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. 

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