Somehow we find ourselves already 1/3 of the way through our 27-months of service as Peace Corps Volunteers here in Paraguay. As a follow-up to our reflections after 4 months in the country, we sat down to respond to the same prompts to see how life has changed.
1. Filling my time these days is…
A: Well, this is the lazy season. There was Christmas and New Years and school is out for summer vacation so quite frankly there’s not much going on. We still go to the soup kitchen 3 times a week but I’ve found other ways to feel productive – like brainstorming ideas for future projects, attending youth camps (leadership and entrepreneurship) my sector of Peace Corps puts on, exercising, studying Spanish, reading, walking around town, drinking tereré, becoming a master smoothie maker, and collecting mangoes.
I: Allison talks about not much going on, but after some intense South American vacationing with another Peace Corps couple from a town a few hours from ours, my days have been a flurry of activity–every now and again. I was part of the programming team for the entrepreneurship camp that took place at the beginning of February and so there was the occasional rush to meet a deadline. It’s hot here now (probably difficult for some of you Northern Hemisphere-ers to remember what exactly that is), and so I’ve done my part in sweating and drinking tereré.
2. The strangest thing lately is…
A: how good and happy I feel at the end of the day even though (like you just read above) there’s not a lot that I would have called “work” before arriving here. I feel satisfied and super thankful for the laid back lifestyle. Although things are bound to get busier once this summer vacation comes to an end in the next week.
I: getting shot by the black stealth ninja assassin of South America. That’s right, I’m talking about the tarantula. Who knew that they can use the hairs on their body like ninja stars and pepper their enemies with ’em?! Allison and I got to experience this little known fact first hand a few days ago. We were just going to bed and Allison, the good little creepy-crawly spotter that she is, found this big guy next to the clothes hamper. After I “dealt” with it, we both felt really itchy. After doing some wikipedia’ing I found out that certain tarantulas kick hairs off their bodies and it’s like getting peppered with itching powder!
3. My favorite yuyos at the moment are…
A: as a reminder, yuyos are herbs that you can add to the water or the yerba (tea-like leaves) of mate (hot tea-like drink) or tereré (cold tea-like drink) to both give it a nice flavor and also help with different ailments (digestion, cholesterol, etc.). I currently love the burrito that I pluck from my neighbor’s garden. It’s somewhat minty and is great and refreshing in tereré.
I: chocolate. That’s a yuyo, right? Sorry, what’s a yuyo again, Allison?
4. What I’d miss most if I hopped on a moto* today is…
(*The Peace Corps has a few rules that are very rigid. One is no riding on motorcycles because they are practically the leading cause of death here. If you choose to ride one, you have one choice: aisle or window on the next plane outta here.)
A: having so much time to explore my interests and millions of opportunities per day to explore new things and nudge myself out of my comfort zone until one day, without my realizing it, those new things become comfortable too!
I: building the relationships with some of the Yuteños (people in our community of Yuty). Lately we’ve had some nice supper exchanges and hanging out with folks from our community. I want to keep these good vibes going!
5. My current comida tipica (traditional Paraguayan food) obsession is…
A: I guess you could say I’m on a burned-out phase where traditional Paraguayan food doesn’t sound super appealing. But I have been slurping down the mangoes from our yard like there ain’t no tomorrow. We’ve even dried some in Isaiah’s now-completed solar food dryer!
I: asados. Allison and I haven’t been buying much meat as a way of eating a little healthier. But boy howdy, when we get invited to an asado (grill-out), there’s little that can stop me from gorging myself on thick slices of slowly grilled beef and spicy sausage. Watch your fingers!
6. And my favorite Guarani
flavor phrase of the week is…
A: jajepohe (jaw-jay-po-hey = we all wash our hands) which I dorkily sing to the kids at the comedor (to the tune of Alabaré) to signify it’s time to stop playing, wash hands, and line up for lunch. I think it’s a fun little transition song that many of the kids now join in on (even if some do so in jest) and we have fun making up words for the last phrase like “con jabón” or “por favor.”
I: hake; shake (haw-kay; shaw-kay) I usually say these words together, but they’re two words that mean the same thing–careful! When I chuck a frisbee to a kid at the soup kitchen and they’re momentarily distracted, it’s a great way to get their head back in the game before getting clunked on the noggin’.
7. Paraguayans say the darndest things…
A: like “no se comer” meaning “I don’t know how to eat it” when they’re offered a new food to try. Sometimes it really means they don’t know how to eat it, or don’t know how to use a certain ingredient in cooking but it usually means that they just don’t want to try the strange new thing. I think it’s a funny way of saying so.
I: and we don’t always understand why they’re so gosh darn funny. There is an older gent who is out our house nearly every day as he is a relation to our landlady. Sometimes he’ll say half of a phrase that I don’t understand or don’t quite hear. When I ask “¿qué?” (what?) he’ll laugh and laugh like he just pulled one over on me.
8. The MVP (Most Valuable Paraguayan) Award goes to…
A: I don’t know her name but there was a lady who went out of her way to pin down flights into Argentina and out of Chile over Christmas for us. Nalena got passed around to different service reps but this one in particular took it upon herself to get the job done, keeping Nalena properly informed along the way. In a country where customer service has a different set of expectations, I was impressed and satisfied. (She was Paraguayan, right?)
I: Elva. She just agreed to co-facilitate the entrepreneurship course in our town with Allison and me. Sustainable project, here we come! She’s also about our age and invited us over to her house just outside of Yuty. It was fun getting to meet her large family and spending the afternoon at a picturesque ranch, complete with a thatched-roof lounging pad and pool!
9. What I wouldn’t give for a…
A: visit from some back-home friends. Luckily, I have some coming up and I’m jumping-off-the-walls excited! Or a Pampered Chef garlic press. Seriously, it is the best so find your nearest consultant and buy yourself one. You don’t even need to peel the garlic. Just pop some cloves in and press. We bought the most expensive press in Paraguay thinking it might compare, but it sadly falls way short.
I: for an autumn back in Goshen. I love the fall colors, the weather, and being near friends friends and family. I’m guessing I’ll get to experience another one, but waiting can be tough.
10. Most likely to be published in a Peace Corps brochure is when…
A: the youth we took from our town to the Peace Corps camps walked away from the weekend thrilled and elated, motivated and inspired, claiming it was the best thing that happened all summer, maybe ever and feeling ready to change their world.
I: I saved the children from the burning orphanage. Nah, not really. Ditto what Allison said.
11. Coming up next…
A: Soon we will start teaching the entrepreneurship course in our town, I’ll hopefully start a women’s cooking/eating group, and I’ll help plan for the July business plan competition with others from our training group. I also hope to teach about family finance (saving is good!), and participate in an initiative the local hospital is doing to teach about the importance of nutrition.
I: Co-facilitating the entrepreneurship course with Allison and Elva, working on the communication and programming teams for the entrepreneurship competition in July, and the working on the communication team for the leadership camp. Somewhere in there we’re looking forward to some visitors from the states as well!
So what have been your highlights of the last few months? Take a look at our 4-month reflection post to see what’s changed (and what hasn’t) for us so far. Looks like Isaiah still likes asado and chocolate. And we still live with a mixture of loving being in Paraguay while at the same time missing the good folks from back home. Speaking of, thanks for reading our blog and sending comments and emails. It makes us feel not so far away from all of you!