Osoropaite- Completely destroyed. Like my Chaco.
Colonia del Sacremento, Uruguay
It’s a rainy morning in Colonia and I’m sitting on a sofa in the hostel with a cup of coffee and a bit of conversation with other travelers. I arrived in Uruguay yesterday after a long bus ride from Asunción to Buenos Aires and then a short ferry ride across the River Plate to Colonia. I’m spending another day here and then head off to Montevideo to meet my amazing group mates for a beachside Christmas and New Year. I’d say we deserved it after a full year of service completed.
There are times when the differences between Paraguay and Argentina/Uruguay and their peoples are very apparent. In July, when I had takenthe bus from Posadas, Argentina to Buenos Aires, it had been a quiet trip with wine served and most people kept to themselves. Going into this trip, I kind of expected the same, but I now know that that trip was very “Argentinian”. This trip from Asunción was very “Paraguayan”. It was a loud, chatty affair, also slightly pushy and the woman sitting next to me fell asleep on top of me at one point. No wine, just sopa paraguaya and a nice glass of coca. Conversation in Guaraní flowed for the entire 20 hours of the journey and many people really wanted to know why/who/what I am. It also arrived 2 hours late, in the typical Paraguayan style. I missed the glass of wine and the quiet slumber I experienced on my previous bus ride, but there was something beautiful about this “Paraguayan” ride as well. Through the chattiness and the close contact, as opposed to the closed-off and quiet “Argentinian” ride, you can compare and see that Paraguayans are just so much more open and friendly, making instant friends with complete strangers, laughing and joking and being the beautifully welcoming Paraguayans they are. And why shouldn’t it be like that? We’re all coming from the same place, going to the same place, and that commonality of a 20 hour bus ride should earn at least a few new friends.
I love Paraguay and Argentina for different reasons. Stepping into Argentina after a year of Peace Corps service is almost like stepping onto another planet. Here I am, walking through the city from the bus terminal to the ferry office, carrying a dusty backpack with old, ripped tennis shoes tied to the side, dressed in athletic shorts, bleached by the sun, and a an old dirty tshirt. I’m surrounded by chic porteños, giving me odd looks as they march through the city in their fashionable summer attire. It was on this already-embarrassing walk when things got even more interesting: the sole of my Chaco started coming off. This happens to a lot of Peace Corps volunteers, as they’re an amazing show for everyday use, so we wear them out fast. But I just didn’t want it to happen in BA. I couldn’t do anything about it. I had to just continue walking to the terminal, flopping with every other step. It was fine on the street with the noisy traffic but then I entered the ferry terminal, and I found that that building has very good acoustics. And they required me to walk across the main hall several times, going from cashier to passport check to check-in to immigrations and then walk down a very long walkway to the ferry.
Flop. Flop. Flop.
Curious stare. Disapproving stare. Mildly amused stare.
The moment I reached Colonia and got my bag, shoes were changed and I checked into my hostel. Colonia is a beautiful little port town and I instantly forgot about my Chaco-embarrassed state. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with small cobblestone streets and precolonial architecture. Little cafes and art galleries line the small alleyways and every house tries to outdo the others with their floral displays. I wandered around in the afternoon, often finding myself down the same streets but not caring, as every section continues to be charming and stunning. I sat on the beach for awhile, looking for sea glass and taking in the smell of the ocean. It’s impossible to actually describe how beautiful this town is, but it exceeded my expectations. After wandering, I found myself back at the hostel with a large group of backpackers from all over the world. We made Uruguayan asado and sat over pitcher after pitcher of wine, discussing cultural differences, politics, and travels. Hostel living always produces good company.
It’s day 2 of my vacation and I hope that my streak of beautiful sites, good company, and a touch of embarrassment continue. At this rate, Uruguay looks to provide me with it all.