Country Mouse

I’ve been in Asuncion since Thursday morning, the longest period of time I’ve spent away from the school since I got here.

Despedidas for three of the city interns this weekend, [suerte Sarita, Florian, and Andrew!] a sunny afternoon steeped in terere and stimulating [English] conversation, and a much-needed laugh at Andrew’s blog reminded me once again how un-characteristic my experience here has been.

It’s hard to say definitively that it’s a country-city divide, given the other significant differences between me and the other interns, [most notably my incompetence with the language and the fact that I don’t drink] but it seems to me a reasonable approximation of the difference I feel from Paraguayans in general.

I live in the Chaco.

It’s a bone-rattling, deathly boring 12-hour bus ride from the middle of nowhere, but I’ve never felt more isolated by a mere 25-mile stretch of relatively well-maintained highway. Coming to the city is a bit disorienting for me. I’ve never been one to shy away from new experiences, and I’ve certainly not devolved into some timid, frenetic home-body, but I feel strange in Asuncion. The noise is distracting, the air is oppressive, and the social structures blurred and unfamiliar.

In my little world, two-thirds of the adults can’t even read, let alone discuss poetry. In my little world people take a photo when they have a 100mil guarani bill, while the smallest withdrawal denomination at an ATM in the city is 1 million. In my little world, and in laughing spite of the Internet, nobody has any idea there were riots surrounding the recall election in Bolivia, not even the Bolivians.

As in any country, the rich and poor of Paraguay live locked in an utter empathetic impasse. And this country mouse isn’t sure what to do about it.


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