Paraguay may not be the first country to come to mind when thinking about world-class cultural scenes or stunning landscapes but it can certainly claim some of the globe’s quirkiest history!
From the first true attempt at communism (prominently featuring Nietzsche’s sister) to a colony of staunchly religious Manitobans who thrive on the production of yoghurt to the harbouring of the infamous Nazi Dr. Mengele, Paraguay boasts a kaleidoscope of historical idiosyncrasies.
Dani and I walk by the Club General Genes field every day on the way to work. The faded blue sign boasts “Established on December 17, 1929” in peeling flakes. The field looks its age! The cancha is falling apart and what may have once been the nicest field in Asuncion is now ringed by a crumbling wall and a small pack of feral dogs. I never paid it much attention but then I stumbled upon an awe-inspiring, walk-to-work-revolutionizing article on a Paraguayan website highlighting a unique moment in global history.
Please allow me to regale you with a tale of hot-blooded adventure mixed with a healthy dose of bad luck.
On a sweltering Saturday afternoon in 1957, a sixteen-year old Club Genes defencemen named Fidel Trido was playing a hard-fought match against a rival. At half-time, his team decided to shelter from the oppressive heat in the shady grove of trees that lined the edge of the pitch. The team huddled together, trying to listen to their coach’s advice but there was one tiny problem: a single-prop CAP-4 Paulistinha plane. The pilot was an avid fan of Club Genes who regularly took to the skies for a better “seat” to watch Genes matches, but this weekend, he aggressively buzzed the field multiple times as he circled the cancha. Trido’s team couldn’t hear their coach because of the incessant droning and they were becoming increasingly irate. Trido finally reached a tipping point of frustration, grabbed a bright-orange soccer-ball, sprinted to centrefield, screamed “I’m going to give him some of his own medicine”, and booted the ball into the air in what he no doubt thought was a simple act of defiance communicating his team’s annoyance.
The ball hit the nose of the plane, lodgeding in between the motor and propeller. The wooden propeller shattered. The plane plummeted from the sky, skirting the tree-tops ringing the field before smashing into the ground a few hundred feet away.
Apparently, everyone on the field stood in silence for a moment before stampeding towards the crash-site. Fortunately, both occupants of the plane were shaken (duh) but unhurt. The referee soon decided that enough time had been wasted, announced it was high-time that the match continued and invited both pilots to return to the field to finish watching the match. The mob returned and saw Club Genes soundly defeat their opponents. After the last whistle, the pilot searched out Trido, reassured him that there was no hard feelings, urged him to continue playing his hardest and then left the field. I can’t say this for certain, but I’ll bet that’s the last time he ever brought his plane to a football match!
I love Paraguay for stories like this. On the surface, the country may feel a bit bland, but when I begin scratching beneath the surface, I never fail to be impressed.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for the Club Genes cancha. Now, when I begin my walk to work, my day is brightened by visions of a bright-orange football streaking into the air and knocking a plane out of the sky.
*Disclaimer: I know all of my pictures here suck. The humidity wreaked havoc on our camera...
When most people imagine the Amazon Rainforest, they envision wide chocolate rivers, vast swathes of impenetrable jungle, raging hoards of insects and vibrantly coloured tree-frogs. At least, that’s what I expected before I travelled into the Bolivian jungle of Madidi National Park on a recent Semana Santa vacation.
Although we did encounter the expected hoards of insects, several deceptively attractively coloured tree frogs (“our helpful guide kept saying “you touch you die”) and the rivers were chocolate (to look at, not so much to the taste…), oddly enough, none of these remain the dominant memories of our trip. You know what stands out most? Mushrooms.
The fungi of the Amazon are fascinating. They are majestic, and I do employ that word unironically here! The mushrooms and fungi I encountered in the jungle compelled me to closely examine the subtle colors, unique shapes and fragile textures that they presented. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.
And they were everywhere! Mushrooms dotted the detritus of the damp forest floor. Fungi sprouted from every possible nook and cranny of fallen trees. They rooted themselves into living tree-bark. Everywhere!
Every jungle-hike we took morphed into an eager scavenger hunt for mushrooms. I circled trees in search of new species of fungi, pestering our guide with questions the whole way. On one night-hike, a patch of bioluminescent mushrooms glowed so clearly in the dark that I felt like I was the sci-fi world of Avatar rather than a place on earth!
I’m not sure our guide (or Dani for that matter) fully understood my mycological enthusiasm but, at least for now, when I think of the Amazon, one of the first things that will spring to mind will be….mushrooms!