The time I've had to explore the environs surrounding Universidad Catolica has be limited because my class runs from 2 until 5; I am left off by my driver at 1:30 and picked up at 5. Yesterday I gave an exam and since my students had finished taking it and I was finished grading it 4, I decided not to call my ride to pick me up early but decided to use the time instead to explore.
I did it all from a park bench.
The park bench is located in a park that is beside Universidad Catolica. When I looked into the distance in front of me, the horizon was in Argentina which is just across Rio Paraguay. On the Paraguayan side of the river, there is a flood plain which supports a marsh. Nearer to me at the edge of the park there is an ornate stonewall. It looks to be gleaming white from a distance, but as you look at in more closely, you notice that it is in need of a new coat of paint.
The fence runs along the edge of a bluff where the ground begins to fall in stages down to the the marshy plains and into the river. One either end of the fence, there are stairs that lead downward into the area below. It is on the other side of the fence that the slum begins.
I've walked along the stone wall on a couple of occasions looking down onto the slum. In the manner of slums, it consists of hovels. Among the hovels there are an endless variety. Some of them have ten roofs which are held in place by lumber. The lumber is not nailed down, you understand, but just laying there in hopes the wind will not blow the roof way. Other roofs are, surprisingly, made of tile. Here and there you see lines strung where clothing is hung out to dry. One of the cloths like poles caught be eye because it looked like a cross. Not a crucifix with our Lord still attached nor the empty Cross of a Risen Christ, but the cross of Holy Saturday with the crucifixion past but the promise of the Resurrection not yet fulfilled.
Yet upon many of the roofs there were toys. Tricycles and other toys tossed to a high place for safe keeping.
And adjacent to the slum there is a field that has been cleared where I saw children flying kites.
I've on a number of occasions given coins to the children in front of Catolica. At the time, I thought the money was going for food, but then isn't a kite food for the soul? The weathered skeletons of kites hang in the electric lines above the parking lot at Catolica. Did the same children once fly their kites there?
From my park bench I turned to look at Catolica which is on my right hand and to the east of me. It is not a handsome building. It is of weathered orange brick and has been built onto multiple times and from the shapes of the windows I infer no attention has been paid to continuity of styles. In contrast to this, its entry way is stately and delimted by columns on either side.
To the south of Catolica, there is a church that is very beautiful on the outside.
To my left, there is the Legislative Palace. It is a gleaming coral-covered building. Across the park from it is the headquarters of the National Police, members of which are patroling the park, especially the tops of the stairs which arise from the slum.
I sat an the bench for 40 minutes taking notes of the world around me. Then my nose grew cold and I went to the front of Catolica to wait for my ride.