We can hardly believe it’s already been a full year, but the fact that we celebrated another anniversary and that fall weather is upon us once again shows that we truly have seen the entire cycle of the year in Paraguay.
1. Filling my time these days is…
A: Paraguay Emprende! Isaiah and I just finished teaching our entrepreneurship course and had our closing event where each student presented their business plan idea to a panel of judges and the top plan was selected to go on to the national event in July. And since I’m on the planning committee for this national event I’ve been busy coordinating tasks for this event as well as thinking about our long-term outlook.
Also, we’re encouraging our youth group to be more active at the soup kitchen by doing projects with the kids before lunch like this recycled glass bottle art project that they all loved.
I: …schooling these Paraguayans! Ha! But really, I was asked to teach to a couple of computer science courses at a local university, and it has taken lots of my time to prepare for and teach the classes each week. We’re only a class and a final away from the end though! Also, Allison and I just finished up our entrepreneurship class and so will now be preparing for a related national event in July.
2. The strangest thing lately is…
A: that I don’t want to go home. Not yet anyway. I still miss friends and family, of course, but I realized that I am not ready to leave Paraguay. I’m finally comfortable enough with Spanish, feeling at home in my community, and excited about all sorts of projects that are happening or going to happen or are only yet ideas in my head. Is this contentment?
I: How busy I’ve felt. I don’t feel like I’m piddling around an extraordinary amount, either. Responding to emails, class prep, soup kitchen, class prep, visit friends, dinner prep, house projects, tidy up and then it’s 10pm and I feel — like I often used to in the States — like I’m asking where my day went.
3. My favorite yuyos at the moment are…
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 help with different ailments (digestion, cholesterol, etc.).
A: It’s finally cool enough to drink mate again! And I don’t know what herbs we have in our yard to add to mate. Gotta do my homework! Lately I’ve been using the dried stuff that comes pre-mixed with the yerba. It’s still delicious but not as authentic.
I: I’ve got nothing for this one. I have not been experimenting with yuyos lately and, quite frankly, I’m ashamed of myself for it. I have asked around for a yuyo expert though, and soon I think I’ll be preparing tereres and mates with the best of ’em.
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: spending so much with Isaiah. Even when we have different projects we bounce ideas off each other and seek the others’ feedback and in general it just feels like we’re a team.
I: Hanging out with our Paraguayan friends! We’ve recently moved and we’re just starting to get to know some of the folks in the area. No motos for me (for now), thank you!
5. My current comida tipica (traditional Paraguayan food) obsession is…
A: chipa cabaré. It’s the same chipa dough, the cheesy cornbready bagel, but wrapped around a stick and roasted over an open fire like a marshmallow. It’s warm and toasty and usually only comes out in the fall/winter which makes it something special. And since it comes off the stick with a hole through the center, we have plans to put a chorizo in there corn-dog style.
I: Sopa Paraguaya. There is nothing liquidity about this “Paraguayan Soup,” but this savory, cornbread-like substance sure hits the spot as a warm-up for the asado ahead.
6. And my favorite Guarani
flavor phrase of the week is…
A: Che mena which means “my husband” and when I use it to refer to Isaiah people giggle and love me and probably want to pinch my cheek. That’s just the effect that using Guaraní has on most Paraguayans. It’s powerful stuff.
I: Añetepa, which means “really?” I like to throw it into a conversation with extra gusto so it comes off more like “really!???”
7. Paraguayans say the darndest things…
A: like “Dale, dale. Hablamos. Gracias. Ciao! Gracias. Nos vemos. Dale. Dale. Hasta mañana” when you’re parting ways or hanging up the phone. Those are all ways to basically say goodbye but they’ll use a whole string of them at once and it’s lovely and now I join right in like a game to see who can last the longest.
I: During our “radio marathon” in which we asked for donations for the children’s soup kitchen, the DJ starting talking about how Allison and I teach English to the kids and how much they enjoy that. I tried to get in that no, we don’t really do any formal English stuff with the kids. Yes, sometimes they ask us how to say something in English, or they repeat a cuss word in English and ask what it means. But before I was really able to set the record straight the DJ had moved on to something else.
8. The MVP (Most Valuable Paraguayan) Award goes to…
A: Sanny, Igor and little Lluvia, a young family from our town. It struck me one day that we’re really friends with them. We enjoy cooking and eating together and Lluvia knows and likes us. They’ve been great at inviting us over or to events and it’s made us feel a part of things.
I: our friends Igor and Sanny and their daughter Lluvia. It has been great to feel like we have actual Paraguayan friends in our little town with whom we can hang out with and feel quite comfortable around.
9. What I wouldn’t give for a…
A: hot bubble bath. We just have showers here but a relaxing soak in the tub sounds delightful.
I: Is it possible to have gadget lust when I’m physically so far removed from all of the happenings in the world of tech? Yes, absolutely! Thanks to the power of the Internet. Right now I have visions of sugar-plum MacBook Pros and Oculus Rifts dancing through my head.
10. Most likely to be published in a Peace Corps brochure is when…
A: a rowdy little boy from the soup kitchen saw me at a local event and without thinking jumped out of his seat, ran to me, and gave me a big hug.
I: we were part of a Disney princess birthday party. It had a bouncy castle, toys, candy, brightly colored balloons and cloth, lots of great traditional Paraguayan food, and desserts out the wazoo! What better way to recruit folks to the Peace Corps than to make them think it’s like living a Disney fairytale.
11. Coming up next…
A: Next we host two Peace Corps trainees to give them a taste of the life of a Peace Corps volunteer. Then we’ll work with our chosen business plan candidate to get her ready for the national event. And I’ll work to make sure all things are in order for the national business plan workshop on July 12-14. And, best of all, we’ll make plans for a visit from my parents in August!
I: A national event for the entrepreneurship class that Allison, Elva, and I taught, a national re-connect event for the three youth that went with us to the leadership camp in February, and we’ll have cameras to do a photography project with our community. And then, in August, Allison’s parents are visiting us!