Posts Tagged With: solar food dryer

The Bimbo Truck and Marriage Proposal #9

The truth is, your perception is your reality… that means you literally create your own reality.
August 8, 2014

 

I had begrudgingly gone to the pueblo earlier this week to buy a handful of fence staples (grampitas) so my community could finish their solar food dryer project. I say begrudgingly because going to the pueblo (largest nearby town that has everything we need) is usually a 6 hour ordeal if I take the bus (2 hours of which are walking) so it’s no small part of my day, especially for such a tiny errand. But I wanted this project DONE — and DONE this week.

When going home from the pueblo, I’ve learned to wait at the gas station instead of the bus terminal because often I can find friends, family and neighbors from my neighboring town heading home in their cars or trucks and they are always happy to give me a ride. On this day, while watching a man herd an errant, very pregnant cow home through the town park on his motorcycle, Ña Patrocinia, who lives across the street from me, joined me at my waiting station. She owns a despensa (convenience store often run from a room in the home) and knows everyone, especially the distributors. So when her friend Jorge came along in the Bimbo truck, she flagged him down and he gave us a ride.

 

Bimbo Bakeries delivery truck. Ours was more the 'off road' version for PY.

Bimbo Bakeries delivery truck. Ours was the ‘off road’ version for PY. Bimbo (pronounced beem-boh) is a brand of commercial breads and pastries popular in Latin America and among Latino communities in the US.

She is the curious and gregarious type and soon they were off in buoyant, rapid-fire conversation as we jostled our way down the bumpy dirt road. As I tried to follow along,  eventually oh-so-handsome Jorge turned his attention to me and said,

“What country are you from?”

Me (jokingly): “The United States.  Do I not look Paraguayan?”

Him (snickering): “Noooooo. You are much too white. Are you a Peace Corps Volunteer?”

Me: “Yes. Good guess.”

Him: “How long have you been here?”

Me: “Almost 2 years.”

Him: “When do you leave?”

Me: “December.”

Him (with a grin): “Have you considered staying in Paraguay after December?”

Me (mischievous eyes a-twinkling): “No and, I’m sorry, but I can’t marry you.”

At this my señora friend practically aspirated with laughter and delight. “SIN VERGUENZA, WENDY!!!!!” (you have no shame!) but she was LOVING every minute of it.

Him (amused by my boldness and satisfied that I understood his intentions, he’s ready to play the game): “But why? I’m famous here in Paraguay you know and could give you a good life. And we’d have beautiful children together. I think you should stay.”

The truck filled with voluminous laughter and the conversation continued until we got to our stop.

Ña Patrocinia and I got out, gave a thanks and started the hour-long walk home where she replayed every part of the Bimbo interaction for her own entertainment and asking me if I realized I’d just turned down an opportunity for a husband. With her despensa being the hot spot for “local news exchange” (known in PY as ‘chisme’), I’m sure it won’t take long for that story to travel around my community. I’ll give it about 2 hours.

Early in my service I was a bit indignant over these exchanges with Paraguayan men but have since learned that life is much more fun and fulfilling when you choose the lighter perspective. Laugh, play, be merry and don’t take it personally. As an individual whose personality has historically defaulted to ‘serious’, this is one of my biggest growth edges garnered from my service and I’m so grateful. Paraguayans’ sense of levity has rubbed off on me (they ARE the happiest people in the world, you know). Life is SO MUCH BETTER in the light and NEVER dull in PY!

PS- If you haven’t yet voted in the Peace Corps’ Blog It Home contest – there’s still time! Click here and “LIKE” my photo to place your vote. Thank you for reading and voting!!!!

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Friendship on Every Doorstep

“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.

My filtration system from the dirty well. (Right) untreated well water, (Center) filtering through a chamois towel, (Left) boiled and chlorinated.

My filtration system from the dirty well. (Right) untreated well water, (Center) filtering through a chamois towel, (Left) boiled and chlorinated.

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!

Senora showing off her completed solar food dryer

Senora showing off her completed solar food dryer

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…

 

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

Abundance

February 10, 2014

“What the mind expects, it finds.” – Madisyn Taylor

It has been a while since my last post and I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of how best to bring you up to speed…so much has happened since November! However, I’ve decided to start with this little ditty I wrote this morning that pretty much sums up how I’m doing these days:

“Greeting the day with gratitude and a celebration of my many blessings: connecting with family from home; these Paraguayan summer days that are so hot I can create a sweaty Bikram yoga workout by simply tossing my mat onto my patio; formation of a women’s club with lots of laughter, ladies brave enough to try zucchini cake and who want to dance, and a new bellydance student as a result (gulp!); formation of a kids’ club where every child is begging to practice yoga and learn English at each meeting; deep conversations in Spanish with my English student on the history of the Roman Empire, his law school thesis research on sexual abuse of children (and the nasty cycle of its manifestation into adulthood) in a nearby pueblo, and a reminder that there are no coincidences; gratitude that I’m up to 10 mile training runs these days and feel ready for next month’s race; the joy of picking guavas and limes from my own yard; neighbors who miss me when it’s been too long between visits; practicing patience and forgiveness with myself; foreign languages that become a little less foreign each week; the meditative quality of doing laundry by hand; recognizing a “tribe mate” when you meet them; and friends you can call at midnight just because. My cup is overflowing.”

Life is good.

The school year ended in late November with a flurry of activity, including the 6th graders’ graduation or “despedida”. I was so honored to be invited and participate in one of the traditional Paraguayan dance performances that accompanies this important day and the community got a kick out of it too.

6th graders dancing at their despedida , or graduation

6th graders dancing at their despedida , or graduation. Yes, there are 4 kids in the graduating class. haha!

Shortly thereafter, I went on a much-needed vacation in December. A fabulous week dancing some delicious tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina, meeting dancers from the world over, and connecting with friends from BA and home. Then I met up with two fellow Peace Corps Volunteers for a week in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay. We celebrated Christmas Eve with dinner at our hostel on the beach, stargazing, and listening to the surf in the darkness, practiced yoga on the beach and swam with jellyfish, took our first surf lessons (I’ve found a new hobby!) and went horseback riding with a nice long gallop down a secluded section of beach at sunset. This tiny town was a little sleepy in those last few days before the busy season began and provided a beach-bum, tranquilo atmosphere with amazing ocean views perfect for relaxing and having fun.

A farewell asado (BBQ) on the hostel roof with my new tango friends in Buenos Aires

A farewell asado (BBQ) on the hostel roof with my new tango friends in Buenos Aires

Uruguay

Horseback riding at sunset on the beaches of Uruguay, Christmas Day 2013

Christmas Eve dinner oceanside, Uruguay, 2013

Christmas Eve dinner oceanside, Uruguay, 2013

surfing

First ever surf lesson with my bestie and our Belgian surf instructor

Upon arriving back in Paraguay I welcomed a friend and his daughter, Emily, for their visit from the states to work on her senior project in photography and Latin American studies. They arrived in my community on New Year’s Eve, normally a festive holiday, but this year the neighbor’s 33 year old daughter died Christmas week from dengue fever, leaving behind a husband and one-year old son, much to the devastation of everyone. I don’t know if it could be any more awkward for my friends than arriving and going directly to a final rezo (which is like a funeral) in which half the town attended and was grieving. But it was certainly a unique cultural experience. On a more positive note, they learned to throw a lasso, did some beekeeping, made cheese with a local señora, had some serious hammock time perfect for reading and siestas on these hot (I mean HOT) summer days, harvested a crop of sunflower seeds, visited families and learned to make chipa guazu, attended a “quince año” (girl’s 15th birthday), helped me kick off a new women’s group, make a solar food dryer, got lots of great photos and wrapped it up with a trip to a gorgeous local waterfall, Salto Cristal.

Emily photographing a local senora. Check out her work at  http://www.emilyrosenblattphotos.com/.

Emily photographing a local senora. Check out her work at http://www.emilyrosenblattphotos.com/.

Salto Cristal on a rare day of R&R

Salto Cristal on a rare day of R&R. This waterfall was about 100 meters tall and so gorgeous!

At this time I also learned that my grant proposal was approved to build solar food dryers for my community! The next step was to build a ‘practice’ model with everyone that would receive one in the coming weeks. Once finished, I will work individually with each family to build their own. This is a project they are very excited about! The ability to dry fruits, vegetables, meats, herbs, etc in the sun and preserve them without need for refrigeration will improve the nutrition of the families year-round. Yay! Stay tuned.

Solar food dryer. Dries fruit, veggies, meat, and herbs in 1-3 days. This sample is 1 meter x 1 meter.

Solar food dryer. Dries fruit, veggies, meat, and herbs in 1-3 days. This sample is 1 meter x 1 meter.

So I mentioned that we started a women’s group which we call “Club de Mujeres” (actually they prefer my nickname for them, “Club de Brujas”, because they are naughty and mischievous!) I led the first meeting with an ice breaker called “Pass the Mandioca” in which a phallic-shaped root of mandioca is placed between one’s thighs and passed from woman to woman around a circle without aid of the hands. I had used this successfully in other communities and these ladies were no exception. The photo shows just how hard they were laughing. They insisted on doing it again before we adjourned and again at our second and third meetings, using the excuse that since we had doubled our attendance the new women surely needed to try it. Women have hard lives here in PY, responsible for all things domestic including child rearing (in the campo most moms stay at home with the kids), cooking, cleaning, laundry, growing the family’s vegetables and fruits, caring for animals and slaughtering small animals like chickens, ducks or young pigs, and more. This Club is intended to bring some fun into their lives, give them a space to come together, chat amongst themselves, learn new information and skills, etc. So far we’ve talked about raising composting worms, building a solar food dryer, had a class on nutrition given by a local nurse, made a zucchini cake which is a healthier version than the cake they typically make, made dish detergent and fabric softener, done an intro class for yoga and bellydancing, and talked culture (they were shocked to think there are homeless people in the U.S. since most Paraguayans, especially in the countryside, think every US citizen – including a PCV – is rich, lives in a giant home and drives a fancy car, etc because that’s what they see in movies and tv). The Club is a hit and provides my señoras something to look forward to that isn’t work related. So far, so good!

"Club de Mujeres" or "Club de Brujas" as they prefer to call it. Women's Club. All fun.

“Club de Mujeres” or “Club de Brujas” as they prefer to call it. Women’s Club. All fun.

Club de mujeres pass the mandio 001

My señoras playing “Pass the Mandioca” with a large, phallic-shaped root of mandioca. The laughter was riotous and contagious. And they want to play this game. Every. Meeting. haha

Last month my mom sent a box of coloring books, crayons, and colored pencils and when neighborhood kids found out, they started showing up on my doorstep every day wanting to color. Even the high schoolers were completely absorbed, which surprised me. This apparently is a privileged activity and ultimately led to the formation of a Kids’ Club or “Club de Los Niños”, which has been great fun while the kids are enjoying their summer vacation. We meet once a week and after our first meeting where I introduced them to yoga, they always insist on starting the ‘meeting’ with it. I’m really shocked how much they LOVE yoga, even the high school boys, and they have fun but also take it seriously. This group of kids makes me really look forward to planning activities for them, teaching them new skills, and always learning at least as much as I teach (especially language!) Speaking of language, one of their goals from our brainstorming session at the first meeting (called “rain of ideas” in Spanish) was to incorporate English class into the Kids Club. Ultimately, we formed a separate class just to study English, which has been met with much enthusiasm (and where our breaks also include a quick yoga interlude just to mix things up and let them move their bodies). In fact, I’ve recently been giving private English lessons to a very motivated and intelligent law student with whom I have the rare opportunity for deep conversations about topics like the history of the Roman Empire, quantum physics, studies of childhood sexual abuse in PY, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (I’m not kidding). He recently asked to help teach the kids’ English class in an effort to get more English practice. Perfect!

Two sisters learning Warrior Pose.

Two sisters learning Warrior Pose.

First meeting of Club de Los Ninos. It was fascinating to watch how these kids, young and teens alike, were captivated by the simple, old-timey act of coloring with crayons!

First meeting of Club de Los Ninos. It was fascinating to watch how these kids, young and teens alike, were captivated by the simple, old-timey act of coloring with crayons!

In my spare time, I’m trying my hand at guitar (not going so great) and training for a half-marathon next month with three dear friends and fellow PCVs (going quite well). I actually I hate running but it allows me to eat what I want and gives me the strong, capable body that I desire. However, summers in PY are brutally hot, making training a challenge, so I definitely need a goal/race to motivate me out of bed early knowing it’ll be 90 degrees at 8am and 100 in the shade at 4pm. It’s so satisfying to see progress as I become stronger and more prepared for the race. That I’m doing it with three terrific lady friends and making a vacation of it in Argentina’s wine country is a bonus. So, yeah I’ve been busy and the work has been very satisfying. Now in my second year with a mere 10 months to go (wow, really??!!) time is flying and what used to feel like I had a very long time to get things done suddenly feels like not nearly enough. So much to do, so little time! At this point in my service, projects are underway, relationships with my community members have deepened, and things are moving and grooving in more natural ways like back home. What the mind expects, it finds. When I seek abundance it always finds me, in ways large and small. I’m more grateful with each passing day to be here living, learning, playing, teaching, and laughing with my little community.

Sunset on the prairie in my community

Sunset on the prairie in my community; my favorite place at the end of each day. Tranquilo, beautiful, magical, simple: perfect for reminding me of the abundance in my life. (This photo is courtesy of Emily Rosenblatt Photography and used with permission. Check out her work at http://www.emilyrosenblattphotos.com/)

http://www.emilyrosenblattphotos.com/

 

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