There is something about Paraguayan sunsets that can take you hostage.
While anyone can fall victim, my own captivation isn’t just from the view, it is everything that accompanies this time of day.
Just as the leftover heat from the afternoon begins to settle, the breeze rustles just barely. Teenage boys gather together outside of the church for their daily soccer scrimmage and the women on the side of the road prepare chipa to sell to passers by.
As all this is coming together, my friend Nati passes by my house to go on our evening bike ride.
Nati is one of my best friends in the world and though she’s only 17, don’t be fooled by her youth. She is one of the most intelligent human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is sarcastic and witty and fully of laughter. She balances a youthful spirit with wisdom beyond her years. Her mind is open and accepting to new ideas and viewpoints, yet she holds true to her morals and individualism without falter. Too often I wonder which Ivy League university she would be attending next year had she been given the opportunities the US hands out on silver platters to its unappreciative residents.
Each evening Nati and I cycle our way out just past a neighboring companía.
As the sun nears the land we make our way out of town leaving any asphalt behind us. We break off on to a road less traveled; ranging our discussions from life, culture, and dreams only two girls with their heads in the clouds can come up with; to high school drama, my continuing language mistakes, and jokes that are only funny to us.
On our ride we wave to the farmers herding in their cattle, smile at the children climbing trees, and role our eyes at the cat calls of the construction workers. She laughs and tells me to calm down when I complain of their vulgarity. As we climb further out, to our right are coconut trees as far as the eye can see and to my left is a pasture speckled with native trees and framed in the distance by a few miniature mountains.
Once we reach our destination, we take time to examine the magnificent sight. Some evenings I swear the sun halts for just a moment to give us time to set the image as best we can in our conceptual box of memories.
From where we stand we can see San Salvador in the distance. We watch for a few fleeting moments as the sun sets perfectly on the church steeple validating the splendor we see in our tiny little town.
These evening bike rides with Nati are without a doubt, one of my most valued rituals in this country.
Each evening is a reminder of the wonder my life holds here and now.
I am, by nature, programmed to worry about my future, to focus on my work, or to preoccupy myself with world affairs, Stateside gossip, and the more-than-occasional 90s classic sitcom episode of Boy Meets World. But my evening bike rides with Nati, force me to stop and feel the raw and present beauty this world offers us.
After we have gotten our fix we set back out on the red dirt road, we near the asphalt, we pass the teenage soccer game, we buy some chipa, and we return home as the sun finishes its work for the day.