Sunday, November 11, 2012

Si o Si

(Things I’ve set to accomplish no matter what).

Fact: My Peace Corps Paraguay experience simply wouldn’t be complete without first compiling a list of ”must dos” and second, proceeding to check each one off as I count down what little time I have left. The following is such a list including the details of both actual and emotional fulfillment:

*(Ride a Horse)—Check
Giddy Up (7/31/2012)

My beloved hermanita (little sister) Paola went off to college earlier this year, but we still manage to keep in touch through texts and hang out when she needs a study break on the weekends. One day during Winter Break, she messaged me saying she remembered how I repeatedly stated last year my goal of getting back on a horse. Not only did she mention the possibility of a place we could go to make it happen, —but in Isla nevertheless! I told her that I would still very much like to try it out again, to please look into it, and get back to me a.s.a.p. I got a call the very next day to meet at my host family’s house por la tarde (in the afternoon). I arrived and found both Paola and Carolina waiting for me with just as much nervous excitement. After my host mom wished us suerte (good luck), the three of us made our way out the door and began walking. On the way, Paola informed me that Aron (the family dog)’s veterinarian also happened to cuidar (take care of) some horses on a small ranch during his spare time, and that he was graciously offering to let us ride one of them free of charge. A very protective dog was the first to notice our presence; Roberto (the Vet) greeted us next followed by a quick hola from another occupied ranch hand. We were quickly offered a seat along with the always-refreshing tereré while each of us took in our surroundings. Not long after, a beautiful chestnut stallion was guided into view. Roberto turned to us and asked “Y quien se va primero?” (Who’s going first?). Paola, Carolina, and I all turned to look at one another, shifting glances until the bravest decided to advance. In the end it was Carolina who stepped up and took the first ride. Paola and I watched anxiously while waiting for our fears to reside and our turns to come. I went next and surprised myself with how comfortable I felt so quickly on horseback—as if I’d been ridding just days before instead of years ago. My only hesitation was although there was a saddle, there was nowhere to grip should something unexpected occur; alternatively, we were told to grasp fistfuls of the horse’s mane. Of course this made me uncomfortable at first as I was worried about hurting the animal, but Roberto assured me repeatedly that it would do no harm. So, I did as he instructed and he showed me by so it let the horse to go wherever I commanded it to. Tugs to the left, right, or towards the rider were all signals the horse was well trained to understand. Roberto even agreed to hold the reigns as an extra precaution. Together we did a few laps trotting around the open field and finished off with some galloping. The latter part was riskiest yet the most thrilling because I’d never had such an experience (not even during previous excursions). For a moment I understood completely why riding is also a sport (especially in Paraguay). It’s a pure adrenaline rush. The bold push the limits while others look on in awe and envy. It’s an entertaining good time for all, a win-win. So, I’d say in the end I got all that I’d hoped for plus some. Not too shabby for a novice cowgirl ;)  

*(Grill Out)--Check
What’s Cookin’? (8/18/2012)

It’s true some things just don’t compare with the likes of home, but there are a few exceptions that come close. I like to think that a cookout is one of those things, which is precisely why I decided to buy a grill. Ingredients aren’t as limited as I believed when I first arrived; and not to brag, but I’m getting pretty good at finding substitutes when need be. I suppose it can be chalked up to the simple fact that Peace Corps tends to force a person to adjust—especially a determined person, like myself. So once I made up my mind on a whim that it was time to fire up the grill again, I called up a few local and volunteer friends to invite them over and join me.
Six swung by and we all ate to our hearts’ content considering the conditions were perfect with: music to kick back to, pleasant weather, and a hammock strung up between two Mandarin trees. On top of that everything on the menu was delicious (see below) and the conversations interesting as always. I mean grilled food, good company, what more does a person need in life? Not much else if you ask me!

The following was served/consumed at the cookout:
(Read it and weep, Lol.)

-Grilled Chicken—courtesy of Grillmaster Zach
-Couscous Salad—courtesy of Marissa
-BBQ Beans—courtesy of yours truly J
-Chips & Dip (French Onion)—courtesy of Rose
-Pasta Salad—courtesy of Jaime
-Garlic/Rosemary Rolls—also courtesy of Rose

*(Run Again)—Check
Adidas 10K (8/26/2012)

Shortly after arriving in Isla, in part due to laziness but mostly as a safety precaution, I decided it was probably best not to just taking off running one day. Although I stifled the urge too many times to count—after one of my daily encounters with unsolicited male attention, almost immediately after digesting a piping hot plate of fried tortillas (they tend to cause a gal to form a love/hate relationship: so bad for you, yet so delicious), when someone makes an unfiltered comment in regards to my most recent weight fluctuation—the latter two not uncommonly following suit of the other. Yet this year something in me changed. As I familiarized myself with my surroundings more and more, I also came to the realization that I’d slowly eased into a comfort zone I’d subconsciously built for myself. No longer was I the “newbie” amongst my colleagues nor the odd “stranger” within my community. I’d learned my way around and therefore blended in (as much as one can forever being the odd one out). However, in the process I’d also let fear and the judgment of others strongly influence my happiness and overall well-being. In hindsight, I’d learned to “live like the people” but lost part of my individuality; a harsh but true reality that I refused to fully accept. As far back as I can remember I'd always been unique without trying—always marched to the beat of my own drum and been proud to carry the label. Why should now be any different? Simply put, it shouldn’t. Which is precisely why I would respect the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of others as before and as always, but make my personal choices well, mine again. Everyone knows any drastic change calls for drastic measures, right? So when Rose called me up one day and mentioned the idea of participating in a “10k”, I saw it as just the right push I knew I’d need. Not to mention the freshly paved ciclovia (bike path) within blocks of my house seemed to be calling my name. I could get into shape for the marathon while regaining the part of me I’d felt I’d temporarily lost, perfecto. And that’s just what I did. Each day up until the race I pushed myself to go a little further using both my aspiring inner and outer confidence as motivation. Despite the fact that the morning of wasn’t anything remotely similar to the weather I’d spent weeks training in, I still felt nothing but excitement. The starting point was packed. Thousands of others filled the course and a cheering crowd surrounding us all added to the adrenaline rush we already felt. When the start trigger sounded off I thought about all of the urges I’d held in time and time again and how I was finally giving into one sin verguenza (without shame). It was an awesome feeling and I relished it! Rose and I stayed in pretty close strides the entire time despite the inclined and uneven roads. After crossing the finish line, we received medals along with bags full of replenishing and promotional items on behalf of Adidas. Following taking a rest and enjoying a juice box for a few minutes, we wandered amongst the additional tents set up by sponsors and found a particularly interesting one offering a free electro-therapy session. We decided to try it and both agreed afterwards we’d made a good decision. It was also then that we realized how chilly the air really was in conjunction with us being sweaty and dressed for warmer weather. Although we had a strong sense of accomplishment and relaxation, the walk back to our hostel was not the least bit pleasant. Actually, by the time we reached it my hands were too numb to unpin my participant number, but Rose was kind enough to assist me. Then once I’d devoured some peanuts (the salt=heaven) and taken a hot shower was I able to lie down and fully take in the morning’s triumphs. To summarize: hello again exercise and welcome back weird girl hehe ;)

Rose & I post-race :) :) :)

*(Host a Party)--Check
Halloween Bash + Class (10/27/2012 & 10/30/2012)

I can’t pinpoint the exact date, but sometime last year I turned to Rose and said “I am having a Halloween party next year si o si (no matter what)!” The idea seemed exciting, as I had never hosted one before; I also figured this was the perfect opportunity to throw one since I live on my own (making decoration possibilities endless), and Paraguayans love a good time. Unlike in the U.S., Halloween is not celebrated nationwide here regrettably limiting costume options to awful or nothing. I decided instead upon a Masquerade theme with a slight catch—buy a mask (courtesy of Carnaval’s surplus) but be excluded from the contest, or make the best one from scrap materials and the premio (prize) is yours. Gotta love a spot-on example where one’s trash can also bring one(self) treasure, eh? Lol. I even offered to provide mascara (mask) templates one Sunday afternoon as long as folks wore their creative thinking caps and brought decorating materials with them. Three people took up my offer, but I was thrilled to see later on that everyone chose to go the recycled route. A vote was cast amongst the partygoers (hostess excluded) and Rose’s Dark/Light Butterfly won! To keep the good times afloat we also bobbed for apples and tried our brains at a monster guessing game. Thanks to Pinterest (I’m obsessed CC!), I put a bunch of festive decor and clever recipes to good use. And since only a handful of invitees showed, there was plenty of food to go around. We all ate our fill of “Candy Corn” Pizza, “Bloody Bones” breadsticks, 7-layer and “Monster” dips and washed it down with “Potion” punch. It all turned out delicious and I am forever grateful to Rose who helped me put on the final touches, and cooked the majority of everything since we were so crunched for time. We’d scrambled and sweated the afternoon away preparing and didn’t quite complete everything on the to-do list, but it all came together in the end. Guests were even sent home with some homemade bark appropriately wrapped in surgical gloves as favors. C’mon now who would want to miss out on that? Those who were in attendance had a blast for sure and those who missed out did just that, missed out. If this weren’t my last Halloween spent in the heart of South America, I’d definitely do it all again next year J

my Jack-O-Lantern buckets!
As somewhat of a bonus, I also decided that my next English lessons would be based on the topic of Halloween (I mean why not?!) I kicked things off with each class by toting my mask along and announcing that the first to guess correctly the animal I was portraying was to receive a prize. Much to my amusement answers were all over the place. I got sheep, wolf, leopard, and my personal favorite: hormiga (ant). Yet there was always that one lucky student who was able to hit the nail on the head. Jirafa. That’s right I was a giraffe. From there each class differed. With 6th we played a friendly game of “Quien Soy?” (Monster Edition). I selected a volunteer of whom I taped the name of an infamous monster. After showing his/her back to the class, the student then had to ask classmates a series of “yes or no” questions to try and guess their monster. Things ended with a bang…or should I say bark? I sent each one of them (including the teacher*) home with goodie bags of homemade bark leftover from the party. [*Side Note: She occupied an unsuspecting student’s desk when they left it unattended and I had my back turned. Apparently someone was paying extra close attention when I explained earlier how sometimes a trick is necessary in order to receive a treat, ha.] As for 5th grade, some lucky students had their “fortunes” told involving either a “truco” (trick) or a “dulce” (treat). Half the class received extra kettle corn or candy while the other half had to ride a broomstick like a witch or gauze their heads like mummies. The class loved it and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching the amusement/embarrassment as well--all in good fun of course. To end the day, I helped 2nd graders decorate and string up paper bats. The little ones loved using my chalk (a rarity as teachers solely it for lessons) and the majority even carried the final products outside during recess to “let them fly”. Post-recreo (recess), I taught them all how to say and the meaning of “Trick or Treat” followed by some actual Trick or Treating. I gave every kid a plastic glove and stated they could keep whatever they could grab with the gloved hand as long as they said the magic words “Trick or Treat”. Needless to say after diving into a seemingly endless candy sea, the numbers soared from one toothless grin (belonging to my Jack-O-Lantern bucket) to a room full. In summary, a little cultural exchange took place; learning combined with fun always equals a good time—for teacher and students alike!

G-mate/party guest Marissa and I :)

Rose & I pre-party!

*Visit the Zoo/Jardín Botánico

*Cliff Jump

*Have Chinese Food in Mercado 4

*Have a Poolside Picnic

*Go to a Cerro/Olympia Game

*Visit the Local Museums

*Try every flavor at Quattro D


*Make Sopa Paraguaya

*Buy Something Apo’i 


  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Paraguay? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Paraguay in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez

  2. hi emilio. i sent you an email via the address on your blog!