12 June 2013


Things Paraguay has/commonly has now that it didn't/almost didn't before: hand sanitizer, WiFi, Pepsi, helmets, seatbelts, women with short hair, hostels, 2,000 Gs bills, cell phone contracts, pear juice, political graffitti, posters about the minimum wage in every workplace.

Things Paraguay has less of now: kids trying to clean your windshield at every intersection, stray dogs, Lino Oviedo, annoying ringtones, confidence in the government, citizens working in Spain and Argentina, internet cafés, cheap food, horses in the city.

Things people tried to sell me on the bus today: toothpaste, bananas, laundry detergent, dulce de leche, cooking oil, pears, movie tickets, alfajores, cough drops, chipa, pirated DVD's, powdered milk, pre-peeled oranges, instant coffee, plus a live musical performance by two young Colombian travelers.

Things I've eaten with dulce de leche: palitos, bread, packaged alfajores, cookies, bakery alfajores, medialunas, ice cream, wafer cookies, gelato, tarts.

Empanadas I've eaten: homemade, VitaPan, Don Vito, Lido Bar, Honey, street vendors.

Buses that are not mine but look exactly like mine: 56A, 56B, 56C, 45.

Bus that goes past my house: 9.
Bus that goes past the office: a completely unrelated 9.


So, my computer either didn't like the humidity or the electricity here, and I've been out of a computer for the last couple weeks meaning that I didn't get around to updating until just now.

Just after my last update, I went to the AFS Intercultural Learning workshop. It was at an absolutely beautiful place called La Quinta between Piribebuy and Paraguarí. Most of the time over the weekend was spent in different workshops and activities that broke down different definitions of culture, common adaptation cycles that students go through, and cultural differences that most often cause conflict on exchange. Following the workshop, I returned to Asunción to stay for the week with a very generous AFS volunteer who offered me her spare room.

Beginning that Monday, I began to intern in the AFS Paraguay office. Most of my time for the first two weeks was spent visiting various community service organizations all over Asunción and the suburbs with a German intern who has been here since August. So far, I've visited TECHO, Fundación Ko'êmbota, A Todo Pulmón, Paraguay Educa, SOS Children's Villages, Hogar Infantil Santa Teresita, Guardería Tia Annetta, ABRAZO, Fundación Tierranuestra, and several special education schools to meet with staff to distribute surveys and information about the Weltwärts program (where the majority of community service participants come from), and also to bring profiles of the volunteers who will arrive in August to the foundations that already have a confirmed placement. I'm also working on updating the information in the online database about each organization, in particular the job descriptions and the contact/supervisor information, so that future volunteers will be better informed about their sites before arrival.

After a week in Asunción, I moved to a host family in San Lorenzo with parents, two married sisters with one son each (11 months and 6 years) who live on either side of the house, two sisters in college, a cousin, a tiny dog named Gaston and a Great Dane named Fester. I'm about 2 hours by bus away from the office now in rush hour traffic, meaning I wake up at 5 or 5:30 every day. I'm on the bus from 6-8, at the office from 8-4, and then often run errands in the city. Today I went to the centro (downtown) to start shopping for a termo and a hammock, and ended up falling in love with some purses that I shouldn't buy. Yesterday I went to the bus terminal to check out prices and schedules for buses to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Afterwords, three separate buses passed me because they were too full. When a Paraguayan bus driver thinks their bus is too full, they're not lying. There have been a few bus rides that I haven't been fully inside the bus for, plus one where I sat on the dashboard. After deciding to just wait out rush hour, I went into the mall that I was waiting in front of for some food, a caipirinha, and the Argentina-Ecuador game on a big screen. It's hard to get into the games now that Paraguay has been eliminated from the World Cup, but soccer and a drink definitely beat standing on a curb and being passed by buses.

The time here is passing quickly- I only have a week and a half left in Asunción. After that, I'm planning on going on a quick trip to Bolivia to see La Paz and visit an AFS friend in Santa Cruz, and then to visit my host family in Pilar. I fly back to the US on July 8th.

It's now 11:30pm and my alarm is going off in six hours, but at some point in the future (possibly after I return) I'll hopefully be writing about:
-Food! The posts about food are by far the most-visited on the blog. I've been taking more pictures this time.
-Cute things in Paraguay
-Exchange student FAQ
-Paraguay FAQ: An Unofficial Guide for Participants from the US
-Travels in Bolivia and Paraguay
-Changes in the last 2 years.

24 May 2013

Hola Paraguay!

I'm back! I left Chicago yesterday evening, stopped in Miami, and arrived in Asunción earlier this morning. I had an empty seat next to me on the international flight, which meant that I actually got sleep. I took a taxi to a hostel (where I am right now) for a rest and shower, and will be leaving shortly for a weekend-long workshop about intercultural learning in the town of Paraguarí, about 50 miles outside of Asunción.

While I'm here, I'll be volunteering with AFS for probably about 5 weeks, then taking a week or two to travel. I'm definitely going to Pilar, I'd like to go back to Ciudad del Este, and I'd like to visit Concepción. I'll figure that part out later. My Spanish is still a little rough, but it works. It's definitely lost some of its Paraguayan-ness in the last couple years, but I'm guessing that'll come back.

It's crazy how much more visitor-friendly Paraguay is now than it was just four years ago. The first time I came here, I could barely find a Guarani dictionary to buy online. I have a translator app on my iPod now. In 2009 and 2011, I had to apply for my visa weeks in advance with a bunch of paperwork. Now you can get a 90-day visa in the airport- no application, no money orders, no FedExing passports. The first hostel in the country opened a few months after I left in 2009. There were two in 2011. Currently, there are ten or eleven in Asunción alone plus a few in Ciudad del Este and Encarnación. There are direct flights from Miami to Asunción now- you used to have to stop in São Paulo, Santiago, Lima, or Buenos Aires (often in addition to Bogotá, San Salvador, or Panama) to get here from the US. The cover story in the American Airlines magazine this month is about Paraguay. Paraguay is definitely getting more and more "on the map" for tourism.

The hostel I'm in right now (El Nómada, 1156 Iturbe, Asunción) is great. I changed my reservation at the last minute, and they've been incredibly helpful. Central location free breakfast (medialunas, crepes, fruit, and coffee), free WiFi, comfy beds, hot showers, and an adorable kitten for about $12USD/night. I'm not actually going to be staying the night here, but I'd definitely come back.

Plans for the rest of the day: eat empanadas, drink guaraná, assemble a working cell phone, figure out how to take a bus to the AFS office with my backpack, go to Paraguarí. 

28 March 2013

Che ahata otra vez?!

I don't know if anyone is still here or not, but the flag counter tells me I'm still getting hits, so here I am.

A few general updates:
I'm in my third year of university, studying Education and History. My study abroad plans have changed several times, but it currently looks like I'll be in either Puebla or Guanajuato, Mexico from August to December. If that doesn't work out, I'll be in Istanbul from September to January. I'm focusing on Latin America in my history major, and writing my education thesis on international education, and more specifically high school exchange programs.

I just received a letter, informing me that I have been awarded two separate grants to fund volunteering in Paraguay this summer! Nothing is set in stone yet, but I plan to volunteer with AFS in Paraguay for 4-6 weeks as a start to my thesis fieldwork. I'll update with details as I figure everything out, but for now I'll just leave you with the name of one of the grants for a laugh: Bacon Super-Vision.