Since I've arrived here, I've been discovering that many of the things I was told about Paraguay were not true, or I have yet to confirm the initial claim. The city of San Lorenzo, which is about 30 minutes away from the community I live in, was one such pleasant surprise.
I am not sure whether San Lorenzo is the capital of the departamento (like a U.S. state) in which we live, but it is definitely a bustling urban center. It looks like many of the smaller cities one might go to in the Caribbean (such as La Romana, Dominican Republic); the streets are lined with retail shops, vendors, open-air markets and lots of people. There are sounds of the traffic, people selling and buying goods, and Latin music such as reggaeton, bachata, cumbia, and Paraguayan polka. The availability of the latest Latin music assuged my fears about not being able to get the latest tunes because there it was - not to mention various bootleg DVD's for my viewing pleasure.
My host sister, Leti, set out to buy some shoes and a sweater, which she finally found after tearing through several stores. In the shoe stores there appeared to be a wide range of shoes in my size, which I had the impression would be harder to find, so this was also comforting. Granted, I didn't try anything on to see if it fit, so maybe that claim has yet to be disapproved. I am confident, however, that my shoes will hold up so I don't have to spend extra money on shoes. We even passed by a cellphone store that appeared to sell T-Mobile phones (shocker!!!). Of course when I have tried to find a network signal on my phone I have not been successful, but it was worth a try. After Leti dragged me through several stores in search of a sweater to go with her boots, she finally found one at a store manned by a pleasant Brazilian woman who thought I was Brazilian. While Leti tried on sweaters the lady and I had a nice convo about Brazil, the town she was from (the cleanest in Brazil, probably also the world, according to her) and how hard it was ("sumamente dificil") to get visas into the US. My sister purchased the sweater and we were finally able to get by the pharmacy so I could get some liquid body wash (Dove shampoo), and then caught the bus back to the house.
As you can see, there was very little that I would not have been able to purchase in San Lorenzo, which makes adjusting to live here even easier. Not that this may not still happen, but I have not experienced any verbal harrassment from Paraguayans about my skin color or hair type. I mentioned this to my mama and she was like, "of course there are people of color here, they just think you're Brazialian", which is completely fine with me. Since we touched down we've been welcomed with open arms and treated like family. Granted, once we leave for our posts this could all change, but at least I will have plenty of tools to deal with it at that time - not to mention what I hope wil be a more than sufficient command of Guarani (native language).
Until next time my folk!