A tale of two cities

Yuck, some mornings come too soon. Waking up cold, I looked at the digits of the alarm clock and 0115 looked back at me. Burrowing deeper under warmth that was non-existent, I was just hoping to make one hour longer.t I made it for 2 more. I awoke and glanced at the clock. 0330! Vidiminay! No that is not Spanish but it is what I felt. Rocketing out of my bunk, I was already reaching for a shirt by the time Joby came up the steps. I had awoken when he called the first time. Today we had to go to Asuncion.

(editor’s note: here is the really condensed version. Sorry but that’s what happens when you write about events that happened a couple days previous)

Burned my mouth on mate on the way in. Spent some time at Migrations. Went to get my passport verified. Did some running around with Maynard. Bought a belt. Should have bought more stuff but I didn’t. Discovered that someone broke the van window. Ate cat food, a.k.a., Chinese. Found a name tag place. Sent Marcos to the ‘centro de bugiar’, a term he coined, to catch a bus. Ended up we beat him home. Ate chipa and drank cafe dulce on the way back. A full and tiring day. The best part was we got all the paperwork done that we needed to get done.

Later in the week, on Saturday:

After breakfast, Mark, Maynard, Maria and I went to Ciudad del Este to get Maria’s visa stamped. Mark and I also wanted to shop in the city a little bit. But getting into town proved to be very difficult. East bound traffic headed into the city was blocked up about 3 kilometers from the border and the street vendors were crazy insistent. Finally Mark and Maria just walked down to the Immigrations office to get the stamp. They actually came back and after briefly discussing our options, Maynard and Maria went back to the clinic and Mark and I headed out on foot. A interesting time was spent dodging through crowds, fingering merchandise and leaving before the salespeople descend. Needful time was spent developing a rude crust to the street hawkers of various China trinkets. It’s at those times that I hate my American status. They see you, think you have money and think that you want what they have to offer. One insistent guy, trying to sell me a China knockoff of a 32GB Kingston jumpdrive, kept coming down in price. Let me back up a little. Mark had purchased a Kingston 16 or a 32 GB in a electronics store, one that I examined and thought was ‘legit’. I was curious at what the street price was. A boneheaded move. Initially, the vendor said 90 mil, about $18-20. I said, Esta bien

, that’s good, and left. Well he saw a potential sale leaving and tried again. I told him, no, I have one. After about 20 paces I hear him again. This time his price was 75 mil, about $14. Knowing he would tail me and not wanting that, I spoke to him in a language that he could understand, el precio esta bien pero no falto!(the price is fine but I don’t lack/need one). Throwing this over my shoulder in a slightly stern, albeit necessary, tone of voice, I hurried to lose myself in the press of other vendors of various goods, some valid, others not so valid.

Probably what stood out the most about the day, after 2 other facts, (the first being that this is the day that my personal account went underground, I.e, in the hole and that #2, that Ciudad del Este has micro 4/3 cameras) was a little tienda that Mark and I patronized toward the end of our shopping. I was looking for some work shirts and, spotting some int a window, went in to investigate further. Okay, so these days, with the language barrier being more like a shocking fence then a 10 ft. deer fence, the conversation didn’t just flow. Still, unlike eager sellers in other stores, the young lady that waited on us was nice and actually friendly. The best part was that she didn’t push her wares on us. I was impressed. If I can remember where that store was, I think that I’ll go back some more. Hey, service, the right kind that is, sells and this actually felt like stateside service….finally for a change.

I realize that sometimes you have to be aggressive to get the sale but some of these people are ‘mal educado‘, badly educated. This one guy had a alarm clock that Mark and I agree that we would have bought from him if he would have cared about working with us. We would have overlooked his constantly butting into OUR private conversations with his penny’s worth knowledge of English words if he would have been more attentive. Fine, we’ll take our 120,000G elsewhere.

And sometimes determination is a good thing. This one Sony street hawker heard me inquire about a Panasonic camera and he and his buddy actually took me to several stores till we found what I wanted. But, que varva, it was expensive and ultimately I didn’t buy.

Having decided that we were done shopping we hopped on a double decker San Luis bus for the trip home. Actually, it was a plane disguised as a bus. Considering that the price was only 25 mil a ticket, it was also one of the cheapest flights I’ve ever had. Even at the station, we knew that this driver was going to be fast. He had his bus edging away from the terminal as people were still getting on, much to the frustration of some people. Mark and I squeezed on and headed up the steps, looking for empty seats. There were none to be had so we stood for the 75 minutes that it took to get home. Passengers, meet Mr. Lead Foot. San Luis is known as being a speedy bus line and is usually thought of as being the option for those that are desperate or those satisfied with life and who have their life insurance paid up. They have had their share of accidents. And when you hear of people who were travelling the highway at 160 KPH and were passed by San Luis…it makes one check for other options. But we made the trip without any incidents or accidents.

Part of my job involves finance and accounting. It’s fun spending money but sometimes the reckoning is painful. I have to keep track of what account I’m spending for, myself or the clinic and in those 2 main accounts, under which categories. So, after spending about 1 million Guarinis, Mark helped me balance my account. It’s a little difficult as he and I are on the same account. But it came out within 500 Gs of being equal. Here, that’s like less than $0.015.

And so, that is a recent tale of recent happenings on recent trips to 2 modern day cities.


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