13 April 2009

Holy Haku Hamburgers Batman! It's Another Update!

Haku - Guaraní for "hot"

Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "This is just a phase, he'll stop blogging any second now." Well for you negative thinkers out there, I have this to say . . . you're probably right, so enjoy it while it lasts.

The weather is finally cooling down a bit here, from averaging in the high 30s (upper 90s to 100 degrees) it is now topping out at about 33º from day to day (92º) and getting down to below 20º (the mid 60s), which feels pretty cold actually. Funny, this time last year, this weather made me sweat, now I have to work to get sweaty in this weather. It's wierd how your body adapts to this stuff. Oddly though, it's only rained once here in the last three months and before that it only rained once since summer started, which is a drought here. More on that later.

So I'm gonna combine acouple of questions from relatives in this post and try to kill two birds with one stone.

"Have you met any potential life partners recently? If yes, tell us about them. Have you frequented the dance hall or church in your town? Tell us about your dance and/or religious experiences. Now that the weather is warming up, will you shave soon? Describe any local customs that you have incorporated in to your lifestyle. What do you like about living in Paraguay? What do you not like about living in Paraguay? What do the people of Paraguay think about Americans in general? Good or Bad?"
and


"Have you fathered any children since you've been there...J/K! Seriously, what are 5 things you like most about being in PY? What are 5 things you miss most about being in the states? Do you think you will be ready to leave when your 2 years is up? Any intentions on staying longer? Will it be hard for you to transition back to the American lifestyle? I think your mom covered the "life partner" aspect, LOL ;) I didn't realize you danced, do you?"
Why is it both of you guys started out with questions about my love life? You don't see me prying into yours!

Well no, I have not fathered anymore children since coming to Paraguay. And as far as life partners go, I'm just now figuring out how to live with myself and I've found that I'm damn near imposible to be around so I'm a little reluctant to condemn someone to my fate. So it's just hookers for now, who cost about as much as about 3 cokes or beers. Frankly I think I prefer beer.

On a related note, if I were looking to father children I would probaly start at the local club (club in Spanish, sounds like "cloob"). Apearently, older Americans call this a "dance hall," although I find this name makes the place sound respectable, and I assure you it is not. I'll admit I'm biased, I hated clubbing in the States and I only tolerate it now as a source of entertainment. But this place is a shit show. If you want a picture of the outside, I put one in an earlier post. On occasional Friday and Saturday nights this place opens up at midnight and blares what passes for pop music in Paraguay into the wee hours. This thing is about four blocks from my house, and on club nights I can hear it as if I were listening to music at a reasonable volume inside my house. What's worse is people get ready to go to the club at midnight by disturbing the peace on their own for four hours preceeding. Worse still is that after the club closes round about 4am, people continue to party on their own for a couple hourse more, driving their cars around drunk and blasting some of the most god awful "electronic" music you can imagine. To give you a mental picture, imagine a 1970s robot clown having an ebola induced seizure and the sounds that it would make . . . yeah.

As far as what goes on inside the club, well thats pretty familiar. People posturing and dry-humping to the beat, appearently unaware of the fact that its blazing hot inside (that the place is more popular in summer than in winter I don't understand at all). However, when you factor in how agressively sexist Paraguayan men can be and the tendency here for older men to go after much younger women (mid-teenage girls are the sexual ideal for all ages of men), it can be a little disturbing to think about, which is why I don't.

So, yeah, I've been to the club. As bad as I make it sound, it's acutally fun, even for chicks, but I still make no effort to go, unless I'm invited. And if it sounds like I'm judging, trust me, I'm not, I gave up on that a while ago, it's just the way it is.

Do I dance? Well, I guess, if you consider arythmic muscle spasms dancing. Although I am pretty good at the "bite the lower lip, bent elbows, hands up, white guy two-step."

So what do Paraguayans think of Americans then?: tall, blonde, promiscuous, rich, blue eyed, white, intelligent. And if your only exposure to the States was the movies we make, well you would probably think the same way.

On a number of occasions I've had to confirm and reconfirm that I am indeed an American even though I'm not white. Additionally, some Paraguayans seem to think we have gobs of money on us at all times, and in dollars no less. Every time I tell people I get paid in Guaranies (the national currency) they seem surprised. To be fair though, even relatively poor Americans are middle class by Paraguayan standards. However, very few Paraguayans are in debt where as about half of all Peace Corps Volunteers have debt. But that has more to do with the unavailability of loans here rather than Paraguayan financial sense. And as far as our percieved sexual mores, they seem to think we are ready to get on with anyone at any moment. Every female volunteer I know has been openly propositioned by Paraguayans at least twice, many of the male volunteers have aswell. But, once again, I think this is more a reflection of Paraguayan thinking on sex, and it is a constant subtext. I have been greeted by strangers with questions such as "Have you fucked recently?" and am asked constantly if I have a novia (girlfriend) yet. Although, my favorite was durring a break in a meeting we were having at a local government office when someone was introduced to me as el jodido, which translates literally as "the fucked," so this person was essentially introduced to me, by his boss, in front of a group of men and women as "Joseph who gets laid." Once again, if it sounds like I'm judging, please believe, I'm not (and you shouldn't either). This is all normal for me now, but I do like how strange it sounds to the part of me that rembers the States.

But to be fair, Americans are huge sluts. However, this is a characteristic that they share with all other peoples of the world as far as I can tell.

Otherwise, Paraguayans generally have a good opinion of America and Americans. I've only ever personally ran into "anti-Americanism" once, and he was just airing his views on Bush government policy. We agreeed on all points and ended the conversation as friends. Paraguayans love exported American culture and admire our prosperity, even if they don't want to a carbon copy of the States (which is for the best). What bothers me about that though is that very few are willing to see the dark side of America and the ills we visted on them by dictatorial proxy durring the cold war. But I'm not about to go running around trying to convince people that we're the bad guys.

So what do I not like about Paraguay: the machismo, the fatalism, the corruption, the heirarchy, the lack of privacy.

What do I like about Paraguay: everthing else. People are generally much more friendly than any American and you can live very free and tranquilo here. As an example, I mentioned the noise issue before with parties and loud cars doing the rounds at night. All that is probably illegal on paper, but the police won't try to do anything about it and people in general are more likely to just put up with it. I was at a party once and one of the attendees had his car sound system blaring into the night when a rock came over the wall from the neighbors house. That was their cue to turn the music down. In general, people just live and let live here. This is a good thing when it comes to being alowed to do things that don't do harm to others, but sometimes this translates into ignoring and putting up with other abuses . . . like 50 years of dictatorship and 60 years of one party rule.

What do I miss about the Sates: my family, high speed internet, and certain supermarket items (see "cheddar cheese").

And yes, I am already trying to come up with ways to stay here longer, even though I still have a year left to serve.

As far as transitioning back to life in the states; I couln't say whether that would be difficult or not, I'll find out if and when I do it. But the volunteers I know who have been back to the States for vacation sound like crazy people when they return. They go on and on about rediculous things like paved roads, debit cards, hot water, and abundant fast food options. All sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me.

Religious experiences: God, Saint John the Baptist, and the Angel Azrael appeared to me in a vision and told me to get more fiber in my diet.

And the question you've all been waiting for . . . the beard is here to stay . . . at least until I accidentally singe it off.

01 April 2009

After a Hiatus'tuicha

-tuicha - Guaraní postposition meaning big or large

Yeah, its been a while. I'm not even gonna bother apologizing, chances are you're not reading this anyway. So I think I'll restart by answering some of the questions you guys left me. A good friend of mine living in the Seattle, WA area left me a very appropriate one:

"Um, what exactly do you do? If I remember correctly peacecorp sets out to help people. Also have you attempted to dispel the myth of the chupacabra, or would that be cultural imperialism?"

Good question buddy! I often wake up in the morning and ask myself that exact question. "What am I doing here?" or "What's the point?" or "Why am I still alive?" Ahem . . . But seriously, let me give you all an update'i (-i - Guaraní postposition meaning small; diminuative).

In the last few months the Secretaria de la Mujer in my town left her job, leaving me with precious little to do, especially since school was out. She left for various reasons: lack of support, difficulty of commuting to work (18 km, three times a week +, on a dirt road with a motoscooter), and threats made against her and her family. I was worried that the Municipality here in Unicorn Union would take her resignation as an opportunity to simply not rehire and budget her salary to something else (Paraguay is not know for its progressive stance on womens affairs, women got the vote here only in 1961). But they recently informed me that they are willing to rehire, the catch . . . I have to do the job search. Also recently, the municipality asked me to help them get a public library off the ground. So I'll be helping them with that especially when it comes to getting funding for construction, furniture, and book donations. I may also help train a librarian or educator. But, that's still in the very early stages.

I have also done a few shows on the local radio station about domestic violence, am preparing a segment on vacinations, and am preparing to do a weekly radio show in a neighboring town with another volunteer on various topics.

Outside of UU, I helped to plan, prepare and execute a youth summer camp with the Gender and Development volunteer committee, and a Paraguayan NGO out of Ciudad del Este called PREALPA. The camp lasted three days and brought in 41 youths from all over Paraguay. We were hosted by Itaipú Binacional (the public/private organism that runs the largest operating dam in the the world, Represa Hidroeléctrica Itaipú) at their nature reserve Tatí Jupí. We recieved donations of food, transportation, office supplies, and educators from various sectors. The youths themselves only had to give us $60,000 Gs. (about $12 USD, which almost all of them had reimbursed in busfare) and a positive attitude to learn, participate, and have fun. The camp focused on responsible citizenship, discrimination, gender equity, self-esteem, and much much more. We also had ample time to play games, go on little trips by bike and horse cart through the woods, and vist the dam twice, once at night for a "light show" and again durring the day for a tour. The camp was very sucessful, the youths were positively glowing afterwards and it translated into a lot of momentum after the camp with the youths taking the initiative in leading efforts in their communities. This camp has taken place every year for quite some time and it only gets better every year. We're hoping to out do ourselves for next year.

Also, here in Peace Corps Paraguay, we have what's called National Volunteer Advisory Council (NVAC). Think student government, but with more beards and with stupid Peace Corps volunteers instead of stupid college kids. We had elections last month and my peers were kind enough to curse me by voting me President of NVAC, making me theoretically the official representative of volunteers and their interests. This translates into a lot of meetings where I try to acheive goals that I don't really believe in while trying to be way, way more polite than I would like to be. On the plus side, it gives me a real opportunity to affect the way the post is administered and help the admin. and volunteers do their jobs better, which benefits everyone in the end.

Finally, Peace Corps Paraguay had a Diveristy issues initiative in the past call Jopará, which means "mix" or "mixture" in Guaraní. The volunteer group was supposed to work on spreading awareness about diversity issues among PCVs, PC office staff, and Parguayan nationals. It has been inactive for more than a year and I've taken it upon my self to get it going again. I have created a demographic and perceptual survey covering racial, economic, sexual, political, and bahavioral diversity, successfuly administered the survey to our newest training group, G-29, compiled the results, and wrote an accompanying article to be published in the Kuatiañee (our volunteer news letter, it means "talking paper"). I have plans to do the survey with all PCVs. I have also had conversations with other volunteers and staff and we are planning several other activities for the comming months to get Jopará going again and increase awareness of diversity issues.

Contrary to popular belief, Peace Corps' mission is not to help people. Our three official mission goals are:

1. Help supply the host country with trained personel.
2. Improve host country nationals' understanding of American culture.
3. Improve Americans' understanding of the host country's culture.

"Help" appears in only one of those goals.

Ideally, all Peace Corps volunteers would only train people who would then help their own people (ie. "I train a social worker and they help people in need" not "I give handouts and provide direct assistence that makes me look like a cash cow, puts paraguayans out of work, and ends as soon as I finish my service"). It's more sustainable that way. The intention is to get people to help themselves and not do it all for them. But, for a lot of reasons, it doesn't always work out that way and we end up doing a fair amount of direct assistence. Myself included, though I tend to shy away from it more than others.

As for the Chupacabra, no one believes in that here. Cows do occasionally die under unusual circumstances, but that always gets chaulked up to different stuff. They do have other myths. Guaraní mythology has a load of monsters (some good, some bad), but no one really takes them seriously either. However, many Paraguayans believe some odd things. One of the most common is the belief that one cannot drink tereré and then eat certain foods or drinks afterwards. Example, drinking tereré and then eating watermelon is supposed to be explosively lethal. Some Paraguayans will actually physically stop a norte (an American or North American) from doing so. In general watermelon (though loved) is dangerous to mix. One friend of mine was eating watermelon and picked up a grape to eat as well. The person she was eating with stoped her and told her that she would explode. Tauntingly, my friend started to put the grape inside of the watermelon, at which point her friend got up and left for fear of explosion. Orange juice and tereré is also dangerous as are a number of fruits and tereré. However, its important to remember that we have stupid myths like this as well, like drinking milk and orange juice, which I can assure you all does not make you sick. Additionally, I have met a number of Paraguayans who were perfectly aware that nothing bad would happen if tereré and fruit were mixed and explained that it was mearly custom which dictated they not be mixed. Much like Americans wouldn't put cheese on pancakes or eat poprocks and drink coke for that matter.

I do however have a hard time with myths like that and do sometimes tell peolpe that it won't hurt them without pushing the issue. It's not worth arguing about since it doesn't make a difference what they eat with what. So sometimes, for my more analyzing friends, I'll go ahead and have the "actually you won't explode" conversation, but most of the time I just let it go.

Is it cultural imperialism . . . yes.

I could go on, but this is getting long, so I'll write more soon.

09 December 2008

Hot Paraguay Action

Today was officially my hottest day in Paraguay so far. In Asunción, where I am today, it topped out at over 44ºC with more than 50% humidity. That's more than 111ºF for all you imperialists. In Alto Paraná where I live it is always a few celcius degrees cooler. Yesterday when it was roughly the same temp in Asunción it was only pushing 39ºC in AlPa. While it sounds really bad it's actually tolerable. It's not that humid here normally and you really just get used to it. However it was so hot today it was comical. Volunteers were talking and laughing about it. In this heat you constantly sweat, but it's so hot that the sweat drys out of your clothes in a matter of minutes. Some how it seems like nature is always testing, but also looking out for Paraguay. Just when it seems that the heat is so bad that it couldn't get any worse, the rain comes on and cools the country down and the gradual day by day build up of the temperature begins again. Case in point, now in the evening today it has become very blustery and the sky is darkening with clouds. It'll probably rain later tonight or tomorrow. Then comes another resource the country has in abundance . . . mud.

01 December 2008

Help out some Paraguayan kids!

While I'm waiting for your questions to just start fpouring in, I have something of actual importance to share with you. I'm not the most idealistic guy in the world, so I won't often unload on you guys with the problems of the rest of the world and how you can help, but this is a really easy, cheap, and effective way that you all can make a difference in a few lives. The PATF scholarship is offered to highly qualified young Paraguayan men and women to advance their studies and learn skills about making good life choices and personal managment. These kids will be the next leaders and middle class of Paraguay who stand to make a big difference in their country, and you can help them by supporting the values of generosity, community service, and civic responsabilty that sometimes seem scarce here. The following is a donation letter from the Gender and Development committee of Peace Corps Paraguay with coordinates with the Secretaría de la Mujer (Secretary of Womens' Affairs) which is the partner government agency. In total, we need $10,000 dollars which is getting quite a bit of bang for your buck, because things are so much less expensive here. Even $25 helps us out a lot. So do these kids and yourself a favor and take some time to read the letter and decide if you wanna help out. Thanks!
. . .

Hello Friends of Nathan,

Each year, the Gender and Development Committee (GAD) of Peace Corps Paraguay, along with two local organizations, work together to provide at least 50 underprivileged youth with both technical training and educational scholarships. The technical training includes workshops on leadership, self-esteem, personal finance management, gender empowerment, and networking. The scholarship program includes four different educational levels available for financial aid:

High school level ($100)
Vocational level ($150)
Trade school level ($250)
University level ($500)

The PATF program aims to help young, female Paraguayans pursue their education in diverse fields of study and increase their ability to achieve financially independent and fulfilling lives. Since 2004, the program has awarded 143 scholarships to female Paraguayan youth throughout the country. This year, in order to promote gender equity, the program has expanded to include 10% of the scholarships for male beneficiaries.

You can help Peace Corps raise funds to enable bright, young Paraguayan youth to further their education. Even the smallest contribution can make the biggest difference in raising the tuition that Paraguayan youth need for his/her education. By clicking on the following link you will find further details on the program and information on how to donate to the project:

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=526-187

Thank you for your generosity!

2007 - 2008 Recipients

11 November 2008

I Need Your Help

For my next post I would like to field some general questions and answer them, but for that I need some questions. They could be questions about anything and you're allowed to ask more than one. Doesn't just have to be about Paraguay, could be about theology or quantum physics for all I care. So leave some questions in the comments section of this post or email them to me and in a week or two I'll answer them in the next post.

Also, I would like to congratulate the United States of America on getting a new president. However, if you are an American and also a white supremacist, republican, or anti-Hawai'ian, then I'm really f'in sorry for ya man. That really sucks, I feel ya. . .

07 November 2008

Foto Fest

Well, you all certainly deserve it for stickin' with me, so here you are. An ass-load of photos of Unicorn Union, "Che TruckStop"A view of UU from 2k away. All of the town is on the left side of the ruta on the right. That is ruta internacional 7 which heads straight from Asunción through the heart of oriental paraguay to Ciudad del Este and on into Brasil.
As I've said before, life in my town is largely dictated by the activity on the ruta. This is our fancy bus terminal, one of the few with buildings on BOTH sides of the ruta. Seen from across our highway-side ciclovía, like a little park.

The pride and joy of our highly comercial economy. Canada, a super (1 of 3). A hamburgesería or hamburger joint (1 of 5, open late!). Lubripar, a chain of gas stations (1 of 3 gas places in town). We're special.
A view of my street, Bernardino Caballero. Named for the founder of the colorado party. There's a street named after him in every town.
Another view of my street.
In Paraguay, roads are a big deal. They are heavyweight political issues and commonly used indicators of an area's development. This is a nice one, two lanes, empedrado. We might want to translate empedrado into "cobblestone", but a more literal translation might be "jagged rocks hammered into clayey dirt." A pleasure to walk on and a great ankle workout (sarcasm).
Here's a good one, just narrower.
This one is another storey, especially after rain. Then it turns into a death trap. It's just dirt. Mind you these three streets all all a block away from eachother. I'd like to thank the dog for posing so nicely, he promptly bolted in terror as soon as I moved after taking the picture.
This is our one, two-block paved road that is not the ruta. It defines the comercial part of town which is actually pretty dense, especially for a town this size. But that still doesn't compare with we're used to in the states. It may look really nice from the photo (and admittedly it looks good to me after living here for 9 months), but it's lacking in some departments, come and you'll see what I mean.
UU is pretty compact, but this lot (in between two decent houses) is yuyal (pronounced joojall), a place for growing weeds. But, its actually someone's personal mandioca plot.
Two very important town institutions. This s the dance club.
And this is the church.
The one public high school in town. I work here sometimes.
The one public elementary school in town. I work here too.
And an exterior shot of my house. More of that some other time.
And last, and definately least. My ugly mug, just for you mom. Not likin my hair in this one.
That's all for now. Peace!

03 November 2008

Finally

So after some broken promises, and like 2 months, I finally tell you about my town. I have plenty to say (in fact this one’s a little long, apologies), problem is I almost don’t know what I should say, nothing I can wright will help you to imagine it as it truly is. Bear that in mind.

I’ll start by saying, that it’s not beautiful. It is not rustic village tucked into the mountainous folds of the Andes. It is not a time-forgotten latifundia on the Pampas. Hell, it’s not even typical of most Paraguayan towns. It doesn’t have a central church plaza. The Casco Urbano (urban helmet – here means “urban center”) is only one barrio (neighborhood). Unlike Guarambaré, which is more than 400 years old, my town is only about 40 years old. It has no architectural character, al the construction is block, reinforced concrete, and single layer wood done in that same style in use here since the mid seventies that says “originality wasn’t in the budget.” In fact, I prefer to describe it as a large truck-stop when talking to other volunteers about it. The center, where I live has about 5000 residents, some of whom actually work and reside permanently in Buenos Aires or Spain (a bittersweet reality in most of Paraguay). It is most remarkable for having three Supers (imagine supermarkets when they were invented in the US in the 50’s), and three gas-stations, something of an oddity for a town of this size. It also boasts a rather active and concentrated commercial street, three internet cafés, one wireless hotspot, and only two schools serving about a combined 1000 students. Like I said earlier, it’s not pretty, but it’s not without its advantages either. I can get most foodstuffs here (I actually eat better here than I did in the states, though there is a lack of vegetable selection), I’m very connected in terms of communication, media, and transportation, and just about anything I might need to buy or get fixed I can do here. Trips to larger cities are only necessary for picking up domestic rarities (like the little metal spout you put on olive oil bottles), pirated dvds, and certain other necessities like Lebanese coffee and German beer . . . ahem.

Despite all this, Unicorn Union is small, about 4 square blocks. To put it frankly, I was pissed, when I found out where I was going at the end of training, mostly because I had never heard of it and I knew that meant is was . . . small. I was so pissed I had a hard time hiding it. My project boss, my project coordinator, and a language professor all came up to me to see how I was doing. They tried, but there was really nothing they could have said to make me feel any better, in fact they kinda made it worse. One said that it was (with hesitation) pretty (this is perhaps a half-truth, you’ll see why), another said that I would have to learn to use all Guaraní (which is just not true). However after about three months here I learned to be happy here even if I don’t really like certain demographic characteristics of the place. Actually, as much as I actually like it, Unicorn Union is basically my worst nightmare from youth. A small, provincial country town with no counter-culture to speak of and little to do, but drink and be homophobic. If the place had a football team it would be at home in firey depths of Texas. After I spent most of my youth sceming and dreaming of ways to get out of Yakima, I have been made to live in Yakima's retarded step-cousin. So my being sent here is kinda like a message from God . . . or who/whatever: "Hey! Chill out. Don't be so judgemental."

I do like the people here, in a larger city I would not have gotten to know people quite like this. In a city, anonymity is the norm, but here I literally can’t go anywhere without running into someone I know. It’s quiet . . . when the ruta isn’t busy. I’m perfectly happy just sitting outside and watching the people go by and that’s normal here. But despite the smallness, it’s amazing how the politics of the last 60 years has penetrated into even our little town. Personal rivalries are very common, especially within the town elite and are almost always at least partly defined along political lines, made even more confusing here as there are two Colorado party camps which may be bigger enemies of each other than the Liberal party supporters. This sometimes irks me, because I am sometimes judged (albeit silently) for who I chose to work with even though I make that decision based on what I can do and not on personal or political grounds. Luckily, most people get that, though I think it irks them too sometimes.

As I said, Unicorn Union is not a very Paraguayan town. Compared towns father west, mine is oddly cosmopolitan (?!). The fact that I use that word is surprising even to me, the fact is it’s true, even if the people here don’t realize it. In most of central Paraguay, people very predictably speak both Spanish and Guaraní, they listen to the same music, they all dislike Brazilian sojeros (Brazilian land owners in Paraguay who grow commercial crops primarily for exportation to Brazil, taking advantage of lower land prices and taxes), and it seems to me that they tend to have a similar worldview that sees Argentina and Spain as the lands of escape and the US as big brother, where Paraguay is something like the last refuge of traditionalism in the world. Here in the extreme east, it’s not quite so. People still speak Spanish and Guaraní, but it’s not unusual for the youth in urban areas like mine to prefer Spanish or not even know Guaraní (especially when very young), almost the reverse of the west. On top of that, almost everyone understands Portuguese, and many speak it as well, though for some reason they don’t really like to admit it. They listen to different music, lots of Brazilian music, which as a side note I’d like to mention is actually very modern and unlike most other music I’ve ever heard. While there are still the standard complaints about Paraguay being exploited by Brazilians, people don’t quite so often blame the Brazilians themselves and instead blame who is probably the real culprit, the government, for not enforcing laws intended to make sure Paraguay benefits from the products of its land. Instead, there is a certain admiration for Brazilians. A number of Brazilian nationals live in the community and there are a handful of Brazilian colonies in the region. People generally admire their prosperity and organization; their towns are the envy of most Paraguayans. Everyone knows a few Brazilians and they are generally impressed with their friendliness, liberality, culture, and the pride they take in every aspect of their lives. As an example, the lead dancer in one of the traditional Paraguayan dance troops in town is a Brazilian national. Many have worked with Brazilians in region, on the Itaipú Dam project, or in Brazil, and they laud the openness of the Brazilians and how they were immediately accepted as one of the group, which admittedly would not necessarily be the case for a Brazilian in many parts of Paraguay (in San Pedro department, Brazilians actually have cause to fear for their life when in the farther flung parts of the department because of roving bands of landless farmers). Some Paraguayans marry Brazilians or Brazilian descendants (braziguayos) and some express the desire for their children to learn something of the Brazilian jeito de ser (way of life). And every rare now and then, like a shooting star which you weren’t even sure you saw, you’ll catch a whisper of the thought that maybe Paraguay should partner-up somehow with Brazil, that maybe some good would rub off onto Paraguay. This might not sound too strange, but what it suggests is the desire for some kind of trans-national partnership which would look a lot like becoming a part of Brazil. This sentiment is very rarely expressed, and when expressed it is always from the most progressive thinkers and even then only in innuendo and suggestion. But it is a far cry from the chest thumping tirade you’ll get about Brazil in Central department.

All this may make it out to sound like Paraguayans here are in love with Brazil and the outside world, but in reality, they’re just more tolerant and indifferent. They still lament the perceived “death” of Paraguayan culture and identity, but unlike in the older more established parts of the country, they don’t see foreign influence as the greatest threat. I say that the people here are more cosmopolitan because they see the world passing trough on that ruta and they know that it brings both bad and good things. Brazilians are a common place. German immigrants (both older Mennonites and more recent Jehovah’s Witness missionaries) abound. There is a Japanese colony about a half an hour away. The departmental capitol is one of the most polyglot cities on earth with significant populations of 4 nationalities some coming from the other side of the world. 2 other countries are within an hour’s drive away. People here still consider themselves Paraguayans, but what that means may be a little different from what that means in places closer to the capitol, Asunción, where the same elite families have been running the national show from the backstage for maybe more than 150 years. Unicorn Union is not necessarily better than other parts of Paraguay; in fact, in many ways it’s worse. But, it’s mine and I’m glad I’m here and not in most other places.

Che Valle = My Valley (my home)

I'm having some trouble with pictures right now, but the next post will be all pics. Unfortunately none of them will be pornographic. Hasta Luego.