Monday, April 26, 2010

4.26.2010 - Where Has the Time Gone?

So I'm here at my computer, as I usually am at this time of the evening, and I decided to write a short blog since it's been so long.

What have I been up to? At this point I am counting the days until I go home (about 3 months), trying to raise the rest of these funds to construct the new women's center (see previous blog entry), and essentially doing my best to maintain my mental equilibrium.

I continue to have an occasional run-in with a tarantula getting into my house somehow (most recent one was about 4 nights ago), however last night, while I was showering at my former host family's house, I came across a smaller but deadlier critter. A scorpion in the shower. It was so small I had to lean in close to tell what it was, was shocked when I realized it was a scorpion, but then a bit more shocked when it didn't move the entire time I showered. Interesting. So today I consulted my local mother who informed me that it was likely not dead, because staying still is typical scorpion behavior. At that moment, I almost saw my life flash before my eyes. Good thing, however, that I kept a close watch on it as I showered and was therefore ready to kill it with my flip-flop at the drop of a dime.

That's all for now folks, please visit my Peace Corps Partnership Project's website and give as much (or as little) as you can. We are truly making a difference in the lives of poor, rural women for generations to come.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Help Me Construct a Center for Rural Women in Paraguay!

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope this entry finds everyone well. As you know, I have been in Paraguay since May 2008 serving in the Peace Corps. The past year has been filled with many amazing highs as well as its share of lows, through all of which I have done my best to remain positive. My main work in site has been with a rural womens' group, La Asociacion de la Mujer Rural (The Association of the Rural Woman), also known as AMUR. It is composed of three groups of women in three communities, with its central group in my town, Valenzuela. Most of my time is spent teaching basic computer classes and working with the ladies in Valenzuela, but I also meet with one of our sister groups once a week in the nearby community of Minas Cue (MEE-nas KWAY). AMUR's objective is to build the capacity of rural women in order to improve their economic situations and work with them to develop sustainable, income-generating activities. The purpose of this email is to talk about what will very likely be the biggest project of my Peace Corps service and how you can help me make a difference.

For the past ten years, the women of Minas Cue have met every week to learn and make craft works such as crochet, ao po’i (traditional Paraguayan embroidered linen shirts), homemade detergent and soap to sell, as well as other activities. They also cook various traditional foods, which they sell at a weekly community food stand in order to raise money. They are very low-income, extremely hard-working women. They were holding their weekly meetings in a vacant house in the community until earlier this year, when they began having problems with the owners and were forced to vacate the house. Instead of embarking upon a prolonged and expensive legal battle, they decided to meet in the home of one of the members pending the construction of their own meeting house. In their house they would no longer be renters, but rather owners in control of their own situation. They would be able to work more effectively and empower themselves as a group through workshops and educational courses that would be held in their own women's center.
Through their activities, the women of AMUR in Minas Cue are fulfilling an important need by motivating the females in the community, all whom are of limited economic resources, and deserve a place of their own where they can work more effectively.

Earlier this year, the women pooled their monies together to take out a loan from the local cooperative to purchase a plot of land on which to construct the house through a loan from the local cooperative. As a result of the aforementioned food stand sales, they have also raised some funds to help with construction costs. While the ladies have already begun enthusiastically preparing for the construction process, they are still without the financing needed to bring the project to fruition.

It is for this reason that I am utilizing a program called the Peace Corps Partnership Program to raise the funds to construct the center. Peace Corps volunteers such as myself work with the community to write up the project, which is approved by Peace Corps Paraguay and then forwarded to Headquarters in
Washington. Utilizing the contacts of our family and friends that we provide in the application, the Peace Corps Foundation sends out copies of of project proposal so our folks can donate to the foundation and fund our project. Once the project is fully funded, Peace Corps forwards the money to Peace Corps Paraguay, which forwards the money to me so we can begin construction. So how can you help? First, email me at with your home address and email address in order to receive a copy of the proposal (look for it in the next month or so) once it is approved by Peace Corps and posted to the Peace Corps website. After you receive a copy, please go to the website and contribute to the project so we can make this dream a reality. Please forward this to anyone you know that might be interested in contributing. No amount is too small!

Thank you all in advance for your help, without which this project would not be possible.

Celebrating my birthday

Preparing food for my birthday party

Showing their craftwork. Even the babies participate!

Na Isabel crocheting

Na Isabel helping Na Antonia with her crochet.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." - 3.20.09

A moment of clarity at Cerro Yaguaron in March

So here I sit, approximately two-and-a-half months since returning from my trip home for Christmas, and still a month before that since I wrote my last blog entry. Where have I been you ask? Everywhere from the depression-induced low of having to readjust after my visit home to the highs that come with meeting new Paraguayan friends and living life down here to the fullest. If anything, I am fully confident that my coping mechanisms are in overdrive. Let's start with the sad stuff first.

My visit home for Christmas can be described in one word: bittersweet. The sweetness of course was being reunited with my friends and family, after having spent the longest time away from them until that point. The bitter part, which I tasted even before I left Paraguay, was knowing how fast the time would fly, how potentially traumatic it could be, and also knowing that I would not be able to see everyone as I would have preferred. While I was home, I almost felt like I was living out the last days of my life - trying to spend as much time with everyone as possible, still having time to lay around and relax at home, trying to buy up all the necessities to take back with me, even eat what seemed like my last meals! And of course, as my return date back to Paraguay approached, so did the anxiety we felt when I was preparing to leave in May 2008. However, leaving the States a second time was actually 10 times worse than before. The lump in my throat began to form as Lil' Mommy and I approached Dulles Airport and were in full torrential swing when she walked me to the security checkpoint. My heart was broken all over again, as my responsibilities in Paraguay snatched me from my mother's breast, just as the anticipation of what awaited had seven months before. I cried from Dulles to Panama to Peru to Asuncion. Although once I reached Asuncion, I begun to feel a little better, even better still when I stepped out into the warm air and familiar smells and surroundings of my current home.

When I finally arrived back in Valenzuela two days later, my recovery process continued to improve, until I was struck down by the entrance of a number of tarantulas into my house. Initially it was one per day for the first three days I was home, and then maybe one or two per week until I discovered the root of the problem. Let me make you understand how I absolutely loathe bugs, let along big, hairy, evil, devilish spiders that are, in most cases, poisonous. So here I was, by myself, literally confronted with the devil incarnate in my bedroom. It was unnerving, to say the least. As a result, I developed the obsessive-compulsive habit of checking upon entry every corner of every room of my house, and not taking a step without a broom in my hand just in case I found another one. I lost the peace of mind I once had in my home and felt like I no longer had any control of my situation. I wondered what I was doing here and why I was putting myself through such hellish challenges. I was happier when I was visiting my friends in their nicer houses or in a nice hotel in Asuncion. Finally, I realized that I had no choice but to regain control, leaning harder on my neighbors for solutions to my problem until I figured it out. I also began to cook more for myself instead of always eating with my host family, and taking other steps to regain my independence. The other week, I had two more get in after not having seen any in weeks, after which I quickly identified and covered the entry points to prevent their re-entry. I was finally in control!

While the "squatter situation" was comfortably under control, it was not until last weekend that the cleaning situation was effectively tackled. There are many times down here when I am reminded of just how much of a "lazy american" I am. Please believe me when I tell you that you have not seen people working hard until you come to a developing nation, especially one with a strong agricultural base, such as Paraguay. People wake up at the crack of dawn, work around the house or in the field, wash clothes by hand at a water spout a half mile from their house, come back and prepare lunch from scratch over a fire, maybe rest a little after lunch, head back out in the hot sun to gather firewood, come back and get dinner ready, bathe for maybe the third time that day, and then go to bed. You can't tell me that just reading that routine didn't tire you out. I swear, some days it's all I can do to wash my clothes and make my lunch. While this may not be everyone's routine, there is no shortage of housework down here with the abundance of red dirt and dust that gets into everything. Lil' Mommy asked about the potential for using a vacuum cleaner; I compared it to vacuuming dirt from the backyard. While I had been sweeping my house regularly, cleaning my bathroom and other more or less low impact cleaning, I had yet to tackle the numerous cobwebs on the ceiling and other more thorough chores. I knew I would hate doing them and it would put me in a bad mood by creating a bigger cleaning task. So it went undone, and I just continued living as I had been in my house. However, paying someone to clean your house is pretty normal in many houses down here, so I knew it would likely be the route I would take. My next-door neighbors have a family member that cleans their house and watches their little daughter, so they suggested I check with her about helping me out. And so it was that last Saturday Patricia came and delivered me from the filthy evil that was my house. The amount of dirt and debris that fell from the ceiling was UNREAL. From even my front porch, she went through the house like the white tornado. When she finished, my neighbors came in and said that it was as if the house was "breathing new air". I thought to myself, "Lawd I WAS NOT living right," and swore that I would never let it reach that point again. Even after she finished cleaning, I continued to do other chores around the house until almost 6pm. Cleanliness is certainly happiness!

Earlier this month I started my computer classes, which are going well so far. I have about 20 students on Tuesdays and Thursdays, two per hour, one hour each in the morning and afternoon. It is definitely an adjustment from being on vacation and not having to be somewhere at a certain time most days, but it will also be good to get back into the routine. We'll see how things go. I will leave you all with some pictures from the past few months I've been m.i.a on the blog...

Me and Paulette at Thanksgiving in Encarnacion

Me and Courtney in Asuncion watching the Super Bowl

Lazing around my friend's house in January; that thing on my arm is my lil fake boutaineer (sp?) i found. Yes, we were bored.

Supermarket in Asuncion - toothpaste, anyone?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Too Busy Choppin' It Up to Write in the Blog - Journal Entry 9.19.08

Asuncion, 12.4.08 - My people!!!! Although today is December 4, 2008, in the interest of keeping my entries semi-chronological, this entry has been taken from my journal on September 19, 2008. Read on...

So my entries have become fewer and further between; I need to work that. However, that may be indicative of something positive - the fact that maybe I don't have as many personal issues to work out, or the fact that I can dialogue with my friends in my town instead of working it out through my journal. Nevertheless, I can confidently say that I am fully integrated into my community. Anyway, I finished re-watching the first season of The Wire a few days ago and last night finished reading Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley. Great book - it's so great to have time to read. I've read three books since I've been here, which I swear is more than I've read in the past year. Once again, things continue to get better.

The biggest thing that's happened in the past few weeks was my recent move with a new family in town. Prior to my move when I was out in La Colonia, I either had to leave to come into town inthe morning when the bus passed my house, hang out at AMUR in the morning, eat lunch at a family's house, go back for a bit in the afternoon and then catch the 3pm bus back that passed by the house. If I missed either one of those two buses, the other option was to walk 1.5 km to or from the bus stop on the main road. When it's 1pm and hot, it's definitely not the best option. I was first made aware that my living situation would change about two weeks ago when Na Nelly informed me that she and Don Ramon would be going to Ciudad del Este (about 3 or 4 hours away near the Brazilian border, their children live there) so he could have his hernia operation. At first they thought they would only be gone for a week, in which case I could just stay in the house. While I initially had no problems with that scenario, I then decided that I would rather stay with Na Gertrudis and her family (the German family). I had spent a night there and thoroughly enjoyed myself - they're the closest thing in my town to Americans and she is an excellent cook. So I arranged to stay there for the week; everyone was happy. When it became clear that Na Nelly and Don Ramon would be gone for at least two weeks, extending my stay with the Germans would be a minor technicality. That was the plan until last Friday, when I was in town hanging out with Na Luci, Na Pitu's sister-in-law who lives next door, and her family. I was telling her my plan and she asked (in Guarani), "Why don't you come live here? It's even closer to your job." While Na Gertrudis and them were closer than I was before, I couldn't get any closer to AMUR unless I lived in the little building itself. I thought about it briefly and happily accepted Na Luci's offer; Na Gertrudis was also happy when I informed her of the change in plan. I told Na Luci that I would arrive Sunday afternoon after Na Nelly's birthday celebration. That event was also a lot more fun than I thought it would be, given my disposition the last time the whole family was in town.

As last Sunday drew near, I hoped that things would go better than they had previously (see 8.21.08 blog entry, I think?). After the last time, however, it became clear that the bad impression was only on my side. For example, Na Nelly spoke to one of the daughters just after my birthday and she sent belated birthday wishes, saying that she was sorry that she didn't know about it earlier. I thought it was a very nice gesture. The son, David, first arrived on Saturday early evening with one of the aunts and we all sat in the kitchen chopping it up. I hadn't met the aunt before, so we of course had to go through the usual gathering - where I was from, how long I had been in the country, and of course with everyone remarking at how much Guarani I spoke :-). The other kids arrived later in the evening after I had laid down, so I got back up to say hi. Big hugs all around - I knew at that moment that everything would be fine. We spent the evening talking, joking and drinking. As it approached midnight, one of the kids put wine in everyone's glasses that we had to sip and not empty until after midnight when it was officially Na Nelly's birthday. Don Ramon and I almost finished our wine so we had to get refills...( don't judge us!) lol. At 12, we all wished her happy birthday and she received hugs from everyone. Then came time for the gifts. When I was in Asuncion last week I picked up a little coin purse and bracelet with different images of Jesus on it, which my sister in Aveiro always wore. Na Nelly loved it. She also received two perfumes and all the kids chipped in to buy her a microwave. I finally turned in around 12:30, exhausted but happy to have spent quality time with the fam.

The birthday girl, Na Nelly (pronounced, NAY-yee)

Chopping it up with the fam

The birthday cake

The next day was spent cooking and getting things ready for the barbecue. Numerous family members and neighbors all came for the celebration; it was a great vibe with everyone. Even still, I couldn't help but be a little sad that I was leaving my little space I'd carved out, and also nervous about how my new surroundings would compare to my first home in Valenzuela. My primary concern was that my room at Na Luci's didn't have a door but rather a pink patterned sheet in its place. Not...quite...what I had in mind...I thought to myself. I just prayed that things would continue to fall into place as they had up until that point. The Ovando kids ended up giving me a ride into town since David needed to take a look at one of the computers in AMUR. Unfortuatenly the power was out so he wasn't able to. They then headed out, reiterating that they would be awaiting my visit, saying that I just needed to get there and everything would be taken care of once I arrived. I also meant to give one of the daughters my T-Mobile phone so she could get it unlocked and I would pay her back, but I forgot to give it to her. All in all it was a great visit and I have more additions to the growing list of lifelong links in Paraguay.

Another thing that happened recently while I was in Asuncion handling some business at the Peace Corps Office. I was staying at Alpes as usual and there were also a bunch of other PCV's there for their close of service conference and the Paraguay vs. Venezuela soccer game. I struck up a conversation with Kathy, whose service will end in December, and found out that she had lived in Silver Spring for a year while working DC, and she even knew my neighborhood :-). She had her laptop and I had my iPod with me so we began going through each other's collections and exchanging music. I couldn't believe some of the music she had - from Depeche Mode to Stevie Wonder to A Tribe Called Quest to Aerosmith's Greatest Hits. I took it all. It was like Christmas because she had things I had lost when my iPod and external hard drives crashed and didn't think I'd see until I went home in December. I was almost in tears. On top of that, and American movie was on cable in English with Spanish subtitles. Earlier that evening I had also bought my ticket to come home for Christmas at the cheapest I'd seen it. Things could not have been better.
This week has also been a good one. Fernando and Chris (from Peace Corps) came on Tuesday for my official site presentation, which went well. The day before I had made two marble cakes with the help of one of the socias, and also made several gallons of fresh orange juice with oranges from the Ovando's orchard. The PC folks also brought my bike, helmet and my huge suitcase, which they said won the award for heaviest suitcase ever. $150 in airplane overage fees and a damn-near dislocated shoulder later nevertheless, but I was proud. "I have to be prepared," I explained.
About a week or so ago I finally arranged a meeting with the lady who owns the house I want to rent. The house is in the next block down from where I'm living now, so it's still close to AMUR. It had been closed up for sometime so I worried about mold, but when we went in it was in great condition since she comes to clean it regularly. I told the owner that I would need to check in with Peace Corps about anything I needed to do on their end and I would get back in touch with her. She said that was fine and even invited me to spend the day at her house a few towns away. The following week I began asking around about a bed, stove and fridge to put in my house. It currently has two beds that needs new mattresses, several chairs and tables, all of which I plan to use, As of now, I have everything but a fridge, which I will likely have to buy - the cheapest one I've found so far is $200, an older, Brazilian brand but in great condition. I spoke with the owner today and let her know that I intended to move in on November 1st, but would like to begin putting things in a little earlier so I could be settled on the 1st. No problem, she said. Even better is that she's renting it to me for lower than I thought - $62.50 per month not including electric and water, which will probably be no more than an additional $12 per month. While this may not sound like much, it is when you're only making about $343.75 per month. I am also contemplating getting internet at the crib, but we'll see if it fits in the budget after several months.
That's basically the update for now; tomorrow night I will be going to my first town party in Valenzuela so we'll see who comes tumbling down when the waistline wines up...what whaaaat! Lawd.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

PICS OF MY HOUSE!!! 11.12.08

Yes everyone! It's the pics you've all been waiting for! MY HOUSE!!! I am currently writing my next blog entry so in the meantime I figured I would post some pics of where I live. I love my little house, my scary-ass room is even growing on me. Enjoy!

The view from the street

My front porch

My side yard, Yes! This is Peace Corps!

My foyer/sitting room

The view from the foyer

Where I lay my head at night. I will be getting a bigger bed this weekend. Sweet dreams!

Through the door to the rest of my house. The closed door is the storage room/where the Senora who owns the house will sleep if she comes in town for a night (maybe twice a year).

My kitchen table and side door to the yard.

The kitchen. Over yonder is the scary-ass back room.

My bathroom. The showerhead is higher up out of the picture. Y'all see that I got my products posted up and everything.

My toilet. There is a tank above it. Yes it flushes, and very well if I may say so myself.

View of the back room from the kitchen

The kitchen cabinet I haven't gotten around to cleaning yet and my sink where I wash my dishes.

The back window.
Stay tuned for the next blog!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

WHERE HAVE I BEEN??? (OBAMA 2008) 11.4.08

As you all know it's been quite awhil since I've written any blog entries. Most recently my mom reminded me that Granny asked her again if I had written anymore postings, at which time I had not. However, I decided that I can't have Granny waiting so I wanted to at least do a quick posting to give you all a quick update.

Things are amazing and getting better in site. I recently moved into my own house so I am officially settled! My house has two bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen, and a scary-ass back room with a sink where I wash my dishes. Before I walk into my bathroom I usually peek in to make sure that there's no huge bug in there, because you never know down here. So far there's been the occasional moth but nothing major. I also have a huge mango tree with fruit currently ripening; I am looking forward to afternoons sitting in my yard eating mangoes. I also have a vegetable garden in my backyard that belongs to my neighbor, for which we have already made plans to transplant as well as plant vegetables. I spent this past Sunday afternoon with these same neighbors, a younger couple with a nearly 2-year old daughter named Milagros. She already knows how to say my name and everything and apparently asks where I am when I am not around. I love it.

I haven't writing because I've been so busy kicking it with all my people and traveling to visit my friends in other towns on the weeekends. Everyone will be happy to know that I have officially replicated my "Treehouse" situation in my town! Despite the fact that I moved out of my host family's house (I'm less than half a block away), I still eat lunch with them most days, stop by there after work before I go home, and hang out all the time. I even stop by various mornings to drink mate and then my senora makes sure that I have a full thermos of cocido and bread. What could be better?

So I am currently in Asuncion with a bunch of other PCV's for the election. We're going to a spot to watch the election coverage and then we're celebrating. All of the Paraguayans are pulling for Obama - good Lord willing and the creek don't rise we will all have our wish come true. History in the making, it just doesn't seem real...

I'll be catching a ride back to my site tomorrow, on the way stopping by to pick up a bunch of stuff for my house so I can really start cooking more (or will I...) and get more settled. Stay tuned for the next blog entry which will be jammed packed with funny anecdotes and pictures. Special thanks to Debbie Heffron - I received the package and am looking forward to making the brownies!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Home Again - Aveiro, That Is - 9.7.08

Valenzuela, Cordillera, 9.7.08 - Right, so it's been awhile. The days aren't as action-packed here as they are during training - I'm not complaining though! The real story is that since the arrival of my birthday package, which contained 30+ DVD's, including all five seasons of The Wire, I watch a lot of tv. Yes, this is Peace Corps.

On Friday after my birthday, I headed into Asuncion to switch to a Tigo cellphone (the company that actually works in my site), do some research for my charla the following Monday, and see about my package that Lil' Mommy sent. It was indeed a happy birthday when I received it. And she even included her iPod so I can listen to all my music again all the time! Eric, Paulette and Rebecca also came in town so we went out for lunch. Like me, Eric was also going to Aveiro to visit his fam, so he and I headed out around 3:30. We were both talking about how great it felt to be "going home"; we got off at the stop to change buses and jumped on a crazily crowded bus that would take us to the entrance to the town. Eric was almost hanging out the door at one point - just like old times! We jumped off and started walking up the road to our houses, and it was immediately like we were in a different world, a familiar world that made us forget any anxiety we may have felt in our sites. We greeted the passers-by with the customary "Adios"; one woman even stopped to chat for a bit, saying that her daughter had gone by my brother's house looking for Tim the other day. Apparently the neice, who lived in Czech Republic and spoke English, came to visit and wanted to meet Tim and converse in English. I remembered them because the woman's daughter, who's maybe 16, came over and was chopping it up with Timmy at a 1-year old's birthday party and the mom came over and snatched her up like, time to go you fresh lil' hussy! It was hilarious. So I left Eric when I got to my house and he continued up the road.

I walked around the side of the house and entered through the kitchen shouting, "HOLA!!!!". Mama ran over and gave me a huge hug that brought a tear to my eye. We were so happy to see each other. My sisters came out of their rooms to greet me and I went to see Papa in the living room. I put my stuff down in my room and then Mama led me back out to the tv room so she could give me my birthday present. It was a really nice black cotton sleeveless shirt. She went into the kitchen and finished cooking the empanadas, one of my favorites, while Papa and I chopped it up. Once they were ready I went into the kitchen where we were joined by Gabi and Wilsin (my neice and sister-in-law, respectively), so we all hung out chopping it up. Wilsin remarked that I had lost weight since I left; Mama agreed, saying you could tell it by my face also. I told them my new family wasn't feeding as much as they used to, we all laughed. I watched tv for a bit and then retired to my room, watched part of Friday and then went to bed. The next morning, my other sister Muka arrived to get some clothes for a conference she had to attend that day, so she wouldn't be spending Saturday night and Sunday as she usually did. While they began preparing the water for mate, I went to see Misuri's new kittens that had just arrived the day before. They were teeny little things, too. We pretty much hung around most of the day Saturday; after lunch I talked to Lil' Mommy and then decided to visit my people in the town.

My first stop was Don Blasido's farm to see Na Dora, Angela, Noelia and their people. On the way I ran into Eric's host dad, Andres, who was making his usual number rounds on his bike. We talked briefly about how much weight Eric had lost, and how his Aveiro mom had made his favorite milanesa and salad the night before. We said goodbye and I continued up the road. When I arrived at Don Blasido's I received big hugs from everyone including Don Blasido, who is normally a handshake man. We sat and talked about Valenzuela, how things were going, how the other groupmembers were doing in their sites and various other topics of interest. They said that they missed me very much and thought that I might've forgotten about them since I hadn't been back for a few weeks. I told them that there were no other people like the ones in Aveiro, that I missed them too and that it would be impossible to forget them; they were family. We had some rolls and cafe con leche and, after having been there for well over an hour, I continued up the road.

The next person I saw was Miriam. Our next door neighbor at the house where we had training classes, she was one of the kids that would wander into the yard and play frisbee with us. She was very good - definitely better than the other little boys. She was twelve years old, and over time she became my little sidekick. Back when we all left at the end of training, she was also in tears. When she saw me, she screamed, "SASHAAAA!!!" and ran toward me. "MIRIAM!!!" I cried, and ran toward her. More big hugs. Her mother came out along with Eric's little sisters and we sat and chopped it up in Guarani. They were also concerned about Eric's weightloss. It was starting to get dark and I still had to go by Paulette's family's house, so Miriam and I walked over. Apparently Paulette had left her hiking boots and a mosquito net in her room there. Since she hadn't really mentioned missing her hiking boots and I already had a ton of stuff to take back to Valenzuela, I decided to leave them there and we could get them when we were all back for In-Service Training in November. Miriam and I rolled out and headed back to her house where I was also warmly greeted by her two grandmothers. One of them calls me "La Morenita Linda" and always gives me hugs; she is a darker-skinned Paraguayan - maybe slightly darker than I am. We brown-skinned people are always happy to see each other, I swear. Eric's host mom was back home so I went by to see her - more hugs of course. As it had been dark for some time, I didn't stay more than 30 minutes since I still had to walk back home. Just before I left Eric got back from playing volleyball and soccer with the guys so we also chopped it up. Of course the visit wouldn't been complete without some town gossip. During training, we would always talk about how Matt's host dad was really moody, at times downright standoffish. Matt was glad to leave when training ended. Now, three weeks later, Eric comes back and finds out that Matt's host dad has a new taxi and paid for lights on the soccer field. Keep in mind that he seldom works and the family's main financial support is from his wife who works as a domestic in Spain. Deductive reasoning would therefore lead one to conclude that he used the money he received from Peace Corps for Matt's room and board to finance his recent expenditures. Do y'all understand how some people have no shame?! All I know is that Hell is hot...I wrapped up the visit and got back home around 6:45pm. Mama had prepared my favorite ground beef with rice and veggies and lots of garlic. "Because I know how much you like garlic," she said. I punished it and then settled in for the night.
Miriam and I at a town gathering in June 2008
On Sunday we woke up and drank mate and then I ate my beloved buttered toast with dulce de leche. We are more modest folk here in Valenzuela, so I had missed the comforts of my home in Aveiro. Mama of course made sopa paraguaya as she does every Sunday. I went next door to my brother's and jumped on the internet for a bit, and for lunch there was of course the customary asado. After lunch Papa and I sat and chopped it up about my work in Valenzuela. At the end he said that he just wished me the best of luck and that the door was always open anytime I ever needed anything. It almost brought tears to my eyes because, while you know he cares, very seldomly does he say something so heartfelt. Instead of going to my room and taking a nap as I usually would, I went and finished packing, took a shower and then it was time to head to the bus stop. Rita and Mama drove me to the bus stop and waited with me until the bus came. Nothing like family. Period.