We spent only 2 days in Ciudad del Este because we wanted to celebrate Christmas in Asuncion with our Couchsurfing host, Andy, and her family.
Why in Asuncion? Well, why not! We wanted to be with someone, with a family (even if it’s not ours), and feel the festive atmosphere.
Almost every Christmas during our round-the-world trip was strange. The first one was in a city called Christchurch in New Zealand. You would think a city with such a name would have a real celebration (even without snow, as it was summer in the Southern Hemisphere at that time). But there was no market, no decorations, and no decorated Christmas tree.
Although we did see one decoration – someone hung a Santa doll out of a window, making it look like Santa had hanged himself. Two passing Asian tourists noticed it too, took photos, and laughed, joking that it was a Santa’s suicide. On that Christmas, it was just the two of us, completely alone. We baked a pizza and watched a movie. Then came Africa. On the day before Christmas, we hitchhiked from Mwanza to Arusha, Tanzania. Everyone around was dressed nicely, and morning church services were taking place. We were walking with our backpacks on our backs. In the evening of the 24th, we found ourselves in the middle of a forest on a gravel road and suddenly heard a motor. It was a truck. Two guys were in the cab, and they picked us up. We drove with them all night, and the truck broke down in the morning… twice. That was our second Christmas in our world trip. It was also our first night hitchhiking during the whole journey.
The third Christmas was not Catholic but Orthodox because we were in Russia. The fourth one was also in Georgia, celebrating it in a guesthouse with a wonderful family. In Asuncion, it was our fifth Christmas of the trip. It would have been just wonderful if not for one terrible event.
Christmas in Asuncion
It all started beautifully! We arrived at Andy’s place late in the evening because, on our way from Ciudad del Este to Asuncion, our bus inexplicably veered off the road and got stuck. It was so stuck that it had to be pulled out with a truck. Besides, the journey was not exactly a short one, crossing half the country. We walked from the bus station. Even though it was already dark, it was still very hot.
Walking through Asuncion at night was generally safe. Moreover, Andy lives right in the city center, right next to the presidential palace. On the other side of a narrow street is the high wall of his residence. She never met the president himself, though. He probably doesn’t show up there. Nevertheless, it was amusing for us to be his neighbors for a little while.
We arrived a day before Christmas. On that evening, Andy’s place was full of guests. Uncle and aunt from Switzerland and friends of the family from Uruguay. At first, we felt a bit uncomfortable because everyone was so clean and dressed up. And we looked, to put it mildly, wrinkled after the bus ride and an hour-long walk with backpacks in the heat. But Andy is a true soul of the party, so she quickly got us into a positive mood. Later, more guests arrived. But soon, everyone except for the uncle and aunt, scattered.
Their home is very beautiful and cozy, filled with the spirit of travel, friendship, and joy. Andy’s mom is very smiley, also loves to travel, have fun, and dance. It was very interesting to talk to the uncle and aunt; they are also very kind and nice. And Andy is just a wonder! She’s a real chatterbox, always smiling, a lot of fun to be with, and she’ll never let you get bored
They also have a second house where her grandmother lives, and she’s a traveler too! She has even been to Russia. Knowing a bit about our culture, she gave us a jar of sauerkraut. It was an incredibly pleasant surprise! They have an inner courtyard – a garden, and it’s like a piece of paradise. Hummingbirds often visit them. And we finally got lucky to see these wonderful birds for the first time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capture them in photos properly, but we managed to record videos. We’ll definitely show them to you in an upcoming video on our channel. Subscribe if you haven’t already.
We celebrated Christmas as a group of six: Andy, her mom, aunt and uncle, and us. A few hours before midnight, we all started to prepare. We dressed up and set the table, getting ready for the holiday. The atmosphere was unique, but an hour before Christmas, my brother called. I hadn’t spoken to him for many months, but I answered the phone this time. I stepped out of the room to not interfere with their conversation, and I heard the most dreadful news. Sasha, my other brother, had passed away.
At that moment, I couldn’t do anything, just like I can’t write now. I simply sat down and cried. Andy came over and hugged me. I didn’t tell anyone about it to avoid ruining the celebration. My face was a nightmare. But no one knew, and they still don’t know what happened to this day. It was the “best gift” for Christmas from the universe or perhaps from God, whose birth we were about to celebrate. I just couldn’t believe it! However, I know for sure that Andy and her family helped me a lot during that time. I couldn’t lose myself or sink into depression. I cried that night, of course, but I could also perceive and contemplate it rationally. My only question was, “Was Sasha happy?” Of course, I couldn’t answer that. And no one could answer that for me. So, I didn’t dwell on it too much but thought that maybe that is the meaning of life – to try to be happy and make those you love happy.
In recent years, I haven’t been close to my family, but Sasha was my closest family member, and I miss him terribly. Sometimes I notice some of his features in my reflection in the mirror, as if a part of his smile. I know he continues to live in my heart and smiles at me.
We need to move on
The next day, we explored the city. Andy, along with her friend, her mom, and her aunt, gave us a tour, which helped me to get a bit distracted. In the evening, more friends came over, and we all sat together to drink terere and watch Paraguayan cinema.
Later, Andy flew to New Zealand, and we stayed for another day before heading back to Brazil to celebrate the New Year with another wonderful family. On the way, we visited a beautiful waterfall called Salto Cristal, which we’ll tell you about in our next story.
From Paraguay with love and sorrow, Vasya and Nastya