A few weeks ago, my family left Paraguay after a three week visit. Being able to spend the holidays together was wonderful. I am happy that in the future, when I talk about Paraguay and my experience here, they will truly have an understanding of what I am saying.
Now. On to Tereré.
Thanks to my friend Teresa loaning us her tereré thermos (my Dad is holding it in the photo above), I was able to get my family quite devoted to the fantastically refreshing drink of the Paraguayan Summer. Also, thanks to the thermos, I felt super Paraguayan. This point was driven home, when a group of four American tourists spotted us with the thermos on a bus to Iguazu Falls (technically in Argentina, but right on the boarder of Paraguay and Brail), and started talking in English about it. They assumed we couldn’t understand them!
One of the women not so subtly pointed to the thermos and said “look! That’s for drinking mate.”
My mother over heard this and decided she was thirst for some tereré so we started serving ourselves. The tourists watched us serve and pass the guampa back and forth and started discussing mate.
“Do you think its tastes any good?” one girl said.
“It has drugs in it you know” another says.
“Really? Wow. What kind of drugs? I wonder how ad
dictive it is” says the first girl.
“You got to watch out for things like that” says a friend.
“I bet they are real addicted” says another.
All four turn and watch us drink away.
At this point, tired of suppressing my laughter and tired of pretending I didn’t notice them staring at us, I start talking to my mother in English while watching the tourists out of the corner of my eye.
There eyes go wide as it dawns on them that we have understood anything they have said. They look abashed and say nothing for the rest of the ride.
What was interesting about all of this, is that it was the first time (that I’m aware of) that I have been mistaken for a South American… and it was all due to the tereré thermos. To be at ease using something so iconic of the region was enough to trump my other extranjero features (skin color, Chaco sandals, hair cut). In fact they must have mistaken my whole L.L.Bean clad family for South Americans.
Granted, like any slightly caffeinated drink, it can be addictive… but honestly. They were a little quick to judge something they clearly have no knowledge of. Also, I can understand the assumption that no one will understand English in campo Paraguay; I make that assumption everyday. Infrequently a Paraguayan English teachers or a Mormon convert will prove me wrong, and will strike up a conversation. But making the assumption that no one understands English while visiting one of the biggest tourists attraction in South America is just naive.
I plan on buying my very own thermos next week.