Hey blog, long time no talk. I apologize to those of you who have been checking here every day for news about Paraguay (aka Carybeth)– I have been very disconnected and I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to blog very much more between now and the middle of August. [Come August, when I theoretically will receive my own Internet connection, I’ll be sure to be much more connected] My closest internet connection is approximately 20 minutes away, so the few times I’ve gone haven’t been sufficient enough time to gather my thoughts into a blog.
When I first arrived to Paraguay I had a “this feels sort of familiar” feeling. As other members of my training group (who are all wonderful, by the way) were shocked by the full families (4+) rushing past on single motorcycles, etc. I wondered what would still surprise/delight me. It didn’t take long for me to be able to compile a highlights list for your reading pleasure:
-Concentration? My 9-year-old host brother came sprinting into the room wanting to play a game with a deck of small cards that were sets of doubles. “Memory, Concentration?” I try translating into Spanish. He stares at me blankly for a few seconds before spreading the cards out on the kitchen table, winding up, and then slapping the cards over and over in an effort to make them flip over…oh, right, of course that’s how you play.
-My host family here has been wonderful. I live with a mother and her 3 children: a 9-year-old boy and 14 and 16-year-old girls. The grandma lives next door and she has another volunteer staying with her. We’re constantly shuffling back and forth between the houses via their adjoining backyards. They are literally a barrel of laughs, within my first 2 days I saw the mother laugh so hard she cried and then quickly learned that the son has coughing fits if he laughs too hard (which is often), and one of the daughters stops breathing and starts laughing silently if she thinks something is really funny. Laughing is always accompanied by lots of encouragement to breathe.
-I’ve been in intensive Guarani training for 4 hours a day since I got here. Guarani is the indigenous language of Paraguay that is very widely spoken, especially as a mixture of Spanish and Guarani, known as Jopara. Our teachers constantly describe the language as “very sweet,” apparently capturing life’s intricate details that Spanish doesn’t. It doesn’t sound as sweet (especially coming out of my mouth), as people often think it’s Japanese when they hear it. To give you an idea of the intricacies, Guarani has a greeting for sunrise that can only be used for early risers, and really shouldn’t be used after 7am: Mba’eichapa neko’e.
-Last weekend we rounded up all of the gringos (not an offensive term here) and some of their host siblings for a game of volleyball. As the ball was rock hard it quickly evolved into a soccer/volleyball/unlimited bounces/anything goes game. Consequently it was difficult to keep score until a Californian of the group randomly began assigning points. The first time he said, “Well, that’s a punto” (point) it came out in a strangely thick southern drawl. We couldn’t resist yelling “Well, that’s a punto” in progressively thicker accents as the game went on. Later we learned that one of the Paraguayan host moms asked with a concerned look on her face, “What is a punto?”
-Paraguayans are very into drinking yerba mate tea and terere (the iced version), to which they also add crushed up plant roots and leaves, called yuyos. We reviewed the healing properties that each plant had one day in class, with a homework assignment to bring in 2 yuyos the next day. When I got home my family said I should go talk to the neighbor as lots of yuyos grow in his yard. I brought my 9-year-old brother along and made him explain that I needed yuyos (apparently not specifying that just a leaf would be sufficient). The man promptly went into his house to retrieve his machete, came back out and hacked/dug 2 entire plants out of the ground. Mortified, but also well beyond the point that I could tell him I didn’t need quite that much, I smiled and thanked him. After my host family’s extended family (who was visiting) had a good laugh at my arms full of plants as I walked back, they decided they would take some to plant in their yard. The relatives rounded out their visit by making my gigantic bones/bone structure a conversation topic at dinner for a solid minute. “I mean your bones, they are just huge, I mean like really gigantic, aren’t they?”
These giant bones need to sleep, until next time…
P.S. I am going to visit a current volunteer in their site from Monday-Thursday so I will once again be disconnected.