Sunday, November 25, 2007

Paraguay, parte tres

And so our saga continues. I slept uneasily that night, wary of feeling any of the warning signs my doctor had mentioned. When I woke, the pain had left my head, but instead chose to take up residence in every other conceivable part of my body. Honestly, muscles were throbbing in places I never suspected contained nerve cells.

But my dear and faithful new friend, appeared in the morning after spending eight hours freezing on a bus that took much longer than usual, and I was so happy to see her I forgot to ache for a few seconds. She had bought all the newspapers, and produced from her backpack the Asuncion equivalent of the New York Star, in which I appeared, vomiting in the Emergency Room (where did they get that picture??) under the headline "Fifteen ParaƱitas Attack and Almost Kill a Tourist!" It was written in a mixture of Spanish and Guarani, the local language, and so I had to have Esther translate the choicest sentences, including the one that says the "little pirahnas peeled her like an egg." Nice.

Next, we went to the police station, where they had recuperated Vivian's cell phone and, thankfully, my debit card. Sadly, the camera that Kati and Esther had owned for all of 24 hours was never to be seen again. Esther assures me it is now in the possession of one of the more unscrupulous of Asuncion's finest. Ah well.

Finally, having said goodbye to Vivian, we were on a bus headed back to Ciudad del Este. And there I stayed for four days, in the capable hands of Esther's friends, who managed to show me a very good time in spite of the scrapes all over my body and the tennis-ball shaped goose egg on my jaw.

They were gentle with me the first night I was there, but after that were determined, at my behest, to get me as ka'u rapo as possible on the subsequent nights, ka'u rapo being Guarani for so drunk I would no longer cower in fear when we passed an elementary school. The word was introduced to me on my first night there, before I even went to Asuncion, when we had bonded over red wine and my inability to dance salsa to their exceptionally high standard. A few shots of the night in question:

After a day of rest, they endeavored to send me home with at least a few good memories of their homeland. First they took me to a big national park, where acres of forest had been covered in water following the creation of the Itaipu dam (more on that later). One incredible thing about Paraguay: Everything is free. Even the horse and buggy ride we took through the park.

The park was full of these anthills, which fascinated me, as anyone who has ever seen me spend an hour watching an ant carry a leaf twice its size across the sidewalk can attest to.

Next on the agenda was the zoo. This was, without a doubt, the greatest zoo I have ever been to. Because, mystifyingly, the proprietors never saw fit to actually separate the people from the animals with anything more than a little wire cage. Meaning I could reach my little finger in and have it torn off by a jaguar, if I were so inclined. I contemplated it in fact, when a leopard was rubbing its shanks on the cage not two inches from my eager little hands, but as I do with most of my idiot urges, I managed to restrain myself. I did, however, snap a picture of the leopard when it had gone a safe distance away by sticking my entire camera inside of its habitat:

I did the same thing with a toucan, who, friendly little fellow that he was, caught me taking his picture and came up to investigate, trying ridiculously to stick his enormous beak outside, no doubt because he wanted me to pet him, not because he wanted to bite me:

But it got even better than that. And no one can fault me for this: I did reach my hands in to touch the monkeys. They WANTED me to. I KNEW it. And they wrapped their tiny little monkey hands around my finger and it was so adorable I almost fainted with pleasure. I love, I mean I REALLY love monkeys. Not as much as the little boy monkey loved me, mind, but I love them!

So that was that day. Most interesting of all, besides the monkeys, was the fact that everywhere I went people knew me. When I limped into the zoo, the security guards said they saw me on the television, and told me to let them know if I needed anything at all. In the park, a boy scout leader apologized on behalf of his entire country. On the bus, the driver said he was ashamed and sorry. So now I'm famous, or at least I was for a few days.

There is more, there is still more, but for now I have to eat pizza.

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