When I initially moved into my new house, I was sure that I could get through the next year without a washing machine. Having seen so many hole-in-the-wall lavanderias on every corner of every neighborhood and after doing some quick calculations regarding expected expenditures, it appeared to be a wise decision to avoid purchasing a machine. Besides, having a vehicle would facilitate easy transport to the laundromat on the supposed weekly basis. It seemed simple enough.

But then I got badly (and I mean, I up and got furious and tried to argue my case and then stormed out bad) overcharged. And subsequent experiences with various other lavanderias proved just as troublesome. Not to mention, expensive.

I eventually learned that when you are quoted a price of 15 mil Guaranis (a little over 3USD) per basket, ‘basket’ really refers to half or a third of whatever load you bring. Even when your own small laundry basket is barely full. Also, jeans are priced individually at 2-5 mil each, and towels and sheets are charged separately at much higher prices. Some places even charge by article of clothing, quoting rates like 12 mil per dozen. That is nearly 25 cents per shirt/underwear/bra/pair of shorts!

Thinking maybe it was my foreign face and accent that was winning me the ‘extra special rate,’ I asked a Paraguayan contact to accompany me to her neighborhood joint. The total I paid was paramount and certainly still way too much to be shelling out on a weekly basis. With summer approaching (hence lots of sweating and bug spray, and definitely no multiple wears on things), washing clothes was about to get even more expensive.

Thus commenced a journey to hunt down my very own clothes washing robot. After several more “extra special prices” quoted just for the Asian girl and the tall white male assisting her, I found something within my budget and crammed it in the car to take home. While it is a basic machine that does not allow much to be processed at a time and only does a mediocre job washing undergarments and I’m back to the crunchy hang drying I first experienced in Spain, I appreciate the luxury of having an in-home washing machine to its full extent. So excited and feeling blessed.

Lima Diaries: Parque del Amor.

September 14, 2012

“Estupendo amor amar el mar.” -Jorge Eduardo Eielson
It is a stupendous love to love the sea. Word yo.

The Parque del Amor (Park of Love) in Lima is very reminiscent of Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona–one of my favorite spots from my year in Spain–with its colorful mosaic benches with myriad interesting quotes encompassing all the good and bad in love. There is also a gigantic statue of large figures making out.

All in the name of love.

Located in the affluent Miraflores neighborhood.

A ray of sunshine in so many senses.

Kissing. Ew.

Morocco, Chapter 1.

August 16, 2012

[Now that enough time has passed (has it really been more than four and a half years?), I feel less embarrassed about drudging these untold stories back up.]

From the minute we arrived at the Barcelona Girona airport and took note of the demographics of the check-in line, we should have known we were in for it. Both long lines consisted exclusively of Moroccan men with the exception of five women, all besmocked in heavy, full-body black veils that left only their eyes uncovered. I didn’t even know these were called burqas. My friend E and I glanced at each other wide-eyed in nervousness and sheepishly attempted to ignore the fact that we really had no idea what we were doing.

The original plan had been for E’s Moroccan friend to accompany us and provide a local’s grand tour of the country. So we purchased our tickets without so much as consulting a tour book or conducting any research beforehand. The friend ended up backing out at the last minute due to a work commitment, leaving us to our severely underwhelming defenses. Neither of us knew anything about Morocco aside from the basic information I Googled briefly before take-off and worse, neither of us spoke even a whimper of Arabic.

It was anxiety and helplessness immediately upon the point of arrival. We allowed ourselves to be herded out of the dilapidated airport after having our passports stamped, squinting into shockingly bright sunlight and not much else. Our first task was to find a taxi to take us to our hotel, which we had only booked for the first night. E’s friend had advised us to find cheaper lodging when we were actually in the city, but more about that later.

We glanced nervously into an expanse of nothingness and scattered cars. None of the vehicles looked even remotely like an official taxi. They were all ramshackle metal contraptions helmed by heavyset Moroccan men, almost all of whom were clamoring at us in unintelligible (at least to our ears) Arabic. We scurried back into the airport, found no one who could provide assistance, and were turned back out into this indecipherable world.

After dithering about and debating catching the next plane back to Spain, we risked getting in a purported taxi, handing the driver an address written in English. Fingers, and perhaps every other part of our body, for that matter, crossed.

It was a long drive through a tan-colored arid landscape. My best efforts at memorizing landmarks in case we had to pick our way back were futile as the scene outside my window was mainly dirt and non-descript square edifices. At that point, our bravery (or was it simply bravado?) was still near full tank but starting to run out rapidly.

I always thought Honduras was the bottom of the barrel. Then I came to Paraguay.

Even though I reside in the capital, Asuncion is relatively dead as far as cities go. Daily routine and long weeks of work tend to dull those overarching notions of underdevelopment. Until, of course, I leave the country. At which point, the realizations of just how barren Paraguay is come flooding back accompanied perhaps by a small degree of indignance. It’s kind of isolating, actually.

What am I doing in Paraguay?! But that is moot.

I recently embarked on a journey with the Schell’s to explore some Argentine cities just across the border of Paraguay. Although they are significantly lesser cities in the country of tango and beef, it was amazing to see how far even Argentina’s tertiary towns measured above Paraguay’s best. Streets were smoothly paved, buildings were intact, sprawling green parks actually sponsored leisurely play and relaxation, businesses and restaurants blinked bright lights everywhere, and floods of people swarmed the promenades.

As I strolled (as much as one can stroll while wrangling a small but boisterous child from running into the street every two seconds–a glimpse into a life that awaits me?) toward the water with the sun setting ahead of me, I was struck by how very reminiscent of Europe it all was. Memories of the summer I spent in Southern Spain flashed before my eyes in the tangible scenery of what physically lay before me.

The sun melting into a meditative body of water and leaving behind layers of orange, pink, and blue. Checkered plazas perfect for dancing and stone arches providing a romantic backdrop for all the lust swirling around. Familiar feelings of longing to drink in these sights with the one I love, who is somehow still far, far away.

Not so isolating, I guess, because nostalgia makes the world feel small.