Cows in the Street

cows in the streetIf you can overlook the fact that everyone is not speaking English and you’re never entirely sure what is going on around you, Paraguay can seem a lot like the US, especially the rural US. However, contradictorily, you would never mistake your life in Paraguay for that in the US.

So what makes the two countries different? What makes Paraguay a developing country and the US a developed country? These are hard questions, but here are some observations about Paraguay I think illustrate some aspects of life here.

Infrastructure

  • Dirt bikes are the most common mode of personal transportation. Buses are a critical way of going farther distances or to areas where you don’t want to drive or park your dirt bike. Along with motor vehicles, you will see ox carts and horse carts on the road.
  • If it’s raining school and work may be cancelled. We are in the sub-tropics; a heavy rain will turn streets into rivers that are fast enough to carry a child away. Dirt bikes don’t have roofs to protect you from the rain.
  • On the walk from your house to the nearest supermarket, your eyes and nose may sting because people are burning trash. Most areas don’t have trash collection so some of the easiest ways to get rid of trash are to burn it or bury it.

Daily Life

  • Paraguay has it’s own soundtrack. A soundtrack that blasts from almost every house from morning to evening.  Have you every heard the Paraguayan polka?
  • Most people and houses are well kept. I don’t mean to say they are flashy, because they’re not. “Humble” and “neat” are some words that come to mind.
  • The tablecloth serves as a napkin for whipping your mouth and as a cover for the table and then a cover for food left on the table. It’s not uncommon for family members to share one or two glasses while drinking juice, soda, or beer.

Personal Interactions

  • In your community, everyone you pass acknowledges you with a greeting, nod, or smile. Most people in your community are related.
  • You don’t just do errands, but rather you have conversations with people while buying things. A lot of shopping can be done at house-front, mini general stores.
  • Children live with their parents until they marry. Siblings are likely to share beds and it’s not uncommon to have several beds in one room.

Animals

  • Dogs run free everywhere. They aren’t trained; they aren’t de-bugged; and they aren’t spayed or neutered.
  • Except in the city, there are a lot of free-range chickens.
  • You can sit at a bar in the middle of a medium-sized town and cows will wander down the street by you.