Monthly Archives: May 2014

Courage or Comfort?

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.”- Dr. Brene Brown

May 24, 2014


Normally I’d like to think I choose courage most of the time but right now – I’m opting for comfort! Winter is here and I’m a wimp, a tropical girl. It’s been cold and windy, like 40 degrees F when I awoke this morning. There is no insulation or central heat. It’s like winter camping. I wear my layers to bed and again the next day. I don’t remember the last time I bathed. Today, I’m remembering to be grateful for not having to shovel snow, having time for indoor activities like shelling seeds, and for electricity that provides hot soup, coffee, and will soon power a brand new space heater. My neighbors will surely remind me that this is yet another excellent reason why I need a man…he would keep me warm. At least laughter generates heat, right?!


I laugh and I complain but it’s all part of this amazing journey and, in the end, I wouldn’t change a thing. I trust it unfolds by its own design, in its own time and shame on me if I fail to appreciate every blessed second of it. xo


Check out fun new photos on the “Eye Candy” page and the latest news and touristy spots here in PY on the “News and History” page!

Categories: Peace Corps Paraguay | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Meet My Community – The Story of Ismael, A Man of Many Abilities

May 22, 2014

Ismael with his handmade sheepskin fleece saddle and equipment. Photo courtesy Emily Rosenblatt. Check out her beautiful work at

Ismael with his handmade sheepskin fleece saddle and equipment. Photo courtesy Emily Rosenblatt. Check out her beautiful work at


Doñ Ismael was one of the first neighbors I met upon arriving in my little compañia in November 2012. His broad, warm smile and bright, twinkly eyes made him immediately endearing and his upbeat, cheerful tranquilo nature is contagious. In greetings, he is never anything less than ‘fantastic’. At 52 years old, he never married or had children but takes care of his 83 year old Aunt Ramulda who is almost deaf and blind. Aunt Ramulda never had children either but raised as her own her sister’s son, Eduardo, now in his 30s, who has lived with them for five years and helps around the farm.


Aunt Ramulda, Ismael, and Eduardo

Aunt Ramulda, Ismael, and Eduardo having terere


Ismael is the town barber, braids lassos using hides from his own cattle and makes saddles from sheepskin, has given me lasso-throwing lessons, grows the most beautiful roses in town, helps neighbors butcher their animals, and is a masterful guitarista and patient teacher. In an earlier post I mentioned that I had started guitar lessons with him earlier this year but other priorities forced that onto the backburner for now. Maybe this winter…we’ll see. As a thank you for the lessons I gave him some honey and a bottle of homemade kombucha which he loved. I adore visiting this neighbor as he is supremely patient with my language foibles (and doesn’t make fun of me!) and really wants to help me learn, understands the challenges of being away from my own family/learning a new language/being in a different culture, and is a great example of how not to take ourselves or life too seriously.


My neighbor, Ismael, teaching me to throw a lasso. So fun!

My neighbor, Ismael, teaching me to throw a lasso. So fun!


This cowboy’s daily routine includes rising at 2:30am to make fried tortillas for breakfast which he brings with him to eat in the saddle when he drives the cattle onto the prairie for grazing by 3am. He brings the cattle back again in late morning in time to prepare lunch for everyone, followed by siesta. Afterward, he works in the garden or field and, in late afternoon, he herds cattle for his cousins from the soccer field into their holding pens on their various farms for safekeeping during the night.


During semana santa Ismael invited me to dine with him and his nieces after an afternoon of making puchero, which is a soup made from neck meat of a cow. What I didn’t realize until I walked up to the house was that the cow providing the neck meat was killed just minutes before my arrival and the neighborhood men were just beginning to remove the skin. They offered to let me help and normally I would have jumped at the chance but was not dressed for the occasion. It turns out I wasn’t dressed for any part of this day except eating and supervising the preparation of innerds: cleaning intestines to make blood sausage, cleaning the stomach, cutting fat and meat parts, sawing bone. In less than an hour, huge chunks of cow were hanging above my head from every rafter of the patio, the neighborhood dogs were crazy with blood lust and representatives from nearly every family in the community were arriving to purchase fresh beef. In 3 hours, the cow was killed, every part was gone and not a single piece went to waste. An argument nearly broke out between two señoras vying for the head, four feet and lower legs which they love to cook with beans. Even the skin is saved to make various leather goods including lassos, ropes, whips and others. When the work was done we all sat down to fill hungry bellies and the half dozen neighborhood men who helped went home with several kilos of meat in payment for their efforts.


Whenever I’m having an off day I visit Ismael because I’m guaranteed to feel better after all those smiles, laughter, the occasional shared meal of homemade chicken or beef, and singing with the guitar. Grateful for neighbors like this!


Categories: Peace Corps Paraguay | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Coffee in the Moonlight

Ye have no time but this present time, therefore prize your time for your soul’s sake. – George Fox

May 16, 2014

Rising extra early, I took my coffee outside this morning, into the pre-dawn darkness, sitting on my front patio bathed in the light of a nearly-full moon, taking in the sounds as my community slowly came to life: roosters taking their job of greeting the day with “Rise and Shine!” a little too enthusiastically, seagull-like tero-tero birds cawing in the air, neighbors softly clucking to cattle and murmuring to each other in the darkness, the clang of a metal milk pail against a fence post, lights from a nearby community flickering like tiny bonfires across the prairie. Slowly we moved from the darkness of night to the light of a new day, so gradually one can’t pinpoint the actual moment, like that in-between time when you awake so leisurely from your dreams you’re unsure if you’re still asleep or half-awake. The heat from my cup and love of my community warmed my heart. I’m going to start more days like this.

Categories: Peace Corps Paraguay | Tags: | 2 Comments

It’s A Grand Life

“One day your story will be told. Are you satisfied with the way it’s being written? If not, what are you going to do about it?” – WW

May 3, 2014


Seriously, at what other time in my life will these activities be considered normal except during this life in PY: burning my bathroom trash (tissue isn’t flushable here), making sausage with intestines from a freshly killed pig, cleaning cow manure from my porch several times a week, having calves or roosters (or during a recent heavy rainstorm, the neighbor’s bull!) stroll through my front door when I’m not preoccupied, never having to iron because I simply walk out in my wrinkly clothes and – Presto!- by the time I reach my destination the humidity has made me presentable, regularly sweeping large spiders from the walls in my house and knowing when tarantula season begins, buying homemade cheese from a neighbor every week, growing passionfruits and sponges in the garden, randomly showing up at neighbors’ homes unannounced and always being welcomed as if it was their best surprise of the week, doing all laundry by hand in a basin on the floor, harvesting peanuts with a family after meeting them just once, getting 3 dozen bee stings at once and thinking it’s just another day at the hive, not questioning which cut of meat is in your stew because it’s better if you don’t know, meeting preparations that always entail looking up key words in other languages, planning a trip based on the bus schedule and the subsequent long hot bus rides to get ANYwhere, where waiting an hour or two for a bus is no big deal and when it doesn’t show because it broke down but you’re told the next one is in an hour you think ‘only an hour? Oh good, that’s not bad at all!’ and you actually mean it, saying hello to everyone you pass whether or not you know them, and so much more. Some days leave me bewildered, others with a smile too big for my face. But everyday I try to be grateful for each experience, each teacher that comes my way, for this opportunity doing these crazy, wonderful things. It’s a good life.

Beautiful poisonous catepillar

Beautiful poisonous catepillar. Just another example of amazingness here in PY.

Categories: Peace Corps Paraguay | Tags: | 6 Comments

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