A Day in The Life of this Peace Corps Volunteer

“A good life is made up by the moments of presence and gratitude that you create throughout your day. Stop, wherever you are. Take a few deep breaths. Focus your attention on the now. What are you grateful for today?” – Rachel Brathen

June 25, 2014

Remembering to be grateful for life, for every breath we take is a blessing to ourselves. So instead of using a recent event to create a story designed to entertain or give you a chuckle, I decided that this post would simply show you what everyday life is like for this PCV. Not that there is ever a ‘normal’ day or that two are ever the same but there is ALWAYS gratitude to be had. And this day was a mostly-stay-at-home-because-it’s-raining-outside-and-no-one-goes-anywhere-or-does-anything-when-it-rains-here kind of day. Nothing ‘special’ yet still providing so so so much to be grateful for. So here we go…

After some meditation and yoga I took advantage of a rare bit of sun and nice breeze to hang wet wool socks on the line for drying then headed to the garden. There was a lot of catching up to do due to a series of recent travels and foul weather that has left it a bit neglected. My mission was to weed the raised beds (or clean them as they say here in PY). I dislike weeding this time of year: it is slow and arduous because the winter weeds tend to form thick mats or spiny nettle-like stems and leaves. Plus you must pay close attention because, when small, many look like carrots, others like tomatoes, still others like chard. It’s hard to know what to pull. (The fact that I dislike this task says I have an opportunity to practice mindfulness and gratitude here. It’s not hard to find when I put away the negative stories I create in my mind about it.)

After an hour I was rained out and forced back into the house. Breakfast was my daily dose of mandio chyryry (without cheese because we’ve had so many rezos lately all the senoras in town have bought up all the cheese to make chipa, which is served on the last of the 9 days of rezos), a treat of good coffee (I’m trying to quit – I always feel better in a caffeine-free body but the taste and smell of coffee in the a.m. is sooooo alluring; grateful for good coffee), and some fresh passionfruit juice made from fruits in the garden (yes, the harvest is finally here! I feared I’d be back in the U.S. before seeing the fruits of my labor.) Definitely grateful for passion fruits!

 

Lunch was buttered popcorn and a baked potato with green onions and more butter (Don’t worry, Mom, I usually eat better than that). I prepared citrus juice from grapefruit, mandarins, and oranges shared by a nearby senora with an overabundance wasting away in her front yard. Fresh juice is such a treat as it is not available in stores… too expensive for the locals, and those who have their own fruit trees make their own juice anyway. Store-bought “juice” in PY is part fruit juice with lots of sugar, preservatives, colorings and sometimes soy; closer to Tang.

During lunch I made my first attempt at bread dough since being in PY, using a friend’s recipe which we made over the weekend for pizza crust (In a day or so, look for this recipe on the “In The Kitchen” page of this blog site). Being 75 degrees this day, it rose quickly, cooked beautifully, and went down the gullet hot from the oven, soaked in butter (count that as a week’s worth of butter in one meal but it’s oh so delicious). The socks didn’t dry outside before the rains started again so I hung them on the oven door and, presto!, dry socks AND fresh bread. “Winner winner chicken dinner” as they say, without the chicken.

My first loaf of bread since coming to PY.

My first loaf of bread since coming to PY. Notice wool socks drying on the oven door handle. Ha!

Winter in Paraguay is wet wet wet with lots of rain and little sun so everything in the house gets moldy and it’s impossible to dry laundry. PCVs must get creative. I suspended a stretch of bamboo over my oven and use as an additional drying rack to take advantage of the lost heat to dry clothes or towels. Sometimes I even pull the refrigerator away from the wall to use the heat from the coils to dry my things. One must improvise to get by.

Throughout the day I continued to add To-Do items to my chalkboard (I live in an old school with a classroom-sized chalkboard that is The Bomb and I’d be lost without it every day. I will make myself a chalkboard wall at my house when I return to the US after my service!) Today, tomorrow, later this week, notations for another trip to Asuncion, jotting phone numbers, shopping lists, things to do in the city, things to bring back, call the plumber, plant seeds in the field, – because I am a planner and get great satisfaction from my list-making neurosis.

I live in a classroom in an old school and in it is a full-size chalkboard which I use every single day to make To-Do lists, jot phone numbers or write reminders to myself. Here's this week's list. haha

I live in a classroom in an old school and in it is a full-size chalkboard which I use every single day to make To-Do lists, jot phone numbers or write reminders to myself. Here’s this week’s list. haha

In the afternoon I helped one señora and her daughter finish building her solar food dryer (secador in Spanish). With it she will use the sun to dry (dehydrate) fruits, veggies and meats for her family when they are in abundance and to preserve for the leaner months (think dried mangos, onions, beef jerky and more!) No refrigeration is needed, which is a bonus since electricity here is unpredictable and contents of a fridge or freezer are often lost to spoilage. They were quite proud of themselves!

A local senora is mighty proud of her newly-finished solar food dryer built with help from her 7-year old daughter. This will allow them to use the sun to dry fruits, veggies, and meat to save for leaner months.

A local senora is mighty proud of her newly-finished solar food dryer built with help from her 7-year old daughter. This will allow them to use the sun to dry fruits, veggies, and meat to save for leaner months.

Later, I stuck to my renewed commitment for language study and then pulled out two just-for-fun-books I’ve been working through, Turn Right at Machu Picchu and The Heart of the Soul. Their reading was interrupted by a friend’s urgent plea that I read The Red Tent after we discussed my recent yearning to pay attention to signs from the Divine Feminine and a new desire to connect and align more closely with nature’s cycles like the waning and waxing of the moon, especially in respecting and responding to my own energy levels , optimal times to plant the garden and fieldsas well as seasonal movement of birds and insects . Crops really do grow much better when planted in alignment with the right moon cycle! Waxing moon= above ground crops. Waning moon= root crops. By the way, The Red Tent was incredible and I couldn’t put it down (a little slow in the beginning but irresistible thereafter). The Peace Corps office has a terrific library of books shared by volunteers so there’s never a shortage of good old fashioned entertainment for these looooooooong winter evenings. It feels so good to get lost in a great book, something I rarely have time for in the US.

This magical spot deserved a little Namaste to nature.

This magical spot deserved a little Namaste to nature.

Evenings are often filled with reading, phone calls with other PCV friends, or hoping the internet stars align to catch up on the latest news. I feel a bit spoiled (and grateful) saying that but internet sure has been handy in sharing my adventures and the culture of PY with friends and family.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of “A Day in the Life…” It was a fun little diversion from the usual. As always, with gratitude, thanks for reading! Love, S

Some days everywhere I look, I see only love. <3

Some days everywhere I look, I see only love. ❤

Did you know?

-In PY, eggs are the same price regardless of size or color and are usually sold and stored at room temperature. As long as the eggs are never refrigerated they’ll generally stay good up to six months. The exception is during temperature extremes like a Paraguayan summer or freezing temps where it’s better to keep them in the fridge. However, once they’ve been refrigerated they must stay cold until consumed.

-Fireflies (mau mau in guarani) light up after they are killed.

-Paraguayans drink their red wine mixed with soda and always served with ice. Boxed wine is the most popular because it is inexpensive. I think they mix with soda to improve the flavor and make it go further.

-Paraguayans refer to their “soul mate” or “better half” as their “media naranja” (“half orange”).

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