Archive for March, 2012

Paraguay summary

Posted: March 11, 2012 in Travel
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We arrived in Paraguay carrying a dark and heavy opinion about it. Several of my friends bashed it and berated it and complained about how horrible it was, and how stupid and slow the people were. ExceptionalUruguayanBob relayed quite a few stories about the density of the people, how it was a disorganized hellhole. Some of his stories included details about how other people with which he did business, when finding out he was Uruguayan, congratulated his homeland on doing something the surrounding places did not: exterminating the indigenous population. GermanBob goes on and on about the retardedness of the people and how he wants to remain the last one of his group friends who have not been mugged at gunpoint in Paraguay.

During an analytical conversation over some rotgut booze (a horrible concoction of “El Abuelo” Argentine Sherry which ExFedBob had picked up because it was surprisingly cheap, and over-sugared Pulp brand Guarana to try and mask the lack of flavor) about how racist Uruguayans tend to be, we found some interesting things that correlated not only the Uruguayan perception of Paraguayans, but some other key pieces shifted and fell into place from previous experiences. The scales falling from my eyes, all the clues came to light, like watching the subtle flashbacks at the end of a thriller mystery movie when the protagonist completes the puzzle and suddenly I understood…

Flashback: I was in Orlando, Florida, helping the brother of ExceptionalUruguayanBob move into his college apartment. UruguayanMomBob was there too. Her comments about Orlando were harsh but I agreed 100%: “This town is so ugly. Every square inch of it is commercial.”

Yes, indeed, Mom, but this place is responsible for so many wonderful technological developments that you use in your everyday life, courtesy of Walt Disney, that your head would spin.

Eventually UruguayanMomBob found I was not offended by her comments and then really let it out. Each day was building and building in her and she couldn’t stand the place, couldn’t wait to leave. Interesting.

Flashback: About 18 months later, when BrotherBob was ¾ of his way through his 2-year accelerated degree at FullSail, he decided he could no longer stand it in Orlando, abandoned his almost-complete degree, and left for another school in Seattle (a hive of scum and villainy, built on the trampled bones of commerce which the locals all take advantage of while simultaneously declaring it to be evil).

Flashback: ExceptionalUruguayanBob describing how horrible Ciudad del Este was, because of all the people running about doing business.

Flashback: AnotherUruguayanBob described Ciudad del Este as “Hell, complete Hell.”

It all gels into place in one cohesive, solid realization:

Uruguayans are completely, utterly, shit-their-pants afraid of commerce.

No wonder they hate Paraguay. Paraguay has come out of a dictatorship and a mere 15 years later is booming. Uruguay has had a 10-year lead on them and now they are sinking into the muddy bog of socialist fascism. Uruguayans think they are sophisticated and special, and they hate to see a bunch of sweaty Mestizos, Asians, and other mixed breeds showing them up.

They have more things available, cheaper, than Uruguay. We found all of the items we had to previously smuggle in, in normal grocery stores: real maple syrup, clear gelatin, spices, whole vanilla beans, juniper berries, the list goes on and on. I should have bought that $330 Playstation. Here in Uruguay it costs $550, and that is the cheap price.

In one sentence, what is Paraguay? Paraguay is the most upwardly-mobile country I have yet visited, in the worst location in South America I have yet visited (Chile is next on the list, who knows, it may prove better still). Brazil has the best beaches, Uruguay has the best tranquilismo, Argentina has the best cosmopolitan vibe. But each of those places has major problems holding it back. Argentina is burning in the iron grip of the fascist Kirchner mafia. Brazil has too many diverse regions controlled by too few concentrated centers of power, and it seems fit to burst at the seams somewhere. Uruguay’s socialist bureaucracy guarantees a stranglehold on anything that dares to move.

Paraguay cares for none of that. It heads in its own direction. Sure it has some problems but none that are keeping anyone down or preventing them from taking their chance at making their way in the world. Yes, it’s a little bit backward, but the people know it, and they are playing an excellent game with the hand that they have been dealt.

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Some other observations about Paraguay that I did not find a way to insert into other posts:

Nosepicking seems to be a national sport. In public, while driving, while standing on the street corner, everyone is drilling for oil.

Volleyball seems to be everywhere as well.

I see fat people. Lots more obese people here than in Uruguay. I assume it has to do with a much more bread-heavy diet, also native Americans tend to have more problems with obesity and diabetes.

LawyerBob explained to us how it is dealing with the Indios: They are very immature thinkers, and have no concept of the future. If you employ them you only get 3 days of work out of them per week. And you have to pay them daily or weekly, never monthly. Monday they cannot come into work because they are hung over from drinking too much on the weekend. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday they work. Friday they cannot work because of some religious holiday thing. Saturday and Sunday they are out getting drunk with their friends. If you pay them monthly, they will blow it all in a few days and then come crying back to you for more, because their family is starving. Hmm… sounds a lot like Uruguayos.

In Asuncion, every square inch that can be covered by commerce, is. The local poor sell handicrafts or fruit or vegetables, people hawk wares they got cheaply at Ciudad del Este, there are street vendors everywhere. In Uruguay it is pretty much outlawed except for special areas or unless you have a permit (which is hard to get unless you have a whole life to waste chasing after whatever desk jockey who issues it). In Uruguay, nobody wants to try because they are beaten down by both the government and their fellow man. At the airport in Asuncion, I had to send a pair of shoe-shine kids away twice, explaining that no, my hiking boots do not need to be polished because they are for work and are always dirty. Instead of being resentful, they smiled, wished us a “Buen viaje,” and left. The shoe-shine kids are learning the basics of business early– they probably make enough to keep their shoe polish supply from running out, and whatever is left over they probably spend on candy (which is what I would have done if I were that age). They will learn the concepts of time, money, and resource management at age 10. Uruguayans, if they were even able to move themselves to run around the airport to shine shoes, would have told me to fuck off because they deserved the work I was hoarding away from them. I have never seen an Uruguayo shoeshine kid. They won’t let their kids work.

Only in a few instances did we see people with their hand out wanting something for nothing. Most cases were people with deformities or crippling problems who could not work under normal circumstances. In this case, however, some of them still made the best of it and would be selling lottery tickets or trinkets or something which at least had value. Anywhere else, if someone wanted money, they were trying to sell you something. Except for the instance with the scumbag road cop. Contrast this to Uruguay where the indigent expect you to take care of them, hassling you for money while offering nothing in return, and then treating you with open resentment because you won’t give it to them.

Paraguay, final day

Posted: March 11, 2012 in Travel
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We left early in the morning to see the Itaipu dam. We were running a little later than I had hoped, but it turned out fine timewise and I am glad we decided to go.

Itaipu dam is massive. It provides for 91%+ of Paraguay’s electrical needs and they are working on the remaining few percent. It makes Paraguay completely energy-independent as far as electricity is concerned. And they are only using 10% of the dam’s capacity with a population of 6.5 million people. They are entitled to 50% of it because they split the construction with Brazil. That’s a lot of room to grow.

The tour started with a 30-minute video presentation about the statistics of the dam and the nature reserves, surrounding lakes, and a Guarani museum. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for any of these but we’ll have to check them out during a future trip. We liked Paraguay. We’ll definitely be back.

The rest of the tour consisted of a bus which takes you to a viewing overlook where you can see the whole dam and spillway. Unfortunately the water level was not overflowing so there was just a trickle coming down the spillway. Not the dramatic 300km/hour flume of deadly water that you see in the videos. There were some neat posters in the viewing deck which had diagrams, information about the dam and its workings, etc. in several languages. Then we got back on the bus and it drove through the lower part of the dam to the Brazil side, and then up over the top of the dam, then back to the visitor center. We didn’t get to see the guts, which was disappointing, but it was still a worthwhile tour. It was also free of charge, so therefore I should shut up and be grateful.

After the dam we sped back to Asuncion. Much less traffic on Saturday. No cops shook us down. They were present, but not nearly as numerous as the other day. Most of them were there at their checkpoints sitting in the shade and shooting the mierda with their friends.

We had maybe an hour left between the time we returned the rental car and when we had to leave for the airport, so I arranged for the rental car guys to take us there (we paid a fee for them to come get us from the hotel and take us to the rental center, and that fee included returning us to where we needed to go). No problem, they say. Good. We spent the next hour at the gas station cafe across the street eating nutritions meals like SuperPanchos and ice cream, and enjoying the air conditioning. When time came for us to go get our ride, we found that the rental car guys had bailed on us. Nice.

We called a taxi, said our goodbyes to NewBob and ExFedBob, and made it to the airport with no problems. The taxi driver talked politics with us (he brought it up!), and he seemed really positive. “Come to Paraguay, bring your friends,” he said, “There are so many things you can do here to make money!”

We’ll think about it. We really liked the place. Not sure I would want to live there, but it’s a great place for a playground, and cheap living. We arrived not wanting to like the place, our heads full of preconceptions, and we were very pleasantly surprised. It was kind of sad to leave. I’ll write up a detailed report soon summarizing my thoughts.

Ciudad del Este

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Travel
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We arrived in Ciudad del Este after a 5.5 hour drive in the car. The whole way is a 2-lane highway, paved fairly well, 300km from Asuncion to CdE. The top speed is 80km/h and there are cameras that take your car’s picture if it is speeding, or so the car rental agents say. We didn’t see any of said cameras, though, the whole way.

It took us about 1.5 hours to get out of Asuncion city limits. The traffic is chaos and we had to take a fairly thorough detour to avoid the construction that has torn up Boulevard España.

We got pulled over by a scumbag cop on the way out of town in one of the many shakedown stops they set up. “Your friends are not wearing seatbelts in the back seat. I will have to write you a ticket, and there will be multas (fines),” he says.

“How much is the fine?” I ask.

“190,000 Guarani.”

I look through my wallet and tell him, “I don’t have enough. What do you say to 50?”

“OK. Buen viaje,” as I slip him the bill. Equivalent about USD$11. I hope you use it to buy the bottle or rock or pill that blows your liver out, you waste of atmosphere. The rest of the trip the passengers must be bolted to the seats lest we run into any more scumbags. Fortunately we didn’t get bagged again but there were lots of “checkpoints” where the road cops were shaking down other people.

We arrived in CdE after a long tiring drive which involved going slow, speeding up sometimes, and staring a lot at the ass of whatever slow truck we could never quite get past. Traffic going towards Asuncion was busy. They really need to widen the road at some point in the near future especially if Paraguay’s economy keeps growing as it has been.

CdE is a crazy place. It looks like any border town. Run down shabby stuff next to new state-of-the-art stuff. Trash in the streets. Signs warning not to urinate in public. Lots of smoke in the air, probably from some of the massive fires we saw burning in the fields. Looks like it is the season to burn off underbrush. Everyone was doing it.

CdE has a special stink to it. Sort of a greasy spicy onion stink, the same kind that leaks through the pores on your skin after you have eaten a massive box of Burger King onion rings. Feces, often overpowering. Hot garbage and diesel fumes. Smoke and hints of what’s cookin’ wherever it wafts from. Ahhh, the smells of capitalism!

By night it is a quiet, sleepy, almost scary place that reminds me of scenes from zombie-populated video games. By day, however, it is buzzing and alive with all walks of life. People hawking their wares, coolies running carts laden with boxes of goods here and there. Traffic is complete chaos, as pedestrians and cars and buses and motorcycles and trucks full of cargo all compete for the same space.

One comment I read online said it was a place beyond belief, where you could see bootleg Gucci being sold on the sidewalk right outside the real Gucci store, and this was business as usual. It’s true. Kind of neat to see. Commerce! In South America!? Wow! Neat! They really *can* conduct business without getting an aneurism, spontaneously combusting, or being struck by lightning! This rings true throughout all of Paraguay so far as I have seen. These folks try much harder than Uruguayans, for sure, in all respects.

After a good night’s sleep, we started out the next morning to see Iguazu Falls. We were fearful of problems at the border, as my Brazil visa is expired and ExFedBob had none. I had read that sometimes the border cops are a pain in the ass, and sometimes they don’t care. Sometimes you can get through no problem in a tour bus or taxi. So they say. It’s supposed to be a 20-km free border zone for international tourism but as we all know, governments never quite follow their own rules and are very prone to shooting themselves in the foot.

Our fears turned out to be unfounded. The border cops could not have possibly cared less. Everyone was just driving through. I could have driven through a refrigerated van full of the corpses of my enemies. Hmmm…

Iguazu was beautiful and awe-inspiring as always. The last time we were here we were on the Argentine side. Having witnessed that, I had my doubts as to how the travel guides could substantiate the superiority of the Brazilian side, but now I agree. Brazil’s side has a place where you can stand on a catwalk literally right below one of the falls and be battered by the wind and mist and roaring water of nature’s raw power unleashed.

The Brazil side also has a larger, or at least more active, population of coati than the Argentine side. I spent much time explaining to WifeBob why we cannot take one home. No, you cannot pet it. Contact with wild creatures is how we end up with things like Ebola and the Bubonic Plague. Do you not remember the coati that mugged you for the sugar packet while you were mixing your coffee the last time? No, I disagree, I did not think it was cute.

After Iguazu we went shopping in CdE. Looking for specific things is an adventure. 100 people have what you want and every one of them has a different price. I myself was looking for a new Playstation 3 as my old one has many miles and is slowly giving up its ghost. Unfortunately here the price on PS3 consoles is still about $100 higher than I can find it in the ‘states, and a price I know Aduanas Uruguayos will have an issue with. So I pass.

We look for fuzzy chenille blankets which WifeBob has fallen in love with, but we cannot find any that don’t have flowers or animals or Buzz Lightyear or whatever tacky shit Asia didn’t want. No solid colors for you!

We walked through souk-like stores where things were simply piled up, because there was no more space for inventory. Touts walked through pointing to everything, as if we could not tell that this is a t-shirt, and this is pants, and yes, jackets here. Rug. You like rug? Nice rugs I have for you. You like daughter? She also for sale. 2 camels, I sell her to you. Good trade. You like.

It must be mentioned that these people are surviving here in this shitsplat trading post in the armpit of South America, and they do what needs to be done. They learn and speak 4 or 5 languages. They hustle. They work hard. They sell hard. And they don’t whine that they need more or deserve this or the Man is keeping them down. They know that hard work pays off and that if they sit on ass they go hungry. Ahh, capitalism! I love the smell of it!

All in all, however, I must admit that after I have spent 24+ hours in Ciudad del Este, I am a bit underwhelmed. I was hoping it would be better but it’s just not quite there yet. Something tells me that it is the way it is because folks know governments down here can turn on a dime and pull the rug out from under the people, so they toss up ramshackle shantymalls which can be abandoned on a moment’s notice and not severely impact the pocketbook. I am not regretting our trip out here, though. It is refreshing to see.

The Drug Lord Experience

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Travel
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We had some general questions about “what happens now?” with the lawyer who fixed up the process for us and dealt with our paperwork, so we made an appointment for said Q&A session. “No problem. DriverBob will pick you up at the hotel and bring you here.”

DriverBob shows up and off we go. When we arrive at LawyerBob’s house, it is like something out of Miami Vice or other drug lord movie. LawyerBob’s neighbors have their own guards out front with machineguns. We are escorted by DriverBob through sliding glass doors into a sort of living room/library. Ornate woodwork everywhere inside (real wood, not the fake stuff), nice furniture. The windows look out in a well-manicured tropical backyard, in which marches a ñandu (ostrich) and a few chickens. It could only have been better if there were a giraffe, or bikini girls hanging out at the poolside. Perhaps sharks in the pool. With frikking laser beams on their heads.

There were also parrots and cats and dogs and armadillos. It was a menagerie.

I was fully expecting to see, waiting for us, a portly man with a 2-ton moustache, a Panama hat, Popeye forearms covered in gorilla fur and a white guayabera half-opened to display a gold chain with a Virgin of Guadeloupe pendant and a thick rug of chest hair. He gestures with a smoldering cigar between his way-too-fat jewelry-festooned fingers and refers to himself in the third person, “Now, what can Pablo do for you?”

A maid came in and brought us water and orange juice. The glass pitchers were chilled. The glasses had no fingerprints or water spots.

Then eventually LawyerBob came in. [details left out for fear I may die]

We had a good Q&A session. LawyerBob spoke of all things Paraguayan. It took a long time. LawyerBob likes to talk. Then the subject came up about how Paraguayans work, which involved explanation of foreigners who come here thinking that they can get things done rapidly and then simply run into the brick wall of bureaucracy. I wondered if it was just in general or if it was cleverly aimed at my panic-laden phone calls from the previous day. It chilled my blood, regardless.

We did have a good laugh about the clusterfuck of the process, though. When we arrived, none of the people who were handling our files for LawyerBob recognized any of the people in the Migraciones office. ThugBob’s “let’s get things done” bee dance was not working in the hive. None of these new people knew any of the drill, so they did not know how to handle any sort of deviation from a set of absolutist guidelines in their little book of how-to-do-it. Migraciones has a history of being wiped clean as different Jefes come and go and fire the staff to make way for friends and favors owed.

Who knows where ThugBob was, but he *should* have been there. When we went back across the street, the people in the lawyer’s office were calling LawyerBob, I was calling Lawyer’sAssistantBob, everyone was calling everyone asking everyone else, “What do we do?”

Clusterfuck.

Then, later the same day, we were out shopping and we get a call from Lawyer’sAssistantBob asking where we were. “Why aren’t you at the hotel?” she asked. We had inquired previously about a service in which a guy from Interpol comes to get another set of photos and fingerprints ahead of time so that when your cedula is ready you do not need to be present in order to have it made, and it can therefore be mailed to you. Yes, we would like to do that, we said, but beyond that we did not know when or where or how it would happen, and had assumed we would be called to confirm a place and time.

“ThugBob is at your hotel and you are not there,” she continued.

“We are out shopping. This is why mankind invented the concept of appointments,” I admit it was rude and crossing the line of propriety but I had had enough of this kind of stuff and my give-a-damn was busted. WifeBob continues to scold me about choosing my battles, and I admit it was a battle best taken in the ass, but I lost my temper. I would send an apology by SMS later on.

“OK, where are you? ThugBob will come to pick you up.”

“I’m at… *beep-beep-beep*” the phone cuts out. Lawyer’sAssistantBob is out of cel phone minutes, and I can’t get a cel signal either. We saw a Claro store across the street so I go there to try and buy more minutes. The guard is waving his hands “no” as the clerk inside is locking the doors. Closed.

We continued to a big grocery store which surely would have a cel phone charge booth or something we could use to our benefit. Can’t buy minutes for a foreign Claro phone here. Shit. I asked one of the girls at the customer service counter if I could make a quick phone call to a local cel phone, fully expecting a “no,” but lo and behold she pulls out her personal cel phone and dials the number. Paraguayans are indeed helpful and generous! I think my odds would have been 50/50 in Uruguay. Ehh, less.

I connected with Lawyer’sAssistantBob, who had just run to recharge her phone minutes, and told her where we were. “OK, let me call ThugBob and arrange a pickup.” We waited a minute or two and then got a call back on my phone. Good, it works now. “ThugBob says the store does not exist.”

“I assure you, it does indeed exist. I am standing right here in front of it, the sign reads blahblahblah, and the street sign here is the corner of blahblah and blahblah.”

“Sorry, can you get a taxi?” ThugBob didn’t want to get off his butt in rush hour traffic. Why not just say so?

“Uh, yes,” another battle taken in the ass.

We climbed into the cab and got back to the hotel where ThugBob was waiting with InterpolBob. We did our fingerprint cards and photos; ThugBob stared off into space and still would not look us in the eye. I fantasize about burying his corpse some day. Pre-emptive strike.

Anyhow, we had a good nervous laugh about it while I am thinking I will become chicken and ñandu feed. Please don’t kill me, LawyerBob!

The time came to leave and LawyerBob insisted we stay for lunch. “No, really, we have to go, we are driving to Ciudad del Este this afternoon and we have to leave soon,” we replied.

“No, please, my empleada has just prepared all this food.”

Ok, we’ll eat, please don’t kill us. …or will eating kill us? I start to fear Indios in dark corners with blowguns and poison darts made from colorful frog venom…

So we talked and talked some more, or, rather, LawyerBob talked and talked. Not that I mind; LawyerBob is full of excellent information on how things work, how the people think, the problems Paraguay must overcome, etc. etc. Eventually the time came when it really was time to go. We thanked LawyerBob profusely for the hospitality and left with DriverBob, who had started the car and had the interior pre-cooled for us, ready for our trip back to the hotel, from which we would leave for Ciudad del Este.

In the car on the way back I reveal my fear and excitement that LawyerBob is probably the kind of person you could call if you had a body to dispose of. A good person to know, and a good person to fear all the same.

I have a headache from clenching my teeth in frustrated anger for hours. And other things. I guess it’s OK now but when it was happening it was blood-boiling.

Today the person responsible for walking us through the process had an appointment for something more important, apparently, and left us to hang in the bank to finish depositing money. Afterward, we were to be escorted, through the final part of submitting all the paperwork, by their runner thug who buzzes around the hive and does his “let’s get it done” dance in the hopes that the other bees will also do the same dance. He seems like a guy who can get things done, but he won’t look me in the eye, and despite the fact that he knows I speak and understand Spanish, he still speaks to me as if I am an invalid pasty-white gringo.

So we are sitting at the desk where the bored functionary goes though your papers and papers and papers and papers and papers and papers.

ThugBob has disappeared. And then after sitting in front of this dull worker drone for some 2 hours, some problem inevitably comes up. ThugBob, who knows the process, is nowhere to be found. We check across the street at the office where he seems to work, but he is not there either. We need his help to smooth the hackles down on the functionary because she cannot compute something or other with our application.

Now after experiencing the whole of the process, it is my firm belief that these peoples’ job is to look through the stack of papers and find one “problem” that they cannot solve. I argue back and forth with them, but to no avail. They cannot accept our application. Give me a moment, says I, and I go to look for ThugBob. He is still not there. So I just grab my stack of papers and stomp furiously across the steet to find out what we should do.

The attorneys had our papers for months, and if there was any problem they should have spotted it. Probably not their fault– everything looked fine. But the paperpushers still find “something”.

The attorney’s errand runner is not here. ThugBob is not here. So I call whoever I can, angry, to find out what we can do.

ThugBob eventually returns and acts surprised that we are not in the Migraciones building. He goes to “find out” what the “problem” is and returns with his pidgin English explanation involving what Paraguayans refer to as “solutions.” Si, por supuesto, says I. Que sorpresa. Siempre.

Now the “solution” does not phase me. I had expected it. However, if you are going to be a rule bender, don’t make me sit there in a chair for hours in my personal idea of Hell and hem and haw and say, “No, creo que no puedo,” and feed me with bullshit drama. I am not there to see your goddamn act. Instead, make it take 5 minutes, go through a cursory examination of my paperwork, say, “I see a problem here but there is a solution,” hold your filthy hand out and “solve” it, stamp my fucking papers and tell me it’s done. I have wasted the greater part of 4 hours doing this bullshit.

We solve, not insignificantly, the “problem” and then another hour later ThugBob comes in with a smile on his face and directs us into Migraciones to sign the now “solved” papers and have our photos taken. Part of what solved the situation was a letter about the “lacking” portions of the application, approved by some invisible Jefe with subsequent instructions for official forgiveness of said errors.

Not a single one of us escaped without a “problem” with our papers. Big surprise.

We are officially done, until some other “problem” comes up. 6 months from now we should have our documents and be official Paraguayan residents. Then we can come and go as we please and buy and register cars much more cheaply than Uruguay, and sometime in 3 years we ought to be able to fanagle some passports.

Today provided us with much amusement. Since we have been through so much BS in Uruguay with its squareheaded government daleks, this process seems like a breeze.

One part of the residency process involves “legalizing” your entry visa. For those of you not familiar with the South American flavor of document legalization, it is basically a way for one government idiot to prove that another government idiot’s paper is “official and legitimate.” In this case, Paraguay is making sure its own document, which it demanded we attain, is official and legitimate. It is a true chicken/egg paradox within another chicken/egg paradox. First, we had to get the tourist visas to enter Paraguay.

The first paradox involved not knowing when we were going because we needed the visas first, but you can’t get the visa until you already have tickets booked. The second paradox is that we are already in Paraguay, the document having been accepted by immigration at the airport, so obviously it worked. So now we have to prove that it is an authentic Paraguayan document, because apparently the fact that it was made on Paraguayan soil at the consulate in Montevideo does not count as it being authentically Paraguayan. So we are here, and you stamped it, like 10 times when you made it, then another 2 when we arrived, and now we have like 3 more for the authentication. How can this massive collection of rubber and paper stamps be anything BUT Paraguayan?

Now I’m out of passport pages.

Then we go to some other office where they have to take another set of fingerprints. Then they hand us a single paper towel to clean off the ink. No good. So I try wetting it at their water dispenser. No good. So I go to the bathroom, which is NASTY, and they have no soap and the faucet is half-attached so I am getting ink all over their sink. My inky finger smudges help spruce the place up, honestly. Turds would be afraid of that bathroom.

During our wanderings about Asuncion going from office to office to office, we run into this guy:

Nice wang.

I have nothing to say but, “dude’s got talent.”

We met a few folks at a Sushi buffet, one being WebsiteBob who used to live in Uruguay and I knew, and NewBob, who I had never met before but it turns out he grew up in my hometown and attended the same schools and had the same teachers. Such a small world we live in, when we meet in a Sushi buffet in Paraguay!

Paraguay has Asians! Lots of them. And vitamin stores and stuff that you would NEVER see in Uruguay. As a challenge, WifeBob and I went looking in a local grocery store for all the spices and things we always have difficulty finding in Uruguay. And we found everything but clear gelatin. And this is in the podunk basement grocery store in downtown Asuncion.

We bought a bunch of stuff to take home with us, and all of it came to less than $20. It would have cost us $35-40 or more to buy the stuff in Uruguay. We go to see the big-box grocery store tomorrow. I am afraid we will have to buy a suitcase to bring back groceries, and it will still be cheaper with the suitcase included.

On the taxi ride back to the hotel, I asked the driver what he thought about the future of Paraguay. He had his doubts. “We have lots of problems here in Paraguay. Increased violence, we need more jobs, and people are starving in the interior. Hopefully with the new government, things can turn around. And if we can attract more capital and investors, it will help.”

So I had to ask him, being the angry anarchocapitalist that I am, “Do you think the people can solve these problems on their own, without the government?” But he didn’t seem to be able to imagine the concept.

Paraguay day 2

Posted: March 5, 2012 in Travel
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The folks picking us up arrived late. As in 3 hours late. We were starting to think that they had forgotten us.

Then we went to various offices and got lots of papers stamped and paid bribes and waited a long time and finally something happened, sort of. Then we got more papers and stamps and got back in the car. We drove to Interpol and waited some more, then got our fingerprints taken. Then we got back in the car and went to another government office where we waited again for a while, and then it turned out we didn’t have the right papers to appease this desk jockey so we’ll have to come back tomorrow.

So it goes in Paraguay, so it goes in Uruguay, so it goes anywhere with bureaucrats. You are always a day late and a dollar short.

We are doing our process along with another guy, IranianBob. He seems nice, very interesting to talk to. He told us about his mountaineering adventures in Nepal and how wonderful a country and society it was, so now we have another country to tick off on our bucket list. I didn’t get to asking him if he is looking to Paraguay because Our Dear Leader His Holiness the Great Messiah, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is chomping at the bit to blow Iran to smithereens, but we have a few days yet to play with bureaucrats and chase papers around town, so we will probably get to touch upon that topic.

It’s fucking hot. FUCKING hot. There is no relief at night. It’s like Miami in the dead of summer, but hotter.

Gasoline is about G$5500 per liter ($1.28) and diesel is G$7500 ($1.75, a little cheaper than Uruguay’s $1.80). For this reason most Paraguayos drive gas vehicles at the moment.

We went to the pharmacy to get some things and the cost of supplements is half here what it is in Uruguay, even on stuff imported from Argentina. Shampoo is also half the cost.

We bought a few decorative threadwork doily things for the house at the artisan fair, and found a neat handwoven tablecloth, the kind that is Super-Mega-In-Style OhMyGodWhereDidYouGetThatItMustHaveCostYouAFortune in Palm Beach, for sale for about USD$35. With 12 matching napkins, included. We’ll likely be back for the tablecloth tomorrow. Profit, built on the broken backs of the Guarani!

We both ate lunch with large helpings in full entrees, drinks, bread, and coffee, for G$90000, or $21. The chicken here is excellent, WifeBob says better than Uruguay, and the eggs are just as good.

Would I want to live here? No. Even Satan sweats here and I can tell it will be hard to find the things we would need here. Could I live here if I had to? Sure but I would be miserable. It’s Plan B material.

We continue to experience happy and helpful people, much more helpful than in Uruguay. Even if they fail, they seem to try harder. I am sure, though, that we will have a run-in with the Pizza Police here sooner or later, though.

Our amazing hotel phone.