Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Roadside Shopping


Cattle Crush,anyone?

You purchase the headboard in Roque Gonzales, the slatted base in Oviedo and the mattress from the travelling salesman who operates out of Carapegua.  The first choice is an optional artistic one, the second is between wood or wooden, the third is the crucial decision, between ‘colchon and sommier’. Between a flaccid, unorthopedic foam block or a firmer, cooler, sprung mattress. Between a warm, squishy broken night’s sleep and a decent night’s rest.
Paraguayan towns with an apparent single industry are a feature of travel here. An historical aberration of the dictatorship decades. Go to Ita for kama-sutra themed ceramics, to Areguia for clay piggy-banks, to San Miguel for woollen ponchos, to Itagua for ‘├▒anduti’ spider lace, to Quindi for plastic footballs, to Lucki for silver craft work, to Oviedo for wooden toys, to Colonel Bogado for chipas, to Atyra for leather, to Caapucu for cattle crushes. What makes, to our western eyes, this so surreal is that there will be multiple stands, metres apart, all along the road side, all selling the same, identical items. It’s not unusual to be on a long, slow pull out of town, ascending the climber lane and passing shack after shack offering only oranges and watermelons.  On occasions, for a bit of variety, there will be a shelf of
Chipas - definitely more useful!
reused  plastic bottles. All unlabelled, one a glutinous brown that might be home produced honey or decanted engine lubricant, the next a questionable pink that might be soap or juice, or another, an unnatural blue that could be juice or soap. Your problem being which stand to patronise and which to offend, our problem being the ten kilo bags of fruit and the melon’s girth.