Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paraguay vs. Colombia Game

October 15th, 2009

I decided the day of at about 1:00 PM (bus set to leave at 2:00 PM) to go to the Paraguay vs. Colombia game in Asunción. A lack of plata (money) and a looming presentation were complicating my decision to go, but in the end the thought of seeing Paraguay play in a World Cup qualifier in Asunción with a bunch of friends won out over work and money. What put me over the top was talking to Chris who said I should come and that I could crash at his place, which is really close to Asunción.

Yet another great decision. I had a great time.

I came home from the cooperative, hurriedly packed my bag and headed off to meet up with Analia to catch the bus to Asunción.

When we arrived, we had to drop Analia’s bag by Rosa’s house. On the way there, it started pouring rain. It took us walking under my raincoat for about 5 minutes before I realized I had my umbrella in the side pocket of my backpack. We dropped the bag off at Rosa’s, and then the three of us headed to the Palace, where I was going to leave my bag during the game.

Shortly after dropping my bag off and me changing into my Paraguayan jersey, we headed to a sports bar not 2 blocks from the Palace. When I walked up, the bar was filled with Volunteers in Paraguayan jerseys and everyone had big towers of beer at their tables. We hung out there for just a bit and then headed out for the game.

I bought 60-mil ticket off a guy on the street for 50 mil, and with that the fun began. As we were approaching the stadium, I had to take off my belt and conceal it underneath the band of my boxers since belts are not allowed in the stadium. What does that tell you?

I was worried they were going to find it and confiscate my only belt but we walked through without even being checked. No pat downs, no metal detector, nothing. We just cruised right through.

Upon entering the stadium, I was amazed by the atmosphere....a bouncing sea of red and white, flags flying, plastic bats being shaken in the air, huge Coca-Cola banners covering entire sections, and chants being belted in one, unified Paraguayan voice to the tune of loud drums. I can’t imagine what World Cup is going to be like!

Paraguay and Colombia went head to head for the last qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Even though the Colombians handed it to us, we still had a great time jumping around and chanting, “Albi albi albi roja albi roja.” Not only did we lose but Argentina won, which meant they had qualified for an appearance in the World Cup. As the rivalry is so heated, everyone wanted to see the big, bad Argentina sit this one out. Either way, it was great to see a game in person. It will be a while before another game is played in that stadium so I’m glad I seized the opportunity. At the end of the day Paraguay is headed to South Africa and so am I!!!

After the game, we went back to Chopería to hang out. There was a live band, which provided for a really cool atmosphere. A Volunteer who has been here for 2 years, Analia, Rosa, Claire, and I all went down the street for some Lomito Arabe (beef gyro). It was great late-night food.

Later when we returned to the bar, I had some interesting conversations with a few Volunteers. One volunteer did her undergrad at Cornell and her MPA at Columbia. She then worked in a variety of organizations in microfinance and nonprofit before coming to the Peace Corps. She was really knowledgeable and interesting to talk to. She imparted some wisdom that will cause me to make some tough decisions. The good news is she says Peace Corps is great on a resume and will open a lot of doors, especially in the non-profit world. She said she used to love to hire Peace Corps Volunteers. She said if I were interested in pursing a MPA (Masters of Public Administration), Peace Corps would be enough from a work experience perspective to get me in. As I am looking to do a MBA with possibly a dual MPA degree, I’ll ultimately have to get a few more years of experience before matriculating. Nevertheless she dropped some good ideas on me and gave me a few fresh perspectives that I needed to hear but which has me in deep introspection about how to spend my time while here and what to do when I leave Peace Corps.

Around 2:00 AM, Chris, his Paraguayan friend, and myself headed out to find a bus back to his place. We walked to several corners where we waited briefly for a bus before heading to the next place there was “sure to be a bus.” After several attempts like this, we passed a bar and the bar-owner told us that a bus would pass by there at 3:00 AM. Since we had a while to wait, we went inside and played a few games of pool. Remember Hora Paraguaya? 3:00 AM...No Bus. 3:15 AM...No Bus. 3:30 AM...No Bus. 3:45 AM...No Bus. Around 4:00 AM I was ready to go and had in good faith that the bus was not coming, so I hailed a taxi and spent 60 mil getting us to Chris’ place. The whole reason I stayed with him was to avoid spending 66 mil on a hotel room for the night...HAHA.

It turned out well because the next day I had a great time hanging out with Chris.

He took me by his counterpart, which is a big community center where they train and develop youth and give technical skills courses to the community. Chris told me all about a leadership camp he is developing and how he got it funded. I’m going to go to the leadership camp, not only because it will be fun and I’ll likely facilitate a few sessions, but also because it will be a great learning opportunity in case I decide to do a leadership camp in San Juan.

We went for lunch at a humongous grocery store, and had interesting conversation about Che Guevara’s life and his part in the communist revolution in Cuba. Chris had read up a lot on Che, so he was well versed and he has a knack for story telling. It’s pretty incredible how the whole thing went down. If you’re interested in that kind of stuff, I would recommend checking out some books about Che and Fidel Castro. It’s actually a really interesting story.

After lunch we played a few games of pool at an indoor/outdoor style bar near Chris’ places and then went back to his place. We had a lot of great conversation about Peace Corps, development projects, our personal lives, etc...

Soon after, I bussed it back to the Peace Corps office where I dropped off my payment for the Thanksgiving bash, and then went to the terminal where I caught the long bus back home.

All in all, it was a great trip. I made a few new friends, saw Paraguay play, had a lot of fun, and had some really interesting and educational conversations.

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