The Practical Nomad blog

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

The Amazing Race 32, Episode 4

Manaus (Brazil) - Asunción (Paraguay)

The first task for the contestants on The Amazing Race 32 once they arrived in Asunción was as characteristically Paraguayan as possible: preparing "tereré". Tereré is a cold-brewed herb tea made primarily with "yerba mate" in a manner similar to the way mate is made in Argentina and Uruguay (as we've seen in previous seasons of The Amazing Race), but steeped with cold water rather than warm, and often with additional crushed herbs and sometimes fruit or fruit juice.

Tereré is as ubiquitous in Paraguay as mate is in Argentina and Uruguay. It's normal to see a person on the street, in a park, riding a bus, or walking in the countryside with a specially-made carrying case slung over their shoulder that's fitted to hold a thermos of water, a "bomba" (a special hollowed-out gourd, or other vessel for steeping the drink, for tereré traditionally made from a conical section of a cow's horn), a "matera" (a sipping straw, typically metal, with a strainer on the end to filter out the crushed herbs), and a container of crushed dried mate. Each pair of racers was given a tereré set like this, which they had to carry with them for the rest of the episode.

After that, the racers were given a choice between two tasks, both of which were the same as those assigned to the contestants the first time "The Amazing Race" visited Paraguay in Season 20. Each team had a choice between dancing with wine bottles balanced on their heads (a Paraguayan tradition even though the bottle dance best known in the US is the version that was created for "Fiddler on the Roof" and subsequently adopted as a new Jewish "tradition"), or stacking watermelons in a ten-high pyramid in a produce market.

These tasks made for entertaining television, at least the first time. But is the reason you go back to a place you have visited before, or that people you know have visited, to do the same things over again? Or to explore more or in more depth, meet new people, and do different things? Surely there are other things to do and other places to go in Paraguay.

If you are like me, you are spending some of the time during the current pandemic, when you aren't travelling, thinking about where you would like to go, if and when international travel again becomes safe enough to contemplate.

Which places you have visited before are you fantasizing about going back to again? Why? Is it about wanting to repeat peak experiences? Wanting to go further into those places, physically or metaphorically? Wanting to share those places with new or different travelling companions? Or wanting to learn about how those places have changed since your previous visit?

Your motives for travel may vary, but seeing how places change is one of my main reasons to travel. When we live in one place, we may know more about how it is changing, but we may not notice the changes if they occur gradually around us. When we return to a place we have visited before as a traveller, the differences between those experiential "snapshots" at different times, when our senses were heightened and our perceptual filters were down, are more likely to jump out at us.

What's changed in Paraguay since the last time The Amazing Race paid a visit in 2011? The economy of Paraguay, for better or worse, still depends in substantial part on smuggling, primarily to Brazil. (See the discussion of how this works in my articles and comments here and here.) During the current pandemic, this has created a dilemma for Paraguay similar to that faced by countries and places such as Hawaii economically dependent on tourism that have had to decide whether closing borders or restricting travel to protect against COVID-19 infection is worth the cost.

By closing its borders, Paraguay has achieved the lowest per-capita rates of COVID-19 infection and death in South America. And tourism was never a major industry in Paraguay. But closing the official border crossings, especially the Friendship Bridge between Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil), has driven smugglers to use more dangerous routes while drastically reducing income and employment in export-oriented Paraguayan businesses, legal and illegal. Meanwhile, a severe drought is affecting Paraguay's second-largest industry, agriculture, as well as the river transport that is critical for a landlocked country.

What sort of travel are you fantasizing about? Where do you want to go back to that you've been before? Why? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 4 November 2020, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
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