Sunday, May 31, 2009

Politics, South American Style

This little diddy comes from an American friend of ours, Arlo. True, false, partially true, partially fibbed, judge for yourself. Cat and I think there is more truth in this story than not.
A Paraguayan politician visited an Argentine politician. While they were at Argentine's house the Paraguayan marveled at how glamorous and big it was. He asked how the Argentine how he could afford such a place.
The Argentine said, "See that four-lane road over there behind the field?"
The Paraguayan looked and replied, "No. I only see a two lane road."
To which, the Argentine said, "Exactly."
A few months later the Argentine official visited the Paraguayan official. The Argentine couldn't help but notice how extravagant and big the Paraguayan's house was. The Argentine asked how the Paraguayan could afford such a large house.
The Paraguayan said, "See that bridge there spanning the river?"
The Argentine looked out the window, saw nothing, and answered, "No."
Unfazed, the Paraguayan said, "Exactly."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Official Uniform of Paraguay

Because of the preponderance of armed guards protecting government buildings, banks, apartment buildings, museums, businesses, schools, and just about anything in between you might think that the official uniform of Paraguay consists of black army boots, tan pants, belt with sidearm and spare ammo, long sleeve button down tan shirt, black hat, and, depending on what is being guarded, a machine gun. However, this is not the official uniform of Paraguay. The official uniform is, in fact, quite different.

The official uniform consists of toe-wedge flip-flops, shorts to the knees (preferably blue but any color will do), soccer jersey (either a favorite club team or national team), a guampa (thermos) filled with water, a cup filled with herbs, and metal straw (all for the purpose of drinking tereré--a Paraguayan tea). Obviously, men don the uniform 99% of the time; however, women, on occassion, have been known to partake.

The uniform is suitable for all ages, from six to 60, from nine to 99. If one is ever in doubt as to what to wear, there is nothing more reliable than the official uniform of Paraguay.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Asunción: A Green City

Catherine and I took advantage of the short break between storms today to go to the rooftop terrace of our apartment building to take in the views. The building is not tall compared to ones in the states--only 9 stories --but it allowed us to see the city in a different way.

What struck me about Asunción is that it is a very green city. It's not green in the trendy, environmental, reduce greenhouse gas emissions sense but rather green in the old-fashioned, large, sprawling old trees everywhere sense. As the pictures show, trees dominate the landscape. Even when looking downtown, the most noticeable feature of the city is trees. They are everywhere, interspersed between sidewalks, yards, and roads. In fact, the school across the street from our apartment (Colegio Internacional) just planted around 40 trees around its property.

This is a refreshing change from the perfectly manicured and sparsely located trees found in most U.S. cities. It is as if Asunción was built around the trees instead of vice versa. In fact, the trees so effortlessly blend in with their surroundings that even though I walk by them every day it took a view from 100 feet above the ground to see just how much "green" there really was. All these trees provide shade and comfort, and give passers by something nice to look while navigating through the city.
(facing downtown)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Currency Connection

Here are the coins and bills of Paraguayan currency. The coins range in denominations from 1 to 1,000 and the bills range in denominations from 1,000 to 100,000. Nothing below a 50 G coin is ever used because its value is just too small; however, occasionally they turn up.
Just for fun, 1 Guarani equals 0.0002007 Dollars.

(Not pictured: Guarani coins in denominations of 1, 10, and 50.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Break Out the Winter Coats on Independence Day

The temperature barely made 60 degrees today, making it the most pleasant Paraguayan Independence Day Cat and I have ever celebrated. Braving the brisk wind, we walked through the downtown streets wearing jackets and feeling chilled. It was blissful. To put it in perspective, Cat wore a jean jacket and I wore a light windbreaker whereas we saw people wearing scarves, knit hats, and heavy coats. I guess we haven't fully acclimatized quite yet.

As I alluded to in the above paragraph, May 14 (Thursday in 2009) is Paraguayan Independence Day. It will be met with a no work or school Friday and lots of asados (or barbecues) on Saturday and Sunday. If you haven't stocked up on your meats before today, good luck finding any. Since asados are commonplace on weekends and super-sized on holiday weekends, the supermarkets are undoubtedly out of fresh cuts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Visa: if only I were referring to the credit card...

The following excerpt is from my wife's blog, "The Real Paraguay." She perfectly captures our exceedingly long, exceedingly tedious, exceedingly frustrating attempts to procuring a temporary resident visa. Keep in mind that this is just one step in our journey.

I have much to say about the past 2 days, but before I do I really want to warn you that it is not positive or upbeat. On Monday we went and got the new documents that we had finally obtained, copied and notarized. We then walked into the immigration office hopeful but not naive. I can't say I was surprised that after looking at ALL of our documents they had more for us to do, but I was surprised that it was 3 more things. I then realized that this could go on forever. We could return with our 3 new documents and there could be a new list. It could be never ending.

We now need to get fingerprints sent to the F.B.I. (even though we have fingerprints that were already processed and say F.B.I. on the back and were told those were fine the first time immigration looked at our documents), we need a letter from Andrés' University saying he is a student there (even though we have a receipt and a schedule from there) and we need to get our tourist Visa that Paraguay issued legalized. Sounds simple? Not quite. Today we went to the U.S. Embassy to get fingerprint cards. They don't do fingerprinting there, but they will give us the cards (which are exactly the same as the cards with our fingerprints that we already have but are inadequate). After going through a tremendous amount of security, going into the entry one at a time, through a metal detector, scanned with a wand and bags searched, we were walked to the Embassy main enterance by a guard. We were then directed to the office we needed and there were only 2 other couples there. We took our number and waited. Both couples left and we sat there, and we sat there. Finally a guy motioned us over and told us that there would be a security drill and we had to go outside. So we headed towards the door and another guy told us we could stay here and wait. It should take about 10 minutes. Now all we need is finger print cards, keep that in mind. As we are waiting, 3-4 groups of people come in. When the employees return, one lady immediately goes up to a window and begins to get some help. I didn't really mind that she cut in front of us since she had a crying baby. We continue to wait, patiently with our number, thinking that we will be the next to be called. We wait about 20 minutes and after everyone else had gone up to ask questions, we decided to as well and were told to wait for our number. 5 more minutes go by and they call number 97, we are 98. The people that came in after us go up there. I look over and see their number 99 sitting on their chair. 5 more minutes go by and they call 98. We walk up they hand us the cards and we leave. Needless to say, I am not impressed with our Embassy in Paraguay.

Now we get to go to Interpol where they actually do fingerprinting. Oh did I mention it was 35 degrees celcius which is about 98? We get on a bus- no a/c, luckily it wasn't crowded. We get off and walk about 10 minutes to get to Interpol. This place was really high tech- that is a joke. We were pulled into a room that did have a/c- yeah! There was a black stamp pad and the guy ran our fingers over the pad and pressed them into the cards. Our fingers were black afterwards. I don't know what solution was on the rag he gave us to clean off our hands, but it worked amazingly. There was not a trace of black ink on our hands when we left. In total it cost us $20 so far.

We then headed to a mall that was about 10 blocks away. Now the sun is down, so it is much cooler. We had to go to the cyber cafe there to use the printer. We needed to print out the cover sheet and payment form of the F.B.I. We were able to accomplish that easily. And we headed home. We were able to catch a bus after walking about 6-7 blocks. I was tired and just wanted to veg out in front of the T.V Well that was derailed since our power was out. I cooked dinner by candle light and we ate in silence since we were so tired. I decided that we needed some vodka and chocolate so we headed off to the store. That was definitely the highlight of this day. Tomorrow we are off to Fed Ex to send our fingerprints off. That will cost about $35 and the F.B.I. will charge us $32 total to process our fingerprints. It should take 3-4 weeks to get them back. That will give us plenty of time to get the university letter ($6) and tourist visa's legalized ($40). I am now convinced this process will never end, nor will the expense!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cost of Living Chart

Here’s an idea of what things cost in Asunción, Parauguay. I imagine things cost less in the country. On average, the exchange rate is 5000 Guaranis (Gs) to one dollar. (I apologize for the small size and blurriness but the chart was too small otherwise.)

Two things I forgot to put in the chart:
One dozen eggs: 6,600 ($1,32)
One liter of gas: 4,250 ($0.85, which is about $3.40 a gallon)

I overestimated the cost of milk. One liter costs 2,150 Gs (not 4,500), which is about $1.70 a gallon.

Friday, May 8, 2009


A local team's soccer stadium is only blocks away from our apartment. When we're lucky, we get to partake in the victory celebration with the fans by enjoying the fireworks display. Or, as they say in Spanish, las luces artificiales son magnificas! Vaya el equipo, ¡vaya!

With celebrations like these and Paraguay's version of its own hooligans, our porch is the perfect place to watch these victory parties. Although rumor has it that I will be going to the Chile vs. Paraguay World Cup qualifying match on June 6. If these fireworks are any indication of the kind of celebration Paraguayans throw for their teams, I surely hope the national team wins. If so, that will put it one step closer to going to South Africa in 2010 (currently in first place in South America). ¡Vaya Paraguay!