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.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Blowing out my candles
My ladies - Na Nidia, Na Nelly (with whom I lived ) and Na Inma
Singing Feliz Cumpleanos

Valenzuela, Cordillera, 8.26.08 - So today was my first birthday spent out of the country and away from my family and friends. When I went to sleep last night, I said to myself that the day would either be miserable and mediocre or really great. Thank God that it was the latter.

The celebration started last weekend when I went to visit Paulette in the good Yataity. Beautiful little town - the people live well too. Her little casita is so cute. There was also a little black Brazilian lady - the first one I'd seen in Paraguay - who ran a bar/restaurant/convenient store in town. We went there to eat on Friday night and Saturday afternoon before heading out to visit another PCV in a nearby town. Please believe she is a good cook too, I murdered all of the food.
So anyway, we left Yataity and headed to Villarica after lunch. I had heard about Brennan's laid-out living situation, but seeing it was a whole different story. First of all, the neighborhood could've been in Florida or California, lots of nice houses. The PCV lives in a compound owned by a former Colonel during the Stroessner dictatorship who is now a physical education teacher at a local school. He is also something of an expert on any number of subjects. In the compound there's the main house where "El Coronel" lives with his wife and then three other smaller houses around a central courtyard. Please believe that these fools also have a POOL, albeit empty but still, the principal of which is enough.We hung out and drank terere and then once Stu, another PCV, arrived, we walked around town. There are some sick houses around too. I finally bought a hair dryer, one of the Gama professional ones, for about $25 - much less than what I'd seen it for previously. Stu headed out on a date with a volunteer from the Korean peace corps-type organziation known as COICA, while the rest of us hung out at the crib playing Spades. Yes, that's right, Spades. How I had missed it - though I must say it wasn't quite the same as when I'd played it back home in folks' backyards, basements and sitting rooms. It was fun nevertheless. We then went out for pizza, which took so long to arrive that I asked the dude if they needed help in the kitchen or something. After pizza we came back and I took a nap from about 9:30 to 12:30 before going out. And of course the pizza would have torn up my stomach as usual, but I was not fazed. I peeled myself out of bed and got myself together; we eventually headed to the club around 2am. Apparently the doors don't even open until midnight. It was a lot of fun - the music was on point and I was very happy to drop it down to the ground. We stayed until about 4:30 am. I woke up a few hours later and caught the bus back to Valenzuela around 9:30, finally arriving home at 1:30.

So today was a great day. I received my first birthday text from Mama in Aveiro at about 6am, followed throughout the day by other greeting from Aveiro, the G-27 crew and back home. I talked to Lil' Mommy and Daddy, then drank some terere with my people, followed by a lunch of my favorite pork chops, rice salad, yuca and sopa paraguaya. In the afternoon we went into town, where I hung out with the socias, ate some cake (not the official birthday cake, but still good) and checked on some housing possibilities.

I came back with the 4pm bus, stopping by Dora's on the way back to chop it up for a bit. Na Inma even drove by on her wat to my house; we then headed over. We hung out in the yard for a bit, drank terere, and then I was told to go over to the gazebo and found that they had set up birthday cake and my beloved hot chocolate! They sang happy birthday in Spanish, we ate cake and drank hot chocolate and then everyone headed home. I had no idea they had done all of that! Truly a pleasant surprise. I watched my beloved telenovela, Marina, at 6pm and received the last call of the day from Ashli. A happy birthday indeed.