Paraguay

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Your mailing address in Paraguay will be: 

“Your Name,” PCT [for trainee] or PCV [for Volunteer]
Cuerpo de Paz
162 Chaco Boreal c/Mcal. López
Asunción 1580, Paraguay
South America

Letters usually take two to three weeks to reach Paraguay. Packages and other types of correspondence are delayed much longer and may take several weeks to several months.

Telephones

International phone service to and from Paraguay is fairly reliable and accessible to most Volunteers. Volunteers are provided with a cellular phone and a basic calling plan. Peace Corps/Paraguay also has a corporate calling plan for these telephones (all PCVs and staff) where the first 10 minutes are free. If you still desire to bring a cellphone, make sure that it supports GSM 850/1900. Although these happen to be the same frequencies used in the U.S., make sure that your phone is not “locked” by your carrier.

Internet

Many Volunteers find that bringing a laptop is useful to them, however, do keep in mind that there is always the risk that these computers may get lost, stolen, or damaged here in Paraguay. There are several Internet cafes in Asunción, and cafes are opening with increasing frequency even in rural towns. The office now has “hotspots” throughout the complex to which PCVs can connect. Volunteers are also able to buy a portable modem for use with their personal laptops.

Housing and Site Location

About 80 percent of Volunteers live in small towns or villages with fewer than 5,000 people, and some of these campo (countryside) sites have fewer than 200 inhabitants. Generally, streets in the campo towns are unpaved, and there is no running water or indoor toilets. The voltage is 220 volts—any electrical appliance of 110 volts will require a transformer. Few people in these towns have traveled outside Paraguay, and many have never even been to Asunción. The only people with cars are likely to be the doctor, the priest, and a few business people, government officials, and ranchers. Horses, motorcycles, bicycles, and ox carts make up the majority of local traffic, with children playing freely alongside roaming cows, pigs, and chickens. For both rural and urban Volunteers, housing in Paraguay is basic. Volunteers are required to live with a Paraguayan family during their initial three months of service. Some Volunteers then choose to live alone in one- or two-room wood or brick homes; others choose to live with a Paraguayan family for their entire two years of service. Peace Corps/Paraguay strongly recommends that Volunteers, especially single women, consider this option. Living with a family not only helps with community integration, but also decreases personal security risks.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

Paraguayans tend to eat more simple meals than people do in the United States. Dietary habits and the lack of agricultural diversity often limit meals to beans, rice, noodles, meat (when available), corn, onions, tomatoes, and manioc. Manioc, or mandioca (more commonly known in other countries as yucca or cassava), is the staple food in rural Paraguay and is as ubiquitous at the table as bread is in other countries. Paraguayan food is not spicy and is quite different from Mexican food (for instance, in Paraguay, a tortilla is a kind of fritter). Most Paraguayans are exceptionally generous and will insist on sharing their food, no matter how little they have. Volunteers who choose to maintain a vegetarian diet are able to do so with varying degrees of difficulty, as it is a challenge not only to find the variety of foods necessary to remain healthy, but to get Paraguayans to understand such a decision. A vegetarian diet is much easier to follow if one incorporates eggs and dairy products, and some Volunteers choose to add fish and chicken.

Transportation

Most Volunteers live in communities served by a simple dirt road, which may or may not be close to a paved road. Inexpensive bus service is available to almost all communities, although heavy rain can unexpectedly close dirt roads to bus traffic for an unpredictable length of time. While a community may not be a great distance from the capital in miles, getting there may involve a trip of several hours because of the condition of unpaved roads. You will receive assistance in identifying alternative forms of transportation (i.e., a private vehicle, taxi, or truck) from your site in the event of an emergency. Volunteers may, upon request, be issued a mountain bicycle and helmet. Peace Corps/Paraguay, as mandated by Peace Corps/Washington, prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding as a passenger on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicle (such as a motorcycle) for any reason. Moreover, Volunteers are not allowed to own or drive private vehicles in Paraguay. These prohibitions are in response to serious safety concerns, and violation of the policy will result in the administrative separation of the Volunteer from Peace Corps service.

Social Activities

Recreation in smaller towns often centers on the family, with an occasional dance, soccer game, or horse race to attend. In the evening, many families gather with friends for volleyball games. The losers pay for drinks, which might be soft drinks (gaseosas) or beer. People frequently sit in clusters (often limited to one gender or age group) to drink the ubiquitous yerba mate, a common local drink made from the leaves of a shrub native to the region, either cold (tereré) or hot (mate) in the early morning or wintertime. During the hot summer, an important social activity is likely to be bathing in the local stream (arroyo). The electrification of the countryside has increased the popularity of “boomboxes,” TVs, DVDs, etc. Volunteers often participate in organized groups, such as ecology clubs or youth groups, that meet occasionally for selected activities. In Asunción and larger towns, there is a wider variety of options for social activities, including movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants, and sporting events. Volunteers usually take advantage of their rare weekends in the capital to see the latest movies and enjoy some night life. Volunteers also have access to the swimming pool at the U.S. Embassy while in Asunción.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Cleanliness and a neat personal appearance are very important to Paraguayans. You must dress appropriately when meeting with government or other officials. Shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops are inappropriate except around your home or for recreational activities. Whether you work in a school or office setting, in rural or urban Paraguay, proper attire will help establish your professional credibility. Volunteers are not permitted to have facial piercings (nose, tongue, and eyebrow). Tattoos for both men and women should remain covered until Volunteers have been at their sites for at least six months and can realistically judge the degree to which these would be accepted by community members. Female Volunteers should always wear bras outside of their homes. Male Volunteers with beards must keep them well-trimmed and clean. Nevertheless, we ask that men arrive in Paraguay clean shaven for their official identification photo. If you do not cut your hair and remove body rings before you arrive in Paraguay, you will be asked to do so before you are placed with a host family during training.