Long road to solidarity


Little girl running towards the barrio

Little girl running towards the barrio

Just two weeks ago, I was moving house to my permanent base here in Asuncion. I’ve rented an apartment with two rooms for $250 a month in Barrio Santissima Trinidad: a short walk from the sisters house and the banados where I work.

This is considered middle-range for Asuncion.

As I gathered a few bits and pieces, The weather was already starting to look ordinary, but work wasn’t yet too busy, so I went around looking for small furniture that I could carry myself.

I coquettishly picked out cushions for my simple little house which didn’t yet have chairs, and searched used furniture stores for the right colours to give rustic missionary feel with a bit of modern artistic flair. (Okay, so that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but I wanted to place to look nice for the penhas (singalongs) I hope to hold here)

…And now, I see how far away I am from real solidarity as the people of the poorest parts of Asuncion construct their temporary dwellings. Continue reading


When it rains

A little Paraguaya with her "Mate" or "Terere"

A little Paraguaya with her “Mate” or “Terere”

For some time now, I’ve been without words. Usually, I have a comment, a joke or a sarcastic or cynical quip for every situation, but at the moment, there is nothing. I am trying to listen, learn and understand, but I find myself feeling pretty useless, unable to come up with a response.

Watel level reaching the houses

Watel level reaching the houses

The two barrios where I work, Ca’acupemi Bañado Norte and Cerrito San Miguel have been slowly but surely flooding as winter begins. Each time it rains, a few more families find themselves without a home. The floods are the worst in fourteen years, and are the reason that the “bañados” are called bañados. (Bañado means bath or bathed and refers to the low lying areas in the northern and southern limits of Asuncion.)

The people have learnt what to do in such situations and build small wooden houses using thin balsa-like wood. They eke out a small patch of land as close as possible to their own community. Usually, this is not more than a couple of hundred metres from their flooded house.  The new house is perhaps four-metres squared, and is designed as a temporary dwelling. One large mattress is often a bed for six people. Carts are piled high with soiled blankets, mattresses, electro-domestics and warm clothing and transported to these makeshift houses, where the people could spend up to three or four months. Those who live in the higher areas often put up a good fight to stop the people building their casitas in otherwise more “attractive” parts of the barrio. The frustration of getting authorisation is just one of the many issues facing countries as corrupt as this. Continue reading