Happy Easter to you all! Hope your transcendental meditation is going beautifully.
I had a very interesting experience recently. I headed for the Southern Brazillian city of Florianopolis, which a Brazilian friend described to me 17 years ago in terms that etched themselves into the core of my being. I’d wanted to go ever since, but never quite got there. Well it nearly happened again, because Brazilian customs weren’t happy with the timing of my Covid test, so they wanted to put me back on the next plane back to London!
We had two online meditation courses starting the next day and there was no way we were going to cancel them just because of some Brazilian Jobsworth, so I requested they let me fly to another country, to which they reluctantly acceded. The only two countries in the region that would allow me in with the documentation I had were Uruguay or Paraguay. I’ve always fancied Uruguay, as its reputed by those in the know to be one of those best-kept-secret type of places and every Uruguayan you ever meet is just such a lovely person (Luis Suarez’s eating habits aside!). However, there were no more seats left on the flights to Montevideo, so I reluctantly plumped for the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion instead. In the meantime, I was stuck air-side at Sao Paulo airport, in a scene eerily reminiscent of Tom Hanks…unfortunately, I didn’t meet Catherine Zeta Jones!
As an amusing aside, with time running out, and the airline’s website down, there were three of us furiously trying to book me onto the flight to Asuncion, and just as I was getting bludgeoned by the staff to leave, we got it booked and got me checked in. Alas, having just dropped £500 on a last minute flight, they now told me I needed my yellow fever vaccine to get in! I had 60 minutes to provide proof of it, otherwise they were going to escort me onto the forthcoming BA flight back to London Town. It was all becoming rather comical now, so I called some people I know in Colombia with connections and 55 mins and £30 later, I was officially registered as having a yellow fever vaccine, and the official paperwork was in my inbox….I was on my way.
As I boarded the flight, I was amused to recall all the times I wondered if there was any way on God’s green earth that I would ever end up in Paraguay…it always seemed such a non-entity of a place. I used to joke in my 20’s – back when my rock’n’roll lifestyle looked like it would end in liver-destroyed tears, that I would simply go to Paraguay and buy a new liver, because it was that kind of place. Need a new organ? No problem, everything is possible in Paraguay. Back before the Dark Web really took off, that was where you went for the most illicit and left-field contraband. My impression of Asuncion had been further coloured by a friend once telling me that the best thing about the city was a half decent sushi bar!
Now here I was, landing in Aeropuerto Silvio Pettirossi, knowing I would have to be here for four nights while I completed the two courses, before I could finally go back to Brazil with the correctly timed documentation. It was half comedy, half grin and bear it, because I was now £1200 lighter of pocket, and when I arrived in my hastily arranged Airbnb, the electrics blew up my computer, and a Tikka Masala spice mix had exploded in my suitcase, painting all my clothes in turmeric gold!! I was tired, hungry, and starting to feel a little unimpressed with Paraguay, and I’d only been there an hour. I wearily made my way to bed, knowing that I had three consecutive 3:45am starts ahead of me, because Paraguay is two hours behind Brazil. Gulp…
As it turned out, after completing my London meditation courses each day, I would wander around Asuncion, and to my great surprise, found it was a truly delightful place. Whilst there isn’t anything in particular to write home about, the vibe was just so chilled, the people so incredibly lovely, and the climate absolutely ideal. The old town was all colonial charm, without bumbags or 15 inch camera lenses spoiling the experience. So whilst its never going to get the headlines of its bigger, and more famous cousins, it’s a far more appealing capital city than most, precisely because it isn’t filled with aspirational go-getters who are too stressed to smile, help a stranger or take time out to appreciate the moment. And rather than towering buildings that cover the streets in shadow, leaving you feeling lost in a concrete jungle, it’s a low rise paradise inflected with lush tropical trees and plants in every direction. Nature, humanity and tranquility…these are not the three things you usually associate with large scale urban living, but they most certainly apply to Asuncion, and amazingly, all the locals kept telling me that I needed to meet the folk in the countryside, because they are so much nicer and more welcoming than the city folk!
So whilst I’ve been working hard for the last 12 years to eradicate the vice of making assumptions, admittedly it seems that there are still some residual ones in there, and I’ve come to realise I should never pre-judge a place again, nor indeed make any assumptions about anyone or anything again. And if the solidification of that principle cost me £1200, it was money well spent.
I’m happy to report that after 4 surprisingly enjoyable days in Paraguay, I’m now firmly ensconced in Florianopolis, overlooking a lagoon as I write this, and feeling very grateful to life for always being my teacher.
With love and gratitude
Will and the Beeja Meditation team, xxx.
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