Slammed by the 80's  

Title: Slammed by the 80's
Location: Asuncion, Paraguay

I was met by Don and Helen (his fiancée) at Silvio Pettirosi Airport in Asunción. Slammed by the high 80's, high humidity weather upon leaving the airport. We decided to take a cab to the hotel, but the tendency is to overcharge the Nortes here (Norteamericanos or North Americans), so we turn down a few offers. Helen approaches the next cab on her own to get a better deal. She does, but the minute Don and I show up the price doubles. This bothers Don, but to me a $10 cab drive is still a bargain. Hotel is called Los Alpes. Rooms feature a refrigerator, A/C, and cable TV (Yes, the Simpsons is still funny in Spanish). We travel by foot and bus to see some of the city and get something to eat. Heavy downpours limit our options. Next day the skies are clear, and after breakfast at the hotel we walk to a branch of the Financiera Grupo Interfisa to trade $100 for 580,000 Guaranies. Check out the nearby mall before catching a bus to downtown. Dan and Helen drag me through some shops as they look for fabric for their wedding (set for May 6th). Few clothes off the rack in Paraguay, you buy the fabric and have them made by a tailor. See the Plaza de los Heroes, dominated by the large domed Panteón de los Heroes, a war memorial started in 1863 and finished after the Chaco War in 1937. Several war heroes and presidents are interred here, as well as the unknown soldier and the unknown child soldier (the adult male population was so depleted during the War of the Triple Alliance that children as young as 12 were drafted). Walk toward the waterfront (Asunción sits on an inland bay) to see the old pink Parliament building, some more statues, the new glass and chrome Parliament building, the Presidential Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) and the poverty that one always seems to find in the shadows of the power. We take another bus to an area of the city known as Mercado Cuatro or the Fourth Market. There are no first, second or third markets (or at least not any more) in Asunción. This area is crowded with shops and street vendors selling clothes, electronics and almost anything else you could want. We have lunch at the Restaurant Rico, a Chinese place, before exploring some of the market area. Later on we plan on taking Spanish lessons at a school. We have been recommended that those are very effective and want to try them out.

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