September 13, 2014

Day 340 – Crossing over to the other side – Ciudad Del Este

I was lucky enough to explore Salvador with a crazy Canadian and Chinese girl, both of whom I miss. The Canadian girl, Jennifer is a foodie like me so of course we get along. We had some great evenings cooking curry, rice and more in Rio.  Now, I´ve been asked many times if it is hard for me travelling around South America as a vegetarian, Jen is a vegan. As they say impossible is nothing. I have a lot of respect for all those vegans and hey maybe one day I will be able to give up cheese and eggs too. Sophia and I were always late to Portuguese classes, stuffing our faces with pao de queijo (cheese bread) and enjoyingcaipirinha after caipirinha as you should when in Brazil.  She was later my room-mate and I learnt a great deal from her. What I love most about her is she is fearless, her love for life and ability to make the most out of every moment – truly inspiring.

Sugarloaf mountain with Sophia

Sugarloaf mountain with Sophia

I met some great volunteers whilst I was at the house. Initially I was the only Indian but as soon as the world cup ended, this all changed and there was not one, not two but three Indians! Brown-man over load! It was great – one British, one American and one Austrian. So the four of us were able to share some brown people jokes as you do. Unfortunately, one (Kevin) was mugged, he didn’t have the best of luck to say the least but a very nice guy all the same.  One (Ram) reminded me very much of Raj from the Big Bang Theory, yes he can talk to girls sober but his accent and personality.  Then Kausik,super friendly and talkative, winding up the other two.  The three of them together was nothing but jokes.
Sugar loaf with Sophia, Kevin, Olivia, Ram, April and Kaushik

Sugar loaf with Sophia, Kevin, Olivia, Ram, April and Kaushik

After the world cup, despite having so many volunteers, we managed to do a lot of things together. So whether it was nights out or days to the beach. We celebrated Olivia´s birthday which was great fun but one girl unfortunately enjoyed pre-drinks so much so that she wasn´t able to leave the house. I shared my room with Olivia who again had some great thoughts of life.  We all went to Maracana to watch Botafogo play Flamengo and what a match it was! Great atmosphere, Flamengo fans chanted continuously and then went crazy when they scored, truly electric. We all went para-gliding which was great and one of the highlights of my trip. From street samba to street drums, sun-sets to sun-rises, unless night outs followed by hours of hiking – ah the joys!
So I left this wonderful house with so many great memories having made so many great friends. I headed to Sao Paulo after Rio which yes is a much greyer city and hell it´s a little like London.  Nonetheless, there are endless streets filled with street art waiting to be explored. Every other wall is filled with something beautiful. Here whilst I arrived alone, I wasn´t alone for long as I met other fellow travellers.  One afternoon out in the city, Hare Krishna found me, now this made my day. I went to looking for the temple with another back-packer, non-religious guy but open-minded and curious to see what the temple would have to offer. Sure enough we arrived and they were reading from the holy book, first in Portuguese and then in English, how wonderful. The chanting and praying then followed and the evening ended with rice and dhal! Met some great ladies here, two of whom are German but are living in Brazil. Back at the hostel, I met a friendly, full of life, smiley Italian – Domi and her friend Kevin. They are both here to study but exploring the city in the meantime. I was able to have a very interesting conversation with Kevin about all the injustice in the world. Only just met him but we shared the same thoughts, both on the same wavelength, both determined to do a little a good in this crazy world.
Street art in Sao Paulo with Kevin, Andreand Domi

Street art in Sao Paulo with Kevin, Andreand Domi

So I left my heart in Rio and my jacket and scarf in Sao Paulo – brilliant. In the 11 months of travelling, I´ve never left anything behind, first for everything I suppose.  My next stop was Brasilia, again mixed reviews about this city but I had to go as it is the capital. There isn´t a great deal going on and the main attractions are on one long high road. My final stop in Brasil was Foz do Iguacu, yes very touristic but absolutely amazing. I loved the Brasilside, you see the massive falls and get pretty close to it. The Argentina side is great too with different trials to the waterfalls. It is defo an amazing world wonder
It was time for me to leave Brazil, having spent 3 months here, I knew it wasn´t going to be easy but the time had come. Having done a far bit of research, crossing over into Paraguay was a simple matter of crossing over the Friendship bridge. Well how hard can that me? Not very hard is what I thought. Well I get right to the border, didn´t see the immigration office, instead I spotted a bus headed for Ciudad Del Este and jumped on that. This, sure enough, went across the bridge and before I knew it, I was in Paraguay, Only, here´s the thing, they wouldn´t let me in as I had no exit stamp from Brazil. So back I went over the bridge, in search of immigration. Managed to find it, they wouldn´t stamp me out because I had exceeded my 90 days by a day! I had to pay a fine which I had to pay at the bank and then come back from the stamp.  Lord, I didn´t realise leaving the country would be so hard. So eventually managed to get my stamp and went back over the bridge and landed my entry stamp for Paraguay – thank the lord!
Paraguay is very different to Brazil, very little diversity, not as developed, many motorbikes and old school buses. I had just about picked up some basic Portuguese which of course was no good here so had to try and remember some Spanish. People here, like in the other South American countries I´ve been to are just as friendly and helpful. My backpack and map give me away as a foreigner, if that´s not enough then the brownesssure is. Now, having read up on Asuncion and the endless blogs telling you how unsafe it is, I thankfully was fine. Met other fellow travellers at the hostel – another Canadian girl who got an exit stamp from Argentina but no entry stamp from Paraguay! Then another guy, from Bristol thought he would wait a week before he thought he should get an entry stamp! Love it – only in South America can you cross borders so easily and not get a stamp
A girl I met on a tour said, “you´re from London, you´re lucky”. Yes, I´m lucky, very lucky, I´m blessed and I´m grateful, so very grateful for everything I have. I made it this far and I never thought I would. Here´s the thing though, I´m from London so yes we have this exposure to endless opportunities and people but you have to make things happen. If you want something, you have to go after it, it doesn´t just come to you. So, for me it´s not about where you´re from, it´s about what you made of your circumstances, be it good or bad.  I made this happen for me, I don´t know if I would have done this if I was from say a South American country, I like to think I would. I believe we can make anything happen, no matter how impossible it may seem, it´s hard, really bloody hard but it´s possible. Here´s to all those amazing people who changed the world for the better, who risked everything, their life and soul for something they believed in. I like to think one day I will do the same, what better way to leave this world then fighting for something you believe in.