The 5 people you meet on a Paraguayan cargo boat – The Generous Carnies

20 Sep

This is part of a 5 post series where I tell you about my cargo boat trip to Concepcion through the people I met.

The Generous Carnies

Carnies, you know the carnival folk, the people that travel around with the carnival, the people that have small hands and smell like cabbage. Well the carnies weren’t actually on the cargo boat, but I did meet them on my Concepcion mission.

The cargo boat arrived late into Concepcion, greeted by a waiting crowd that was going to continue on the boat further up the river. I made my way through the staring smiling faces and up the hill to the red dirt road leading to Concepcion’s main street.

Evening was fast approaching and my search for a place to camp was not looking to promising. In a stroke of luck the Paraguayan travelling carnival was in town, an expo where the farmers show off their prize bulls and the kids ride on the dodgem cars and Ferris-wheels etc (New Zealand’s equivalent of the A & P show).

I enter the carnival grounds walking past sweating workers, working hard to erect tents and stalls for the coming opening day. I approach a group of men in their mid 40’s, sitting around a table behind a dodgy truck mounted pirate ship ride. I start talking to them, and they ask me if I’m selling jewellery, or if I’m friends with the tattoo guy. I tell them how I’m travelling around Paraguay and have just arrived on the cargo boat and I’m looking for a place to camp the night. I’m welcomed with a “no problem just put your tent over there by ours”.

After I’ve set my tent up, my new carnie mates Peter, Andres and Nelson offer me a gas bottle as a seat and invite me to sit with them. I find out that they are popcorn sellers, and travel around with the carnival pushing their popcorn carts through the fairgrounds selling 25 cent bags of popcorns to the excited kids. They tell me about their families back in Asuncion, and Andres receives a call from his wife telling him that she’s missing him but hopes all the preparations for the coming week long Concepcion expo are going well. As Andres is talking to his wife I think to myself, “how do these guys support a family travelling with the carnival selling 25cent bags of popcorn“.

They are happy, laughing, joking, and enjoying the camaraderie of their carnie mates that stop by the picnic table to meet their strange new kiwi friend named Hap. It was such a beautiful moment, they didn’t have much to give, but they generously gave of themselves, showering me in welcoming warmth. They wanted me to have a good impression of their country. They offered me cheap whisky and fed me chicken stew and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

As I sat on a gas bottle behind the pirate ship with the music blearing from the sound check on the PA, eating steaming chicken stew out of a up, I was thinking about a quote a read in Shantaram “the most beautiful act is the generosity by the poor”.

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