To pick up where I left off, after the homies came across the water, we all piled in cars and headed back to Aveiro. It was so great to see Eric, Paulita and Mateo; Eric gave me a big hug, picked me up and swung me around, and big hugs from P and Mateo. We've never been separated for so long; it will be hard when we all head out to our sites. Anyway, my stomach was improving so the ride back was cool. I was so happy to get home and the fam was super happy to see me. Always great to come back home :-). I asked Mama how the week was and she said that it was awfully quiet without me and they frequently wondered what I was doing. I recounted my intestinal ordeal and we had a good laugh - Tim's family wasn't home so he came over too. They all remarked at how much better his Spanish had gotten. Yay Timmy! Afterwards I took a shower, ate, then retired. I was EXHAUSTED.
So the next day I woke up around 7:30 am so I could perm my hair for the first time since I've been down here. I had my host sister Rita get the perm in and then I combed it through. There a couple of areas I had to cover with more perm, but she did a good job for it being her first time. I washed it out in the sink outside using a plastic wash basin and the pitcher to pour water over my head. While I noticed later that there were some areas that could've straightened more, I'm very pleased with how it came out.
After lunch, we all headed to Asuncion to celebrate Paulette's birthday. We stopped first at the Peace Corps office to check email and use the phone; I was able to make my customary call to Daddy. Afterwards we went by the mall so Paulette could buy a shirt. In a serendipitous turn of events, we ran into a PCV we knew and the municipal services development (also known as Muni) part of our group as we were walking to the hotel, another family reunion! It was the first time we'd seen each other since we'd left for LFP the previous week. Even some other munis - Shola, Erik and Liam - passed by on the bus.
The hotel was great - Hotel Los Alpes - it looked like a little oasis in the middle of the block. We all stayed between the two attics, which were big rooms with six beds and a table and chairs in the center. It also had a wall-mounted tv and a really nice bathroom that even had hot water faucets! I've gotten so used to the cold water-only sink and the shower with the switch to turn on the electric shower head that heats the water. We were all starving so we headed to the popular Lebanese spot, Monte Libano, for some lomito arabe (AH-rah-beh), which is shawarma. I was also really happy that they had Heineken, so I bought a 32 oz. bottle and drank it like it was water. Truly an excellent dinner. We hung out there for awhile and then went back to the hotel to change to go out.
Our first stop was this bar with an outside patio called Cafe Bohemia. The neighborhood was like a street in Berkeley with art galleries and little boutique shops - stark contrast to the Paraguayan countryside and other parts of Asuncion - at times we almost forgot we were still in Paraguay. We stayed for a bit and then went around the corner to another lounge that had better dancing music. And by better dancing music I mean choice hits from the 80's and early-90's WITH VIDEOS (just like my host brother)! The Paraguayans are truly fans of 80's music and have allowed me to rediscover my love for the decade. The drinks at both places were expensive by our standards - by that point I was drinking less and taking sips of other peoples' drinks, so at least I wasn't spending any money. A fun time was certainly had by all.
The next morning we took advantage of the free buffet, which was an absolute treat. It even had a toaster oven, great coffee and real butter!!! Oh, the little things. We finally got everyone together to leave around 10, and it took forever for the bus to come but at least we were able to get seats. Once back in Aveiro we went to Paulita's for lunch. Her family had the bomb asado! Needless to say, I punished the food. We sat around for a bit after lunch and then Tim and I rolled. Talk about being exhausted. I hung around the house for the rest of the day - it was definitely a packed but fun-filled weekend.