A little over a month ago, Jon and I finished teaching two photography classes in our community through a Peace Corps Paraguay program called Ahecha (“I see” in Guarani). During three months we were loaned 10 point-and-shoot cameras to teach the class. Each week we talked about a different photography technique, had the students go out and practice the technique and then upon their return, as a group, we would give constructive criticism for each student’s favorite photo.
The photos that came out of this class far exceeded any expectations I might have had. There have been many moments in my town where I wish I had a camera with me, but alas, that would require planning ahead, and that, I certainly don’t do. Thankfully, through this class I now have an arsenal of images to always remember our town by, all from different perspectives.
The following photos were all taken by our students. These may not be their best shots, but are the photos that I felt best represented the sights you might encounter if you were to take a walk through town, our beautiful Villarrica.
Our town has two large open-air markets where you can purchase your fruits and vegetables. If you’re lacking the energy to get yourself to the market you can always purchase your produce from the lady walking down the street, carrying everything on her head, or the man with all of the tomatoes you might need all bagged and ready to go.
Forms of transportation run a large gamut in town, from horse drawn carts, motorcycles, bicycles, to what Americans know best, cars. If you want to get to our house from the bus terminal and aren’t up for the walk, you can also take a horse drawn taxi, much more inexpensive than the car counterpart. But the mode of transportation that truly reigns supreme is the motorcycle; Paraguayans are able to fit a family of four (two small children, with two adults) onto a motorcycle without a problem. There is no minimum age to hop on, newborn babies, to the elderly. Also, don’t worry about a helmet, there is no need.
I have talked some before about Paraguayan’s beverage of choice, terere. But just in case, a small refresher: it consists of a thermos or pitcher filled with ice water, a guampa (metal cup), a bombilla (metal straw), and yerba mate (the herb you fill the guampa with). In addition many Paraguayans choose to get yuyos (herbs) mixed in with their ice water. To do this you go to a local stand, tell them what yuyos you want, the yuyos are then mashed in a large mortar and pestle, and mixed in with your ice water. But if what you are looking for is a new beautifully decorated thermos and guampa, or you have the thermos but want a new shiny silver guampa, our town also has you covered.
Playgrounds are a little more “old school” than those in the States, but the kids have just as much fun. Plus, we have seesaws, and who doesn’t love those?
One of things our town is most famous for is its carpinchos, in English, capybaras. The town has three pet carpinchos that live in our most gorgeous park, Parque Manuel Ortiz Guerrero. You might also know them as the world’s largest rodent. But don’t worry, they are friendly, or maybe the more correct word is ambivalent, you can touch them all you want and they won’t have a care in the world.
Villarrica is also known for its love of traditional Paraguayan music. At a young age students are learning how to play either the guitar, piano, or harp. You are one lucky fellow if a Paraguayan ever serenades you, because it’s truly music to the ears.
We mustn’t forget our buses and bus terminal. Albeit sometimes very confusing, we are lucky that in Paraguay there are buses going everywhere and anywhere you might wish to go to, though the buses themselves vary greatly in reliability and age. If you’re looking to do some shopping before heading on to the bus, there are lots of little shops in the terminal. Just don’t interrupt the shop clerk watching his soap opera.
I leave you with these last two images and a reminder that while our worlds might have many dissimilitude’s, in the end, we are all the same people, trying to find our place.
Stay tuned for Part II!