Please join me in congratulating the winners of the 2014 Peace Corps’ Blog It Home Contest. While I was not among them, I continue to be humbled with the honor of being one of the top 20 finalists chosen from 350 submissions worldwide and am overwhelmed with the amazing ongoing support shown by my readers, family, and friends. Bloggers – Congratulations and thank you for sharing your journeys with us! Readers – Thank you for your wonderful support and encouragement and for sharing my journey with me!
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“Rain or blessings may pour down from the heavens, but if you only hold up a thimble, a thimbleful is all you receive.” – Ramakrishna
August 5, 2014
The day started with 2 goals: to pay my water bill and to deliver a handful of passion fruits. It never ceases to amaze me how such simple things can blossom your whole day into brilliant joy.
I made my way the half-mile or so to the señora’s house to pay my water bill (the equivalent of about U.S. $4/month). It seems every plant is flowering right now and the air was perfumed with a bouquet I wish I could attach to share with you like those old scratch-and-sniff stickers from the 80s! It makes walking around town a blissful, sensory delight! I passed the señora on her way to the school where she cooks lunch for kids who don’t get food at home. After exchanging greetings, she nodded me toward her house saying that her daughters were home and could take my payment. In their twenties, I LOVE these two women: friendly, cheerful, gracious, easy to talk with…we talked for a good while about everything while their toddlers ate mandarins and shooed away chickens. As I prepared to leave, I inquired about the pig carcass hanging from the patio roof. They said it would be BBQd the next day in honor of their mother’s birthday. I was officially invited to lunch and gladly accepted! (pork BBQ – one of my favorites!)
My next stop was across town to visit a señora whose son had helped me fix my passion fruit arbor in the garden a while ago. As a thank you, I’d promised to share some fruit when the time came. Laden with a bag of uncommonly large deliciousness I arrived, unannounced, at her gate (one of the things I LOVE about Paraguay – you can visit unannounced, there’s almost always someone at home and they are happy to have your company!) She was doing laundry, squatting in front of her washbasin made from a tire turned inside-out, hand-scrubbing her husband’s tighty whities and jeans. She hugged me hello like I was a long-lost daughter, pulled up a chair for me next to the tighty-whitey wash station and proceeded to catch me up on all her news. I shrieked in disbelief upon learning she still had running water! A bad lightning storm killed the motor on our town’s water tank and we’ve been without clean drinking water for a week. While every family has a dug well on the property, few families have maintained them after the town installed running water over a year ago. My own well, from lack of use, is full of rusty-brown, debris-laden water and leftovers from a giant, bloated dead frog. To bathe, I’ve been filtering, boiling and chlorinating water over the past week.
Seven days ago, I borrowed four liters of drinking water from a neighbor who had a bit extra to spare in the beginning and this had lasted me five days, supplemented with homemade orange juice and kombucha. To conserve, I’d avoided cooking any food that required water (pancakes anyone?), salting foods or doing anything that induced sweating in an effort to stay hydrated. I was on the brink of desperation for a new source of drinking water as my supply dwindled and rumors said the motor wouldn’t be fixed for 2-3 more days, so when this señora offered to send me home with two liters of fresh water – she was an instant hero! I was ecstatic! Not only water, but I had a full load of lettuce, carrots, Persian lemons AND four liters of water! Add to that, the husband’s hilarious sense of humor, constantly jibing about my non-existent husband, the señora repeating every funny thing I’d said each time a new family member returned home, watching the youngest son skin a pigeon, being invited to lunch for the best meal I’d had in a week, and a time of incredible bonding and laughing over several hours, I thought the day couldn’t get any better. I was wrong.
I hurried home in time to meet up with two señoras with whom I’d arranged to help build their solar food dryers in the afternoon. They are sisters in their 50s, both with a sense of humor and general light-heartedness about life (are you seeing a theme yet? Paraguayans. Laughter. Love.) We spent the afternoon laughing, joking, working, and ultimately celebrating their achievements. What a great feeling to see the pride and sense of accomplishment on their faces!
I returned home (2 classrooms down the hall in my ‘schoolhouse’– haha) to find the Peace Corps “Blog It Home” contest had begun. In case you missed this announcement: I’m honored that my blog was selected as 1 of 20 finalists from over 350 entries around the world. If you’ve enjoyed reading my work and learning about Paraguay, I’d be grateful for your support and your vote as the public helps decide the ultimate winners now through August 10. Click here to learn how or go straight to the voting site here!
Stay tuned for more amazing adventures from Paraguay. Thanks for reading.
Jajotopata! (until next time)
UPDATE – running water came back this morning a day ahead of schedule!!! I had a celebratory discussion with the teachers on my front porch who laughed how I’d be able to bathe again. Ummm, yeah. Having water again IS exciting and a hot shower…even better!…but was it THAT obvious I needed a bath? – Always laughing in Paraguay…
August 4, 2014
I have some great news AND I need your help!
I’m thrilled and honored to be a finalist in the Peace Corps’ “Blog It Home” contest, of more than 350 submissions from around the world!
A public vote will help determine the final winners- here’s where you can help! It’s 2 clicks and 10 seconds of your time.
1. Starting today August 4 through Sunday, August 10, go to my blog on the Peace Corps’ Facebook page and “LIKE” the photo to vote for me.
2. Share my blog and the Peace Corps’ Facebook page (and a thank you from me!) with all your friends and encourage them to vote too.
*If I’m among the winners, I’ll spend a week in Washington D.C. in September to participate in blog-related events at PC Headquarters and deliver a presentation about Paraguay and my service to youth in the D.C. area
Whether you’ve been following my journey for two years (thank you for reading!!), are a new reader, or visiting the first time because of the contest, I encourage you to look around my blog site and share with your friends. The goal of my blog is to share Paraguayan culture with folks stateside and around the world through stories, recipes, photos, history, etc (and part diary to help me record the amazing memories I’m gathering through this experience.) Humor, embarrassment, enlightenment, and entertainment are just some of the things you’ll find sprinkled throughout my essays and pages!
Also check out “Passage to Paraguay”, a blog by my dear friend, Rachel Wallace. Rachel is a superbly talented writer and photographer who is also a finalist from Paraguay and worthy of your vote as well! I guess this country is not short on great storytelling material or people to tell it.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and voting! I hope you’ve learned something new about Paraguay today because of it. Jajatopata! (until next time!)