Life of Hardin in Paraguay

Laugh as you travel through life with Josh Hardin.

Location: Spring Hill, TN, United States

Josh Hardin began writing in high school and published his first novel when he was twenty-two. He won an EPPIE award for his mystery novel "The Pride of Peacock." His non-fiction work includes "The Prayer of Faith", a book aimed at making personal prayers both powerful and effective. He has traveled widely and taught a summer philosophy course at the International University in Vienna. Hardin grew up in Tennessee and moved to Paraguay in 2006. He moved back to Tennessee in 2008.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Life of Hardin Vol. III, No. 9

State Fair

Everyone loves a fair. When we are children, we speak of it in hushed tones of reverence reserved for things like Santa Claus. The excitement builds in the weeks preceding the fair. "It's almost here!" Plans are made to meet friends. Dreams are dreamt that are vaguely reminiscent of the State Fair of nostalgia, where Uncle Lige always takes home the "Best of Show" for his hogs and Aunt Bee wins dubious pickle contests. Everyone at the fair is related. All are friends. Everyone takes home a cupie doll.

Then we arrive, and realize that such a fair does not exist. The hot dogs are never quite as good as we hope. The cotton candy is twice the price of last year. And bare-chested carnies spray Pam in the glass bowls at the Quarter toss. No one wins. The Zipper is closed because two kids died on it last week two counties over. Everyone goes home broke.

But not in Paraguay. Paraguay has the Expo! Acres and acres of permament exhibition buildings, viewing stables, rides, games, various and sundry goods, etc. etc. The hallowed grounds of the Expo are reserved for use two weeks out of the year and contain the only buildings in the country kept in pristine condition. This year's Expo closed a month ago, and only now have I calmed down enough to write about it.

The first thing to know about the Expo are the promotoras. These are the girls who prance around in front of every exhibit to display the wares. Bikinis were banned for Expo 2006, so the girls wore shrink wrap spandex. It was as if a legion of purple, orange, black, and white clad superheroes descended on the country to show off cell phones, dried goods, grains, fruit juices, yogurt . . . I've never seen so many men interested in the mass production of fertilizer or cultured milk products.

Then there was the lone male promotoro. He stood in front of what in the States would be "Cash in a Flash". He wore a green bandana with slits cut in it for eyes, a green cape, and a gray sweatsuit with dollar signs pinned to it. I don't know what his name was. I think it was Senor Guarani.

This year there was a new brick food court. A patio full of tables sat between two long, low buildings partitioned off every ten feet into restaurant shops. There were too many to choose from, and each with a different and wonderful nationality of food to try. I didn't know what to do. I choked. I ordered a hamburger. It looked good in the picture. I'd been craving a hamburger anyway. I ate one bite. Ethan, my brother, took one and proclaimed it had been cooked in someone's armpit. I threw it out. I went to the Expo twice after that. I ate at McDonald's both times.

Ah! I almost forgot. What about the games? What is a fair without them? And as in all other things fair related, Paraguay's midway tops them all. At the ring toss you can win a cell phone! But it has no faceplate and the brand has been scratched away. You can play the fishing game! Enoch did, and won a bottle of Vick's VapoRub. You can also try to kick over three coffee cans with a soccer ball. You even get two chances. But I never saw one person win. Two cans always fell over light as feathers, but that last can never even toppled. I believe someone filled it with concrete and forgot to empty it.

They even had a Zipper open to ride. Two kids died on it in Uruguay, I heard. The line never shortened. I have no doubt the Expo is superior in every way to the sad little exhibitions we have in the states these days. Next time I'll stay at home and sleep.