Not Safe For Camera

2 March 2011 6:33 PM
Encarnación, Paraguay

EnCarnavale, as I’ve been calling it, has been a swirl of crazy since I got here. The energy is so animated, and for a tiny town, they sure love to party. When in Rome…

The other night I nearly killed my camera again. I was acting the fool. Friday, Carnival night #1, I cooked up some veggie soup and drank some wine. Then met up with a bunch of couchsurfers from here, Spain and England, finished my box of wine. Went to meet-up with another bunch of grapevine gringos at a hostel, drank a bunch more. (Things get fuzzy about now.) We go to Carnival, I’m wearing my cool new white Slash t-shirt, get f!n messy, sprayed with foamy stuff all nite, covered in glitter, don’t remember much after a little while there.

Next morning, or rather 2PM the next day, back at my apartment, I wake up naked and bit by bugs, looking at my stuff strewn all about the room – where’d that 3/4 of a pizza come from? My white t-shirt is purple. And my backpack, also purple. Look inside, a f!n bottle wine, half empty, no cork! And I pull out my camera, its case drenched in wine. Wtf?! Where I got the wine I don’t know, why the heck I put it in my backpack, open, spooning with my camera, a real lapse of good judgement. But it still works. A little wine in the lcd, but I’m grateful that’s all.

My cultural appreciation of the night before’s events is uncertain, although I saw a lot of feathers and butts. So I set out to a village 30km away to the Jesuit ruins of Trinidad for some history. Buying my ticket, I hear from behind: “New York!” Had they not called me out, I honestly don’t think I would have recognized them as the very same gringos with whom I spent the night before!

Mighty impressive, I didn’t even regret skipping the circuit of missions near Santa Cruz, as these are reportedly exquisite examples of the Jesuits’ work in South America. Unlike some other sites I’ve seen which required much imagination, this Unesco-declared World Heritage Site was finely preserved, with much to see and explore, albeit it very-restored.

Riding back on the bus, seemingly all of Paraguay (including our bus driver) was watching the fútbol match between Asunción’s two big teams. As we arrived back in EnCarnival, for the last two kilometers actually, the sportscaster was screaming Goooooooooooooooool! and the game was ostensibly over. I’ve never actually been in a riot before, but this was how I’d imagine it to be. People lost their minds! Spontaneously, a city-wide parade of horn-honking, flag and jersey-waving, ghetto-blasting, chanting, singing, or screaming fans on four wheels took to the streets. After an hour of uprising flooding the streets to critical mass, I wondered, already covered in foam, how many cars were in Encarnacion, and how this dancing in the intersections would spill into tonight’s Carnival.

The funny thing is that, while the nation is equally divided in their fanfare between the two capital city teams who played tonight, the resulting uprising would be identical regardless of the outcome. Just imagine, country-wide… Paraguay simply loves to party! You can’t bottle this enthusiasm!

My crew was quite fun, and so we decided to stick together for yet another night of Carnival. And so ensued a second feast of drinking games, boobs, butts, feathers, foam, glitter, dancing, clubs, and drinking máte with the sunrise. This time, however, I didn’t lose my head, I remember it all, and my camera slept safely at home.

Next day I went out on a bike ride, to clear my head, and collect some info for my onward voyage to Argentina. Little did I know that warfare raged in the streets! As I rolled-out of my bright green gate, water balloons rained down from rooftops and fire escapes everywhere. Back inside I dashed to ditch my camera and zip-lock my phone.

Cruising out to the main drag, I encountered a boulevard of teens armed to the teeth with colorful globes. Quickly I retreated down a side street, with a lone goal of arriving at the bus station with some shred of dignity left in my brave-heart bosom. To the delight of half of Encarnación, I was a moving target, and luckily, I was thrilled to engage in the defensive. On every street corner, mischievous gangs toted buckets of ammo, and like rose petals being strewn before me, watery explosions paved my way through town.

Vigilant and quick on my green machine of freedom, I dodged black-tinted vans screeching around corners, opening-fire on many a poor wretch, who sometimes looked as if to burst out in tears. How exhilarating to contend with those who took the game way too seriously, and were unleashing their fury of adolescence upon those they could dominate. Unfortunately for many wet targets, they lacked the same means of escape that I had. In nearly two hours of this amusement, I managed to come out dry, though I couldn’t rest my eagle-eye or Rambo reflexes until after nightfall.

My wheels took me to the national border, where I learned that, contrary to my intentions, I couldn’t bike over the bridge to Posadas in Argentina. This frontera was wild too, but much different than my last time. As I approached the rotunda Sagrada Corazón de Jesuscristo (Sacred heart of Jesus), a clown car full of girls rode alongside me, blowing kisses and exerting a collective prowess of persuasion.

The sun plunged into the river, and in my eyes this industrial-commercial frontier was on fire, completely deserted save for Sunday evening security guards, but ever more-so mine for the taking. Border zones can be dodgy, but with only my bike and iPhone to lose (as you couldn’t steal my triumphant street-war dignity), I went exploring, snapping sunset photos till the cows came home. I didn’t fix my faulty cyclo-computer until later that evening, but I was riding so fast on that emblazoned tarmac that I almost bounced myself off on multiple occasions.

It was the last night of Carnival, and I debated going, but instead spent the night-in, till about 1:30am when I decided to stroll down to the thumping river-front boulevard, which I could hear all night anyway, being only five blocks away.

Still going strong, I almost paid the $5 to enter again, but decided to put boobs and butts behind me. Strolling back to my free wifi spot on a bench in a flowery intersection, I realized, with sober eye, that you need not be in the grand stands to be in the action. While I’ve sat here each day, exercising my thumbs without fear, on this particular evening I had to watch my back. For 2:30AM on a Sunday night in a tiny town, there was a lot of traffic, seemingly all of it full of shouting passengers, and drivers saluting me with beer, or pausing to drop the bottle out the door. One truck kept looping back to spray me with foam, and motorbikes with helmet-less drivers were cutting corners (on the sidewalk). I was too wary of water balloons to comfortably wield my iPhone anyway, so I soon retired.

Funny thing is, I came out around 11PM on the following night to call my Mom (-2hrs) and it was the same scene, only it was Monday night, and Carnival was over! She urged me to get out of the intersection…

I worry about you!

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