We crossed the border between Paraguay and Brazil late in the evening on December 30th. Even though we had spent two days on the road and were very tired, our mood was excellent. Firstly, because Hernando gave us a significant amount of money, which would cover our entrance fees to the Iguazu Falls, and secondly, because Felipe was about to meet us soon. We were waiting in a place that wasn’t too comfortable or safe. However, we decided not to worry too much and just sat somewhere to have a snack with some nuts.
When Felipe arrived, I was somewhat in shock. His face reminded me of my brother, whose death I had learned about just a week ago. He had the same serious yet calm and kind look, a similar beard. Nastya and I wanted to spend Christmas and New Year with someone, somewhere. The universe gave us this opportunity. During that difficult moment, it meant a lot to me that we were in the company of Andy’s wonderful family. And now, I felt like I had met my brother again. Felipe and Dani treated us like family.
New Year’s Eve in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil
The guys were planning to celebrate New Year together with Felipe’s family in their mother’s house, and we were very happy to be invited as well. Of course, we couldn’t go empty-handed, so our day began with a delicious breakfast and a trip to the supermarket to buy groceries. Nastya and I decided to prepare something Russian and traditional for New Year. While our family back in our hometown of Irkutsk was slowly sitting down to their festive dinner, we were still shopping for the ingredients to make Olivier salad, the traditional beetroot salad, and we also cooked borscht, which we had for lunch.
We traveled light, and our modest “wardrobe” didn’t include anything festive. So we went to the party in our everyday attire. However, we didn’t expect the grandeur of the reception and how elegantly everyone was dressed. At first, we felt a bit out of place, but as the evening went on, we opened up, and the initial awkwardness faded. We met Felipe’s aunts and a cousin with his fiancée, and they were incredibly cheerful and friendly.
Felipe’s mom showed us her apartment, which had their family crest and a family tree displayed on one of the walls. She shared a bit about their family history with us, and then we gathered around the dining table.
The New Year’s Eve traditions in Brazil are quite similar to Russian customs. People gather, chat, have light drinks, finish preparations, set the table, and start indulging in various dishes around 10-11 PM. The only difference might be that they don’t watch TV or listen to speeches; instead, they enjoy the company and the variety of dishes. It’s hard to express how magnificent the dinner table was—everything was so delicious and diverse (in true Brazilian style) that we experienced a culinary delight. We were also pleased to see our salads beautifully complementing the feast, and many enjoyed them.
Shortly before midnight, everyone prepared their glasses and champagne and headed out to the balcony to watch the fireworks. Their apartment was located quite high, and the windows faced Ciudad del Este, a city similar to a duty-free zone with a significant Chinese population. This means they love fireworks. Felipe informed us that in Foz do Iguazu, where we usually watch many fireworks, they were prohibited this year due to the wildlife (as the area is surrounded by jungle), which gets frightened by the explosions. However, we weren’t disappointed. For us, it’s far more exciting to spot something we’ve never seen before in the forest than to watch fireworks, which we’ve seen every year throughout our lives.
And so, the group counted down: “…five, four, three, two, one, Happy New Year!” The clinking of champagne glasses, the joyful cheers, and the whole atmosphere of the celebration made it a memorable moment. Nastya and I clinked our soft drinks and shared a kiss. In Paraguay, the night was lit up by the golden sparks of fireworks. It was an unforgettable moment and a fantastic New Year’s atmosphere! How lucky Nastya and I were to find ourselves in the company of this family on this day. This was already a tremendous gift for us on New Year’s. We are very grateful for it!
From Brazil with love, Vasya and Nastya. Happy New Year!