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.