January 24, 2009
Thus begins my foray into blogging. It is 8:30 on Saturday evening, January 24. I am sitting on the balcony of my home-stay as I watch the house across the street thrive with action. It has been this way ever since we arrived this past Wednesday. It is a popular house with people coming and going all the time. It seems to increase as the night wears on, as if nobody wakes up until 2 pm. Maybe it’s a secret society for everyone from tweeners to adults. Then again, maybe I’m just not used to such social interaction. After all, if this were the States such human interaction would be strange. Why visit face-to-face when a text or Facebook update will suffice? Still, I can’t help wonder what takes place behind the gate across the street…
As I sit and watch the cars drive by and the people casually walking up and down the street, I am reminded of Mexico. The pace of life seems slower, the intention is not to get somewhere as soon as possible but rather to enjoy the journey, no matter how long it takes. Children listen to their parents, couples walk hand-in-hand, women stroll in pairs chatting about the day or the latest gossip that afflicts their social circle, and men meander down the sidewalk with a fleeting hint of purpose. This is not to say that people don’t hurry here or don’t want to get somewhere by a certain time. It’s just that they allow themselves to take in the scenery as they pass by it. Even if it’s the same daily walk they’ve been taking for years, there is the feeling that there is always something new to discover just around the corner.
Intersections pose an interesting study into the whole “chicken” theory. There are very few stop signs, very few. And those intersections that are lucky enough to have one, it is more a suggestion than a hard, fast rule. Amazingly, everyone knows which intersections to stop at and which ones to keep driving. Sometimes one will hear a friendly honk to warn anyone else approaching the intersection to look out. Often, though, it’s an easy letting off of the gas and quick glance before accelerating through. Now, the people driving on the side streets (again, only someone with intimate Paraguayan driving knowledge would know which ones those are) slow down and if they see a car coming they stop. It all works in a semi-mystical sort of way. Everyone just seems to know what everyone else will do. Maybe there is something to ‘the collective unconscious’ that we all learned about in high school psych. Nevertheless, even if I were lucky enough to find myself communicating via 6th sense to other Paraguayan drivers I think I’ll leave it in the very capable hands of the taxi and bus drivers.
U.S. dollars are regularly accepted here. I found that strange until I realized that there are “cambios,” or currency exchange depots, all over the city. They don’t charge anything either. After a little more investigation, I found out that they are government regulated. Apparently, the banks have more important things to do than exchange money. American money is widely accepted here because anyone can exchange it for free. One may also get Argentinean, Brazilian, Uruguayan, and Chilean money too. That bodes well for Cat and me when we travel. Having even a little of a country’s currency before traveling helps. It can avoid those awkward moments when you know you are about to get ripped off because you only have U.S. bills and the cabbie (or whomever) gives you change in his native currency.
January 24, 2009
As the evening turns into night and a cool breeze offers temporary relief from the exhausting heat, a white cat crosses the street in front of me. And I just can’t help but wonder, how did it know when to do that? And then it hit me. It too must be tapped into the same vast collective unconscious network of Paraguayan drivers. Lucky cat...