Rise up this mornin', smiled at the risin' sun,
three little birds pitch by my doorstep,
singin' sweet songs of melodies pure and true,

sayin' "This is my message to you-ou-ou-ou-"
~Bob Marley

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Best Christmas Gift Ever…..

Was a Visit From our Kids!
Our beautiful kids, (minus 1- we missed you, Eliot!)

In late November our kids journeyed all the way to Paraguay to visit us and see some of the sights in South America. It was amazing to see them, listen to stories about their lives, get lots of big hugs, and see that that these wonderful people who we get to call family are doing well and doing good in the world!

Our travels and adventures went something like this…..

After resting and visiting Mercado 4,
Ty at Mercado 4 where he got his guampa, bombilla and possibly his awful stomach bug!
the Peace Corps office, markets, plazas, and other sites in Asuncion for a couple of days, we got a rental car and headed for our community.  During the 4 days in Arazape, our kids got to see our work in site, meet neighbors, experience the culture, and help open a new library in a small barrio school.
Amber and Ashley help pass out books for the new library in Jhugua, Paraguay.
The kids bought guampas, bombillas, and hammocks to take a little piece of Paraguay home with them!

We celebrated Christmas a month early, ate a big pot of beans, and traded gifts of handmade items from Paraguay for jars of peanut butter, spices, Sierra Nevada pale ale, and recorded music from home! Oh, and did I mention that I got to feel my first grandbaby, due in April, kick for the first time?!

Dave’s awesome driving skills took us to Encarnacion, the Jesuit Ruins of Trinidad, then North to Ciudad de Este. We crossed the Rio Parana on a ferry to Argentina, and arrived at the “tres fronteras” of Paraguay, Brasil, and Argentina. Despite a little rain, Iguazu Falls was incredible, especially la Garganta del Diablo, the rain forest, the animals, birds and butterflies! After 3 days in Puerto Iguazu, we returned to Asuncion.

The "crew" in front of the "Garganta del Diablo", Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Unfortunately this was the end of our visit with Ashley and Tyler, who had to return home. There were lots of tears- so hard to see them go… They boarded a plane, and we, (Amber, Dave, Mark, and I), hopped on a bus to Argentina. We traveled through Resistencia, and Salta, finally ending up in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. We took a two-day tour through the Atacama Desert, (the driest desert in the world), and the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, (the largest salt flat in the world)- breathtaking with red lakes, pink flamingos, and volcanos reaching 19,000ft- like being on another planet! We even stayed in a hotel constructed of salt, with rock salt floors!

Amber and Dave at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
A night bus brought us to La Paz, Bolivia with busy street markets, colorful textiles, and women wearing bowler hats! Onward to Cuzco, Peru where we prepared for another big adventure- a four day trek to Machu Picchu. The trek was daunting at times, (where is the oxygen at 12,000ft?), and gave us a true appreciation for the Inca who used this trail for travel.
Mark and I dumped our backpacks to take a break on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.

We were rewarded with once in a life time scenery and glimpses of the past, especially as we rounded the corner to see Machu Picchu at sunrise, in all of its glory!

We made it! Our trek group posing in front of Machu Picchu.
The next morning, Amber and Dave hopped a flight back to the states, (more tears), and Mark and I boarded a bus to Copacabana, Bolivia. We stayed in hotel on the shore of Lake Titicaca, (highest navegable lake in the world), enjoyed this beautiful place and rested our weary bones.

 Women near booths selling decorations for "the blessing of the cars" in Copacabana, Bolivia
We next headed to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where we boarded another bus and finished the last leg of our journey back to Asuncion.

In all- Five countries, fascinating destinations, interesting cultures, beautiful scenery, awe-inspiring adventures, and incredible opportunities- my favorite part, you ask?

The best Christmas gift, ever…. Spending precious time with our fascinating, interesting, beautiful, inspiring, incredible kids, (minus one- we missed you, Eliot!)!


  1. Machu Picchu looks awesome. You are very lucky to have seen this, very few from the States will ever see it. Keep up the good work!
    George Soares

  2. Dear Mark and Sue, Wondering if your Arazape home will be our daughter's, Lisa Cait McAlpine's (or Elizabeth), home following conclusion of her Peace Corps training as an environmental volunteer. She just found out today (in Guambare) that she will follow in the footsteps of a Peace Corps couple leaving Arazape. We live on the Georgetown Divide between Auburn and Placerville, in Garden Valley, and I went to school and worked at UCDavis from 1967 to 1988, so we know where Zamora is. Email us at susan.quiltedtrout@gmail.com, if you like. Wouldn't that be a coincidence? We are curious!
    Susan Corey-McAlpine and Bob McAlpine