Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the bus, 11/2

            I'm on the bus! Using my computer! How cool. As long as I don't get car-sick.
            It's not generally recommended to take your laptop out in public, but I have been surprised at how unimpressed folks have been in my site. Laptops are around, mine is very likely the fastest one in town, but you can't tell just by looking at it. I have seen people using laptops before, and have seen many fancy web phones used on the bus. And I have never had any security problems on a bus before. I generally stow my rucksack in the overhead compartment opposite my seat so that I can easily see it. It still looks pretty conspiciously american backpacker-y, but it is a little more ragged than it was, and I really feel like folks don't care that much what you look like, within certain bounds.
I got a haircut recently. I actually get annoyed in the states when I wear a hat, or get a hair cut or gress up nice, every single person I talk to comments on it. Here folks either don't notice or choose not to say anything about my hair cut, or my facial hair experiments. It may just be because I'm so weird generally, its harder to track the little changes, but I think it is also just a less obsessively observant culture. You try to dress as well as you can, but if your t shirt says absurd things in a language you don't understand, if folks can see your underwear through your spandex, if you've turned up the bottom of your t-shirt to give your belly more breathing room, or you've covered yourself in tacky flashy jewelry  or y these things will probably not be remarked upon.
Verbally anyhow.

            We've just pulled into the Santa Rosa bus terminal. I've spent a fair ammount of time here and at the terminal in Santani waiting for buses. These terminals in towns along the main spine of dept. San Pedro remind me of Mos Eisley. First off, the new double decker long distance buses look like spaces ships, with their curved mirors that come down off the front of the bus like antenae. They are enormous, shiny, and with the tinted glass one cannot see the normal human beings inside. Then you have the other, older buses, the hunk of junks, the Mellenium Falcons. Some of these are fantastically delapitated. All, new or old are decorated with at least a flamboyant paint job, and each bus line attempts to differentiate itself from its competitors with its unique and unmistakable motif. Numerous vendors advertise soda, chipa, meat, “sandwiches”, and roasted meat by chanting the names of their goods. “Chipagaseosachipa” or “chiclegalletitacaramellochicle”. Other vendors have seemingly random inventory combinations: sunglasses, socks and nail clippers or cell phones and jewelry and playing cards. Others focus on pirated DVDs and CDs. My favorite are the real salesmen, who come on the bus as it is leaving the station and make their pitch to the captive audience of passengers. They always speak clearly but animatedly, either in Guaraní or Spanish, about their oriental healing salve or patriotic educational materials or cheapo smart phones, and then pass them out for the passengers to appraise. He'll collect the money from interested passengers on his way back down the eisle, and then get off the bus at the next stop, which is anywhere he or anyone else wants it to be.
            All the fast and loose capitalism is amusing and sometimes thrilling even as it is precarious and occiasonally obnoxious. Generally it all works very well. Another element Mos Eisley element to Santa Rosa is the strange variety of people you find there. Mostly you have Paraguayans of course, but there are young and old, well dressed and in rags, from the city and the campo, men, women, children (who throw up on the bus with alarming frequency), soldiers, salesmen. There are always attractive young women in skin tight pants and revealing tops to appreciate. On the weekends and holidays you get a crush of people fleeing the city to visit their families, and the bus will fill so that every seat and every centimeter of standing room is occupied. Along Ruta III in dept. San Pedro there is also a lot of exchange with Brazil to the north across the open border at Pedro Juan Caballero/Ponta Pora. So while you may encounter the occaisonal Brazialian, you are much more likley to encounter large quantities of Brazilian goods, or raw good bounds for Brazil. The strange chord of this place is really only complete when you encounter German Paraguayans, especially the Mennonites, who have a colony just up the road from Santa Rosa and who often come into town dressed straight out of American Gothic with plaid dresses, bonnets, brown overals, freckles and sand blonde hair. The other German descendents have integrated with the general Paraguayan society, but have contributed a scattering of blonde hair or mysterious blue eyes among the general population here, and in many parts of the country. It is much more likely that a blond haired person in my town will speak fluent Guarani than even a little bit of German.


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