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lunes, 21 de julio de 2014

Why go to Paraguay?!

I have been living and working with Para La Tierra in Laguna Blanca in Paraguay for nearly a year and a half now. When I talk to people at home the questions I get still make me laugh: “Where are you again?", “How are you liking things in Panama?” and my personal favorite “Paraguay, wow! It must be amazing to live in Asia!”. While these things are extremely funny to hear and almost harder to believe it does highlight an issue: not enough people know about Paraguay and what an incredible country this is. I’ll start with the facts: Paraguay is a landlocked country in the middle of South America, roughly the size of California and with a population of about 6.7 million (2012). The currency is the Paraguayan Guarani and the two official languages are Spanish and Guarani (an indigenous language spoken by a large percentage of the population – also one of the most wonderfully weird languages I have ever had the privilege of listening to). In spite of Paraguay’s colorful history dominated by dictators and political instability I have found this country to be one of the friendliest, most welcoming places I have ever lived. The country is separated into two halves: The Chaco and The Oriental sides. On the Oriental side you can find the endangered Atlantic Forest and Cerrado habitats and on the other is the beautiful, intimidating and nearly impenetrable Chaco. That’s some general Paraguay knowledge for you, now I want to share with you the reasons that you should come stay with us in Laguna Blanca in the heart of this wonderful, hidden gem of South America. Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca is located in Departamento San Pedro in the East of Paraguay. I have been lucky to travel to some extremely beautiful places in my life but there is something magical about this reserve that has forever guaranteed it a special place in my heart. Covering only 804ha the reserve contains: a fragment of Atlantic Forest, home to two species of monkeys, deer, peccaries, coatis, tayra and a recently discovered addition of capybara!; the Cerrado, with an incredible array of birdlife that will take your breath away; the Transitional Forest, a weird mix of the previous two habitats with its own stunning biodiversity and of course, the crystal clear lake, perfect for drinking, swimming and catching green anacondas! If you come and join us you will be able to explore all of these exceptional places for yourself. For a biologist, one of the most exciting things about Paraguay is the fact that it is always over looked and forgotten. As a result, there are new discoveries to be made – who knows what you might find lurking in the bottom of a pitfall trap or around the next bend in a trail through the Atlantic Forest. While exploring this strange new world, you will be making friends that I can promise you will last a lifetime. Whether its lying in the lake to escape the summer sun, checking a bat net together, squishing through the “gunk” in the lake reeds trying to catch small fish, dancing the night away barefoot in the red dirt at a party in one of the local communities or huddling together around a fire to try and keep out the winter chill you will create bonds that will stand the test of time. I haven’t just felt those bonds building with the people who I have been fortunate enough to meet here, but with the country itself. I have felt it creep slowly under my skin and into my heart, and I know that it will do the same for anyone brave enough to step outside their comfort zone and take a chance to come down and volunteer with Para La Tierra. Hopefully sharing my experiences in Paraguay will change the questions I am asked the next time I am in Scotland. I don’t want to hear “Why would you go to Paraguay?” anymore, I want to hear “How can I get to Paraguay!!”. Until next time! Becca