Change Yourself…Change The World.

How Not To Hurry (A Post On American Vs. Paraguayan Culture)
October 25, 2011, 8:52 am
Filed under: Paraguay, USA

Okay, I told myself, I am going to go over to my neighbor’s house and make myself sit there for an hour.

I’ve been in Paraguay for five months, yet I still give myself these assignments. I can’t seem to turn off the hurry mechanism that we Americans have. Whenever I am invited to a carne asado (a Sunday Paraguayan type of brunch with lots of grilled meat), to a tereré circle, or to just sit on a bunch of chairs outside someone’s house and watch the world go by, I am always thinking about when I should politely excuse myself to go back to my house. The whirring mechanisms in my brain seem to tell me that I have something really urgent and important to do, like stare at the wall. I can’t just seem to sit and relax and be all tranquilo like other Paraguayans.

This is changing, but slowly. My hour-long visit to my neighbor’s house turned into three, with activities like teaching some of my friends how to play the popular American card game, B.S., having a long conversation with a girl my age about American versus Paraguayan men, finally given the opportunity to serve tereré (only to spill it on the floor), and sharing merienda (snack-time) with the family, which was cake with dulce de leche. It wasn’t until it started raining that my neighbors warned me to close the windows in my house, and I ran off. When I got home, I couldn’t believe how much fun I had had, and as usual berated myself for all of those weird panicky ‘I-need-to-be-somewhere-else’ feelings I had for the half the time.

While I was talking about this with my Mom this morning, we discussed that while technology like high-speed internet, iPads, and high-tech cellular phones has greatly advanced our society in the United States, the detriment is always the high individualization and the more time we spend with each other virtually instead of literally. Today we Skype our neighbors instead of sitting on their front porches. Things like air-conditioning causes us to close up our house rather than keep the windows open and hear the birds. My grandmother likes to say that the biggest detriment to American families was the dishwasher- before the dishwasher, the greatest part of the day with her mother and sister was washing the dishes together and chatting.

Our culture has seemed to adopt a very type-A ‘I have a million things to do’ personality. A day consists of crossing out a laundry list of objectives, a daily race to a finish line that leaves us exhausted. Here in Paraguay, commodities like air conditioning are rare and dishwashers non-existant. Last night a power line went out in Northern Paraguay and all the electricity was cut here. I spent my night cooking and reading by candlelight. There’s no doubt about it that life is slower in Paraguay than the United States, but I like to think that this makes all interactions so much richer, and time spent together a lot more fun.

I still have my days when I long for air-conditioning, but today I am really enjoying the cool breeze wafting in through my open windows. Sometimes I miss having an iPhone or wireless internet, but I mostly enjoy feeling more unplugged. And I may still have that hurry mechanism inside me when I sit down with my neighbors for an undetermined period of time, but I am noticing it less and less. I look forward to the day when I don’t need to give myself assignments to sit down and hang out with my neighbors anymore.

1 Comment so far
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Wow. Thanks for sharing this. I am a Paraguayan living in Unitd States and what you say really touches me. Thanks for your insight.

Ana Demestri

Comment by Analu Mora Demestri

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