Posts Tagged With: reading

Brownies and a Hammock

“Do not disturb – Workin’ on My Own Dream.” – Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold, authors of Tiger Heart, Tiger Mind

October 29, 2014

Gardening can’t possibly get more fun than pruning my favorite fruit, passion fruit or mburucuya in Guarani, and delighting in the gorgeous, delicate flowers and fruits hanging like heavy Christmas ornaments while stepping through masses of mint and having its aroma waft itself to my head. Oh boy. The seeds from last season’s crops were shared with the community because the fruit was SO much larger (large naval orange or softball size) than what is available locally (golf ball to mandarine size) and everyone wanted to plant this better fruit on their farms. More juice! I also donated the pith (white part between the skin and inner pulp) from my discarded fruits to a senora who dried it and made it into flour.

Passion fruit flowers and the actual fruit. One of my all-time favorite flowers. And they smell like lillies.

Passion fruit flowers and the actual fruit. One of my all-time favorite flowers. And they smell like lillies.

Lunch, which is sometimes dessert first just for fun because I have my priorities, was homemade brownies in a cup drowned in homemade yogurt (my best batch yet!) with fresh mint from the garden and organic cinnamon. I allowed myself some restful digestion in the hammock (a rare treat and first of the season) while finishing my latest read Tiger Heart, Tiger Mind by Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold. (See my Library page for other latest additions of wonderful and recommended books.) We are so lucky here at Peace Corps Paraguay to have an amazing library at the office!

The afternoon continued with raking dead grass and leaves to cover the garden soil. It hasn’t rained in at least three weeks, the soil is as hard as cement, and the dust blowing off the road with every passing vehicle is unbearable. The leaves and grass will help preserve what moisture is in there and keep the weeds down. I don’t know how the plants eek out their survival but we are due for a week of rain starting tomorrow, which everyone in town is excited for.

Late edit:

At dusk I sauntered to the futbol field across the street to watch the kids and young adults play volley ball. The senoras had already chosen their seats in the grass among the collection of dried cow patties and thistles, except the lone senora who played goalie. I just sat and listened to the squeal and laughter of kids; the thump of the ball against bare feet, heads, and legs; the senoras whispering their gossip.

When we parted ways, the evening was so perfect that I couldn’t help but linger on my patio:  a bug-free, light breeze of the most perfect tropical temperature, a bursting look-at-me sunset, the occasional squawk of a bird retreating to its nest for the night. It wasn’t long before the community retreated to their own homes for dinner, the evening quieted and the hush and dark of night settled over us all.

Thank you, Paraguay, for another beautiful day.

Stay tuned for more Tales from the Tropics soon. I’ve got some GREAT stories on the way.


Did You Know…

The word in guarani that indicates surprise, the equivalent of ‘no kidding!’ or ‘what?!” is e’a! (pronounced eh-AH), which they sometimes abbreviate to just “e” (a short, quick “EH”)

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Why Curious George is My Hero and Other Short Stories

“The simple life is one in which there is always time to remember the divine purpose behind each of our tasks, time to listen for a possible divine amendment to the day’s schedule, and time to be thankful for the divine presence at each moment of the day.” – Lloyd Lee Wilson

 April 12, 2014

Because this blog is as much a diary for me as it is entertainment and cultural exchange for you, I’m including some short, random, unrelated stories here that I don’t want to forget.

 

Curious George book from my local Paraguayan elementary school  ("Jorge el Curioso" in Spanish)

Curious George book from my local Paraguayan elementary school (“Jorge el Curioso” in Spanish)

Curious George is my hero. Especially today. Known in Spanish as Jorge el Curioso, I have fond memories of my brother devouring every Curious George book available. He even had a stuffed monkey with a plastic mouth to whom I used to try to feed bananas and Cheerios. Last year while living with my host family I was delighted to find Jorge el Curioso in the local school library and brought it home to practice my Spanish. While preparing for today’s Kids’ Club I thought it would be fun to read this book to them. Reading is not popular in PY and I have never seen or heard children being read to by their parents in the 19 months I’ve been here. When I suggested the idea to the kids, they eagerly agreed as if I’d just offered them an entire cookie jar. As we sat on the floor together I was aware of them inching closer, even the teenagers, completely enveloped in the story like a group of kindergarteners. Some of them quietly read along with me and helped when I stumbled over a complicated Spanish word. Occasionally, I would pause and ask if they were enjoying it. “Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!” they replied, brimming with enthusiasm and smiles. We kept going. As a mother who read to her child every night for years, it made me sad to think this might be the very first time an adult has ever read a book to these children (ages 7-15), but I hope it sparked a desire to do it on their own in their homes as well, just for fun. Either way, it was a huge hit and we’ll definitely be doing it again!!!! Plus, check out the animal crafts we made from toilet paper rolls. Tigers, owls, cats and a pirhana, oh my!

Crafts -toilet roll animals 003

 

What’s with Ws? Because the Spanish language generally doesn’t use the letter ‘w’ except in names (like Wendy) and rarely do words end with the letter ‘d’ (like ‘ward’), Paraguayans have a difficult time saying and spelling my name. Here are some actual examples I’ve seen or heard during my service: Buendi, Guendi, Wendía, Wendy Wart. The kids love to call me Wendía and it’s always accompanied by giggles because it sounds like ‘Buen dia’ which is an abbreviated version of ‘Buenos Dias’ or ‘good morning.’

 

Still laughing as I write this. Back in March during our vacation in Argentina my friends and I returned to the hostel from grocery shopping (where we almost got robbed) and they asked me for a lesson in cooking meat because some had been vegetarians or never had much experience cooking meat before now. In the hostel’s spacious kitchen, I donned my best Julia Child’s accent and proceeded to flail and instruct with an overdose of enthusiasm. They responded in kind, including some occasional, accidental words in a Spanish or Guarani, until we laughed so hard it felt like we’d just finished a Jillian Michael’s workout, and our accents somehow morphed from French to Irish to Southern to unidentifiable. Later we took our wine poolside (we did our own fun ‘wine tastings’ at the hostel with two new wines every night) and shared our answers to my infamous “100 questions”, designed to get to know others at a deeper level. The 100 questions accompany us on every vacation or extended outing. Since it takes time for four people to answer each question thoughtfully, sometimes with curious or loving inquiry from supportive girlfriends, there’s a question of whether or not we’ll actually finish them all before our service ends in December! Super fun night bonding and making good memories with friends.

 

My morning runs usually take me east directly into the sunrise, a great incentive to start the day early. This morning the sky was 360 degrees beautiful so I ran west for a different perspective. Down the sole road onto the prairie I witnessed a breathtaking sky kissed with pastels of pink, blue and mint green, a thin fog floating over the vast grassland and hugging the base of the forested hills, and the golden spray of the day’s new sun yawning its warming light up and over the treeline. The goal was a morning run for my health. The outcome was sheer bliss for the soul.

 

misc 019

Enjoy your day!

 

 

 

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

Reframing and Being Present

August 20, 2013

“So, ask yourself: What can you do right now to see the other side of change, in spite of the anxiety?” -Sumitha Bhandarkar

Reframing is perhaps one of the most critical skills I have honed in the year since arriving in PY. I’m not talking about reframing doorways or watercolors for the wall; I’m referring to perspective, the situation that isn’t going as planned and will drive you crazy if you don’t reframe into something more tolerable, if you don’t shift your perspective toward the positive, if you don’t look for the lesson it’s trying to teach; it’s the moment that offers its lesson cleverly wrapped as frustration, a set back, or a plan gone awry.

This past week I had two excellent opportunities to further develop this practice: a late bus and doing business at the bank. My usual excursions into the next town are a casual affair requiring a minimum half day of my time due to bus schedules. I am only hurried to ensure I reach the bus terminal on time but, once there, it’s pretty tranquilo. On this day, I was meeting a brand new volunteer who had just moved to town and had promised him lunch, English conversation, and a tour of the town to get him grounded. Today, I had no time to spare; I had scheduled every available moment intown. Today, the bus was an unprecedented 40 minutes late. Really? Today of all days? Ok, I get it: a ‘reframing’ opportunity right here. Attitude adjustment time and asking myself how I could look at this situation differently. First, I reminded myself that it would all be ok in the end, regardless of the time we had or didn’t. We weren’t negotiating a hostage situation; it was lunch. Then I decided to make better use of all this extra time available to me. I began bargaining with my plan, seeing what could be condensed or eliminated once I got to town. I began calculating costs for my next vacation. I practiced guaraní vocabulary using the various objects within sight. Magically, the time passed much more quickly. Once intown I rushed to the bank on the way to meeting the new volunteer, thinking “This will just take a minute” and feigned patience while waiting my turn in line. When it was my turn to step to the counter, another bank employee appeared at the teller with an urgent project that needed his attention immediately and seemed to take forever. REALLY? Do you really need to count all that money now? This can’t wait until the line has cleared? I don’t have time to wait, folks! Hence began the mental gymnastics to turn my impatient thoughts into something more productive. I listened to my inner ramblings from outside myself and recognized this as yet another ‘reframing’ opportunity, muttering under my breath that there’s probably something to be learned here somewhere but what the hell is the damn lesson this time???? Surely, haven’t I already learned it?? Clearly, the universe felt I needed more practice and this was it’s reminder to just cool my jets, Chickie.

Admittedly, things weren’t as dire as they felt in my haste… yes, I’d wanted to be ON TIME, and I may or may not have been keeping someone waiting but really, this wasn’t life or death; it’s a mere blink in the collective moments of my life … and I knew I’d probably laugh about it in a few hours (which I did, exactly 15 minutes later). Getting internally impatient or externally huffy does no one any good. Second, perhaps I should have checked my ego at the airport. Third, it gave me time to really be present, to look around the bank and take in the number of guards with their M16s who look so unintimidating drinking terere; to wonder how long the teller has worked here and if those worry lines are from his job, a difficult childhood, concentration, a struggling family member, or …?; to wonder about the life stories of the others in line around me. Simply: A good reminder that situations, and we, are not as important as we think, reframing is always possible and a change in perspective usually makes for a much happier you. And, yes, it all worked out just fine in the end.

Speaking of errands and money, I was chatting with a fellow volunteer recently about how our purchasing decisions here in PY are strongly influenced by our ability to get the purchase home. This usually means carrying it in a backpack or striking gold by finding a friend to haul it in a vehicle (rare but happens). Between us, 99.9% of purchases arrive home on our backs. And, yes, this makes for one of the most effective money-saving ideas I’ve ever used. I would have purchased MANY more things if I could have tossed them into a vehicle. Instead, I’m constantly asking myself: How much do I REALLY need that? How much does it weigh? Do I REALLY want to carry it? Is there room in the backpack after groceries? One yogurt or two? Wine, a new sweater, OR a week of veggies and fruit? The large economy-price spaghetti sauce or the smaller, lighter, more expensive box? For refrigerated items we must also ask ‘How hot is it today and can I get it home without it spoiling?’ We got to wondering – and laughing – how our lives back in the States would be different if we had to use the same criteria for making purchases and getting them home.

That said, hauling a heavy pack several kilometers home has its merits. It invites you to be present, to feel the weight of your new belongings on your body and then, out of discomfort, to reframe. It invites you to shift your focus to your surroundings and the opportunity to revel in the swirl of scents, sights and sounds filling the air. Mangoes, guavas, limes, oranges, and more are blossoming right now and the bees are so boisterous in their ecstasy over the feast you hear them before you see them. You notice birds bantering, how strikingly blue the sky is and how desiccated the soil has become since the last rain. You arrive home with your supplies and a satisfaction not unlike a long season of hard work in the garden that finally generates a great harvest.

Trash is an ongoing issue here. There is no cohesive waste management system in PY and none at all where I live. There is no truck that comes by to conveniently take your discarded material to the landfill. There are few recycling programs. With every day and every purchase we are forced to consider our trash, its lifespan, its final resting place and its impact on the environment. A plastic pouch vs plastic jar vs glass jar? What will we DO with this box/plastic/soda or wine bottle/wrapper/paper/metal chair/tire when it has run its course and usefulness? What can be reused, upcycled, used for storage, etc? Ethical and moral dilemmas abound. Most Paraguayans burn their trash in the backyard. What doesn’t burn gets thrown in a pile to the side. It gets us PCVs to thinking about home and the convenience of our own systems but also the idea of how we might make different decisions and live very differently if we, too, were forced to turn our backyards into our own personal landfills, in proximity to your wells and drinking water. We are so shielded from this reality in the states that we can continue to live our destructive lives and habits without having to consider the consequences each day. Many of us don’t even know when and where we are being destructive. Many PCVs burn their bathroom trash and bury the rest. But what happens when you go on vacation and your regularly scheduled trash-burning-in-the-shed is paused? Giant, super-stinger wasps move in. Then when you finally generate some smoke again, they fall from the ceiling and land in your hair. No harm done this time but…ick. Tis the season for these.

And speaking of critters…this week the spiders are back: I found two floating in coffee mugs, one making a nest in a folded shirt on the shelf, and another sitting steathily above my mosquito net over the bed. Tiny frogs jump out from behind the silverware canister, scaring the daylights out of me. They are harmless but I reached for a fork, not a frog. Piglets try to raid my porch and are non-plussed as I use my water-bottle-turned-squirt-gun to shoo them away. Blackflies have dissipated but mosquitos are loving the now-warmer weather, as am I.

Despite living next door to Canada all my life, I do not like the cold. I’m a wimp. Before moving to PY, I was assured winters here were mild with temps rarely low enough to produce a frost. They lied. Or their tolerance of cold is something akin to Artic-loving. My bones are not made for that. I’m a tropical gal and I love the heat. The weeks before and after my vacation in early August brought several frosts and one morning of freezing rain. Even the things in our refrigerators were frozen. Because homes here are not insulated nor do they contain a heating system, temps inside one’s house tend to be the same as outside, without the wind chill. I feel for those who must economize their trips to their outdoor bathrooms and force their bladders to greater holding capacity. I sequestered myself in my house in full winter regalia: boots, wool socks and a complete accompaniment of warm clothes. I slept fully dressed under four blankets with my hat on. I ran my tiny oven with the door open to substitute as a furnace, warmed bricks in it for radiant heat later, and drank liters of hot water. My hot water bottle took on god-like status. I did innumerable squats and planks to generate heat from within. I tried to reframe (at least I’m getting exercise out of this!) I tried to be present (yes, I can see my breath inside and practice making rings with it in the air; I’m very present to how numb my toes and fingers are!) The upside to long, cold winter days is there’s more time for reading. Whether or not you are a foodie, if you’ve never read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver I highly recommend it!

Now that we’re flirting with warmer temps, I’m feeling human again. I dare venture out to visit my neighbors whom I have missed. I’m elated in having to use sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat once again and ever more grateful for being the rare volunteer with running water and a hot indoor shower. After being cooped up, I’m ready to get out in the sunshine and work!

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