Tag Archives: English as official language

Getting Ready For The Trip Home


Flag-map_of_Paraguay.svgThere won’t be any more updates from your South American correspondent for a few days, as we’re packing in the morning for the final leg of our Paraguayan journey and will be on the road and in the air.

Honestly, I feel like I have severely under-blogged during this trip. Reading the posts I’ve written gives me some mixed reactions. I am not sure I have been fair enough to Paraguay, and I freely admit that some of my reactions to this proud republic are too narrow-minded—I don’t want to sound like I’m passing judgment on a country or its customs from a 20-day stay.

It may be only as populous as two Iowas, but it’s as big as California, and there is far more that I don’t know and have not seen than what I know and have seen in this isolated, wonderful country hidden in the most remote corner of these two American continents.

Anyway, I am sure I’ll write one or several blog posts about Paraguay after I get back home. Future topics to look for:

  • The chow of Paraguay, or how I learned to share a cup and sip from the same metallic straw as others without a qualm. Not to be confused with the “chau” of Paraguay which is how they say goodbye. Adios, Spanish students, means “hola” in Paraguay.
  • The Jesuit ruins of Trinidad, or how important it is to do routine maintenance on your stone roof (or maybe how European architecture of the 1700s was no match for the climate of Paraguay).
  • The angel of death for Paraguayan tree frogs—the strange and awesome hunter (who also freaks out and has odd fears) that is my son’s and daughter-in-law’s cat.
  • My impressions of the capital city, where we’ll spend two days before winging our way back to the United States.

I also may make “Paraguay: The Movie.” I shot some video that I have not had time to look at or edit, so we’ll see.

Anyway, it’s been a blast. Our time last year in Norwich, England was my first extended stay in a foreign land, and Paraguay feels 10-times as foreign as the UK—it’s about as foreign as you can get in this hemisphere. I’m sure parts of Africa or Asia would seem even more alien, but besides Haiti, I don’t know if there are lots of places in the Americas or the world that feel further from Los Estados Unidos than Paraguay.

Of course, I freely admit that’s a uniformed opinion. Give me a break. It’s a blog. (Inside joke for Jon and Nalena).

The fact that it’s not Iowa is not a criticism of this contradiction of a country that manages to be simultaneously huge and tiny (big on land, not densely populated).

"Flag maps" of Paraguay downloaded from Wikicommons.

“Flag maps” of Paraguay downloaded from Wikicommons.

It’s good to get away from home, now and then. It’s good to experience a country where you are the outsider, an oddity.

I saw a rather ignorant Facebook post the other day from someone who passed on along a meme to the effect that English ought to be required before a person could get a USA green card.

I did not repost. I was repulsed. That would exclude my grandparents, legal U.S. residents who spoke only Hungarian. That would have excluded many WWII refugees or the Hmong from Laos who were our allies in Vietnam. I suspect it would exclude some ancestors of the person who posted the meme.

It’s good to be in a place, now and then, where English is not only not “the” language, it’s not even one of the two. Paraguay is the only American country that preserves its indigenous tongue as a major, official, national language.

Maybe we should have all been forced to learn the pledge of allegiance in Cherokee. I hope Paraguayans have a pledge that they recite in Guarani.

Anyway, I’ll be very glad to get home to my familiar haunts in Iowa. But in just tres semanas, Paraguay has changed me. Among other things, it has reminded me how much more I have to learn to claim I can even start to speak Spanish.

So, no, I don’t think adult immigrants to EE.UU should be forced to prove that they speak English any more than I should be forced to prove fluency in either Spanish or Guarani should I decide to make the other red, white and blue country my home.

Anyway, end of rant and tangent. I didn’t want to get preachy or political in this post. Mostly, I want to say muchas gracias to my son; his lovely bride; his loca gata; and the mysterious, friendly, beautiful, complex and iconoclastic people of Paraguay.

I’m sure I’ll have mas to say before I’m done writing about Paraguay. I’m sure that even then, I’ll have left too much badly said or unsaid.

For now, chau, chau.

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