to rest up, do the wash, get caught up on emails, etc. we are back at it on Monday. 23 more stops and 39 more trainings to go!