Thursday, May 20, 2010


Barbecuing here in Paraguay is an art form since people here love their meat so much. Families get together every Sunday for an asado (Spanish for BBQ), so I have started to do some weekend asados myself to practice this new-found art form.

The first challenge with asados is that the charcoal here is very different than that in the States and is very difficult to light (as anyone who lived in Honduras with us can testify to). It takes some alcohol (dumped on the charcoal as lighter fluid, not the drinking kind), fanning with a special asado hand fan, and patience to get the coals just right. This took me a few tries to perfect, but I think it's going pretty well now. Then you have to get used to the different cuts of meat (and the corresponding vocabulary) here which don't exactly correspond to those found elsewhere. After 8 months or so I figured out the cut that I like best which is called Bife de Chorizo and roughly corresponds to a Sirloin Strip steak in the States. Would you believe that I can buy 4 of these steaks for about $5 here and they are great quality grass fed beef?
Anyway one of the best features of our apartments, and most nice apartments and houses in Paraguay, is the built in asado grill in our patio area.

If you look closely you will see a crank at the top right of the grill opening. This crank adjusts the grill up...

and down.

Pretty sweet right? All this adjustability, 4 nice bife de chorizo steaks, and some nice spicy chorizo sausage made for a nice asado this day and just one of the many to come.

Just Another Paraguayan

Last week I heard some of my students talking about the NBA playoffs during class so naturally I eavesdropped a little on the conversation and overheard them say that they were cheering for Steve Nash because he had a Paraguayan wife. I had never heard this before so I inquired and they were a little hazy on the details so I checked it out and it turns out to be true. Nash visits her family here in Asuncion in the off season, has done some charity work with a hospital here, and even worked out with a local soccer team when he was here a year ago. Unfortunately the soccer team he practiced with was Olimpia, the Yankees of Paraguayan soccer, otherwise Nash could have become my favorite NBA player. It was cool to find out that someone famous has connections with Paraguay though and that Steve even speaks Spanish and drinks his terere like a local as seen below.
If that's not a Paraguayan, I don't know what is!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

El Super Clasico

A few weeks ago a group of teachers decided to attend the biggest sporting event in Paraguay (outside of national team soccer games that is). The Super Clasico is a soccer game between the two biggest (and richest) soccer teams in the country. Olimpia is more or less the Yankees of Paraguayan soccer as they have the most championships and the most money. Their eternal rival is Cerro Porteno who have only slightly fewer championships and almost as much money. While none of us are fans of either team, this was a game that had to be seen in person at least once because it involves a packed national stadium of 36,000 fans screaming, chanting, insulting the other fans, throwing whatever they have on the field, and most importantly police in full riot gear.

We arrived in the neighborhood of the stadium an hour and a half early to get tickets and grab some lomitos. The area was already overflowing with supporters of both teams and the stadium appeared packed as we bought our tickets from a "ticket resale agent" outside. We got lots of weird looks from people in the streets after buying the tickets, as you might imagine a large group of gringos would, since we were the only people walking away from the stadium instead of towards it. We also made a special effort to wear neutral colors so we wouldn't be mistaken for supporters of either club (this meant no Olimpia black or white and no Cerro red or blue) and we thus stood out even further among all the passionate fans in their team colors.
Part of the teacher group dressed in our neutral colors.

After our delicious lomitos we headed into the stadium about 30 minutes before kickoff and found it to be nearly packed already. Apparently futbol games are the only events where "Paraguayan time" doesn't apply. The only seats we could find in our section happened to be right next to the police in riot gear separating the supporters groups of each team. We were not directly in between the opposing "hinchatas" since those folks sit in the end zones of the stadium, but we were a bit concerned none the less. For those of you who may be concerned about our safety after reading that, the worst that happened to us was that there were a few unidentified flying objects that fell near us during contentious times in the game.
Check out the line of riot police next to where we were sitting!

It turned out to be the hottest day of the last couple of weeks so these guys must have been frying in their full riot gear.

The game itself ended in a 0-0 tie but it was still worth going to view the spectacle. The stadium was alive with chants and drumming when we arrived 30 minutes before kickoff and the fans were all screaming and engaged while they watched the reserve teams (kind of like minor league baseball teams or a JV basketball team) for each side play a match before the real game started. Right before the teams came running out of the tunnel (or giant inflated bus as it is here) to warm up on the field both hinchatas went crazy with chants and started throwing rolls of adding machine tape that they had smuggled into the stadium onto the field.

The Cerro side of the stadium with quite possibly the largest banner I've ever seen!

Clearly the Olimpia side of the stadium won this contest of "Who can litter the field with more garbage and delay the start of the game longer" which made the Olimpia fans among my students very happy (interestingly this was more important to them the Monday after than the fact that they tied the game). Once this ended and the game began the level of chanting, drumming, singing, hurling very inappropriate insults, and attempting to hit the opposing players with bottles and even more rolls of adding machine paper (the city must have been unable to print receipts for days afterward) was very impressive and sustained throughout all 90 minutes.
Almost game time!

The view from our seats was pretty nice. This is the Olimpia side of the stadium
with the Paraguay River in the background. The land on the other side of the
stadium is actually Argentina.

All the teachers were glad to have witnessed the spectacle that was the Super Clasico, but I believe that we are all content with our one experience and probably won't head back again. Still, for those who say soccer is a boring sport the opportunity to experience a game like this was a great opportunity and a fun way to contradict that criticism.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Last Few Weeks

Since the last post on semana santa, its been a very busy, yet chill time. I'll let Jess do the post on the superclasico soccer game we went to last weekend, but I thought I'd just post to write a bit about my weekly routine. I've been continuing my twice a week Spanish classes and I really am seeing improvement in my Spanish language. I've also started a Spanish language book club and we're currently reading novels from my 5th grade classroom. So while I may not be able to converse in Spanish at a 5th grade level, I can read books at that level!

This last week I also found out about a marathon, half marathon and 10K that are taking place in Asuncion in August. My friend Danielle and I, who run together twice a week, have decided to train for and run the 1/2 marathon. August 8th, 2010 be thinking of me!

Next week, I start my fourth and final master's class for the school year. It seems as if I just agreed to take this program and now I'm almost done with year one. Its crazy how time flies! In 7 and 1/2 short weeks, we will be in Wisconsin for a summer vacay. The countdown has definitely begun, along with planning for almost every day of our stateside stay. I'm trying not to count the days, but its too hard not to!