1. Chipa

During long bus rides around the country, I could never resist the women who would sell this from the basket on their heads, sometimes along with a cocido. Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, I’d always grab a few extra for whomever I was headed to meet.

2. Drinking terere

On the sweatiest of days, sitting in the shade of a mango tree in a terere circle, I loved cracking the bag of ice on a fence post, mashing up some lemongrass and letting the afternoon go by over a jarra with some of my favorite Paraguayans.

3. Guaraní

My favorite curse word in the world is still in this language, and from what I can tell, it means “from or of the devil’s vagina.”

4. Canceling everything when it rains

Rain in Paraguay = I’m allowed to read in bed today. Definitely does not apply to life in the United States.

5. The phrase “Le falta sal.”

One of the most common phrases I heard at the table.

6. Spandex

I swore that I would not revert to my 80s days. But when it would hit 42 degrees, you would find me cooking in my kitchen, standing as far from the stove as possible, hand on hip, legs wide so literally no part of my body was touching another part, rocking my grey spandex.

7. Fried everything

I had imagined I would be ruggedly fit during my travels. Instead I gained more than a few kilos eating milanesa, fried mandioca, empanadas, and, my favorite: fried pig face. It’s definitely a health hazard, when in Paraguay…

8. Clapping instead of knocking

Though it felt so weird at first, once I got home, I found myself almost clapping at every gate instead of walking up.

9. Ao Po’i

I love how the fabric is airy for those hot days, and it’s fun learning the patterns of jasmine flowers, zig zags, and diamonds.

10. Laughter

According a recent poll, Paraguayans are the happiest people in the world. That’s probably because they always know how to laugh. Sometimes is was at me, and sometimes it was with me. But the smiles on everyone’s face as I passed, with an “Adios,” which I used to think meant goodbye, always made me smile too.

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