First days in Paraguay
Welcome to my blog, my name is Kay Schoof. In 2014, when I was 16 years old, I did a year exchange in Paraguay. During my time in Paraguay I wrote a blog for friends and family. I will share some of my incredible experiences in the heart of South America.
Monday, 4th of August, I finally arrived in Paraguay after months of preparation. I had spent fourteen hours at the airport of Sao Paolo in Brazil, so I was pretty exhausted at my arrival. Luckily, the first four hours of my flight, I was in fact, with two Dutch girls who also were going on exchange. Unfortunately, after a couple of hours, we went our own ways. They took a domestic flight to another city in Brazil, so I tried to sleep. I found myself a quieter spot in this inmense and intensely busy airport. Here I tried to spend the remaining time of my plane change. I made myself a pillow from my hand luggage, so that I could also avoid people stealing stuff out of my hand luggage. I also had a blanket I had taken from my first flight so I had some sleep now and then. Finally, at 7:45 the plane left to Paraguay, I arrived 9:00 A.M.
Because I had some contact with my host brother prior to my departure it was easy for me to recognize my future host family. Once I passed border control I saw my host family waving. It was a weird feeling to meet people you never even met once, and that they will be your (host) family. After my host family welcomed me, which contains a mother and three brothers: Ascian, Alan and Alexis, they immediately offered me traditional Paraguayan food. I chose the famous empanada (South American-filled puff pastry) which was even better than I expected it to be. However, I was the only one who was actually eating, the rest was staring at me. So that did make it a bit less enjoyable. ;)
After this, we went to my future house and I took a shower right away. I couldn’t bare to wear the clothes I was wearing for more than 24 hours, even for just a second longer. It really is a huge house with a very large garden like I saw on the pictures. Although, what surprised me was that the neighborhood on itself looked quiet poor. Big houses located in poor neighborhoods is something uncommon in The Netherlands but it showed me right away that the difference in poor and rich is huge and it does feel a little bit double. In the house, I have a private room with king-size bed and a private bathroom. Because I arrived early in the morning. I had a beautiful day still in front of me. Together with my new brother Alan, we’ve gone to the shopping mall with the bus. Apparently going to shopping malls in Paraguay is something entertaining since these malls look insanely neat and classy. Even more classy than in The Netherlands. Although the buses are not like in the Netherlands. Thus, the doors are always open and the river counts his money just while driving. It looked like one big chaos with some people standing and some people sitting. The bus driver was counting his money while at the same time keeping an eye on the road. Outside, you see garbage lying in corners and the roads in the city themselves are very bad. There are holes everywhere. Then you realize how well you have it actually in the Netherlands. The weather on the day I arrived was very nice, it was around 35 degrees Celsius with almost no clouds. What I also saw is that the price of food is presumably less than in the Netherlands. The rest of that day I got to eat all kinds of Paraguayan treats. Apart from the empanadas, they have a kind of elongated sweet potato which is called mandioka. And they eat their bread with dulce de leche. I think that’s called condensed milk in English because my host brother describes it as the sweetest part of the milk. They also gave me fresh lemonade which consists of specific Paraguayan fruits from the region. I slowly started to get used to the fact that almost everything is incredibly sweet. I like sweet, but this is even too much for me. Like they even add sugar to sugared orange juice.
The day after I immediately had to go to school. Because in South America the seasons are reversed my Dutch summer vacation had ended right away. So now I’d have summer holidays during the winter in the Netherlands. When I arrived at school I got a small tour in the school and after that I went straight back home because I had no uniform. Apparently in Paraguay they are very strict with uniforms so they won’t permit you without. The uniform consists of a white t-shirt with gray pants on. On Wednesdays and Fridays they wear a sports uniform. A normal school day starts at 07:30. Unfortunately in Paraguay they have fixed school times. So I could expect to go to school from 07.30 until 15.20. Sounds like I’m going to have tough days haha..
The school itself: all ages are together in one school. However, they are divided by age. So the school has a really big playground for the younger children as well as for the older ones. Something cool, is that we have about four breaks. What I also realized is that literally everyone was looking at me. I think it was slightly impressive for them to see such a tall blonde guy touring through their school. I gave my number to several future classmates and I immediately had been invited to two birthdays. This is something that we, in The Netherlands, will not do on such a short notice.
Later that day, my host brother and me went to some friends of him. One of his friends was a Paraguayan boy that was about to go to Germany on exchange and his other friend was his sister that was about to go on exchange to France. I liked to hang out with them because they were very friendly and also really interested in getting to know more about Europe. Because I had French in high school, me and the Paraguayan girl, who was about to go to France, arranged to meet up so I could learn her some basic French knowledge. On that same day, I also got the chance to meet a Taiwanese exchange student who has been living in Paraguay for a couple of weeks. Too bad his English was really bad so we weren’t really able to communicate.
I look forward to meet all the other exchange students who are still about to arrive.