Autumn In Paradise

Autumn Roses

Autumn has always been my favourite season. It has the cooler evenings, the apples, plums and other fruits. The leaves turning golden and falling are one of my favourite sights of the year.

Autumn is different here, but looks set to be my favourite season here too. The sting of the summer sun has cooled, to a muscle relaxing heat. The light is more mellow, perhaps because the sun has dipped in the sky and is giving longer shadows.

A couple weeks ago we had our first cold snap. It brought night temperatures to 8c and day temperatures to 19c. It felt cold. Quilts and jumpers were brought out. This lasted just a couple days. It now feels like there has been a reprieve. Temperatures are back in the mid 20s which is normal for this time of year. Sometimes we have felt chilly only to realise that we are out at night and still in tee shirts.

The flowers that we would consider summer flowers in Britain are now in full bloom. There are yellow and orange marigolds in the park. Roses which have been in bloom throughout summer have perked up in the cooler temperatures and are vibrant. There are several different types, from the tiny miniature rose to standard varieties and big tea roses. The scents are wonderful and fill the air along with the jasmine that seems to always be in bloom, filling the air.

Citrus fruits are at their peak. Grapefruit was first and have given way to oranges, mandarins and tangerines. Walking along Asuncion streets the trees are heavy with fruit. There are even some Sicilian lemon trees, which are quite rare here.

A few trees are losing their leaves. Many trees, like mango are still as full and bushy as any other time of year. They are beginning to bud and giving promise of fruits to come in the summer. Some trees and shrubs are having their annual pruning. It was a bit of a shock to see all the leaves and quite a bit of branch being cut off. We thought the trees were being cut down, but this is pruning sub tropical style. The climate allows the return to vigorous growth, which has started already.

Flocks of migratory birds can be seen daily in their flight to warmer climes. They can be heard squawking as they encourage each other in their journey. Winter will be here soon and the opportunity for more new experiences and new sights and smells.

Categories: Daily Life, Paraguay Tags: ,

Feliz Bicentenario Paraguay

The Panteon


Happy Bicentenary Paraguay.

Paraguay celebrates 200 years of independence today. There are many celebrations going on in Asuncion over the weekend. They include parades, parties, aquatic and aeronautical displays.

Many public buildings have been painted and renovated for the occasion, including The Panteon in the centre of Asuncion.

Categories: Asuncion, Daily Life Tags: ,

Living In Asuncion

Palacio de Lopez

We had little idea of what to expect living in paraguay would be like. We had seen pictures of the Asuncion skyline and of the major buildings and a couple of videos on youtube. It looked pleasant enough, but as for the day to day living, there was very little information. we had done extensive research of many countries online and chose paraguay because there is ample water, farmland and there is a small, young population in a large space. beyond that the trail largely goes cold.

We currently live in Asuncion the capital of Paraguay. The population of Greater Asuncion is approximately 2 million. It is a quickly growing city. Many people leave the countryside to come to Asuncion to seek work.

Asuncion is a good city to live in. It has a similar feel to many european cities not to make it feel strange, but there is a quality of going back in time a little. There are department stores, phone shops and many electronic shops, banks and the usual businesses on any high street. The difference is that there are still many privately owned little corner shops, goods similar to what you are used to but different brands and much fewer big brand fast food chains. Fast food comes in the form of traditional empanadas (pasties filled with a variety of meat or vegetables) and milanese style steaks. These are again mainly from small privately owned cafes and bars. There are vendors getting on and off the buses, shoe shine boys, people carrying baskets of fruit and chipa for sale, things that we just didn’t see anymore in the UK. It was a change, life is interesting and not every street is a uniform copy of the last.

The centre of Asuncion is easy to walk around and compact enough to take in some of the major highlights in about 2 hours. These include the Pantheon, which is an oratory, the Palacio de Lopez, which is now government offices and the municipal theatre. The buildings here are elegant and reflect a prosperous past. There are some unsympathetic store fronts but the buildings are left largely intact and could be easily restored. There was not the widespread destruction of old buildings in the centre that has happened to so many cities, followed by the construction of bland concrete. Unfortunately, there are a few high rise concrete testaments to the 60’s. There are good bus links to most parts of the city, good places to eat, shops and some museums. A major promenade is planned for the riverfront and work is due to start soon.

There is abundant green space in Asuncion in the form of parks and plazas. The city has many trees on most streets and each month something comes into bloom. We do not know the names of most of the trees as they are not found in colder climes, but they are a feast for the eyes. Citrus fruits are now ripe, bunches of bananas are bright green. From our city apartment we can see papaya and oranges. If we look out in another direction there are palm trees.

There are various types of neighbourhood that will fit different lifestyles and budgets. If you wish you can import your lifestyle from USA or Europe and spend a similar amount of money, even living in gated communities if you so wish or live more simply, but still very comfortably, in a professional, middle class neighbourhood and pay around £450 per month including rent, food, utility and internet bills. In future posts we will look at a few neighbourhoods in more detail for the availability of accommodation and what can be expected in that particular area. We shall soon have another blog devoted primarily to photographs of Paraguay.

Categories: Asuncion Tags: ,

Easter


We were not sure what to expect for our first Easter in Paraguay. The Holy Week is known as  Santa Semana. The week began with Palm Sunday. There were beautiful woven sheafs of palm carried by all the parishioners exiting church. Easter eggs which were already in the shops in pretty pergolas as you entered were now joined by boxes of chocolates arriving on the shelves.

Thursday is a public holiday here to mark Holy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper. Asuncion became quiet, the few businesses that were open closed their doors at midday. We have been told that Easter time also marks the end of the holiday season and there is a mass exodus to the countryside and lake resorts as people enjoy the rare four day weekend.

Friday began quietly, really quietly. the only time that I have heard Asuncion this quiet was on Christmas morning. At mid morning we walked into the centre of town. Even by this time there were very few people in the streets. The ones that were out were with their friends and families, happily walking together. To mark Good Friday there was no smell of asado (latin american barbecue) in the air. The few restaurants that were open had special menus featuring bacalao con garbanzo, a delicious stew of salt cod and chickpeas. lasagne and gnocchi with vegetables, as well as the usual favourites of steak, chicken, the sopa paraguaya which is a type of corn bread and chipa guazu, a cheesy souffle made with green corn.

The weather was beautiful. At Altos, a small town about an hours drive from Asuncion, the crucifixion is depicted on the green beside the church. The event lasts all day until sunset. Forecast storms never came and the day was bathed in a lovely warm late summer type light. The evening was perfect as singers from the church paraded the streets in Asuncion with crosses.

Saturday awoke to heavy rain and cold winds, there was little movement in the city centre. The usually large and jubilant crowd at the Defensores de los Chacos stadium for the football match was also diminished and more subdued.

Sunday remained quiet. There had been more pageants in the morning beginning at 5am at Trinidad church, depicting the passion and crucifixion. The restaurants were doing a slow trade, most of the city’s inhabitants were still away. The customers that were there were leaving with bags full of Easter eggs, milk and white chocolate carefully decorated and wrapped in cellophane. They has almost all disappeared from the supermarkets. By the evening the rumble of traffic could be heard. Porches were being swept as owners returned home, dogs were barking from the excitement of their freedom after their long journeys. Nighttime was busy, restaurants and bars with customers spilling out onto the pavement, people quietly enjoying the last of easter and relaxing before their return to work.

Today it is a memory as Asuncion returned to normal and everyone has their story to tell, getting ready for winter and dreaming of next summer.

Categories: Daily Life

Welcome

Rainbow In Asuncion

Paraguay relocation is written by a United Kingdom couple who realized that retirement in the UK, Europe or United States was not going to be the same as our parents experienced and decided that a change of location was called for.  We were also lucky.  Our pension firm, Equitable Life, was badly damaged by a change in the UK pension laws when the Labour government came into power in the late ’90’s, so we got an early warning that a conventional pension was not going to be sufficient for retirement.

We began investigating different countries via the internet, learned many things and visited a few countries. It was fun and a good use of leisure hours.  Our priorities while researching these included:  an adequate water supply that was not politically contested;  a more favorable demographic profile than that of America or Europe; a good climate that would not require many months of either heating or cooling ourselves; an abundance of arable land; reduced vulnerability to oil shortages and no serious racial or religious conflicts. Our search led us to Paraguay.

We are not professional writers or business people. We were life long employees of the National Health Service and during this time we were lucky to meet many people from all over the world. We learned much from them over the years.  We especially want to thank Josefina and her husband, Victor, for helping us realize our hopes of finding another country to call home.

We hope to write articles that will help anyone thinking of relocating to be brave and embrace a different life. We’ve been in Paraguay for over seven months now and are discovering how good a destination it is for us. We’re learning about life in a different country, a different continent and in a different language. There are times of great frustration to be sure but attaining any new skill set requires patience, perseverence and flexibility.  As we increase our knowledge and experience, we seldom think about things ‘at home’.  We are overjoyed at being in Paraguay.

Categories: Paraguay

Welcome to Paraguay Relocation

Panteon in Plaza de los Heroes

Our first impression of Paraguay was of red soil, palm trees and the Paraguay river. We arrived  by plane on a friday morning in august 2010. It had been a long journey from the UK and we were tired, but it reminded us of Sri Lanka. This was a good start, we like Sri Lanka.

We had never been to South America before but had decided to emigrate as we were newly retired and felt that we had poor prospects going forward in the UK. This was the opportunity for a new life and one that we were excited to take. We chose Paraguay as it fulfilled our criteria of adequate water and farmland, a young population and a reasonable cost of living.

We had our documents legalised at the Paraguayan consulate in London before we arrived and were able to begin the permanent residency process immediately. We had arranged for a lawyer to help us before we arrived via a contact we had made in the UK. We have now been granted permanent residency. The whole process took seven months and we are really beginning to feel like this is home.

At first we thought that Paraguay reminded us of different places that we had been to on previous holidays. It had buses spewing fumes like in some Mediterranean cities. There is an elegance to central Asuncion that was familiar enough, but each time something felt different. Asuncion has it’s own identity. There are still some aspects of life that have been lost in places like London. There are stalls selling chipa, the Paraguayan staple made from maize or manioc flour, campesinos selling indigenous art in the streets. The buses have vendors jumping on and off, selling everything from soft drinks and snacks, to umbrellas and fans depending on the weather and my favourite, the man that sells radio antennas, batteries and cotton. Life seems to be lead at a less frantic pace.

There are modern stores for clothes and household necessities and a wide variety of places to eat. There are high quality restaurants that by Paraguayan standards are expensive, but quite reasonable by western standards. There are the usual fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, Burger King and McDonalds, but not at every turn. You are just as likely to see the small Paraguayan chains such as Lomitolandia selling burgers and milanese, or Dona Chipa with the tempting smells of stuffed chipa. However, most of the eateries, especially outside the centre of Asuncion, are still privately run family bars and restaurants. In these you will find a menu that changes daily being written on chalk boards with regulars like milanese, empanadas and lomito. Every evening we see the man in the pan arabe bar around the corner from where we live preparing his fresh meat, salad and condiments.

Fruit and vegetables are cheap and usually grown in Paraguay. There is a good choice of seasonal produce. Anything that is imported is usually from Argentina or Brazil and not from the other side of the world. The supermarkets run offers twice weekly and the things on sale are often the freshest and most plentiful. Street markets also present good value options. As a life long resident of the UK, I cannot describe the difference in taste between fruit that has ripened on the vine and the refrigerated, irradiated produce that is found on the shelves of supermarkets in London.

Paraguay is considered to be  a third world country. There is no longer any railway with much of the produce  arriving by riverboat. There are asphalt roads between the major towns and cities but most other routes are either dirt or cobbled roads. in many ways, it reminds us of the UK in the 60’s.

Has my lifestyle suffered? Not in the least. I live in a country that still has old fashioned values. Families meet regularly and eat together, rather than in a series of individual meals. The electricity is hydroelectric and sustainable. There is cable TV and plans for half of residents to be digital by 2015. There is also still a tradition of harp making, Paraguay’s national instrument as well as nanduti making, which is a delicate lace and  ao po’i, a beautiful type of cloth that is carefully embroidered and still worn with pride by professionals and as formal ware.

The fixed line telephone network is expensive for calls to mobiles and abroad, and is old. As a result 85% of the population have mobile phones. There is a fixed line internet option, but it is just as easy to get WIFI. The service speed has improved recently and is fast enough for VOIP. The cost is about double, at £25 a month, for similar speeds in the UK.

Paraguay is also a very colourful country. With it’s subtropical climate there are always trees and flowers in bloom. The local park gives a small taste of the vast array of plants and trees in the hundreds of miles of Paraguay countryside that we have yet to explore. Your find orange, lemon and pomelo trees everywhere, laden with fruit growing all over Asuncion.  There is stunning abundance here.

We hope to offer short articles on daily life, the cost of living and other areas of interest to people contemplating a relocation to a country that we have found to be a wonderful place for any age group.

Categories: Paraguay