Gate 14, it’s always gate 14, the flight to Asuncion from Sao Paulo Guarulhos International airport. Even before arriving I gathered some impressions as I sat waiting to board for my new adventure. ‘Asi nomas… ‘, I hear as I try to guess who will be on my flight. It’s easy to spot Paraguayans even from far away, by virtue of their particular accent and expressions.
I immediately noted big differences in the Paraguayans waiting with me. Passing a Starbucks upstairs, I noticed a group of clearly well-off, educated Paraguayan men and their young adult sons, sipping espressos and cappuccinos. They looked distinguished and handsome in their polo shirts, moccasins and slicked back hair. Meanwhile, continuing down the escalators towards the gate were the rest of the Paraguayans, dressed in simple clothes, some with their terreré sets and speaking in Guarani.
Disparities in Paraguay are huge, and this will no doubt be a topic I write about often as I discover this country. What I have noticed in previous travels here, though, is that despite the disparities, people respect and converse with each other, no matter their backgrounds. In the same neighbourhoods where there are big villas with security guards, you will find much smaller houses with low- to middle-income families. And both will go to the same corner store to buy their milk in the morning.
A now somewhat outdated New York Time article from 2013 tackles this topic well, commenting that while the economy grows, new mansions abound as well as Porsche car sellers and fancy department stores. Meanwhile, the poor are still scavenging through garbage to earn enough to bairly feed their families.
But don’t get me wrong, lots is happening and changing in Paraguay and as mentioned in my first blog post, most people are happy and fulfilled in their lives. How could they not in a climate that’s always sunny, with fruits and nature abound. In fact, as soon as I stepped off the plane in Asuncion, I was greeted by a warm and welcoming climate. Bienvenido a Paraguay!
The airport in Asuncion, Silvio Pettirossi International, is small and welcoming, with only about six gates! It is located in Luque, which is a city adjacent to Asuncion. It’s only six kilometers from the city center, about 20 minutes depending on traffic. Most Europeans and Latin Americans do not need visas and can proceed directly through immigration with the normal arrival form filled out. Americans do need visas though, but these can easily be obtained at the Visa Upon Arrival counter before passing through immigration.
Merely a day into being in Asuncion, we were already sitting ‘bajo el mango’, underneath a big mango tree, eating lunch and chatting away in the warm Paraguayan sun.