That Sunday night, we boarded an overnight bus with around 40 high schoolers and 10 chaperons. We put in our earplugs, took some tylonel pm, and tried to get as much sleep as possible. The next thing we knew we were jarred awake by the boys singing pop songs at the top of their lungs around 5 AM. They also like to play a game where you read road signs in a funny voice and laugh really hard. You know how teenagers are.
We arrived early at our first stop, the Itaipu Dam. While we waited for the visitors center to open, we checked out the street vendors' blankets filled with handmade jewelry. I bought a colorful strap for my camera, and Ben got a bracelet woven with the colors of the Paraguayan flag (red, white, and blue) to use as a keychain. In the meantime, the students had grouped in circle around a huge insect that they were poking with a stick. When the center opened, we shuffled into a small theater and watched an informational film (in Spanish) about the dam. To learn about it in English check out the wiki article: Itaipu Dam.
After the little video, everyone piled into a bus and they took us on the dam tour. They stopped at a place before the dam to get a great dam picture. Then we got on the dam bus and drove down the dam until we reached the dam control center. We got to get out and walk beneath some dam corridors and get a dam lecture before we left and got on the dam bus again. The whole dam tour was actually pretty short - Maybe about 20 dam minutes, which are actually the same as regular minutes. We thought it was a great feat of engineering at first, and we were impressed, but even though it's really big and pretty, it's still terrible for the environment, right? Later we did some research and found tons of articles that talk about how all the dams in Paraguay have really devastated the surrounding ecosystems. So, dams are cool, but not our favorite thing since we've been here.
Next, we all piled into our original bus and headed to Salto Monday (which is pronounced Mon-Dah-U). The waterfalls here were really beautiful, and it was good to see that it was well maintained. A few of the kids picked up bottles and threw them into the waterfall, which shows that PC environmental conservation volunteers still serve a purpose here. We hung out for a while and enjoyed the view. They also had a little "eco-tourism" canopy walk, but it wasn't anything special. It was just a little set of walkways suspended about 20 feet in the air, just out in the open. One of the kids in our group paid to go, so we were content just watching him do it.
After the falls, we went to Ciudad Del Este. They let all the kids loose for a few hours. Sarah and I wandered around with Nohelia and our new friend Cesar, a profe that we met on the bus. We wandered through the malls checking out the prices on different electronics like electric shavers and cameras. There are several different malls in C. Del Este. The streets are packed with street vendors and little booths. Then there are hundreds of other people walking around selling everything from socks to pen drives. It was quite an experience. Little kids would walk even walk up to you trying to sell you stuff. Sarah bought a backpack from a little vendor, then we headed to a grocery store for some lunch. It was a buffet style restaurant where you pay per kilo of food, and it was crowded and noisy just like similar style restaurants in the states. I've included some pics of the city, but it's really hard to capture the calamity of the city in a picture. But it's a great place to go if you want a cheap knock-off of anything.
It started raining just as we had to load back on the bus and take the long trip home. Sarah and I had a great time on this trip, and best of all, it was completely free! We were pretty lucky. We met some cool kids and teachers, and got to see some great parts of Paraguay.