Fun facts about Paraguay

Hola! ¿qué tal?

I thought to switch it up and write a different kind of blog post. Here are some things that have surprised me during my stay or that are just different than what I’m used to in Belgium.

Did you know that…

…instead of throwing your toiletpaper in the toilet, people throw it in a bin next to the toilet? The sewage system just can’t take it.

Fun fact: On my first day in Paraguay I forgot and the hotel toilet almost overflew 😅… My bad! 

2 …when it rains, the streets get flooded? Crossing the street isn’t an option then. Don’t expect teachers and students to show up for class either. Made that mistake once, literally nobody showed up.

….almost everybody owns a pair of Crocs here? These will definitely be in your Paraguay starter pack.

4 …you won’t (or barely) see any tourists in Paraguay? Not even in the capital Asunción .

…it’s completely normal for teachers to show up late or just not at all? Shout out to my former English teacher. *no shade*

6 …pharmacies are everywhere?

…there are “car sitters”? These are people who you pay to help you park and watch your car while you’re gone.

8 …having a WhatsApp group with your teacher or whatsapping your teacher in private is completely normal?

About buses…

9 …you can get on and off the bus wherever you want? Just push the button and the bus driver will stop almost immediately… sometimes not in the safest way possible, but ok…

10 …there is not only a button you can push if you want to get off? There is also a horizontal cord hanging throughout the bus which you can pull. Not everybody can reach the cord though…

11 …every time you take the bus, you have to pay the bus driver who will give you your ticket? There is no such thing as a combi ticket, let alone a ticket validation machine.

12 …it’s normal for bus drivers to buy food along the way, since you can buy food on the street almost everywhere? Making phone calls/texting or counting money while driving isn’t unusual either.

13 …you pay more for a bus with air conditioning? Buses are really cheap here. For a bus without air conditioning you pay Gs. 2.300. For a bus with air conditioning you pay Gs. 3.600, which is not even one euro. (1 EUR = 6,891.88 PYG, Gs. 2.300 = €0,32, Gs. 3.600 = €0,52)

14 …whenever you pass a church a lot of people make the sign of the cross? At first I actually thought they were doing that because the bus driver was driving crazy fast again. After a few times I noticed the churches. Could’ve fooled me 😂.

Traffic is crazy here. Everybody drives super fast and makes strange manoeuvres. Even when it’s a short distance they pull up and stop at the very last moment. And if you don’t pull up the very second the light turns green, they WILL let you know.

IMG_0422If you want to cross the road, you better run like your life depends on it… because it does! Most drivers won’t slow down or stop whatsoever. People here often don’t wear a seat belt either. I would highly recommend wearing one though. (Don’t worry mom, I’m wearing mine 😇…mostly)

15 …there are two security turnstiles in the buses? One in the front and one in the back of the bus. So practical, right? I’m guessing that whoever came up with this idea had some serious trust issues, lol.

Estamos listos para visitar Paraguay?

Nos vemos!

 

Fear Factor – Paraguay edition

¡Buenas!

Here’s a “little” update with random stuff and things I’ve been up to the last few months.

  • Daily life

It’s funny how quick you get used to a totally new lifestyle. Sure, there are still things that surprise me, but over all I’ve gotten used to most. It sometimes even feels like I haven’t known any different and life in Belgium seems ages ago. Totally got the hora paraguaya down, if you know what I mean *cough, coming to school late*. The whole napping-after-lunch thing was something that I had to get used to, but I must say that the Paraguayan life is really relaxed. Going to school for a few hours, no work/homework, stress… Qué bueno!

  • Work, work, work…

Back in Belgium I was already planning to do some voluntary work. When I heard about the organisation Techo that builds houses for families in need, I knew I wanted to participate and so did my friends. Unfortunately there’s still a lot of poverty in Paraguay. On Friday October 6, our Techo weekend began. We had to be there at 7 pm, but of course there was no need for punctuality since all the buses didn’t leave until 23.30. The bus took us to a school nearby our location. There we slept in classrooms. My location was Santa Librada de Capiatá.

Too bad that my friends and I weren’t really prepared and informed about the sleeping situation. Unlike others who brought mattresses and pillows, we only had a blanket or a sleeping bag with us, so we ended up sharing and making a “bed” out of sleeping bags on the stone floor… After a good night sleep *cough*, the day started at 6.30 am and ended around 8 pm. The first day was probably the most intense as it began to rain and it got really cold and muddy at the end. However, the second day was hard too because it was really hot and later it started raining again. Because I was the tallest, surprise surprise, I had to help a lot with the roof and hold the beams up in the burning sun. (Feeling like a giant here, can’t even fit my legs in some buses 😅). As a thank you, the families we built houses for cooked for us. On Sunday we finally finished around 8 pm again (I think) and eventually came home at 12-ish. It were long, intensive and exhausting days, but it was all worth it and for a good cause!

  • Back at it again!

Something I was really going to miss about Belgium was dance class, so I signed up for hip hop classes again. Classes are on almost every day of the week with all different teachers. Right now I’m only going on Wednesday, but we’ll see if I’m able to manage to go on other days too. Still want to get back into ballet and also try some typical Paraguayan, Latin-american dance style, but we’ll see.

A few months ago I had my first hip hop class here. Yaaas. I went with my friend and her sister. We were hardly 10 minutes in or the teacher said that he saw some new faces that danced really well  *hair flip*  then he asked me to come dance at the front row and he and his assistant (I think) wanted to know from which dance studio I was and complimented my dancing … ow stop it haha 🙈 💁🏽 Everybody is so friendly and welcoming at the studio!

  • Cockroaches

Sadly the cockroaches are still feeling pretty comfortable and welcome in my house. Had to shower while one was there three times so far! That’s some real Fear Factor ish right there. Also almost stepped on 1 twice and actually killed one once by accidentally stepping on it #fml. And I swear that another one wanted to attack me!

But I have to say I’ve become less scared of them… not sure if that’s a good sign though. ….Well, except for that time a big cockroach came running in my room and started flying around (that happened multiple times, for the record). They just keep walking into my room… euhm rude. Or that time where there was a big fat cockroach in the kitchen sink among the dishes… Nope nope nope 👋🏽. Cockroaches aren’t the only roommates I’ve had. So far I’ve had company of huge crickets and salamanders too. 

  • Food

From cockroaches to food.. maybe not that great of an order, but I said it would be a random post, so here you go. Anyway, the food here is great! Tortillas, torta, chipa, asado, mbejú, mandioca, empanadas… Less great for that summer body I want though! 😅

  • Football game

I’ve also been to two football games, which was fun. Paraguayans really know how to create a great atmosphere. Music, singing, dancing, fireworks… Its also funny to see how into the game Paraguayans are. Suddenly the quiet, friendly elderly couple behind you turn into real fanatics who are screaming their lungs out. Ok, alright. I see you.

  • School

School life is not that interesting. Partly because I’m doing as good as nothing in class. All classes are individual work and everybody is mostly doing their own thing. The classes are kind of complicated (using illustrating program in Spanish, complicated geometric drawings where every millimeter counts and everything is explained verbally…). But it’s a comfort when my classmates tell me that they don’t understand the assignment either or don’t even know when important deadlines or exams are, haha. Luckily my classmates are all very nice and always ready to help. And the teachers don’t really seem to mind me just sitting there, haha… So it’s aaaaall good! 

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Besos

Iqrah

Trip to Ita Kua

On Thursday September 21, my friends and I went on a trip again. This time we went to Ita Kua. It’s a place in the city Itacurubí de la Cordillera, located in the department of the Cordillera. There was no school that day, because it was “Día de la Juventud” (Day of the Youth) and “Día de la Primavera” (First day of Spring). OF COURSE this had to be celebrated and what better way than by making a trip! We had to take 3 buses and travel 3,5 hours, but it all paid off. It was so pretty out there! Ita Kua has some really beautiful nature and it’s so peaceful… well, at least till we showed up with our music blasting out the speakers 😅. We spent the day relaxing, hiking and rowing.

Note to self: Maybe do not always plan your (hiking) trips on days when it’s 36°C.

Second note to self: Bring food if you’re planning to spend the whole day in the middle of nowhere!

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“Hora paraguaya” to the fullest

Last week one of my teachers suggested to give an extra class on Saturday. It would be a class for me and another girl who doesn’t speak Spanish that well either. He wanted to give an extra class because he noticed we weren’t really understanding everything. Therefore he wanted to give a class in English.

So he asked us if we were available on Saturday at 9 am. Wasn’t too excited that I had to wake up “early” on a Saturday, but I thought it was nice of him to make an effort, so I said yes. The class would only take place if the other girl was available as well and she was. So I thought we had a deal…

As the perfect student that I am 😇, I arrived perfectly on time on Saturday… not that I was expecting anyone at 9 am sharp though. So after waiting for half an hour I got a little suspicious. Not only was there no teacher, the other girl and 2 boys who had planned to come also weren’t there either. Waited for another half hour and finally gave up hope that anybody would come. Could have guessed this would happen…

On Monday I asked the other students why they’d not shown up. The girl said she had something else to do and the boys said they forgot about it. Lucky them! I also asked my teacher and apparently he forgot to tell me just one little detail… He first had to ask uni permission to give tutoring on a Saturday and hadn’t done that yet. Are you serious? Didn’t think it was worth mentioning 🤔?

My English teacher is the TRUE definition of “Hora Paraguaya” though. He is ALWAYS at least an hour late or doesn’t show up at all. That makes that students are coming in late as well. Especially on Monday since we have him first thing in the morning. This Monday I came in half an hour late on purpose. When I arrived, he still wasn’t there. Big surprise… NOT! Haha… He finally arrived half an hour later. But… I’m not complaining! It only means I can sleep in a bit longer on Mondays! 😏

Saludos

Iqrah

Trip to Cerro Ñemby

On monday my friends, one of their classmates and I made a trip to Cerro Ñemby. It’s a hill in Central, eastern Paraguay. School is only till 12 o’clock, so we had the whole day left for a fun trip. Mondays have never been so much fun, haha! We went partly by bus and cramped ourselves in a taxi for the other part. To get to the top of the hill we had to do some serious hiking in 36°C weather. But the view was sooo worth it! We spent the rest of the day hiking and relaxing once we finally got down the hill. We were a little exhausted and overheated, to say the least!

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38 scherp

36

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pho

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DEAD 😂… #Accurate #sorrynotsorry

Getting soaked, lost, ripped off and other fun stuff

¡Hola chicos!

Ok, it wasn’t that bad…

It’s been a month since I left Belgium and since I have nothing to do (I will come back to that), I thought it was time for a little update.

After 3 long flights (to Madrid, São Paulo and Asunción) we finally arrived in Paraguay. Where we were welcomed by typical Belgian weather: it was cold and rainy. (I wasn’t prepared for that to be honest) The day after we arrived, we finally got to meet our host families and go “home”. It was both awkward and exciting at the same time. My family is really nice. Especially the grandma who tries to teach me Spanish words and makes sure I eat enough. I am home alone a lot though which is kind of a bummer since I don’t really get to spend a lot of time with my family. The daily routine is going to work/school, lunch with the whole family afterwards and then they nap/rest till the afternoon. So pretty boring, haha (something I definitely have to get used to). So spending time together isn’t really happening, unfortunately. As I said, the daily routine is something I’ve to get used to, but doing as good as nothing everyday isn’t really my plan. So I think it’s time to sign me up for some dance classes or something!

On August 7 it was back-to-school time. The three other Belgian students and I are all attending Universidad Columbia Del Paraguay. I was normally going to study psychology here, but unfortunately it wasn’t available anymore, so I chose Graphic design instead. School starts at 8 am. This means that I have to take the bus at 6.30 am which is waaaay too early. Luckily classes are only till 12 o’clock. On the first and second day (and maybe some other days, whoops) I was already half an hour late. Unlike in Belgium it wasn’t my fault this time 😅. Fortunately class doesn’t start punctually here in Paraguay. There is this thing called “hora paraguaya” which basically means punctuality is out the door. Something that will fit me perfectly since I was always running late for school back in Belgium.

Fun little side story about taking the bus… A few weeks ago, I accidentally took the wrong bus on my way home. After figuring out It wasn’t the right bus 30 (yeah, there are multiple buses with the same number, going the same direction), I got off. Had absolutely no idea where I was. After walking through half Asunción (no exaggeration here at all 😏) I eventually saw some buses going in the same direction, so I figured I would just walk that way. Finally I saw something familiar that I pass everyday on my way to school. Thank god I have a somewhat decent sense of orientation. So in my best Spanish, I asked if that was the bus stop for Lambaré and thank god it was. Eventually they advised me to take another bus. Long story short, I got home.

Back to what I was talking about. The first and second day of school were great. The prof didn’t show up two days in a row, so we could leave school early. Apparently it isn’t that uncommon for teachers not to show up or show up late. That’s why my class and I already filled out a complaint on the second day of school, haha… My fellow students are really nice and although not everybody speaks English or doesn’t speak it that well, they really try to help me as much as possible.

Of course all the classes are en español so I don’t really understand a lot of the classes (or the homework we get, not that i’m mad about that 😏). Except for my English class which is equal to English class for first graders. Last week we learned the colors… Are you kidding me 😂 ?? Well, I guess I’ll be killing that exam. My first projects for school (or the ones I was aware of) were to make 3 drawings with 3 different techniques. One of them was using pointillism which is really time consuming. The second one was using lines only and the third one was called “dibujo colores planos”. Not sure what’s the exact translation for that. (Not that satisfied with the results but oh well)

A few weeks ago I went to a concert from J Balvin with two friends of the Belgium squad. And it was LIT. But the weather was awful!! It was raining so hard and because it’s normally not that cold at night, we weren’t really prepared for the cold weather. The weather is kind of unpredictable since it’s still winter here. There have been some cold days but there have also been days up to 36°C. Because the concert was outside, we got soaking wet from top to bottom. We were freezing. So when the concert was over, everybody was rushing through the somewhat flooded streets to get home asap. Getting a taxi was therefore not that easy. And to top it all off, we got ripped off by the taxi driver who told us the taxi meter wasn’t correct. Yeah right… So we finally arrived at my friend’s house where I had to wait (soaking wet & freezing!) for his sister, because she was my ride home. When I finally got back, it turned out that my host mom wasn’t home, so I had to wait for someone else to open the door for me. Finally I could take a hot shower at 3 am. I’ve never been happier with a nice shower and warm bed, lol.

On a less exciting note. My friends and I all have met some little friends aka cockroaches in our homes 😩. I’ve seen cockroaches and a giant cricket in my bathroom. I think you understand when I say that taking a shower isn’t the same anymore…

Until next time

Chau

Iqrah

 

Welcome to my blog!

As some of you already know, I’ll be leaving Belgium on August 1 to go study abroad. I’ll be moving to Paraguay (South-America for those wondering 😉)         for a year as an AFS exchange student.

Last week I got in touch with my counselor in Paraguay who is the absolute sweetest! She gave me some information about my host family since I hadn’t received any yet. I will be living with my host mom Laura (37) and her daughter Julieta who’s 12 (Jeeey… I always wanted a little sister!). They live in a two story house. I will be living with my mom and sister on the second floor and grandma and cousins are living on the first floor. I’ll be staying in Lambaré, a city near Asunción, the capital city of Paraguay. I’ll be attending Universidad Columbia del Paraguay, a university in Asunción.

It will be the first time for them as a host family, so hopefully I won’t disappoint them (fingers crossed 😅)! Also, they don’t speak English so that will be challenging at first. But I don’t really mind that, it will only help me improve my Spanish a lot faster. Really excited to meet them! When AFS asked about the limitations and rules, apparently my host mom told them that there aren’t any!     I already love her, haha.

To be continued… (hopefully)

Abrazos y besos

Iqrah

 

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself”