Archive for September, 2006

My trip to Luque

Silver Filigree EarringsLuque is  about 15 km from Asuncion, it’s know to be Paraguay’s jewelry city. There you can find one jewelry store next to the other.

We got there around noon on a weekday, as soon as we got off the car we noticed something strange: the city was empty, very few people on the streets and most jewelry stores closed.

I was surprised and asked a local person it there was a holiday I was not aware of, and he said no, and started to explain that the everything closes during “siesta” time, nap time, I certainly was surprised because in Asuncion (just 15 miles away) the siesta was no longer in use, he also said that stores open back at 3 PM.

So I had time to go around this lovely city which honestly it’s among my favorites, it’s a happy city, people are friendly and everything is close by.

Most Paraguayan cities are distributed in a similar way which is: In downtown there will be a Cathedral, a main Park or Plaza, the Municipal administration, some stores, rustic restaurants or bars and colonial houses.

Downtown Luque is full of jewelry stores were you can find all kind of jewelry, from Italian to costume local handmade jewelry.

I was amazed by the calm and tranquility I could feel there, just walking around was a total pleasure for me. I love to observe and see unnoticeable things, probably that’s why I’m an amateur photographer.

I walked around the church and thru the main park were I saw some students laughing and enjoying themselves, It certainly made me think about my high school live, and I felt totally blessed to could have growing up in Paraguay, it was a peaceful time, no worries, and until nowadays it’s very laid back and peaceful.

Time for stores to open.

I really was looking for the silver filigree handmade artisan jewelry…when I realized that it was already 3 PM and the stores started opening so I went there to see their work and talked with the artisans.

I was very impressed by the look and quality I could observe, every piece seemed unique and so well done.

I was told that filigree or filigrana in Spanish was an old technique brought by the Moors to Spain and from Spain to South America in time of colonization, now days the only South American country that keeps this tradition alive is Paraguay.

At the store an old artisan told me that Filigrana jewelry it’s handmade by skilled artisans and that is an old tradition that passes from generation to generation, a simple piece  it could involve around 10 hours per piece for a simple design and around 35 hours of work for a more complex one.

The work basically consists in very thing silver threads twisted and soldered together to make a very fashionable piece of jewelry.

A certainly was very impressed and bought a lot of unique pieces because I’m very interested in unique jewelry and I want the world to know about this really great work at super affordable prices.

Paraguay produces a great variety of handmade artisan items, some made by native South American Indians like Chamacocos, Nibacles and other tribes, and some made by local artisans, fabrics, embroideries, Aho Poi, Ceramic, Encaje Yu, diverse leather items, etc.

Unfortunately Paraguay isn’t explored at all, there are a lot to do, and to see and to be done here, I think the main problem is the language barrier, a very few percentage of the population speaks English and that makes Paraguay aisle from the rest of the world.

I wish some day I could somehow help my country, build more schools because education it’s the first step to freedom, and for a uncorrupt country…Someday (I hope soon) with help I will do that, that is a dream of mine and my duty as a citizen and human being.

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Arriving in Paraguay, at the airport.

 

FIRST OF ALL

ASK IF YOU NEED A VISA, CALL THE PARAGUAYAN CONSULATE IN YOUR COUNTRY.

I’M SURE AMERICAN CITIZEN NEED VISA TO ENTER IN PARAGUAY, BUT THEY NEED TO GET THE VISA IN THE USA, THE PRICE IS AROUND 65.

PLEASE KEEP THIS IN MIND TO AVOID A BAD TIME.

Last time I traveled to Paraguay was in may (2006)

Ironically it takes more time to travel from Seattle to Paraguay than to china.

It was a long trip, I had connections in Miami, Sao Paulo and finally arrived in Paraguay, it was “just” a 24 hours trip, sometimes it may take longer.

After we finally arrived at Asuncion’s airport Silvio Petirossi, we got out the plane and while standing in line to go thru migration suddenly a guy came can took my passports out of my hand.

I was surprised and asked what was he doing, and he said that I should not worry, he would let it stamp for me so I would not have to stand in line like the others…and then he disappeared with my passport and I was like..huh?what’s going on here? as I followed him but he just vanished….

I just freaked out while waiting to get my 8 suitcases off the carrousel…He came back with the passport properly stamped, he returned them to me and with a cart helped me with my luggage.

WOW, I was totally impressed, 2 other guys helped him because I had so many suitcases…we walked thru customs and a guy there opened just one of the 8 suitcases, and asked me if I had bought anything, I told him the truth that I was caring some personal devices, presents, and clothes.

Then he let me go without saying a word, the others took my luggage in 3 carts to the airport parking lot where my brothers and friends car ware parked.

All were so nice to me; I had done all this process in no time!!…but then I got suspicious…we got to the car, and they “main guy”, (the one who let the passport stamped) kindly said to me that what he did for me, was a “service” almost a favor…that customs didn’t open to check my suitcases and all thanks to him…yeah right, he was asking me for a good tip for a thing that I didn’t ask him to do for me.

I’m a national here visiting my family, I’m and not a smuggler, I was tired, it was a long trip…so, I gave him 10$ for the carts pushers,  which I thought it was fair , and obviously he was not happy, he complained a little and said he had to split that with the costume guy, and the 2 other that helped him to push the carts ,etc.

In Paraguay people think that if you come from Europe or North America you will bring money and by serving you in anyway they expect you to be generous with them, they mostly leave it to you to tip them.

Just beware of that and tip what you think is fair.

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Paraguay on the net. Best sites.

 

Paraguay Real Estate online site

I just found a great site about art, photography, visual arts, check it out: SalazArte. 

Very interesting information about Paraguay, Maps, list of the different departments and chaco.

(Keep in mind that most of the sites unfortunately are just in Spanish).  I will be adding more sites as soon as possible.

Check for Paraguay on: www.tripadvisor.com

Eco Tourism: http://www.turismorural.org.py/

Useful Phone numbers:  http://www.itacom.com.py/_servicios/telef_utiles.php

Paraguay guide, in German, English and Spanish http://welcome.to/tap-guia

Searches, weather, money exchange, classifieds  and general useful info:

Travel and Tourism: http://www.senatur.gov.py/

Night life (my favorite place): www.britannia-pub.com

News:

Adventures: www.spg.com.py

Online Gift stores (from any place in the world to Paraguay):

White Pages http://www.guiaslatinas.com.py/

Messaging to any cellular phone in Paraguay

If you need to buy a cellular phone in Paraguay the best place i would recommend is Alemania cell

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Cheapest place in the world ?!

Paraguay is far, it’s unknown and it’s CHEAP!! It’s truly an intriguing place.., I think that makes it so interesting. In Paraguay you will find a fantastic nature, (tons of things to do and to see, I will mention a bunch in upcoming entries), awesome people and delicious food.

Apparently, Asuncion is known to be the cheapest city in the world according to a recent survey.

I just went there for vacation (Jun 2006) and stayed for 3 months, and I kind of agree. Although it may not seem very cheap to people working and living there, it certainly is if you carry a stronger currency like US dollars or Euros. Paraguay’s currency is Guarani, and currently 1$ = 5300 guaranies.

What is cheap?

You can buy a Mc Donald’s combo for less than 2$.

Paraguay is very well located, just in the middle of South America, and is known as South America’s heart: “El corazon de America del Sur”. Real Estate prices are dropping and I think it would be an excellent time to invest in it now because it’s obviously a country with a large potential in the coming years.

House rents are also unbelievable cheap: for less than 200$ you can rent a decent 3 bedroom house in the city, you can’t beat that.

Another really cheap thing is food!, yes food… Good food, great food!!  Dining out is extremely cheap: you can eat in a 5 forks restaurant, order a filet mignon for 6 bucks or so. And as we talk about food, I can tell you that my favorite dishes are Sopa Paraguaya, Bife a caballo, Chipa Guazu and of course Empanadas. (I will talk about this in a special “yummy” entry).

Night life is not just super fun but also very cheap… you can enjoy a whole night at different places for a few bucks…there is one place in special I would recommend, and I totally love that place, Britannia Pub. It’s like a British inspired pub (but ran by a great German guy), where you can find local and foreign people. Bars and such usually open until 1 am weekdays and until 3 am on weekends.

Domestic services and Nannies are very inexpensive and easy to find, since many women come from the inner country looking for domestic jobs in Asuncion. The average cost for a housekeeper or a full time nanny is around 100$ a month.

The minimum wage is around 200$ / month, and that can give you an idea of the cost of services.

Souvenirs and handmade silver jewelry are very affordable, beautiful, and so diverse.

The last time I went to Luque (the Paraguayan Jewelry city, where you can see one jewelry store next to the other) I was impressed by the assorted handmade jewelry called filigrana (that’s “filigree” in English). They are thin sterling silver threads twisted and soldered together to make really impressive pieces of “art”.

Beware of the counterfeit goods you find on the streets. For example, you can get a LV “original” bag for less than 50$, and so on, depending on the quality A, B or C of the item. Fake CDs and DVDs are all over the city: you can find CDs filled up with 150 mp3 songs for a buck, isn’t it crazy? Ciudad del Este, which is located at the border with Brazil, is well known for this kind of market.

… and what isn’t really cheap

DSL Internet provided by Copaco costs around 30$, Cable TV around 25$, Electricity is expensive  (ironic, because we own half of Itaipú, one of the biggest dams in the world). There’s something wrong here :-(

Imported goods are expensive or average for what they should cost, but not cheap. Local products are cheap but there isn’t much variety because Paraguay doesn’t have a broad production of goods.

But… clothing is expensive. We carry most American and European brands in our malls or stores at retail prices. Local clothes are very well made but also expensive or at least much more than expected.

Paraguay is definitely cheap, but not so to get there!! That could cost between 1200$ and 1500$ if you come from the US, but I think the trip is worth it!!

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What’s great and what isn’t?

There are many things that make Paraguay a great place to visit, to stay and to live… (I’m pretty sure that more than one will disagree with me though).

People that visit Paraguay can be classified in two kinds of groups:

  1. The kind of person that loves Paraguay and is willing to leave anything behind to move right away, like my Italian friend Giorgio among many others (mostly Germans and some Americans)
  2. The kind of person that totally hates it, that gets bored and is mostly unable to find it interesting or pleasant.

Strangely, there isn’t much in between: it’s hard to be indifferent; its mostly a good or bad impression but almost never indifferent.

Anyway, it’s all about expectations, and I will not pretend to find Florence or Tokyo here.

What is great about Paraguay?

Paraguayan people are great, warm and friendly. Another great feature is the simplicity and how people seem so worry free… It’s a very peaceful place that attracts many people who want to escape from war or a hectic life.

Paraguay is calm, relatively small, with a small population and it’s easy to get around. It’s very different from many other south american countries: with 6 million people on a country the size of California, its like a private paradise.

Another great and cheap thing is the food, well, at least for me :-)

What isn’t great about Paraguay?

Like many South American Countries there is corruption all over the place. The government and public institutions are corrupt, there are many poor and jobless people.

The minimum wage is around 200$ but most of the regular workers don’t even make that kind of money. So people have to get creative to “create their own jobs” like cleaning windshields,  “care for parked cars”, “sell gums and candies in buses or on the street”, “private trash recollection”, among many others.

Like any other country Paraguay has pros and cons but I would say it’s all about priorities, perceptions and expectations. There is too much here to be done and too much to look forward to, and personally I think that’s the greatest thing about Paraguay.

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About Paraguay

When I mention that I’m from Paraguay, people usually ask me all kinds of questions from the most common to the weirdest ones… like:

  • Where is Paraguay?
  • What is the population?
  • What does it look like?
  • Do you have cars there? or malls?
  • Do you speak Portuguese?
  • Have you seen a tiger or a toucan?

I’m already used to these questions; most of the time I smile and answer them. It’s really very hard to find info about Py (Paraguay), it’s no wonder no one knows it.

There is so much to say that I don’t even know where to start. Well, Live Local can help me answer the first question:


(um… for some reason Paraguay is the only country that doesn’t show a label at this zoom level, go figure)

And here is some general info from wikipedia:

Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay (Spanish: República del Paraguay, pron. IPA [re'puβlika del para'ɣwaj], Guarani: Tetã Paraguái), is a landlocked country in South America.

It lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, bordering Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest, and is located in the very heart of South America.

‘Paraguay’ is derived from the Guaraní word ‘Pararaguay’, meaning, ‘From a Great River’. The ‘Great River’ is the Paraná River, which produces the greatest amount of hydroelectric power in the world.

Let me add a few things:

My language is Spanish, not Portuguese like some people think because we are close to Brazil, but we are NOT Brazil (see the map above).

Yes, we have cars, all models, brands, from the oldest ones to the newest and more expensive brands; we have several malls in the capital and tons of shops, galleries and stores in Ciudad del Este (another major city among Asuncion and Encarnacion), and yes I’ve seen wild animals in the zoo, like in any other country…

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