Went for coffee with Raquel, a lawyer who volunteers her time at the Transformation office as often as she can. She took me on a tour of the city at night. Asunción changes into a magical place at night! Old buildings are lit up, café’s have white Christmas lights strung all around, and there isn’t the traffic or crowds of people milling around. You can get downtown in 10 min. from our place when there is no traffic and the city itself is not that big.
This is where the first steam engine train of Paraguay is housed, one of the first in South America. There was a war and so no money for trains, and as a result there is no rail system functioning today in the country.
Parts of this old church were built as early as 1687 and it houses a gold covered wood alter that was built by the Jesuits. There are quite a few other beautiful buildings built in that same era that now house museums, halls, Government offices and their 1811 Independence Hall. I love history, it always gives me a thrill to see these magnificent structures that were erected before our modern electric tools or computers and spanning many decades to complete.
I try to exercise every day and the weather is perfect for walking, 48-50 at night and 68 or so during the day. It is also safe.
Every couple blocks there are these little convenience stores selling a limited amount of groceries, juice, pop, sweets and empanadas – such a nice quick food to take on the go, filled with chicken or cheese or beef, and they are only about forty cents each.
Then there is the wash to do 🙂 This ‘lavanderia’ is only a block from our place – wash, dried, folded and bagged – back the same day. $7 please.
I usually end up at the grocery store to buy a couple of things and the other day I bought a grapefruit, it had so many seeds that I had to count them – 64 in one grapefruit! Guess the fruit here is not genetically modified. In the restaurants there is always available fresh squeezed or blended real fruit juice, I love the pineapple. I am not a coffee drinker per se, I can’t handle caffeine, but in Paraguay wherever there is a carafe of coffee there is also a carafe of hot milk. So I fill my cup with hot milk and put a tear (as they say here) of coffee in the milk just to give it colour and a bit of flavour. This is now my new favourite drink. I guess a late grande with only one shot of coffee might be close, but a lot more expensive! Something else I’ve discovered is that the Stevia plant has been used for more than 1,500 years by the Guaraní Indians of SA and the leaves have been used for hundreds of years in both Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten their beverages. Stevia is the only natural sweetener that doesn’t have any calories, is not bad for your teeth and has a glycemic index of zero (diabetics can use it). Think I’ll switch!
Of course I miss home, but there are things you get used to and really like about the different places you visit. One of those things is the little corner store under our apartment that is also a little restaurant. On Fridays out on the sidewalk they BBQ a variety of meats and sausage. There are always a lot of people lined up, Paraguayans like their beef. They also offer a daily small home cooked buffet with 6-8 different meat/chicken dishes, mashed potatoes or rice, vegetables and salad. It is sold by the kilo so you serve yourself and then get it weighed. Oven roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables and salad, take it to go, walk back the 2 min. to our apartment, and the cost is only $3.00 Cdn! I’m going to miss that!
Then there are the people you get to know and grow to love as well. Laura is married to Pietro who owns a soap factory, is working on becoming a Maxwell coach and is an invaluable volunteer in the Transformation Paraguay office. I took her out for her birthday to Bolsi, a 50’s style restaurant with a lunch bar, excellent fish soup and so many deserts! Laura doesn’t drive so they have hired a full-time driver who takes her wherever she wants to go, waits around and is there in seconds when she is done and calls for him. She is a survivor of thyroid cancer and is one of the most bubbly and joyous people I know.
Patricia is a friend that works for the Government as a city planner. We went for lunch one day and then she took me to the only hill in Asunción. From there we had a great view of the city, the river and the city dump. This is where a whole community has sprung up that live around and even on the dump itself. They scrounge through the garbage looking for things to sell or recycle to eke out a living. This is where the recycled orchestra has it’s class room (a lean-to shelter actually). The road up to the top of the hill is also lined with shanties from the people who lived by the river and had to move when it flooded several months ago. Her job is to try to alleviate these problems, they are building social housing and collaborating with engineers from other countries, but often it is not just moving people to a different location, but also involves a mindset change as well. Not an easy fix.
There have been a lot of people sick here and most houses are without any form of heat, it is easy to get chilled to the bone. Well I picked up a nasty flu, haven’t had the full version of the flu in years – fever, chills, tight chest, cough, stuffed nose, fatigue and weakness – not the best way to spend your time away from home. I’m navigating the pharmacies here for familiar reinforcements to bring relief but I wish I had my own bed! There is a lady at the office whose mother and family cook up a storm and sell and deliver meals for lunch and dinner. One call and I had home-made chicken soup delivered to my door – now that was nice! I missed the Private Tennis Club Father’s Day BBQ with live music on Friday night and the final Cav’s game – well to be honest, that didn’t hurt too much 🙂 But have to get back in shape for Monday when we go travelling again. Yuk. Not fun being sick.