I am settling in to the groove of life in Asuncion, slowly but surely. Yesterday I took the bus home from the WWF office, which is located in a suburb of the city. Now the bus is a tricky, and somewhat intimidating experience. First, there are no written maps outlining bus routes, so you just have to know which bus you need and where it will take you. Second, the buses don’t always follow the same route. They usually end up in the same general area, however they may take a right instead of going straight, or as was the case last night they may take a detour around the entire downtown of the city before dropping you where you need to go. Third, the bus does not always come to a complete stop when you are getting on, or getting off – so being fast is a necessity. Lastly, the bus, from what I’ve heard, can be a somewhat dangerous place. People at the office seemed genuinely concerned that I be careful on the bus, and not let on that I have a laptop or anything else of value on me, (i.e. cell phone, camera, etc,) I was also warned about the jewelry I have on, and that it may make me a target.
I think the overall concern is that I not let on that I am a tourist, and people should leave me alone, this is partially common sense, and partially fair warning as I definitely did not face the same level of security issues living in Manhattan, despite what people may think of the city.
I think also added on to the security, something that is a risk back home, but not an active threat, are cell phones. I have yet to purchase a SIM Card, or a new phone which you can get with a wireless plan, (but most likely will put a SIM card in my rockin’ hot pink Motorola Razr.) I have been told, however, that it is not safe to use the cell phone on the street, or on the bus. People will have no fear of grabbing it from you, especially if the phone is worth anything, (i.e. good bye iPhone!) so the safest thing will be to have a phone that is not an easy target in case I should need to make calls, or get lost.
I don’t want to seem overly negative about life in Asuncion, so don’t take this the wrong way. I am simply giving count of what I have experienced so far and what I have been warned of by locals. Should anyone be planning a trip to Paraguay in the future, (to visit me – ahem,) it will also be valuable for you to learn these things as I am to be sure you can protect yourself the best way possible. In time, I will also bring out the best of the local flavor, like the celebrations for Paraguay winning El Mundial!!