In his second book AFTER SOUTH, Marius Kriege tells of a nearly six-month journey through six countries in South America.
Nelson Strauss is not visually reminiscent of those German ancestors who emigrated here over sixty years ago. He shares his lineage with many inhabitants of this small, largely unknown country. Nelson is in his late forties, with curly, recently graying hair, dark blue eyes, and a depressed nose; a souvenir from a lost bar brawl that cost him three things in one fell swoop a little over ten years ago: his pretty face, his wife Ricarda and his job as a restaurant owner. It was about his wife's affair with a young man from Asunción's local celebrity who, unfortunately (in the eyes of Nelson's wife), was not only an excellent lover, but also a nephew of the mayor of the time. The fistfight in front of an audience was immediately followed by Nelson's next humiliation in front of his own family and his entire workforce, and that's it for now. But once the call is ruined, it drinks itself unabashedly. The following years became a dark chapter in frequent changes of apartments and bars, until two years ago, on the advice of his brother, he was taken to the border with Argentina. Ciudad del Este is constantly looking for men for all kinds of jobs, for craft, trade and transportation. Nelson then did three things: he bought exactly three fresh, snow-white shirts, rented a cheap one-room apartment in the center of the border town, and applied for a job as a taxi driver. Since then he has been one of the most popular and talkative taxi drivers in the whole city and if you are lucky enough to get in his car with him, you will hear this little life story without being asked.
From where I know this? I am his passenger today after I said goodbye to Edwin in front of my hostel, walking the Río Paraná, so that I crossed the border to Paraguay and reached another part of the world. It is amazing how different everything in Ciudad del Este works for me. The atmosphere is charged, my nerves seem to have switched from standby to alert. The paradisiacal waterfalls with the tourist infrastructure all around are only a few kilometers away. It is reminiscent of the feeling that creeps in when you enter a pub that you are not quite comfortable with. You first have to check what shapes are hanging in the corners and only when this is done do you feel more relaxed because you realize: everything is half as bad.
I walked from the military-style border building towards the city center, where there is a huge market for food, clothing, kitchen items - but also for drugs, small arms or vehicle parts. It is not for nothing that the city is known as the “South America supermarket”. Everyone scurries all over the place, they call and entice, and many of these calls are for me, the newcomer. Within two minutes, I should buy drugs, take a motorcycle to the next hotel, buy portraits of the Virgin Mary and try the chipas, which are considered a national dish in Paraguay - filled dumplings, similar to the empanadas that are also known in Europe. It's not exactly a threat, but it overwhelms me, so I preferred to get into Nelson's taxi. Nelson looks at my insecurity at the tip of my nose.
"You have never been to Ciudad del Este, have you?"
»No, I've been to Argentina and Uruguay so far. But actually I come from Germany. «
"Do not worry. Germans are always welcome in my country. No problem."
There is no hostel in the whole city, which fits into the picture, since I have never met any other traveler. After checking in at a cheap hotel, I walk back to the street to withdraw cash and buy groceries. It is strange to walk on sidewalks that are only made of reddish sand. The buses, retired North American school buses from the eighties or nineties, brightly painted and filled to bursting, crackle past me with open windows and doors. I look around carefully, people mostly look back as well. When I walk through town for an hour, I also know why. Today I am apparently the only non-South American who is in Ciudad del Este.
Whenever I told other travelers about my plans in the past few weeks, they asked me why I wanted to go to Paraguay at all.
"There's nothing to see there," they always said.
This statement tells me how much the dream of the classic, independent traveler seems to have come true. Basically, in my eyes, there is a clear difference between a traveler and a tourist. The traveler wants to see the foreign as it is. He wants to experience the everyday in the foreign, he longs to experience a place as it always is. However, this claim inevitably brings with it a feeling that goes against the cliché of such a trip: boredom. Hence tourism was invented. The tourist wants something to offer, he wants sights. What a tell-tale expression! A tourist therefore only sees what he considers worthy. In a way, the tourist demands something that is foreign to the traveler. The stranger should offer him something, the hardships and the financial expense should pay off. For a long time I assumed that there was still a big difference between backpackers and package tourists. In the past few weeks I have been instructed otherwise, whenever I spoke to backpackers about my planned route and Paraguay.
Well, surely there are no waterfalls of breathtaking beauty in Paraguay, no metropolis of tens of millions, no pyramid. Neither in England or Lower Saxony. The world's largest sausage stand could help here, so it might be easier for Paraguay. Or with the world's tallest marble sculpture of a penis. That would perhaps be an idea for those responsible for cultural policy in corresponding countries with no sights: Simply have a marble sculpture erected that forms a penis over 100 (!) Meters in size. That would solve the problem soon. I can already hear the enthusiasm.
»How, you don't want to go to Paraguay on your trip? It's really cool, there is the biggest cock in the world. «
The whole book is now available in bookstores and online, for example at amazon.de