Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paraguay #16: Adiós mi corazón

"I am leaving a piece of my heart in Paraguay" said Joseph at lunch today. This is the last post from Paraguay but not the last post about Paraguay.  All five of us, Luke Stocking, Maria Castañeda, Helen Russell, Elizabeth Stocking and Joseph Maingot, will board a plane at 7:15am tommorrow morning and head for Canada.

The restuarant owners were impatient for us to leave their establishment today.  We gathered in Asuncion with our friends from all five partners of Development and Peace and shared a last solidarity meal together at lunch.  The thank-yous, gift giving, and warm wishes ran long after the restuarant was supposed to close.  We are so grateful for all our experiences! They call Paraguay the heart of America and today as I thanked our partners I told them I now knew why.

It is one thing to know that Development and Peace is working to improve democractic participation in Paraguay and to promote development alternatives.  It is another thing to know in a personal way the people, our partners, who make these goals a reality. "You are the hands and feet," as one of us said.  My Mother shared at one meeting her belief that, "Solidarity starts with, 'Hello, my name is...'" Through the last few weeks we have come to know eachother by name and become friends in the struggle to create a better world for all.

We are eager to share our experiences at home in Canada, to spread the Good News of what Development and Peace is achieving here in Paraguay. We want to tell you what we saw, what we learned, what we felt and we want to tell you why it is important! Please contact us to arrange for a presentation!

I plan to continue to write here about our trip even after we return. So people may think, if they miss this post, that we are still in the country even after we have left.  In a way they will actually be right.

Campesinos of the MCP play during our stay in San Isidro  - A little piece of Paraguay's heart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Paraguay #15: The Road to Hell is Paved with Bad Intentions

Another Post from Elizabeth...

A road in Banado Norte

We have moved from the red roads of the countryside to the roads of Asuncion. Looking at the first picture you would be surprised to know that it was taken here in the city. Well, sort of... apparently the road Avda. Gral. Jose G. Artigas is the great divide. When you cross over this street as we did with a member of our partner SERPAJ-PY and entered the area of Banado Norte we seemed to step off the city into the neighbourhood of the poorest of the poor. Roads, like all other services are non-existent.
The Great Divide
You have read in this blog that large numbers of peasant farmers have been forced off their traditional farmland and moved to the city in search of work.  Banado Norte is a community where 80% of the residents are from displaced campesino families trying to find a way to survive. Three thousand five hundred families call this area home, some for more than 50 years. The past two days we have met with people from this area as they plan for an upcoming event that will spotlight the problems here. Tonight we stepped out of our taxis to learn more.
Out with Ada and Alba from SERPAJ
Look closely at the final picture.  You will see in the foreground a small lagoon. The lagoon is part of a special bird sanctuary for migrating birds. In the background you will see red soil of turned up earth for a new highway. The highway is going ahead which conflicts with plans for an expanded sanctuary and all this on the land that has been home to the people of Banado Norte. No Environmental Assesment plan here, no fair compensation plan for the people who will be displaced and it would seem there is a divide and conquer strategy on the part of the government and parties involved so that the people of the area have a hard time organizing to protect their rights.  Paraguay wants a sanctuary for its migrating birds.  Where is the sanctuary for the migrating poor? 

Highway on the Horizon...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Paraguay #14: Juan de Dios Salinas has Reappeared

In my post from exactly one week ago I promised to write more about CENFIC and so here we are:

Jose with his father Juan.
In 1976 Juan de Dios Salinas was disappeared by the Stroessner dictatorship. He was killed for his role in the Christian Agrarian League which worked for the advancement of Paraguay's campesinos.

In 1998 he reappeared.  That was the year that his son, Jose Babadilla, began CENFIC Juan De Dios Salinas (Centro Nacional de Formacion Integral Campesina) on 5 hectares of donated land in a place called O'Leary.

Jose explains to us that Campesino leaders from our partner MCP recognized the lack of educational opportunity for campesino youth and realized they had to form the next generation of the movement.  How else could they pass on the values of life on the land? The countryside is bleeding campesino's into the city as large transnational industrial farms gobble up more and more land.  CENFIC is a school designed to help stop the bleeding.  CENFIC is not only educating young people in the practice of campesino cultivation, but also the importance of campesino culture.  Without culture there can be no cultivation.

Centro Nacional de Formacion Integral Campesina, Juan de Dios Salinas
Due to a complete lack of government support at the start, the school only opened its doors 2006 with 25 students.  Today there are 86 and all but 15 board here.  The students must be at least 13 to attend and they complete grades 7-9 here.  If a student didn't complete earlier schooling, they may be as old as 20 by the time they are done (as opposed to 15).  12 different teachers who rotate through are responsible for their education.  I ask one of them, Victor, what the salary is like. It's less than $400 a month.  They don't do this for the money but for the people and the culture.  

Victor Fretes, Teacher and coordinator of Agriculture at CENFIC shows us the school nursery
In addition to the national curriculum, which includes instruction in the Guarani language, students at CENFIC  learn how to compare the pros and cons of industrial agriculture vs. organic sustainable argiculture and are educated in the latterThe school is free.  Parents, having little or no money to spend on education, will still sometimes contribute food.  A large part of what is eaten here is grown here.  Some is sold to help keep the school going.  We see large gardens on what has now become a larger operation - in addition to the diverse crops there is mandioca, sugar cane, and maize. Students not only learn how to grow crops and raise animals, but also how to care and cultivate the natural Atlantic forest, most of which has disappeared in the rush to industrial agriculture.  We take a walk through the forest on the land and see where students learn to plant new trees.
Planting Trees...

They have really just the most basic tools, no expensive irrigation systems and the well is hand-dug (they are working on gov't funding for a proper one).  I am awed by how a small number of people are able to produce the food here that they do.  The students work very hard.

All the watering done by hand.

"Looking after the Earth", "Keeping a Kitchen Garden", "Natural Insecticides and pest reduction" these are all things that are taught not just to students but even to adult members of the MCP as well, who partake in special trainings for adults here.

The Chickens of CENFIC :)

We share a wonderful meal with the teachers and students and drink freshly squeezed sugar cane juice while talking with Jose about how vital the education of young campesino's is for not just the country of Paraguay, but indeed the whole planet.  All of humanity will benefit from the farming practices of the campesinos that serve to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

We finish our meal and walk towards the van to say goodbyes. Something colourful catches my eye.  Freshly cleaned laundry blows lightly in the wind that sends it breath running through the whole place. Yes, Juan de Dios Salinas has reappeared.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Paraguay #13: Twenty Three Mustard Seeds

Drying off at Mass
Barefoot on the streets of Ascuncion

"How Many Seeds So Far?" I wondered in prayer after receiving communion today.  We braved the pouring rain to go to mass at the Cathedral today, having returned to Asuncion last night.  The Gospel included Matthew's parable of the Mustard Seed, and so even though it is late I am obligated to write - it being the name of the blog and all :)  I found myself reflecting that each visit we've had with different people and communities this trip has been like a mustard seed, little glimpes into the movement of the Spirit, building God's Kingdom here on earth. "How many Seeds So Far?"  I thought I would be able to blog about each of these visits, each day as they happened.  But, just like the Mustard Seed that spreads like wildfire, our experiences have been so many and so full that I cannot keep up. I've decided tonight I would post them in number instead. "How Many Seeds So Far?"

1. Santurnino and the Co-operative Community Store in the Asientamento Limoy
2. Matilde and her Farm in the Asientamento Limoy
3. Don Pablo and the landless families in the Asientamento Santiago Martinez
4. Don Pablo and The Stevia Leaf Co-op in the Asientamento Limoy
5. Jose Babidilla and the Cenfic Agriculutral School in O'Leary
6. Santiago and the Community Radio Ko'e Poty 93.1 in San Isidro
7. Elvio Trinidad Defending the landless in San Isidro
8. Juan Alberto Gonzales and the IALA Guarani University in Santa Catalina
9. Blas Flores and the Daycare in Santa Catalina
10. Victoria Maylyn and the Martyr Mariano Jara in Santa Catalina
11. The Mujeres Co-operadoras and their New Cooking Stoves in San Miguel
12.  Clara Luz Benitez and Brick ovens and chickens in Margerheta
13. Alfonso and the Water, Fountain of Life project in Independencia
14. Delfina and the needlework of a Campesina woman in Independencia
15. Severina Sosa and the Artesinal Collective in Carapegua
16. Derlis and the Community Development Training, in San Roque Gonzales
17. Ramon and the Producers cooperative in San Roque Gonzales
18. SEPA Staff and the SEPA Office in San Roque Gonzales
19. Emilia Ramierez and the Comite de productores in Caacupu
20. Bishop Medina and The Church in Paraguay discussion in San Juan Batista
21. The Cultural heritage of the Jesuit Reductionnes in San Ignacio, Santa Maria and Santa Rosa
22. Seraphim Gonzales and the APROM asociacion of farmers in Santa Maria
23. Theodora Martinez and the Asociacion de Feriantes in Santa Rosa 

Twenty Three Seeds in seven days - shared with us by three of our five partners here in Paraguay. The rest of the visit until we leave early friday morning will be spent with the remaining two. In time, you will hear about all of these MUSTARD SEEDS and how the kingdom is taking root here in Paraguay as the beautiful people we have met take control of their own development. Oh yeah, and Congrats Paraguay on making it to the quarter finals of the Copa America today! We had fun celebrating with you!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Paraguay #12: Let Them Come to the Water

Here's Another Post from Elizabeth Stocking...
Fountain in Santa Rosa Plaza
We begin our day in the plaza of Santa Rosa. The fountain splashes abundant water. A good symbol of the abundant water just below the surface of Paraguayan soil. Abundant water but not accessible.  We learned about this at a briefing before our trip. Water in Paraguay is taking shape as a commodity with foreigners buying into it for their profit.
I think of this as we stand speaking with the members of Asociacion of Feriantes. They are here selling produce at a local farmer’s market set up with the support of ADPP, another D&P partner, and we are learning how the market came to be.  Yesterday we met with Seraphim and his family.  He is part of similar program and we toured the gardens where he and his family laboured.  One of their greatest challenges is having enough water in the summer months. One hundred and thirty families share one water source which is rationed. If they exceed their ration water is cut off. The cost of a new well? Fifteen thousand dollars – out of this communities reach, though water lies just 100 metres below the surface.
Seraphim on his land
Rain in the Market
Water falls from the sky as we scramble for cover huddling together to carry on our conversation.  Time and again we are told how access to water is vital for the success of the campesinos , and how hard it is to get access to it.
Access has been easy for us. So easy that twice we have been able to go for a swim at hotels we stayed in. It weighs on my mind as we cross back and forth between places of have and have not. I heard from home this morning that back home in Ontario they have not had rain and temperatures have been high.  I know what that means for our farm, the stress that causes and we have access to a pond and irrigation system.  I know great gratitude for this gift of water and pray its abundance be for the people of Paraguay and not profit.  Yes ‘Life Before Profit ‘ lived out day by day, person by person.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Paraguay #11: Resistance is Fertile

Matilde on her land.
Matilde holds her belly and tells us that, Thanks be to God, she has been blessed with child and is six months pregnant.  She had been unsure if she could have children, especially after what she suffered during her imprisonment under the Stroessner dictatorship.  The first time Matilde was jailed though was with her whole family.  She was two years old.

Both of Matilde's parents were campesino leaders in the Ligas Agrarias Cristianas (Christian Agrarian League).  She shows us the many documents related to her imprisonments, held in a wooden cupboard in a very simple bedroom.  Matilde lives in Limoy, an Asentamiento of 200 families, all members of D&P partner MCP. We've come to visit and are offered hospitality in her home where we share lunch.  Thirty percent of these families have actual title to their land and the rest are in various stages of fighting to obtain it, including Matilde.

Matilde's Saved Seeds
"We took this land back from the Soya plantation 8 years ago," she tells us. Many Campesino's who occupy land 'owned' by large producers argue that it is the producers who are the true occupiers.  When they get title to a large piece of land they snatch up a little bit extra on the side.  Instead of "give an inch and take a mile", its "give a mile and take an inch".  The MCP says that in 2008 there were 8000 Hectares of land in this category.

Paraiso tree, used as natural pesticide
Matilde herself is in the process of proving in the courts that her land does not belong to the Brazillian producer they took it back from but to the Paraguayan government, who can then grant it to her family under land reform policies.

She tells us about the day they came to take the land back. Hundreds of people from the community came after the Soya harvest to stake out the land. The response was strong. At times there were over 600 police present.  Tents were burned. "We had a friend up the road who would call us to say when the Police were coming.  We would leave so it would be empty when they'd arrive and then come right back after they'd leave." She laughs.

We tour the farm she has created on this land. Matilde shows us the tree that acts as a natural pesticide, her kitchen garden, her saved seeds,  the chicken coop in the tree and her water system. "I am determined to work for my elders and for the child in my belly," she tells us.  Resistance is fertile indeed!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paraguay #10: The Campesino islands of Soybean Sea

"They call this Soya road," Fernando tells us as we drive, vast plains on either side of us. "2.5 million hectares owned by less than 1000 people." It is the largest plantation in a country becoming quickly covered with Soya monocultures. Land concentration into the hands a few producers (most of whom are Brazillian we are told) has been one factor that has vaulted Paraguay into the 10 ten soy exporters in the world.  Despite the wealth being created, the country remains one of the poorest in Latin America. This is development for the rich, not the poor and the common good. It is for this reason that one of D&P's two axes in our Paraguay program is "Training community leaders who are in a position to set up sustainable development models." The emphasis here being on sustainable.

Co-op store in Limoy
Passing on the Culture in O'Leary
 Our van heads off the main road into the sea of soy, which has recently been harvested. For three days we travel with our partner, the Movimento Campesino Paraguayo (MCP), visiting several Campesino communities who make up a small part of their movement.  MCP is present in 14 or Paraguay's 17 departments (a department being the equivalent of a Canadian Province) and is made up of fourteen thousand families. These communities are like islands, small pieces of inhabited land surrounded by massive monocultures.

Community Radio in San Isidro
Child-care in Santo Catolina
Finding a home in Santiago Martinez
 We visit the communities of Limoy (the oldest MCP settlement dating back to the mid-80's), Santiago Martinez, O'Leary, San Isidro and Santa Catalina.  I feel each time we leave a place that I am taking a hundred stories to tell in my pocket. Co-operatives, radio stations, schools, and the constant struggle to gain access to a small piece of land to call their own - these are the experiences our hosts from the movement share with us and which in subsequent posts, I'll try to give a sampling for you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paraguay #9: Open Veins

Like a Vein
Note: This Entry comes from my Mother, Elizabeth Stocking, one of our group on the trip!

It is evening now and events of the day find their place in our hearts and bones. The red Paraguayan earth accompanied us all day as we travelled miles to Santa Catalana, site of the Iala Guarani, Insitute of Latin America Agriculture. Early in the trip our translator, Kim told me about a book called Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano. It talks about the ways in which Latin Americas has suffered due to greed and policies of other countries.   As we criss-crossed the countryside on what seemed barely roads the redness of the earth was everywhere & I thought of Paraguayan veins reaching into the countryside.
The institute we visited for the day is where new life is flowing into the veins.  The dream of an agricultural school is becoming a reality as students from Paraguay, Brazil, Chile, Argentina gather to study, committed to a 5 year programme , and slowly transform a former pig farm into a university.
Class in Session at IALA Guarani
There is fire in the blood of the young students; a passion for the earth and social justice for campesinos. Would it stretch this analogy too much to say that the home of Mariano Jara has much to say about the open veins of Latin America?  He is a founder of the school that we visited and it is his home and his widow that we visited before coming to the end of our day. Mariana Jara was assassinated.  He had survived imprisonment and torture during the Stroessner dictatorship for his work in the campesino movement but while sitting to rest on the quietness of his family porch November 26 2010 an assassin crossed his garden and shot him nine times. His wife of 32 years and witness to this brutal crime told us his story today sitting in her garden.
The blood from his veins spilled into the veins of Paraguayan earth that November day.   Yet it is seen flowing in the veins of the young people at the school he helped bring to life. The determination of the campesinos to hold onto this land of theirs is as vibrant as the soil with which they work. In this profound way life continues though it is lost.
 What flows in the veins of Canadian soil, in our hearts and minds and that of our children? How would we describe it and what colour would it be?    

A Bullet hole sits at the top right of the Chair where Mariano in the spot where Mariano was shot and killed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Paraguay #8: "The World Is Charged with the Grandeur of God..."

Maria Ana's Chiperia, Berrero, Paraguay
Breakfast on Satuday morning was at Maria Ana's Chiperia in Barrero, famous for Paraguay's traditional breakfast  food, Chipa.  Maria Ana was a single mother who started this roadside Chiperia and now only employs single mothers.  Her business is booming. Women both young and old in blue skirts bustle back and forth to cars with large baskets full of Chipa.  Soon we are on the road again, bound for the Cataratas del Iguazú.   
The Navigator
 To get there we travel through the city of Ciudad del Este, which is the 3rd largest tax-free shopping zone in the world after Miami and Hong Kong.  Chaotic doesn't even start to cover it.  We should have never made it to the falls in time, stuck in what was defintitely the worst traffic jam I have ever seen in my life.  However, Fernando paid a young local boy, Juan, to hop in our car and play navigator.  He took us along a short cut through backroads that saved two hours.  And so we made it over the border to Iguazú.  Such unbelievable spectacular beauty.  I previously had some hesitation about playing, "Tourist" on D&P Solidarity trips.  "We are here for something important, we are not tourists." I thought.  However, one partner told me when we were in Zambia 3 years ago, " We want you to see the beauty of what our country has to offer." And the same is true now.  Where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet, there lies the most spectacular natural wonder. I can hardly choose which of the many photos I took to share with you. Here's one of my favourites though...Later I saw another rainbow, a complete circle like a halo on the falls. I stood in the midst staring though the circle's center at the power of the flowing water, its roar thundering though my body.  Gerard Manley Hopkins came up from the depths of my soul and echoed in my ears all day long, "The World Is Charged with the Grandeur of God."

Cataratas del Iguazú, as seen from Brazil

Paraguay #7: They shall beat their swords into Ploughshares

"This land was an Army Base during the dictatorship," Jose Babadilla tells us. We are visiting a school run by a peasant movement we support. Jose is founded the school: "Centro Nacional de Formacion Integral Campesina (CENFIC) - Juan de Dios Salinas" It is named after his father, a campesino leader killed during the dictatorship. The school teaches both the national curriculum as well as passing on sustainable agriculture practices from one generation to the next. Swords are turned into ploughshares...

More on this amazing place soon!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Paraguay#6: The morning paper.

"Is he really stopping here to read the paper?" I think to myself. Fernando has just pulled over and is flipping through the newspaper he just bought from a young street-seller. We've just woken up to hit the road early and now he's reading the paper.

He stops flipping and shows us something. Oh. I feel dumb. He's not just reading. Fernando's picture is in the paper. He's part of an article denouncing the Machismo culture responsible for so much violence against women. "Its about the new masculinity" he says. The occasion of the article: Recently a powerful football manager in Paraguay killed his wife and then fled to Argentina. Few think he will be truly brought to justice.

In another section of the paper are a bunch of machismo cliches about women such as "A woman is like a dog or soldier, you have to beat her to make her love you.". Clearly there is a long way to go, but D&P partners like Fernando are helping pave the way.

(Tech problems equals no photos for last two posts - am working on it)
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Paraguay #5: 4am

Here's the evidence. We were on the road by 4am this morning. Our destination: Iguazu Falls. Day is jusy coming to a close now. So beautiful but tired...can't write...will post...more ...tomorrow...zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paraguay #4: Electric Joy in the House of Peace

Electric Joy.  That's about what it takes to keep me awake at 11:34pm when I am waking up at 3:30am tomorrow morning to get in a van with everyone to head out on a long road trip.

Marcelino, one of our partners who was
tortured for his work during
the Stroessner dictatorship
The source? Today we met with our five partners in Paraguay at Casa de la Paz (House of Peace), a center owned by one of them.  Just the other day it housed campesina women and their children for a meeting in Asuncion attended by 176 people.  

Our own meeting was supposed to last until five but we were still going by six-thirty.  Maria took over translation when our time with the appointed translator ran out.  As they shared their work with us, we talked politics, agriculture, human rights and democracy.  One of our partners managed to gain 140 seats in different muncipal governments to advance pro-campesino policies.  We lamented over stats such as a 1.5 billion dollar soy industry in the country that is taxed at 2% (versus 32% in Argentina). It became clearer to us how urban poverty is created by rural flight to cities and what our partners are doing to help keep people on the land.  Another partner shared about their anti-militarization campaigns, teaching young people about the Conscientious Objection process and supporting those who go through it. It went on and on.

At one point my mother said, "Even though we had researched your work before coming here, everything changes when we hear directly from your hearts.  This is how we come to REALLY know what your work is."

After, we shared our work in Canada with them.  It was well-received. Some said, "We can tell you in Canada are motivated by the same Spirit that drives us."  This is the Spirit of Solidarity and its fruit is Electric Joy.

Group Shot with our Paraguayan Partners

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paraguay #3: Through the Door...

We have arrived in Paraguay, Corazón de América.  Development and Peace has two main thrusts to its program here:
  1. Raising the awareness of Paraguayans on influencing public policies that can improve their standard of living
     2. Training community leaders who are in a position to set up sustainable development models.

We support five different Paraguayan organizations whose work falls into either or both of these two categories. In the coming two weeks we will meet  and travel with them all.

Catedral Metropolitana de Asunción
After a good night's sleep following our arrival last night in Asuncion, we head out through the door of our retreat house in search of the Cathedral for 11am mass.  Today is a free day to settle in and we decide to use it to explore the capital on our own a bit. 89.6% of the population in Paraguay is Catholic.

When the collection plate comes around, I have no money to give. Maybe we should have changed some money before mass instead of after!

1USD here buys you 3950 Guarani.  "You get to be a millionaire" says Maria with a smile.

We find a restaurant and treat ourselves to our first meal of traditional Paraguayan food.  It comes in two courses.  The second is a plate full of three different types of chipa.Over lunch the conversation turns to the Gospel reading from Mass, Matthew 10: 7-15  We try to imagine what it would be like for us to come to Paraguay according to these counsels Jesus sends his disciples out with. Certainly it would have lowered the financial cost of the trip! 

Casa de la Independencia in Paraguay

We go off in search of somewhere to access the internet and come across the Casa de la Independencia.  This restored house from colonial times is where Paraguay's independence from Spain was plotted and carried out May 14-15 1811.  This year marks Paraguay's  "Bicentenario."  There are reminders of this literally everywhere you go in the city we see.  From window stickers, to banners, to posters, to license plates, to garbage cans, you cannot go more than 100 feet without coming across something red white and blue.  The architects of Paraguay's independence walked through the door seen on the left here and marched to the seat of the Spanish government nearby where their independence was successfully declared.  I thought of how many momentous occassions begin by walking through a door...

Today, when Paraguayan politicians walk out the door of the congreso nacional, they are within steps of the Ricardo Brugada Quarter, a famous barrio more popularly known as La Chacarita. A song was even written about it by a famous singer named Maneco Galeano, "Yo soy de lay Chacarita" It was the sign in the photo below that cuaght our attention.  After asking a group of women sitting nearby what it was all about, they alleged that the government wants to evict them to make way for a park.

We made it back to our retreat house by dark in time for dinner, bringing our day to an end.  Evening prayer was lead by Maria in the small chapel.  My mother, Elizabeth, who is also on the trip, walked through the door to the dining area afterwards and caught me putting candles on a cake. "Happy Birthday Mumm!" How many people get to spend a day like this with their mother on her birthday?

Helen, Maria, Joseph, Mumm and I celebrate in Asuncion.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paraguay #2: "Welcome Aboard.."

"Welcome aboard Air Canada Star Alliance flight 92." Sitting at this moment on the plane. The words coming over the speakers. Two days of orientation just finished (thanks Pascale! Siobhan! All who helped get us here!) and now the five of us are en route to Paraguay. We are a truly inter-generational group and as Maria, the youngest, joined us in the check-in line, Joseph the oldest, put his arm around her shoulders with a welcome squeeze, "Happy you're here".

And here with us is our baggage, our little piece of the world we bring. Fondly I thought of each of us packing, preparing for this journey we now begin for real (no gettin' off the plane!). Going over packing lists, consulting parents and loved ones, trips to the pharmacy and so on. We prepare prepare prepare but in the end, every trip is a giving of ourselves to the unknown. Every trip is magic.

My family comes to say good-bye. Just how many times can you hug your children? Just how many times can you kiss your wife? Why do they always seem most precious, most beautiful, when you say good-bye?

We prayed together before boarding. "Cover us with your cloak oh God, Unite us with your strings of Love."

The engines roar, we're about to head 40 000 feet into the sky. In less than 24 hours - we will be in Paraguay!
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