Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Picnics and Buses--Quite a Combination

Monday, January 26, 2009

Yesterday Catherine and I got our first taste, literally, of a Paraguayan tradition: parrillada or asado. This consists of barbequed meats (chorizo and sausage among the most popular) served in large, buffet like portions. Included with all that barbeque was goat that was prepared in a tatakua, a clay oven. The slow cooking and clay gave the goat a unique flavor.

To experience this much-practiced ritual of Paraguayan society, Cat and I had to traverse the Rió Paraguay. Thankfully, the people we went with belong to what we would refer to as a country club and so traversing the river was no more difficult than getting on a boat provided by the club and relaxing while it meandered down the fast-flowing current to our destination. Unfortunately, the sun decided that a Paraguayan style barbeque would be all that we would enjoy. It burned with an intensity that measured 42 degrees Celsius (that’s pushing 105 Fahrenheit). Up until now, we’ve been spared and only had to make our way through balmy 34 degree (95 Fahrenheit) weather. So instead of walking around the park and enjoying the skyline views it offered of Asunción, we stayed under the canopy clutching to every respite of shade that it offered.

Our commute to school today took a whopping 15 seconds, or 27 steps. No joke! We are not next door, although based on our commute it would certainly seem that way. Instead, we are two houses removed. That helps immensely when classes start bright and early at 8:00 a.m. How early is it? It’s so early that at that time the weather is actually agreeable and you want to be outdoors. Other students must travel 20 minutes by bus. And with a bus system that assumes everyone knows exactly where they are going (i.e. no maps or announcements or established stops), 20 minutes can easily turn into an hour or more. More on the collectivos another time.

{Pause… Marité is calling us for la cena (dinner)}

Ah, speaking of collectivos or autobuses, we rode our first one by ourselves today. We were told what street to pick up bus #23 on and that it would go near our apartment. So, we walked along the street for about 10 minutes (remember it is quite warm) and after seeing every other bus pass by, we finally saw #23 and flagged it down. Oh didn’t I tell you that there aren’t set bus stops. You just hail one down as you would a taxi. Now once you step on the bus, the driver steps on the gas pedal, and the door behind you is still open. A little scary at first, but now that I have done it 3 times, I’m an old pro. Just don’t look behind you. Now comes the tricky part, when to get off. We got lucky today and guessed correctly. When you are ready to get off the bus or really have no clue but think you might know, you go to the back near the exit doors and pull the string. The driver then pulls over and off you go. You must step off quickly, because once the driver sees a foot on the ground, off he goes. Oh and one more thing about the lovely collectivos, make sure you get the correct change. The driver is driving the bus as he puts the money away and digs out your change. We actually received too much back today. ¡Que suerte! (What luck!)

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