September 4, 2013

Danger of Traveling While Female.

It is unfortunate how deeply this resonates with women everywhere, but I do appreciate how she reconciles this reality with a profoundly positive upside.



August 23, 2013

I have been back in the United States for nearly one month. Although I’ve been jetting around and haven’t exactly settled in San Diego yet, there are a few things I have observed about my readjustment so far.

1. I cannot cross the street properly. Cars waiting to turn right on red hate me for my nervous indecision, because I still assume anything with four wheels WILL hit me.

2. I cannot flush the toilet properly. I keep panicking when I actually drop my toilet paper in the toilet for fear that those four squares will clog the entire city’s plumbing.

3. Picking produce at the grocery store is revelatory. I am used to scouring endless land mines of rotten tomatoes and repulsively bruised mangoes that unsuspectingly ooze fermented juice all over my hand only to come away with nothing because everything is spoiled.

4. No matter how safe the city (seriously, Fremont and Cambridge?), I still walk around on survival/attack mode. My code red cynicism is still alive and burning.

5. Speaking of attack mode, orderly lining up has become a foreign concept to me. Any time a queue is formed, my instinct is to rush forward, elbows out. Apologies to the grandma at the grocery store yesterday…

6. Taking showers and lying in bed may be commonplace routines, but for me, they have become awe-inspiring highlights of my days. I am pretty sure I have thanked the Lord for shower curtains, water heaters, H2O that doesn’t smell like sewage, and real mattresses more than anything else…even time with B.

7. I heard this one from many a Peace Corps returnee, but I am still shocked by the excess of choices and options and how easy it is to spend money here. The credit card may be America’s greatest weapon.

8. Last Sunday was my first week back at Existence Church, and I hit culture shock so hard. More on this to come, but, GEEZ, money everywhere.

9. The more I travel, the more I LOVE San Diego. What kind of crazy person would ever leave this paradise heaven-land?!

10. Food is delicious.

My First Ticket.

July 25, 2013

It was four in the morning and dark out. My car was packed with people and parcels and pressed with places to be. Although it had been wonderful having a piece of San Diego in Asuncion for the week, the introvert in me was socially exhausted. I was also running a high fever and a virulent run of the flu was madly brewing.

Several orange cones dotted the paved lanes and a handful of uniformed police were scattered about, waving some vehicles on and directing others to pull over. These makeshift checkpoints occur frequently throughout the city, but so far, simply avoiding eye contact had provided a winning escapist strategy.

Unfortunately, on this occasion, and much to my disbelief, an officer gave me an ominous wave to move right. I pulled off the paved road, and fumbled around for the car registration, still hoping to be taken for the harmless gringa that I am.

No such luck. After reviewing all kinds of cards, documents, licenses, and permisos, and taking her sweet time doing so, the officer informed me that my habilitacion had expired and I was subject to a 250mil fine that had to be paid in the moment.

I attempted to play the “I don’t have enough cash on me right now [which I didn’t], but if you give me the ticket, I’ll pay it at the office later” card. This generally works to scare off the illegitimate extortion attempts, but this only served to have the officer order me out of the car. Uh. She sternly blabbered on about the supposed infraction and pointed me to drive a few feet ahead to pay the multa.

I scooted the car up, and had to hustle my departing American friends for the last bits of Guarani change they had in their pockets in order to amass the required amount. I was still unsure where the ticket was to be paid as the surroundings were largely dark and abandoned.

After some more ado, I was instructed to cross four lanes of traffic to a corner gas station, where a group of officers on motorcycles sat passing a bottle around. No one beckoned me forward to pay anything, so I sat in the car waiting for what seemed an eternity for the original officer to reappear and give further instruction.

Finally, she strolled over and pointed me to cross yet another street where a lone patrol car hosted a queue of other unlucky victims. Oh, the runaround. F alighted from the car to accompany me, for which I was much grateful because the second I emerged, hoards of drunk men, carousing at the petrol station (classy), descended upon me, leering and giving the usual slew of crude remarks. The nearby police officers were unmoved.

So thankful this did not happen while I was by myself.

Eventually, we made it to the clerk’s desk, which was a single female seated in the front passenger seat clutching a bulging cloth bag of paper bills. The legitimacy continues. She cited a sum that was significantly less than the other officer had demanded, so I hoped to quickly pay the smaller fee and make a quick escape.

Clearly, favor was not on my side that morning as the original officer conveniently sauntered over and won a small debate with the other woman about my payment. In the end, I had to fork over the initially stated 250mil with the knowledge that Mrs. Officer was likely going to enjoy a fat steak dinner later that evening. Then we continued the journey to the airport.

My first ever ticket.

Kablooey 205Pretty grand.

In the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries set up camp in what is now known as Encarnacion, naming their settlement La Santisima Trinidad de Parana. Eventually the Jesuit sect declined in popularity and with the mission’s exodus followed the decay of their physical dwellings. Today the reasonably well-preserved ruins are one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Paraguay.

The Sch family and I spent a humid morning exploring the community remnants, pitting our expedition against the ominous brewing storm threatening to drop forth at any second. True to typically lax Paraguayan style, climbing up on the ruins was technically strongly discouraged, but a lack of tangible barriers made for very loose interpretations of said suggestion.

We ducked under archways, leaped off staggered pedestals, snuck behind headless statues, crawled into dark crypts (shudder), had competitive and completely inappropriate footraces, and almost made it out dry. Almost.

All in all, an excursion done right.

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