Our meeting in Asuncion Paraguay in February 2019 coincided with the WFD board meeting and we were hosted by the Centro de Sordos del Paraguay (Paraguayan Deaf Association). We were all looking forward to our last gathering together, especially because the WFD board were there too. We expected a busy week in wrapping up a range of tasks and duties. We had a lot of work to do.
Getting there was quite a challenge as I flew out of Melbourne to Santiago Chile, then transferred to Buenos Aires where I stayed overnight. Catching up with friends from the previous children’s camp was great. I also got the chance to explore new areas I had not been to before. The next day I took a flight to Paraguay. My initial impression did not meet my expectations. Asuncion seemed quite poor, not in an extreme way but different than I imagined. I guess the life style appeared a little more modest than I thought it would be. The location of my accommodation was planned at the same place as our meetings. Making this trip even more challenging was the fact that I suffered an injury playing cricket just prior to my departure. A twisted ankle left me hobbling in a moon boot for four weeks. The worse part was having to wear the boot during the hot and humid weather in Paraguay. I had no choice but to suffer with the heat and discomfort for two weeks.
The WFDYS and WFD boards happily made their reunions which is always a cheerful time because meeting face to face only happens two or three times a year. We are all busy doing our respective work and seldom cross paths. We always take a little bit of time to re-acquaint. Once the meeting starts it is a busy time.
The WFDYS board immediately started working on identifying the issues that had been achieved and those that had been postponed, some of which would be handed to the incoming board. From this we began making a four-yearly report in preparation to be distributed to the YOM’s. We also prepared a list of the Youth General Assembly delegates who would also receive the reports. The reports consisted of work completed to date, financial statements, major achievements and action plan achievements. Once we agreed on all of these parts of the report, it was then delivered to the new board. Our days were spent in discussion and work on the reports and the evenings on filming these reports. It was a very busy time. In the short amount of free time I had, I enjoyed a dip in the swimming pool, a welcome relief from the heat. We also had to work on preparations for the youth camp in July. It was certainly a very busy time but we constantly checked in with each other to make sure everything was on track. The WFD board were scheduled to present a couple of short seminars in the coming days so we were paired with their board members to provide support. The local Deaf community found the presentations interesting, as well as learning more about presenting itself and interpreting processes. Overall it was received well.
During our time we also celebrated the birthday of one of our board members, Laura. Despite a full agenda we had time to visit the office of the Deaf Association. Always good to view and compare how others conduct their work. From there we joined in a meeting of some members of the local Deaf community to briefly explain our role. After a hectic 4 or 5 days we managed to meet a few young people in our free time and talked about the situation of Paraguay not having an official Deaf youth association or YOM. They had, however, participated in the youth camp in Turkey in 2015. The risk is that their experience there would naturally mean they have to carry the workload of establishing a Youth Association. The hope is that others will support them for the good of the community and the country. Meeting people like this always gives me the drive to continue promoting the work of the WFDYS and makes me understand the reasons for my involvement.
At the end of our meeting we said our farewells and most of us departed for home. I stayed on for another 4 or 5 days with Mark and Laura in order to do a little more travel. We decided to visit the famous Iguazu falls on the border of Argentina. It is really amazing! We travelled by bus, which was somewhat luxurious, and stayed overnight. I found it very interesting when we arrived at the border of Paraguay and Brazil. The border town area is called Ciudad del Este and is famously busy for selling goods. I was warned that most of the goods are not genuine or illegal and one needed to stay alert and keep your belongings especially your passport with you at all times because petty theft is common in this area. Anyway, I got my passport stamped before crossing over the Paraguayan border and went through Brazilian customs. At last, we arrived at the hotel in Foz do Iguazu city. Interestingly the hotel we stayed in accepted several different currencies. We chilled in the local bar and dined out later that night. The next day we caught the local bus to Iguazu Falls. We arrived and I struggled to walk the distance from the bus in the heat and with my moon boot but I was determined not to miss it. Photos can be deceptive. Seeing it with your own eyes is unbelievable! It is beautiful beyond description. I loved the feeling of misty water falling on me from the waterfall. I love the feeling from very light sparkling water from the fall. There are also many cute looking coatis sniffing around searching for food. Many tourists were attracted to them and took some photos and videos – yes included myself. Nothing beats this beautiful place especially during great weather – sunny and hot! After exploring, I treated myself with ice cream!
The next day we took a local bus to cross over the Argentina border from Brazil through customs to get to the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls. We arrived there and looked at the map – this place is so huge and there were plenty of walking trails and a viewing area called the Devil’s Throat. I was grateful that I got two lovely friends who were patient with me while I walked slowly with my moonboot. We took a jungle train to the Devil’s Throat Station then we walked over the footbridges leading to the Devil’s Throat. It is a massive cascade of waterfalls which comes in from two sides. You can get quite close by following a trail along the edge. It was truly worthwhile and I took heaps of photos. On the walk back we saw a number of different animals but what was also curious is the difference in the people there. Some were quite friendly while others were very aloof. But overall the culture and people were lovely. I’m glad I made the effort and can now say I have visited one of the natural wonders of the world.
We caught the bus back to Paraguay overnight. Mark flew home in the late afternoon. Laura and I stayed on for a few more days and had a big catch up and many reflections on our time together. Upon reflection we achieved a lot during the week. I wanted there to be more time because we meet so infrequently that our time together is always so short. The team is really wonderful.