Here is a list of things I noticed on my four-day stay in Paraguay:
1. The typical locals are polite and speak softly. They are not very alert in general. They get flustered when someone ask them questions (even if they are easy questions).
2. Asuncion is like jakarta 30 yrs ago. Some areas remind me of Menteng. There are few tall buildings.
3. People really rolls their “R” and speak with weird accent. It is hard to understand their spanish.
4. Paraguay is a very young country in the context of demographic profile – it will boom in 10-25 years (half of the population is below 15 y/o). One can already see the beginning of the growth: apartments, restaurants, local consumption (gdp growth last year at 12 percent). Despite the large socio economic gap, in the last eight years, there is growth in low to middle class. In a few years, there will be growth in middle to upper class.
5. Papaya served with seeds (also in argentina, uruguay, and brazil). Random I know! But papaya seeds are always the first thing we remove at home!!!
6. In Ciudad del Este (near Brazil border and Iguassu Falls), it feels like mini brazil. There are a lot of brazilian companies and workers. Even the paraguayan workers would speak portuguese first until they realize you do not speak it then switch to spanish laced with portuguese accent. Also I was told in the east there are many more chinese and arabic descent population. Ciudad del Este is also where all the electronics are. There is a saying: if it is not in the Ciudad del Este, it either does not exist or you are not looking at the right places. I have this silly fear of going there – that someone will steal my iPhone 5s and I will have to buy it back from them. LOL. It is a joke! Most things being sold there are new.
7. Local typical food is rice and meat (comfort food cooked at home). A lot of the local, cheap, streetside eating places serve lomitos (sandwich with meat and lettuce and tomatoes and eggs) – similar to Uruguayan chivito. I was also invited to another asado at home. It was great! Similar to the one I had in Uruguay (posts on this is coming).
8. Complicated country: The War of the Three Alliance (1865-1870) demolished rich paraguay (when Brazil/Uruguay/Argentine colluded and attacked paraguay, it was the end of their wealth and demolished half of their population). These days the social issues are a little bit different. Outside the old train station, we saw hundreds of Guarani Indians living in stations asking for land. Also, military ruling in more recent history demolished a lot of the colonial buildings (they were not concerned about restoring or maintaining any buildings). I am showing you some of the photos of the gems left.
9. Possibly the “safest” place in South America. My local contact would leave the car unlocked and window opened as we fill in gas and went inside the store – with our luggages and backpack in the car. We would be sitting in the patio and he would just throw the wallet on the sofa and the sofa is right off the street. In Europe, it would have been stolen in two minutes.
10. But the worse drivers on Earth. We almost got into an accident and got hit by a big truck. Though it did not stop me from enjoying the sunset.
11. Kidnappings by “revolutionaries” still happened every now and then. A 16 year old boy was just kidnapped a few days before I arrived. That was why there were many police on the highway. We were stopped and searched. They opened my luggage too. These “revolutionaries” are also criminals and marijuana farmers.
12. Surprisingly, from the legal enforcement and political stability point of view, Paraguay is probably the BEST in the MercoSur region (apart from Chile).
Hope this short list intrigues you a little bit on Paraguay, possibly a country often ignored for the purpose of tourism.
Food for thoughts! Nothing more!