June 5, 2005: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: In the Fray: Penny Newbury says: "I lived here three years but Iím as clueless now about how this country works as when I first arrived in 1999: a Peace Corps volunteer with two words of Spanish and a dim idea that Paraguay was somewhere hot and south and vaguely venomous"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Peace Corps Paraguay: The Peace Corps in Paraguay: June 5, 2005: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: In the Fray: Penny Newbury says: "I lived here three years but Iím as clueless now about how this country works as when I first arrived in 1999: a Peace Corps volunteer with two words of Spanish and a dim idea that Paraguay was somewhere hot and south and vaguely venomous"

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-245-37.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.245.37) on Sunday, June 26, 2005 - 12:13 am: Edit Post

Penny Newbury says: "I lived here three years but Iím as clueless now about how this country works as when I first arrived in 1999: a Peace Corps volunteer with two words of Spanish and a dim idea that Paraguay was somewhere hot and south and vaguely venomous"

Penny Newbury says: I lived here three years but Iím as clueless now about how this country works as when I first arrived in 1999: a Peace Corps volunteer with two words of Spanish and a dim idea that Paraguay was somewhere hot and south and vaguely venomous

Penny Newbury says: "I lived here three years but Iím as clueless now about how this country works as when I first arrived in 1999: a Peace Corps volunteer with two words of Spanish and a dim idea that Paraguay was somewhere hot and south and vaguely venomous"

Like a card shark, Paraguay holds its secrets close.

Written and photographed by Penny Newbury / Fuerte Olimpo, Paraguay
Published Monday, June 6, 2005

[Excerpt]

There are many secrets along the Paraguay River I will take to my grave. And not because I donít want to tell them. I used to think it was only Guarani that kept me outside looking in, but itís more than the language. People here are born knowing everything about this place; history speaks to them though the water and the stones and the dust.

I lived here three years but Iím as clueless now about how this country works as when I first arrived in 1999: a Peace Corps volunteer with two words of Spanish and a dim idea that Paraguay was somewhere hot and south and vaguely venomous. And where they sent me, to the wild northeast Chaco that is the watershed of the great swamp called the Pantanal, the secrets bubbled up from the riverbed and swirled around me. Iíd reach out and each time they would float away.

Itís nine a.m. in Fuerte Olimpo when Lalo and I tiptoe up the skinny gangplank of the cargo launch Ña Manu. Itís now doing double duty as a passenger ferry since, during the years I have been away, the other boats working the northern Rio Paraguay have sunk, cracked in half, or been confiscated for unspecified, unsavory crimes.

Which makes the owner Doña Manuela very happy. This morning she is practically bursting out of her pink leotard with joy. For a three-hundred-pound woman she is surprisingly nimble and as strong as any man; she helps her rather dimwitted young stevedores stow sack after sack of rice and hard biscuits in the hold. Weíre told the Ña Manu will leave Fuerte Olimpo punctually but this is Paraguay. And, though I donít know it yet, Ña Manu has special guests.

When I lived here, I never took the Ña Manu. She is tiny by river standards, about seventy feet long, and the only places to sit are deadly carandaíy palm benches running the length of each side. Thereís a bathroom ó a box with a hole and a hose ó and... oh, I donít know, I always thought she was too dirty and spooky and creaky, though certainly Carmen Leticia (ďthe jewel of the Río ParaguayĒ) and the Cacique were no motor yachts. But at least they looked like they could carry more than two extra people and they werenít wrapped in brown tarpaulin.

Ña Manu is basically a floating shanty. You donít burn from the sun, you just braise in the brown oven bag. She has no set schedule, and sheíd stiffed us on the way up to Fuerte Olimpo, leaving a day early from Isla Margarita where the distance across the river between Paraguay and Mortinho, Brazil is no more than two hundred meters. No other lanchas were due for days. But Laloís friend Eladio was taking his empty cattle chata past Olimpo to Bahia Negra so we hitched a ride and made it upriver that way. All this, I suppose, should be enchanting. But coming back to visit this country that still troubles me and that I still consider my true home, it only seems sad and exhausting.

When we pass through the tarp flap in the stern onto the main deck, I see far too many passengers. Five men sit lined up on one of the long benches on the starboard side. A sixth, younger than the rest and like Lalo, tall for a Paraguayan, sits on a perpendicular bench with his back to the wheelhouse. Lalo walks over and shakes hands with each of them. Iíve seen this before; Iíve learned to shake hands at parties and funerals, but doing it on a boat seems like only a guy thing.

Seems. What do I know? I decide to be a Paraguayan woman about it and give it a pass.





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Story Source: In the Fray

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay

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