Friday, June 6, 2014

A New Start....

We are finally in our new home, officially called the 'Ignatius Roga' or, Ignatius' House (after the man who once lived here) we are finally unpacked and settling into life in Paraguay.  It has been a bumpy ride thus far.  From living with college students (who knew how much fun that ISN'T when you have three kids), to blowing a lot of cash because the only place we knew to shop was apparently THE most expensive supermarket in Paraguay, to getting lost and exhausted in Mercado 4, oozing walls (cement walls + humid days =, really, that's a real condition), and a hot water heater design that requires flipping a switch and only gives you one temperature of water and ONLY in the shower (I boil water in a kettle for the dishes) it hasn't been all sunshine and roses. 
However, there have been loads of silver linings in the clouds here in Paraguay. 
1) We now know what 'pray unceasingly' really means.
2) The stunning realization that I don't know everything, can't do everything and really must lean on God for those times when I fail, miserably.
3) There is nothing that can replace the love and support of family and friends.
4) We are so blessed to have the family and friends we have.
5) Life is a journey, a process, and we are constantly growing...there is no one who is so perfect that growth and improvement is impossible.
6) When life gives you Lemons...put it on EVERYTHING (seriously, rice, cake, pie, chicken sandwiches....lemons should be their own food group in Paraguay).
7) In a pinch, if you mix hot water and honey and tell your kids it's a treat....they are thrilled (note to self: try this with other combinations of hot water and random semi-sweet natural treats). there are also a million other little things that we have learned, but what can I say...we have to choose between writing about our life or living it....for now, I am going to go live a little. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ch-ch-changes....the world turns, even in Paraguay

Life in Paraguay has been an adventure so far.  It has been almost a month since we arrived, and pretty much everything and nothing was as expected.  The language barrier is a much bigger problem than I imagined.  You know how people say 'Oh, you will be immersed, you will learn in no time' and we believe it?  Yeah...not so much.  I have learned you can literally go days with out saying anything to anyone if you really don't have a choice.  Ok, having 3 little people to talk to in English is probably not helping my immersion along.  Still, I have an appointment to start working with a tutor, so hopefully, this really is a temporary problem.
When I was told about food in Paraguay the response was usually something like...'Oh, they have so much fresh's delicious'.  That's true enough....but in my naive mind, I took fruit to mean produce.  Fruit, it seems, means fruit.  Bananas, oranges, guava, papaya, even apples and grapes.  Fruit, though, does not mean Vegetables.  There are some staples we have found consistently, potatoes, Manioc, onions, and usually tomatoes.  Other items are kind of hit or miss.  I know it's enthnocentric....but I really do miss going to the supermarket and having 100 different veggies available in a dozen different ways (froze, fresh, canned, steam - in - bag, etc).  On the bright side, though, my kids now eat plain white rice (something I have been trying to get them to do for about 3 years) and ENJOY it.  Plus, I am getting pretty creative with cooking.
When we decided to go to Paraguay, one of the hardest realities to face was leaving our loved ones in another country.  The reality of this consequence has really hit home in the last month.  I have missed my best friend's graduation from college (a feat 5-6 years in the making), I have been unable to offer any tangible comfort to a dear friend as she suffered the loss of her son, and as life moves on in the US with out us, we have come to realize how many people really don't need us, and we (ok, mainly me) have lost a part of our sense of self.  However, as our lives and world view changes (for better or worse) we are growing; together as a family, as individuals, and as global citizens. 
For these reasons, we are plodding through the hard days, and laughing through the good days, and are happy to go wherever this journey takes us. have seen the before pictures of 'our house'....look soon for the after shots...:)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A quick Pictoral update on our house

A few days ago I mentioned we intended to move into our semi permanent home in Asuncion (only semi permanent because we are meant to move to the Chaco in a few months).  Well on the day we were supposed to move, we saw the house:
 Bedroom 1
 Bedroom 2
 Living room
 Living room, from the opposite corner
So, I think the Patio is the most habitable.  So we aren't moving just yet.

A funny thing happened in Paraguay...

Really, a couple of funny things have happened.  I would like to say they all have something to do with cross cultural experience.  In reality, at least half of them are just mistakes on my part.  Here are a few highlights:
1) On our second day in Paraguay, I decided we should take a long walk around the neighborhood to get oriented.  We walked about 10 blocks down Avenida Espana, turned left and managed to end up on Avenida Mariscal Lopez (a major thoroughfare).  I was excited, surely we would see good stuff now.  After all, as we drove down the street the day before on the way out of the airport, the president's house and the plaza Gobierno whizzed by.  After about an hour on the Avenida, we stopped a lady to ask for directions back to where we were staying, Gral Santos.  She gave us a puzzled look (which I thought was due to my poor Spanish) and promptly informed us (in English that was much better than my Spanish...embarrassing) that Gral Santos was way too far away for us to walk and she would have to call her son to come pick us up and take us there.  On the bright side, both she and her son now have a 'silly American' story to laugh over.
2) A few days after arriving, we were picking up the language quickly (though sporadically) and when someone explained that Siempre meant always, I was excited.  Ever on the look out for a mnemonic device, I immediately realized that the my training as an Army brat would come in handy.  Siempre Fidelis is the Marine corps motto, it means 'Always Faithful' so I could remember it easily (you would think).  I got confused looks for about 2 days before I realized my 'mnemonic device' had gotten its wires crossed and I was instinctively saying Fidelis every time I meant to say always....doh!
3) While driving home with the Mareco family one night, Cristobal asked me what sentry means.  I explained it means a guard in the military.  He looked very confused and asked again, and I tried explaining a different way.  After we went back and forth a half dozen times he wrote down what he wanted explained, Centre.  What is the difference between a Center and a Centre?  Ahh, now I know the answer to that, but how would I explain, in my limited Spanish, that during the American Revolution Benjamin Franklin arbitrarily changed the spelling of English words to be different from Great Britain?  Honestly, it was not my most eloquent moment, I probably sounded like my 4 year old trying to explain a story she had been read, but I think he got the gist. 
4) Finally, my most embarrassing faux pas; we were visiting the President of the Disciples of Christ Church in Paraguay (of course something REALLY embarrassing has to happen when you are meeting the president of something).  She was very nice and her husband was talking to me in rapid fire Spanish (he later explained that a cultural difference between the USA and Paraguay is that the US attempts to prevent problems, Paraguay lets the problems roll and learns from them).  The few words I picked out were Paraguay, Guarani, Habla, and etc.
 Now, I my Spanish is currently at a 'barely adequate' level...I can discuss what I need to discuss in my profession, I can carry on a basic conversation, but it's so much easier if people talk to me like I am stupid...and slow, it helps to talk very very slow.  So, with the few words here and there that I picked out of the question, I discerned that I was being asked if I spoke any Guarani (an indigenous language spoken by virtually everyone in Paraguay).  Of course, I replied, 'No, nada'.  It was one of those everyone froze, crickets chirping moments.  They were all staring at me in shock, the President of the church was standing bent over in the process of pouring refreshments, frozen in time.  Finally, Cristobal, a pastor whose church I have been attending and whose family has graciously taken us under their wing, explained...He had asked if I liked Paraguay and the people of Paraguay. 
I couldn't help it...I laughed, really loud.  Leave it to me to say something so outrageous, even accidentally.  So I explained, I thought he had asked if I spoke Guarani and that I like Paraguay and the people of Paraguay and everyone unfroze and we had a very very pleasant visit.
There have been other, whoopsies and uh oh's, but I just wanted to give you a taste.  Entering any new culture is going to have a few hiccups, add in a language barrier and you are likely to have some funny conversations.  That's part of the joy and adventure of life outside of your comfort zone.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

On the ground in Paraguay

It is fall here in Paraguay, and for the last week and a half we have been staying in a guest house of the Lutheran Church here in Asuncion.  It seems to house mostly college students studying at one of the many universities here in the Capital.  It has been a bit difficult to have 3 small children in such close quarters with people who need to study.  Trying to keep them quiet at night, or between 12:00 and 3:00 for the mandatory resting/studying/sleeping times, has led us all to some frazzled nerves.
Tomorrow we are supposed to be moving to Friendship Mission tomorrow.  There is an elementary school housed there, so I assume lots of kid noises during the day won't be a problem.  Then, at night, there is only one other family that we have to worry about disturbing, the Marecos.
The Marecos family has been awesome here...inviting us to dinner and even taking us to celebrate Mother's day with their family.  Maria (mother to Augustine, Facundo, and Flores, wife to Cristobal) even baked the most delicious cake for Anya's birthday.  They have been very gracious and friendly.
There have been ups and downs.  For the first 2-3 days, we had a banking snafu.  And there was (and still is) some cultural adjustments to be made, but I am very proud of how well the kids are taking it.
Look back here soon for posts on silly mistakes we have made, and hard lessons learned.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Up and down, up and down

Moving to Paraguay with 3 kids under the age of 10 is either the pinnacle of my awesomeness, or the depths of my idiocy.  Honestly, I think it's probably going to end up a tally in the awesome column, but at varying (you know, about 20 times a day) moments, it definitely feels like it belongs in the idiocy field.  I love my life.  I love my family, friends, church, homeschool co-op, town, state, car, house, stuff.  I love it all, and I am just going. 
When I went to school to study Anthropology I had visions of Indiana Jones-esque adventures in Amazonian jungles and German castles.  Then, I actually studied Anthropology and did field work and I realized that mostly I would be doing paperwork.  That's ok, though, because I love people and Anthropology is, at the heart, the study of people.  This opportunity to work and live in Paraguay was something I could never have imagined.  It's amazing, a blessing wilder than I ever thought to dream of. 
So, I am happy, ecstatic, to be going.  Somehow, though, in my imaginings I can't picture the day to day with kiddos.  What will it be like; I remember being in Mexico and seeing how differently children were treated.  I feel fairly certain that parenting in Paraguay will be different than in North Carolina.  If nothing else, I am enormously aware that we will be the 'they' in this we/they dichotomy, the outsiders, the (sort of) representatives of our country....that's a lot of responsibility rattling around in my parenting mind.
So, that's why my mood, my thoughts, my preparedness, and my energy are on what seems to be an eternal roller coaster.  Up and down, round and round, and where it stops...who knows.  One thing is for sure, ready or not, this time next week we will be in South America; our new home.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Busy Beavers...

So, we got our official date, our plane reservations are confirmed, and after waiting over a year, everything became very real very quickly.  All in all, things have been better and worse than I expected. 
The hardest and most unforeseen problem we have faced hasn't been what to take, or which bags to use, it has been the people we are leaving behind.  We prepared, of course, for the reality of leaving them.  What we didn't prepare for was the tsunami of last minute meetings, parties, farewell dos and etc.
In one way it has been amazingly comforting to have so many people want so badly to get their last greetings in.  In another way, though, it has been terribly frustrating.  People have their own lives to live, and we have to somehow mesh hectic schedules.  During routine times, this is accomplished easily enough.  With only around a week left to pack, get our house in order, give the grandparents enough time to last them a year or more with out the wee ones, and all the last minute minutia...well, finding time to squeeze in a few dozen fare-thee-wells has been frustrating to say the least.
My days are filled with packing, cleaning, more packing, wondering just HOW I managed to collect so much stuff that needs to be shipped off to the local charity shop, packing, trying to find where, in the chaos, I laid down the bundle of important documents to take with us, and, then, another box to pack.  Then there is the packing.
Hmm, I suppose we all know what has been foremost in my mind of late. 
The farewells and parties have had another downside; in that my wee ones seem to suddenly realize they won't see cousins and friends for a long time.  There have been a few tearful moments at these times.  There has been some erosion of careful preparations to prevent emotional trauma to little travelers.  There have been some gut wrenching decisions about who to see when and frustration at not being able to do everything we would like.
Still, on the flip side, these tears and frustrations only occur when there exists a slew of well wishers and loving friends who have taken time out of their lives to spend a moment with us.  All in all, I suppose it is better to sob our way through the week than for it to pass with little or no notice.