Sunday, November 17, 2013

Daily Life in Paraguay: Part II

As promised, more on daily life.

Most of the food in Paraguay is terrible for you and delicious. The food groups are meat and bread and sweets. I'm not sure how it is possible that the obesity here is less than the United States-but on the plus side there is a lot less processed food. I've noticed a really common misconception among Americans that don't travel is that pretty much everything south of the border is Mexico. But South American cuisine is quite different than Mexican fare. Here it is all about empanadas, chipa, and asados. Alas, there are a couple of Mexican restaurants in town but nothing as good as what I could get in Denver! I do like a lot of the food I've had here, and there's actually a nice variety of restaurants too (Vietnamese, Korean, Italian, Japanese). This is good as I haven't been cooking nearly as much as I used to but hopefully my new grill will change that!

It sucks. Thank God for wine.

The men of Paraguay are serious rubberneckers. I mean, I'm surprised they don't get in more car accidents because of prolonged staring at any female. They are so obvious about it, actually turning their heads as you walk by. It is actually kind of hilarious. I've never ever felt at all threatened so I'm able to laugh it off for the most part. Last night was walking around with a guy friend and he was a little behind me and asked if it bothered me, but I have kind of gotten used to it. The other thing guys here do is honk their horns at you as they drive by. This is also kind of annoying but easy enough to mostly ignore. *It doesn't matter what you're wearing. Rubbernecking, honking, and the occasional wolf whistle occur no matter what.

However, the campus is a whole different matter. I don't know if all the Paraguayan men that work there had to go through special Anti-Rubbernecking Training or what, but they act normal. Or, you know, what I consider normal. 

Paraguayans don't think Paraguay is safe....but the area I live/work in is super safe. I feel completely fine walking around at night (within reason) and have never had any problems. The biggest crimes are robberies. When we started work, a US Embassy guy came and tried to scare us all to death. Don't ride the buses, don't go downtown, don't leave the house!!! There are definitely more dangerous areas but one of the reasons I came here is that it is a safer city than most in Latin America. 

As with most (or all) of Latin America, time here takes on new meanings. Here's what I've learned so far: Everything starts late. It's not just people being late. Restaurants don't open for dinner until 7 or 8. People don't go out at night until 11 or 12. They stay out until 3, 4, 5:00 a.m. So if you are an American and you are having a party, like some Americans I know, you might start it at, say, 6pm. Now Americans are also fashionably late to such things, which is fine. However, your party does not end until 4:00 a.m. That is 10 hours of party goodness! 

OK local friends, what did I miss? Topics for future posts?

Daily Life in Paraguay

I realize I've only been posting when I go somewhere and do something fun. That's probably why most of my US friends think I've just gone on a 2-year paid vacation. :) So, for a change of pace, I'm going to write about daily life in Paraguay (for me).

This is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of how my life here is different. I walk. A lot. Everywhere. I mean, it probably seems really obvious, as I don't have a car, or plans to buy one. Now I might change my mind about this in a month or so, when it gets super hot. Right now I kind of like my morning walk to work each day. The weather since about the beginning of September has been pretty much glorious, almost every day. Taking the bus is really cheap, and a cab is affordable, but I just prefer to walk. The only time time I miss a car is when I buy stuff or want to buy stuff, but have no way to get it home. Think about it. If you walked home from the grocery store, would you EVER buy a watermelon? And the watermelon here is freakin' delicious.

But there are benefits. 1. I walk about 2.5 miles a day just going to work and back. And teachers know how much you walk AT work. This is good because it counteracts the effects (so far) of empanadas and really good ice cream. 2. See picture. 3. I haven't been the designated driver for 4 months.
Sometimes it looks like this on my walks. Not bad, eh?

I won't lie. My teaching job here is really cush compared to the United States. 2.5-3 hours of planning time a day, a full-time aide, barely any standardized testing, and kids with every advantage. Sounds nice, right? Well there is a small downside. The fact of the matter is that all those things are great. The only downsides are that the kids NEVER stop talking, and working with wealthy families is really different from what I'm used to. And also, no matter what, spending every day with 10-11 year olds is just plain exhausting, I don't care HOW much planning time you have! And my group is a little rowdy.

Teaching abroad would suck if it weren't for friends. Right now all my friends are my coworkers. But I won't complain about that because I have really great coworkers! People who choose to work abroad tend to be really fun, interesting people!

I won't lie. Spanish is hard for me. I have basic travel Spanish but I'm frustrated that I don't feel like I've built on it much. And Paraguayan Spanish is not the easiest Spanish to master. They mumble and use the vos form and Guarani words. I mean, really. In all seriousness, I am starting to realize I'm not going to learn Spanish magically by being here, which is what I was kind of hoping. I need to start taking a class or get a tutor.

Coming next: Daily Life in Paraguay, Part 2: Food, Beer, Safety, and Other Stuff I Haven't Thought of Yet.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day Trip: Yaguaron

One of the things that has made this whole teaching and living abroad thing so great is the people I work with. I really feel like everyone goes out of their way to make the new teachers feel welcome and at home. Case in point, our "mentoring meetings," which could be really boring, are some of my favorite days. The official mentor people at the school make sure we get a chance to do something fun together, and get out of the city!

Our last mentoring meeting involved renting a van and driving to the nearby town of Yaguaron. The main reason we went there was that the mountain of Yaguaron is believed to be the birthplace of the 7 Mitos or myths. These myths were created to explain the unexplainable-like pregnancy out of wedlock and why you can never find your dang keys. For more info on the myths, read here. Let me tell you, those are some wild guys, especially Kurupi. Anyway it is also a nice place to hike around, see the view, and have a picnic lunch.
OK, fellow Coloradans, I know it's not much, but it's the highest elevation I've been here in Paraguay!
I loved all the palm trees on top.
Overlooking the town.
 Once we got to the top there was plenty of time to wander around and explore. I did some of that and some relaxing too. It was a *perfect* beautiful spring day and I was happy to be out of the city.

 But it turns out, this isn't even the main draw for Yaguaron. What it's really famous for is its church, which was built in the 1600's and took 60 years to construct.

Climbing up the bell tower was not allowed. Bummer.
It was a great, relaxing day. It only took an hour or two to get there, but it felt like the edge of civilization. I guess it is a popular place for people to buy land and build "ranchos" to enjoy the slow life. I crashed during the van ride home, which I think is a sign of a good trip!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Spring Break Part 3: Posadas, Argentina!

We'd been looking at Posadas, Argentina from across the river for a few days, and we had a friend who'd gone there for Spring Break. On our 3rd day in town, we decided to cross the river and check it out!
Molly looks across the river at Posadas. (Photo by Ali)
We got on yet another bus and headed across the border. We had to jump out to get our passports stamped and get on the next bus. It took forever! The stamping was quick but there was terrible traffic. I guess there is a lot of back and forth from Paraguay to Argentina as certain things are cheaper in each country. Anyway we finally got there and checked out their costanera/boardwalk area. 

Looking back at Encarnacion from Posadas
We spent a nice day walking around and seeing some of the sights, and a delish lunch at the only restaurant not closed for siesta at 3pm. I had a basil daquiri, how about that?
Ali, Molly, Ceci, Mindy
Minday, Matt, Kristi, Mark

After that our group broke up. All the girls wanted to go shopping and the guys wanted to get some beer and sit on the coast. I decided to be one of the guys. Eventually our whole group met up because there was supposed to be a parade. But no parade ever came. Oh well...we know how to make the best of a situation like that!
So there we were, just enjoying the evening when this pink Disney-themed train for kids came up and parked. We got to thinking. This looks like a really ideal mode of transportation for us to go back up the costanera to find a restaurant for dinner or bar or whatever. Scenic? check. Room for 9? check. Mindy went and talked to the driver, and agreed to pay him a sum to not pick up any kids on our special route (I mean, we don't want to be a bad influence or anything. Enter....
The party train
(Photo by Ali: Our finest moment in Posadas)

These girls who were fundraising for something jumped on.
I'm not really sure what their story was but they were fun...

 Well all those shenanigans made us hungry so we found a restaurant that had tacos.

And took the last bus back to Paraguay. Which abandoned us at the border so we took a taxi to our hostel, and lived happily ever after. The end.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Encarnacion, Part 2

Here are some highlights of our second day in Encarnacion:
-Walking through the very un-touristy town of Bella Vista, including having lunch in a restaurant that definitely didn't see 8 gringos walk in every day!
-touring a Yerba Mate factory (they didn't let us take pictures)
-relaxing evening on the costanera (coast) of the Rio Parana, enjoying a giant drink and nice dinner!

Adorable coffee shop in Encarnacion. In true Paraguayan
fashion, there were 3 workers there but none of them
 knew how to make coffee. They had to call the guy who
did know, to drive there and make us some coffees!
Freaky cactus tree
"If we're closed, clap your hands"

Outside our cute hostel, they didn't have any green space, but I loved this recycled container garden!

World's Largest Guampa (that's the
cup you drink your terere from after you
pour it out of the thermos)
Giant drinks, with the beach in the background
Mark and I enjoy a drink together. (We were
together but just took pictures of each other)