OMG. Today was hard. The heat – no problem. New friends and food – no problem. Mountains of new information, our first test, my first Spanish class, meeting the Country Director, and missing my family and friends and dancing- muy dificil. I don’t remember the last time I was so mentally exhausted for days on end. I quickly ate my lunch under a small, quincho (hut-type construction with thatched roof) next to the bamboo patch, lined up 4 metal chairs for a 20 min catnap in broad daylight, with 6 of my cohorts finishing their lunch at the table 2 feet away and the next group filing in for their guarani class. Didn’t matter. I needed that 20 minutes like I needed oxygen. Where are my tangueros when I need them (because dancing with the wall just doesn’t cut it)? Tango would totally provide the attitude adjustment I’m looking for.
Today several trainees had similar experiences and we all had to keep reminding ourselves that it’s Day 1 of training and that training is very different from the actual field work we’ll be doing in a few weeks. I already feel like I’ve been here for a month.Today’s bonus that turned me around was a stellar sunset… a drop-dead gorgeous scarlet sun made more magnificent by today’s atmosphere. And when the sun fell before the horizon, the sky erupted into a blaze of oranges and reds, matching the rust colored soil that colored my white sandals as I hurriedly made my way from the bus stop to mi casa. A sky like that in Maine would have us watching for tornadoes and indeed there is a storm watch across parts of Paraguay tonight but tornadoes not likely. The wind is fiesty and my host sister encountered massive rain on her drive home from work though it hasn’t made it’s way here yet.One thing I love about Paraguayans is that they all think I’m in my twenties. In this culture it is not considered bad form to ask a person their age, weight, how much money they make, to call a person fat, thin, gray, etc. I was prepared for this but no one believed my age until I showed pictures of my grown daughter. 🙂 The other fun thing about Paraguay is the tradition of drinking terere, or yerba mate. It is a cold tea (terere, pronounced teh-reh-ray) in warm season and served as hot matte when the weather turns cold. Drinking terere is as essential to this culture as breathing. Paraguayans need no reason to stop and sit for their terere and it happens multiple times a day. They pour the prepared tea or dry leaves in a guampa (fancy cup) and add water. Tea is sipped through a metal bombilla (straw with a sieve at the bottom). And, yes, we all sip from the same bombilla. The guampa is refilled and passed around the circle of family or friends until everyone has had their fill or terere is gone. I’m not sure if either ever happens. This is a relaxing, social activity here and totally fascinating to observe. There are many herbs used in terere, depending on the properties you seek, whether for relaxation, straight flavor, medicinal, etc, and many are grown at people’s homes and cut fresh each day. Paraguayans are fantastic herbalists and can list the properties of every herb and its use without a second thought.Enough writing tonight. Homework time. We have class from 8am-5pm Mon-Fri and most Saturdays until 4pm. My family invited me to a birthday party on the Brazilian border on the other side of Paraguay (15 hr drive!) this coming Saturday but I had to pass because all classes are mandatory.
Thanks for your comments and well wishes. Stay tuned for more from Paraguay. xoxo