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.