At seventeen I found myself in another place. Strangers around me. What a wonderful place. Rich in culture, natural resources and complacent, happy people. I read that it is known as the heart of South America, Paraguay, land of the fearless and the absent Guarani. They went to war once, the terrible Triple Alliance War. Fought like the mad men they were, driven by a despot, against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay put together. From the two hundred thousand odd, only around twenty thousand men survived, that too because they were too old or young to go to war. What was once a magnificient land was left to the vultures.
What I saw was something incredible to believe at that time. This country could live of itself without a hassle. Why would German missionaries and Mormons buy land in the interiors and get lost there? They figured it was the perfect place to do just that, get lost. No trouble makers to stalk them, no advanced civilization and modern amneties to entice or lure them away from their lives.
I met many interesting people there. There was Silvio, the frustrated mechanical genius who could finally explain the difference between a 2-stroke and 4-stroke engine. There was Ruben, the young kid from a small village trying to make it big in the city. There was Gustavo, the gentleman from Uruguay who felt it compelling and necessary to be kind and gentle in a madhouse. There were the Castillo brothers, Ramon and Luis, local boys who had to live up to their madness - lewdity and honesty running through their blood like the beer available. There was Noelia, totally gorgeous, atleast to me, with that lisp that drove every guy crazy. There was me. Trying hard to learn the ropes from the very bottom. There were the crazy sisters from next door - Luisa, Elsa, and Mirtha. Wonder how many times I got daggers stuck into my back as I happily went over, invited by their brother, Raul, where the local boys always wanted to be.
I don't know if the weather made the people there crazy. Summer was hot. Incredibly hot - atleast 44 d.c. Then the rains that never stopped. Then the winter. I remember how my bones ached when the wind from the south came in. I was told that this is how it is in the pampas. Yes, I forgot, Asuncion, was part of the great pampas that stretched across 4 nations.
The soil was red and very rich. Silvio used to joke about how a tree would spring out from his shit if he ever made the mistake of doing it outdoors.
Raul lived in with Liliana downstairs. Liliana is this heavy person with beautiful features and Raul, was pretty tiny compared but had a heart of gold. Guess that's how they pulled through. Raul worked at the national power company, so we'd go out to the club every once in a while to play tennis under lights and get a glimpse of the city. Life was kinda settling in till I met Roberto and the gang from Villa Bonita.