From Sunday 20 to Wednesday 23 November I have been in Asunción (Paraguay) for several business meetings.

Regardless of the very interesting business projects and meetings at the highest level ( in a single day I met with three “Secretaries” or “Ministers”: Industry and Commerce, Technology, and Health), it was a pleasure to know one of the few countries that I had yet to visit in South America. Now I only have Bolivia left.

Asunción is a rapidly changing city. You can already see the first mega-malls, luxury urban condos, and some modern office buildings, but for the most part it is still a low-height city, full of single-family dwellings of all kinds (from palaces to shantytowns), with many cobblestone roads in the city center, next to perfectly well paved avenues with several lanes, which act as a constant reminder and testament of the great and growing inequalities that exist, not only in the region, but unfortunately worldwide.

My hotel was the excellent La Misión, very adorable and well located, and with a pool on the terrace, which given a temperature of 38ºC, and especially coming from a hail in London the day before, was very appreciated. In the morning, breakfast was a not very extensive buffet, but it had delicious local options (from the “Paraguayan soup” which is a dry soup, to the “cocido”: herbal infusion of used tereré and sugar). A particular highlight was the freshly squeezed natural fruit juices at my disposal, which has allowed me to experiment with blends like carrot-guava, passion fruit-mango-strawberry, etc. A true gourmet pleasure, which, together with live harp music, was a perfect way to start the day.

For work, I had the opportunity to visit three very different hospitals (Pediatric, National, and Cancer). There I realized that although there are perfectly qualified professionals, political will, seemingly adequate management, and resources (scarce but existent), there is much to be done. However, that is the paradox: that lagging in many areas puts them in a position of privilege to be able to implement the latest technologies without going through legacy systems, rejection and friction to change, pre-existing interests and structures, and endless other circumstances than act as barriers to technology adoption in many other countries with greater resources and level of technological penetration.

Of course, I can not fail to mention the food. Although, generally, I prefer Asian food, and despite being “not so elaborate” or “sophisticated”, Paraguayan food has interesting dishes (such as Paraguayan soup, chipa guasú, vorí-vorí … ), excellent meat, and a wide variety of delicious fruits (in fact the fruit trees are everywhere, so much so that children play in the street with mangoes), although I was looking forward to trying the Araticú.

Speaking of meat, on my various trips to the outskirts of “Greater Asunción”, I saw so many cows along the road that it reminded me of India (except they were not famished, quite the contrary). I also saw areas specializing in various handicrafts (such as straw objects, chairs, or balls), people of many different backgrounds and opinions, and an overwhelmingly green and leafy landscape.

The people I have met have been very pleasant, and as always, it allows me to know more closely the reality of a country that I did not know too much about. Especially interesting was to experience the long working hours (where have you seen a Government high official schedule a meeting at 7:00 am?), learn about the War of the Triple Alliance, and about indigenous natives and the Guaraní language . As icing on the cake, the last day there was a party at my client’s house, attended by a dozen executives from large companies, and where we enjoyed a “gourmet” grill. Something tells me that I will soon be back with my new friends.