April 10, 2014
“Think about one of your best days ever…How can you organize your life to repeat that day as often as possible?” – adapted from Strengths Finder 2.0, Tom Rath
In March, myself and three fellow volunteer girlfriends took a much-needed vacation to Mendoza, Argentina and its world-famous wine country. There, after months of early morning trainings through summer heat, three of us ran a half-marathon and the fourth did the 10k on the most beautiful course I’ve ever run, overlooking olive groves and vineyards with the majestic, snow-covered Andes Mountains in the backdrop. While the first six miles were all uphill starting at 3000’ above sea level, I hardly noticed as I was busy taking in the view (well, I might have noticed that I could barely breathe for the first 4 miles but that worked itself out and the all-downhill return was FAST). The start and finish line was in the center of a vineyard and we enjoyed wine at the finish line. Ever had Trapiche wine? Yup, we ran by that vineyard on the way too. Too fun! While I’ve done a few half-marathons in the past, for the others this was their first race ever. We finished proud and happy for each other.
Early in the week we organized ourselves and divvied up tasks based on our strengths which resulted in one of us being Logistics Coordinator (map-reader extraordinaire and get-us-where-we-need-to-go expert), Financial Planner (who handled the group money), Communication Specialist (she with the best language skills asked questions of the locals when necessary and translated for the rest of us), and me as Health and Wellness guru (daily yoga sessions at the hostel, psychotherapist, nutrition adviser, etc). Not only was it fun but it really did make the week easier having to focus on one thing and being able to rely on the others for the parts they did best too. The rest of vacation had us visiting wineries and doing wine tastings, doing olive oil factory tours, and bussing through the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Andes to the border of Chile. It was there we visited Mt. Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas at nearly 21,000’. We cooked all of our own meals, including a baked chicken (lovingly named Patrick since it was St. Patty’s Day) with roasted veggies, local wine, and homemade apple pie shared with new friends met at the hostel. If you’ve never been to Mendoza I highly recommend it!
Unlike the quote at the beginning of today’s post, what follows was not my best day nor do I want to repeat it. But of course we know we can’t possibly appreciate the good stuff unless we have some weird stuff to contrast with it. Soooooo, on a recent return from Asuncion shortly after my lovely vacation my bus hit a cow in the road. Now, I’ve been here 19 months and cannot believe this has not happened before now with the roads besieged mile after mile with wandering cattle but it was just a matter of time. Nonetheless, terrible. The driver tried his best what with all the brakes and swerving sharply but after the thud and what sounded like crumpling plastic bottles I raced to the window to see the downed cow leap from her side to her feet in a single movement. However, it’s doubtful she lasted more than a few minutes and the whole incident left me shaking for miles. This only added to the strange day I’d been having since the overly-friendly male passenger beside me started with small talk early in the ride. At Hour 1 ½ he was negotiating for a kiss and by Hour 3 he was promising his undying love, marriage, and the privilege of a life bearing his children here in Paraguay. The only thing I was interested in was finishing Book 3 of The Hunger Games. Priorities, people! I wasn’t laughing then but I am now. Only in Paraguay.
This week I feel like life is returning to normal, which hasn’t really felt normal in several weeks. It’s good to get back to work, and visit and reconnect with my neighbors. Recent lunches with neighbors produced invitations for more visits next week, which is Semana Santa (Easter week) and for which celebrations and family time are sacred, equaled only by the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Extended families will return from the big city for 4 days; houses will burst at the seams with guests; traditional chipa will be made, eaten, and given like gifts; food will be consumed in excess; love and laughter will be shared freely. Stay tuned for lots of fun stories from what is sure to be a great week.