Paraguay

This and That

On the corner of our small apartment building, just past the huge mango tree is a family who have a little store where they sell empanadas, tartas, fresh squeezed orange juice, and an assortment of bottled drinks and candy.The empanadas are homemade and .40 each – that makes the cost of a meal only 80 cents! Next to this little store is their restaurant. They have a large BBQ out on the sidewalk and the Dad cooks on Friday nights, sausage, chicken, ribs, and steak with a small buffet of rice, mashed potatoes, salads, bread, etc. inside. It is very inexpensive and quite good. They live above the restaurant and the owner now knows our name and greets us every time we walk by. In these countries you can just get things done – no red tape to go through to start a restaurant, if the food is good the people come, if it’s not they don’t! There are these little mom and pop eateries everywhere.

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Right next to this little eating place is a small beauty parlour. I got a mani/pedi done for $7 (a change of nail colour only $2.50) and they did an excellent job. So I took the risk and got my hair coloured. The owner has been here for 31 years, but I was still a little nervous as I sat down. She put a comb through my hair, noticed her own hair in the mirror, put the comb through her own hair a couple of times and then back to me, I had a hard time not laughing out loud! She then slapped the colour on chatting the whole time to another client. I was glad I had some kleenex in my purse to wipe the excess off my forehead and ears! After sitting for 45 minutes my hair was washed and fluffed and I was done, $17 please! The colour was excellent. What a relief!

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This is the corner where there is no traffic light, no lines on the main road or the side road, and you take your life in your hands to get across. You have to watch for traffic going both ways, turning left, turning right, doing a u-turn, for the bikes and the pedestrians. You can’t be nervous or timid, you just have to get out there or you’ll be sitting there for a long time. Mike fits in quite well actually, what seems like his crazy driving at home is quite normal here 🙂 No centre line has its advantages too, the road turns into  2 or 3 lanes or one way even – depending on the time of day 🙂 Cars on side streets needing to cross or turn onto the main street inch their way into your lane, if you hesitate they’re in. I see these cars coming from the side and not stopping where they should and I gasp, causing Mike to jerk, but they do stop (if you don’t).  It’s like everyone plays chicken all the time, it’s a matter of who flinches first.

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Flashes of lightning and deafening thunder waking us up in the night, torrential rain and flash floods, I’d forgotten what it is like to be in the tropics. The rain is good though, cools things off and waters the thirsty plants. Not so good for mosquitos and clothes that were hung on the line 🙂 My hair looks like an ungroomed poodle, too bad afros aren’t in style.

Our comings and goings are noted by our doorman/security guy. He knows what time we go out, what time we come in, and for the most part where we are goingIMG_7381 (he asks). A friendly guy who is there ready to fix something or give directions (even when he doesn’t know where it is) or just greet you as you pass. I feel totally safe here, even walking on the street. There is not the constant presence of armed guards which is nice and the people mind their own business.

I’m getting fond of Paraguay, a small country with a big heart. Back in their heyday before the war they built the first railway in all of South America. After the Triple Alliance war (the allied countries of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) of 1864 which was the bloodiest conflict in Latin American history, 80% of all their men were killed. Even children and women got into the fight at the end. It took 100 years to rebuild their population!

Paraguay is the only country in the Americas where an indigenous language is spoken by the majority of the people and taught in all the schools, it is given equal standing with Spanish and is a source of national pride. Only 5% of the population is purely indigenous, 95% are mixed which is also unique in Latin America. They are proud of who they are and what they represent. They are also ready to make changes, ready for values, ready to make life better for everyone. Together we are going to Transform Paraguay!

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