This morning we went shopping at Mercado Cuatro (4), or the world’s biggest flea market as I like to call it in jest. For the visitor it is a maze of indoor and outdoor shops sprawling over several blocks near downtown Asuncion. We passed by here on our bus ride home from Bañado the other day. Some locals claim they find great bargains here, others would do anything possible to avoid coming near it. Besides local arts and crafts,one can purchase clothes, shoes, and electronics (many of these are copies of name brand items found elswhere in the world.). Among the interesting shops we saw were
a fresh vegetable stand,
a fresh fish stand (evidently, from the Paraguay River),
a roots & herb stand (with someone available to grind these into a powder upon request),
and a fruit salad/fruit drink stand.
When we grew tired of Mercado 4, we stopped back downtown at the central plaza where local goods are also sold in a less crowded and more refined manner.
When we returned to the Quinta, it was time to paint there. Edson tried to paint with his foot by stepping in a paint tray, but we had Sam take him to the water spigot to clean up instead.
We are officially tired of painting now, but we keep going until the dining room and outside facade of the Quinta is painted.
Finally, we finish and take a dip in the pool.
In the evening we are invited to Pastor Pedro’s for a farewell party for his daughter, Marilyn, who is going to Germany for a month for school. Another nice evening, but time to start packing for tomorrow’s flight home.
Dan and Brian will be returning to the States on Sunday, so this was their last work day with us. Dan led the devotion discussion this morning, reading from Mark 12:30 where Jesus said we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. God wants all of our devotion. We often speak of “our time”, “our money”, “our lives”, but these are all His, not ours. God has given us abilities, but what he wants most is our availability. Do our lives display his ownership and priorities, rather than ours?
We each shared our most memorable moments from the trip and closed with prayer requests for a safe journey for Dan and Brian, continued growth in the new friendships we’ve made here, thanks for the good health we’ve had, continued spiritual growth and follow through when we go home, thanks for Marco and his “taxi”, a new job for him, and the outreach in San Antonio.
It was raining this morning, so the Paraguayan workers hired to work on the roof were sitting around drinking terere when we arrived at school. We focused our efforts on continuing to paint the newer classrooms with the high ceilings. Using the tall ladder and extensions on the paint rollers we were able to complete another coat of paint and finish trimming the rooms. We also worked on painting the exterior support posts in the dining room, the upper outside walls, stair well, and up into the 2nd story of the original classrooms.
Marcel’s wife, Mirian, made us lunch again. This time she prepared a special Milanesa with ham, cheese, and egg.
After lunch, we cleaned up and walked down to the next major intersection with Marcello to catch bus line 3 to Mercado Quatro (usually written Mercado 4). I think that it’s best described as a Paraguayan version of a flea market, except that it smells worse than a flea market and it’s laid out in a complicated 3-D maze instead of nice straight open rows. The market is built up around a series of buildings about three stories high. Around the edges of the building are little shops with tin roofs over the sidewalk with their goods (especially clothes) hanging from the ceilings. As you walk you are hit in the face with the t-shirts, and other merchandise that hangs down into your path. There are a few gaps between vendors where cars enter to get into the garage or turn down narrow streets between buildings, so when the clothes stop hitting you in the face, you need to look out for the cars entering or exiting the market. If you need to cross the main streets, you have to wait until a traffic jam occurs, and then run between the stopped cars. Although most of the merchandise seems to consist of clothing, there are also electronic stores, hardware stores, food vendors, and terere accessory suppliers, to name a few. Some of the food vendors also walk around through the aisles selling their goods, like chipa, a Paraguayan sour cheese bread.
After we were done shopping, Marcello led us across the street to catch bus line 38, which would take us all the way back to San Antonio. By the time we jammed 12 North Americans and Marcello onto the bus, which was already mostly standing room only, it was full, or so we thought. The bus still had many stops to go and continued to add additional people, packing us tighter and tighter. Eventually, people started to get off which finally gave us some breathing room again. When we reached “North” Street, which runs mostly West to the Rio Paraguay and the Quinta, we escaped the bus as quickly as possible and started walking toward the Quinta. Suddenly, we heard a car honking behind us. It was Pastor Pedro, on his way home. He was glad to give rides to those who were too tired to walk. The rest of us continued until we reached an Ice Cream store which was attached to someone’s home. (In Paraguay, it is common for small local businesses to be run out of the owner’s home.)
Then we looked across the street and found this:
Finally, we were able to get home and get cleaned up before Friday night church for the San Antonio outreach which meets at Oscar and Karen’s home. We started by singing some songs together, then Oscar read out of Jeremiah 38, how God sent Jeremiah to observe the potter. We humans are like dust, dirty and fragile, but God wants to use the dust to fashion us into something better. In spite of their sins, God loved Israel and wanted to remake them just like the potter did the clay. Still today, God wants to take imperfect men and women who are willing to admit that they are “made of dust” and remold them into something fit for his use. The work team was asked to close the service by singing a few songs. We sang “How Great thou Art” and “What a Friend we have in Jesus”. We were asked for an “encore” and sang “Victory in Jesus”. Finally, someone pointed out that there was a lady who knew German in the group, so we had to sing “Silent Night” with one verse in German. Being on Oscar and Karen’s tiled porch with a wooden overhang produced good acoustics and made us sound like a much larger group. It seemed like the people enjoyed our singing and then Karen made some soft tacos, while Dom took Brian to buy a couple “Titanic” sandwiches to share.
Today, Lucas, Hilary, and Vicki are going to Iguacu Falls with Oscar and Karen. They will need to recount their own adventures in a separate post. Meanwhile Brian and Phil have scheduled a day of shopping with Rey as our tour guide. Our first stop after Rey picked us up was the gas station. The price was 6590 Guaranis per liter; we calculated this as approximately $5.15 per gallon, gas prices in the States had been running less than $4 per gallon when we left. Karen says that they have discovered oil in the Chaco region in Northern Paraguay and that they are seeing increasing interest from U.S. oil companies in working here; however, this obviously hasn’t translated into lower gas prices yet. Proceeding onto school, we drop Gabi and Edson off to spend the day at Marcel’s house. We stop by the school administrative office to ask Pastor Dario to order us more paint so that we don’t have to wait for it the next day. Nestor and Carolina have started painting the upper level of the two-tone outside walls with the white paint, which is the only color we have left.
Rey takes us to Mercado Cuatro, an indoor/outdoor market covering several blocks. This is where you go to get the best deals; unfortunately, it also attracts pickpockets, so you have to be careful with your money and valuables. Rey keeps his in his money buttoned in his front pockets and Phil hides his in his shoes. I would not recommend this experience for the claustrophobic. Merchandise and goods hang from the ceilings and are stacked on both sides of a narrow walking aisle. Inside some of the buildings, it is almost like a maze, with narrow main rows going from one end to the other and even narrower aisle passage ways allowing you to cut over to the next row or into an expanded shopping area for a particular shop. The merchandise consists mainly of clothing, electronics, terere accessories, and some food & drinks. We have been asked to bring home a soccer jersey with the name of a specific player on it. To me this always seems like a daunting task. At Mercado Cuatro there are piles and piles of soccer jerseys not arranged in any particular order. Fortunately, the shop owners usually seem to know what goods they have in stock, and a specific request can be fulfilled or rejected within a couple of minutes. We have to go to a number of soccer jersey shops, but eventually we find one in stock for 55,000 Guaranis (about $13). The outside temperature has risen to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and inside it feels even hotter. When a lady comes through aisles selling drinks, we quickly buy a cup for each one. She pours each of us a lemonade-like drink from her pitcher and we quickly down them. We suddenly realize how small the cups were and look for a refill, but she has already vanished in the crowd.
Here is a video clip of what it’s like to walk through an aisle of Mercado Cuatro:
After several hours of shopping, Ray suggests we try a new mall in San Lorenzo (a section of Asuncion). The new mall is air conditioned, and although somewhat small, looks like a modern mall in the United States. It has a good-sized food court including such U.S. staples such as McDonalds and Quiznos. Since we have been eating Paraguayan foods for over a week now, the restaurants with local fare are ruled out. Finally we decide on a pizza place with a brick oven. When we ask for a “grande” Coke they tell they don’t have any, so we decide to go to the grocery store in the mall and buy a two liter bottle to share. Somehow the tiny 350 ml bottles don’t seem able to satiate the thirst of American men who have just escaped from the 90 degree heat of a three hour shopping trip. The grocery store doesn’t have anything bigger than a 1.5 Liter bottle, so we buy two and return for our pizza.
After finishing our lunch, we proceed toward downtown Asuncion. Rey points out the U.S. Embassy, the Paraguyan President’s compund, and the Brazilian Embassy as we drive by. We visit the outdoor market downtown, and Phil is able to acquire the bombilla that he has been seeking. We return to Oscar and Karen’s house, where we load the charcoal in the asado maker. Oscar returns home in time to start the fire and then leaves for the Qunita to clean the pool. Since we had a large group in on Christmas, the pool was drained so it could be cleaned and refilled. Oscar sweeps the leaves and debris into a pile which he dumps into a bucket and empties. Next, he washes down the pool and sweeps the dirty water out the drain. Pastor Pedro closes the drain and Oscar restarts the pump to fill the pool and dumps 20 liters of chlorine into it. In 14 hours it will be filled and ready to go again. We drive back to Oscar and Karen’s in time for hamburgers. It has been a long day.