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Published: April 21st 2006
This hotel near Encarnación (in Captain Miranda) features three swimming pools and a tennis court.
1. Corruption - Paraguay was declared the third most corrupt country on earth by Transparency International’s 2002’s Corruption Perceptions Index (out of 102 nations ranked). In order to combat this, Paul teaches a class on political ethics at his site in Pilar. My question is: Is it ethical to teach ethics in such an unethical society? 😉 Won’t the students who take Paul’s teachings to heart face a massive disadvantage trying to act ethically in an unethical society? 😉 But it must be working, because in the 2005 index they were ranked the 13th most corrupt (out of 160 nations). Their actual CPI score did improve though, rising from 1.7 to 2.1.
2. Guaraní - The second official language of Paraguay. Actually it’s more like the first (sure some rich people in the capital never bother to learn it, but many more poor people in the rural areas never bother to learn Spanish). Guaraní is the only native language to be an official language of a South American nation (thanks largely to the Jesuits).
3. Water - Paraguay has a vast supply of fresh water, and according to Paul all of it is safe to drink. Personally, I wouldn’t
Why There Are No More Trees in Ñeembucú
Piles of lumber outside of the textile factory in Pilar.
drink any of the water outside of Asunción (and I say that because I did).
4. Dogs - According to one statistic there are 7 dogs for every person living in Paraguay. Most of these dogs are not pets; they just roam the streets trying not to get hit by the buses (much like the cows, chickens and other animals). There is no Bob Barker in Paraguay trying to get the dogs spayed or neutered.
5. Cell Phones - Just about everyone in the country has a cell phone. And they all use them to send text messages (because it’s cheaper than calling).
6. Siesta - The afternoon nap popular throughout Latin America. This is one aspect of Paraguayan tradition that Paul has completely embraced. In fact, he probably does the Siesta better than the natives 😉
7. German Hotels - Los Alpes, Austria, Munich and Tirol. A rumor about one of these hotels was that it is run by ex-Nazis. The gentleman who inherited the place told us that he was Belgian. But then if you were the heir of Nazi war criminals wouldn’t you claim to be Belgian 😉
8. Food - In Paraguay I ate Chinese food, Pizza and the German cuisine served at the hotels. Some of the local fare included a bread baked with cheese, empanadas (a kind of pastry stuffed with beef, chicken or fish) and mandioca (a piece of the Yucca plant that makes an uncooked potato seem tasty). Breakfast usually consisted of a variety of fruit, ham and cheese sandwiches and toast with Dulce de Leche (a caramel spread). The best ice cream in the western hemisphere can be had in a little place near the hotel Los Alpes in Asunción. The mint chocolate chip was way too strong, but the cherry was fantastic.
9. The Chaco - A place we never visited, the northern 2/3rds of the country is the desolate, semi-arid region known as the Chaco. This area is home to some indigenous tribes, as well as German speaking Mennonites who started to settle the region in the 1920’s. The Chaco is one of the most under populated areas on Earth, home of jaguars and the world largest stork (the Jabiru). In the fall one of the most grueling long distance road races in the world is held there, The Trans-Chaco Rally.
10. Deforestation - between the 1970’s and late 1990’s more than 90% of Paraguay’s trees were cut down. There is a fledgling tree conservation/reforestation program currently underway.
Did I miss anything? Sure I did. You can't reduce an entire country to twelve blog entries and less than 80 photos and do it any justice. Paraguay is, as many of the guidebooks say, tranquilo (tranquil), but that should not be read as being synonymous with boring. There is certainly enough going on there to make it worthy of a brief visit, and that is an opportunity to get to know some of the friendliest people on earth.
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