Prologue: I leave Paraguay this coming Saturday, which is a very daunting thought. I finished my major project this past Friday, which was a huge relief, and so in this next week I am basically just wrapping up my other, small projects and saying goodbyes. There is a strange sense about what it means to be leaving this place. I have learned so much here. So much. Volumes. It’s really incredible – I didn’t realize that three.5 months could be so full of new thoughts and understanding. There has been a sort of crystallization as well. I am by no means at a personal equilibrium, but as far as academics and intellectualism go, Paraguay has been sort of a coming-of-age story. I am excited to be back in Durham, but not looking forward to leaving. There is a lot to leave behind here, and I do sincerely hope I’ll be back sometime. With that said and my work mostly done, I figured I would take some time to chronicle my weekend as a tourist here.

Act 1: Moments of Zen

My housemate Sarita correctly identified these wild, incomprehensibly surreal moments as one of the things she will miss the most about Paraguay – or at least the Paraguayan experience. There are these hilarious quirks that make every day an adventure. To hear the sound of one-hand clapping in time with a pulsing beat of reggeaton is to know what it is to be Paraguayan. Three recent such moments:

  • Every weekend there is an “indigenous market” downtown, when craftspeople all come into the city and peddle stunningly identical wares off of blankets and tables lined up along one of the central Plazas. I was at one table looking at hand-carved wooden salad forks with the visages of different native animals carved into their handles (hey mom and dad, guess what I bought you!). I was handed one set which had a bird on the top, but you could clearly tell from the wood and the paint that the beak had broken off in transit somewhere. I pointed this out to the woman. “No,” she told me, “that is a special Paraguayan bird. They don’t have beaks.”
  • The other day I ran past a guy who was wearing a Hanson (remember mmbop?) t-shirt.
  • There is an unexplained, and in fact inexplicable statue of something that appears to be a werewolf downtown in Plaza de Heroes. It has the head of a bear-like creature, the body of a Spartan, and the tail of a rat. I was with my friend Noe, who is a biologist in Paraguay studying small mammals, and he didn’t have a clue what it was – maybe something mythological. In any case, it seemed out of place next to the memorial commemorating the lost soldiers of the Chaco War.

Act two: Long overdue photos of scenic downtown Asuncion

Sorry some of these are so overexposed. I think because it was Saturday, and nobody leaves the house, the usual blanket of diesel smog wasn’t there to filter out the sunlight.

Here is a neat little statue in front of a building that I believe is the Parliament house (yes, it is pink).

Here is the Presidential Office. There is a vaguely attractive but sort of stern looking guy standing in front of it.

As with every country that has suffered under there rule of a dictator, Paraguay has many “Desaparecidos” – those who disappeared, never to be heard from again.

This is actually really cool. This statue is in Plaza de los Desaparecidos. If you look closely, you’ll see parts of what appear to be a person crushed into the concrete. After the dictatorship fell, they took a huge statue of Stroessner, smashed it up, put the pieces into that concrete block, and put it on display. I tried to find a picture of the original statue for reference, but google images let me down.

Oh why hello there Argentina! What are you doing all the way over on the other side of that river?

For those of you who appreciate irony and contrast (which should be, I assume, all of you who are still reading), on the left you can see the back of the Presidential Office. On the right, you can (just barely) see the top of a flavela – a slum. I’m not talking about run-down public housing. I mean scrap plywood stapled together with corrugated, rusted-out tin roofing — that kind of slum. It is literally in the back yard of the presidential office.

That beautiful Asuncion Skyline…

oh hay sup. assorted interns, friends and associates:

Chaco hotel, cafe literario, peaceful street, good times.

deserted bus on the ride home

This picture just really needs a home. That is really a bull’s horn. And that is really my house mate. And she is really about to charge.

Act 3: Don Quixote de la Mancha

Last night a couple of interns and I went to see a ballet rendition of Don Quixote. I gotta say, although I took personal offense to their portrayal of Don Q as a sort of hapless drunkard, it was a really great show. The scenery was beautiful, the dancers were incredible, and the music was very well done. Hmm…maybe this doesn’t have to be an act unto itself. I don’t really have more to say about it.

I suppose we could extend it by adding a Scene 2:

Joseph Stiglitz – former world bank chief economist, nobel laureate, and all-around baller – is coming to Asuncion for a couple of days to advise the incoming government. He is giving an open event on Thursday, which will be incredible to see.

So I guess that’s all for now. I’ve only got a week back in Durham before heading off again to Spain, and I know in advance that I won’t have enough time to see everybody I want to see, or do everything I am hoping to do, but I also don’t plan on rushing any of it. These last couple of days in Asucion are going to be incredible, culminating in Lugo’s inauguration the day before I leave. The week in Durham is going to be frenetic, scattered, and blurry.