6 months in the belly of the beast
Six months further and it’s already been an insanely long time since I have written a blog. I realize, now, that I have also learned to appreciate the Paraguayan laziness. To be honest, I have delayed the writing of my blog a because I fulfill my time with having daily siestas, eating asados (BBQ’s) and sunbathing in the pool...
To begin with, I changed families in December, which is one and a half month ago. In Dutch, I would use a saying that I’ve changed from my old host family to a new one ´because I really couldn’t stay under a roof with them any longer´. Which means that we I couldn’t bare them anymore. Ofcourse, I think it’s something cool when you allow someone to be part of your family. However I still asked for a urgent change of host families. Turned out that my host brother, who currently is in Germany on exchange, told lies about me to his parents. My host mother was often mad and on times appeared agressively in her way of communicating. First, I assumed it was because of the culture. But I soon realized it was her who just didn’t seem to like me as much as I’ve hoped. These definetly were some negative experiences, however I managed to turn them into learning points for the rest of my life.
But enough about this. All that matters, is that I’m happy right now. My new host family is amazing! Since the first day I have felt part of the family. They are so incredibly welcoming and warm. I live here with my host mother, grandma and sister. I also currently live in downtown Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. In my previous family I lived in a kind of a suburb. Living inside the city is also much more delightful in my point of view. In my old neighborhood, there was a very big difference between rich and poor, which made it unsafe at night. Something else is that everything is a lot closer and easier to reach. I live about 5 minutes from the famous shopping street Mariscal Lopez and 15 minutes from the Costanera. The costanera is a constructed boulevard alongside the big river ‘Paraguay’ that crosses Asuncion. Since day one I’m actually best friends with my new host sister. Every day, we spend parts of the day together to watch movies in the living room, so we can escape the hot sun that can reach a maximum of 50 degrees celcius. We also often both invite our friends so we can all hang out together and have a drink. My new host mother by the way, has to be the coolest mom in Paraguay. She really cares about me and even wants me to call her mom, in proper Spanish of course. Something I wouldn’t see myelf doing in ages in my previous host family..
My new home is smaller than my old house. But a lot cozier and a better vibe. I have my own room, including a nice queensize bed with soft sheets. I even have a private bathroom marked with texts from exchange students that had been there before. I will add a picture of the bathroom to give you guys an idea. The new family is a lot less strict than my old one. The only real rule is not to lie. My host sister told me that if someones breaks the trust of her mother they won’t get it back.
Meanwhile, I’ve been to Aregua with my host family for a few days. This is a small town close to a lake around two hours from Asuncion. In this town, my family has a villa. The house is seriously beautiful, with a fancy swimming pool in front of the lake. The complete weekend we hung out at the pool, listened to music and enjoyed the peace.
Since my birthday was getting closer, my Belgian friend Ferre invited me to go with his family and him to Salto Cristal. This is a famous waterfall for locals located four hours from Asuncion. After a long descent of small roads we reached the waterfall. There was a spot in the center of the waterfall were you could actually jump off from. The way to this spot was kind of slippy but turned out to be 100% worth it! All together, I think we jumped around 20 times.
The christmas holidays were something unique as well. The fact that this cold and icy period in Europe actually is summer in Paraguay is something special on it’s own. Furthermore, there is only one day where Christmas really is celebrated with the whole family. This is Christmas Eve. Quite different than the Netherlands where we celebrate it three days in a row. I bought something for every member of my family: for my host mother I had bought a book she wanted, my grandma a cook book and my sister a case for her new phone. I had also written a letter to thank them for their for their love, friendliness and making me feel part of their family. The day after I skyped with my family in The Netherlands. I called them during dinner so I actually felt like being part of the table.
The 30th of December, it was my birthday, and it was certainly a good one. The night before the 30th my friend Ferre came to stay with me untill my birthday. We went to TGI Friday’s, a tasty restaurant which is similar to Hard Rock Café. I got a delicious cheeseburger with fries and free drinks. My friends had told the personnel of the restaurant that I would turn 17 at midnight. So they invited me at 12 o’clock at my table, to dance with them. As a present I would get a free dessert. Like most Dutch guys would do I impressed my friends with some stiff moves on the beat of some local Reggaeton music. On day time, my host mother even gave me a pair of Vans for my birthday and my host cousin gave me a shirt. Furthermore I received a bunch of lovely letters. The rest of the day I spend time with friends who were sleeping at my place. A birthday to remember for sure!
NEW YEAR’S EVE! Something that is celebrated way differently here in the warm Paraguay. Families celebrate midnight together after a fancy buffet. They don’t light fireworks nor wish neighbors a happy new year. Something that I’m not used to normally. But intresting to experience this special ‘holiday’ in a different culture. We got some tasty glasses of champagne and later on I went to a house party of one of my friends. A fun and memorable night.