Thursday, October 22, 2009

Food, Comida, Tembi’u

As I sit here on my bed, stomach full of pasta and empanada, I feel the need to touch upon everyone’s favorite subject to complain about here: food. Here’s the rundown…

Lets say you make a list of everything we know we should eat and a list of everything we know we should limit. The “good” list would probably have fruits and veggies and whole grains, legums and lean proteins and the like. The “bad” list would have include lots of sugar salt, oil, animal fat, empty carbs like white bread, rice and pasta and fried things. Good. Now take the bad list and that is what your Paraguayan daily menu will look like…. HOLY CRAP I JUST SAW THE BIGGEST SPIDER ON MY WINDOW. UUUUGH.

Ok, disposed of. by the h mom, who was not grossed out at all. Real mom would have been in the other room. Don’t worry I took a picture.

Anyway, I shouldn’t say everything is unhealthy. We do have salad for lunch. Of course it’s lettuce with tomato with oil and lots of salt on top. And I do get an orange and some bananas every day (the bananas here are much smaller than back home so I get a couple). Here’s a sample of my daily food intake:

Breakfast: cocido. I forget exactly how it’s made but it’s boiled water made on a brasero (charcoal grill) and you put sugar in the water along with some of the charcoal so it burns. Take the charcoal out add milk and that’s my breakfast. Burn sugar milk tea with white hard bread sticks.

Snack: my banana and orange (yay fiber!)

Lunch: some form of oily soup with white pasta and tough beef fat (which I usually cut up and pick at so it looks like I eat it, but I sneak some to the dog) and oily salty salad. To drink a glass of juice made from a powder you mix with water which is all sugar. And of course mandioca, a tuberous starch kinda like a potato that they eat plain with every meal. It’s a staple here.

Afternoon snack: we’re in training for this Ricardo usually brings us cookies and bananas. We also found this amazing ice cream place we sometimes frequent after class.

Dinner: usually something fried like empanadas filled with hard boiled eggs or tortillas which are not what we think of tortillas. It’s pretty much fried dough greasy oilyness. The first couple I had were pretty good but, I’m over it now.

So when I weighed myself today and realized I’ve lost 8 lbs since I’ve gotten here I thought ‘there’s no way…’ then I realized, it’s my muscles! Atrophying away from inactivity! Weeeeeoooooo! But I bought an exercise mat and will try to do more pilates in my room, maybe some running although 1. it’s hot and 2. I will get laughed at. Apparently someone running just to be healthy and active is extremely funny although the humor goes right over my head.

Unfortunately we have no control over what we eat until we get out to site and live on our own. Some people have it a little better in their house, some the same. Ways we’ve coped: buy fruits! They have fruit in the market, I just never see my fam eating it. We don’t eat everything they serve us, if you try to please them by eating everything you’re just hurting yourself. and if ever we’re served raw veggies we devour them in seconds. They can grow many things here, but unfortunately a lot of Paraguayans when they see a garden they say ooh how pretty, look at all the cebollita (green onions) they’ll be great for our tortillas. Yep, put em in dough and fry em up, then we’ll eat em.

I just have to keep thinking, things will get better in 5 months when I can start to reverse the effects the Paraguayan diet has had on my poor body!

mandioca, salty salad and rice. the rice wasn´t to bad actually it was pretty good. sure beats oily soup! and i had fresh made carrot and orange juice, really good as well. still to be determined if she puts sugar in it or not though...

Soja! a blog in pictures

Today we made soy stuff!! The beekeepers came over and we all split into 4 groups depending on language (spanish or guarani) of five or six and went to different houses to cook some soy foods. My house was one of the houses which was aaawsome. course it was with a guarani group but it´s ok. We went to the house with 2 language teachers and my h mom and Lizzy were there. We had the soy beans soaking overnight so they were ready to go in the mornin for us. here´s how it went...

unfortunatly i can´t caption the pictures but..first we took the shells off the beans. then we made some tortillas by fryin up some stuff.then we blended up the soy beans and made some milk which we added apples to for sweatness. we squeezed drained the milk thru a cheesecloth and used the soy ¨meat¨ to put into our empanadas which we fried up. we also made some salad. We had a very good lunch that day :) (that´s my h mom in the red shirt)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Visit to a real live volunteer!

This weekend we went to visit a volunteer at their site just to see what life is like as a volunteer. Environmental volunteers who have either been here for a year or two years were to have us at their site and stay with a host family and show us their life. After our day in Asuncion on Thursday we found out who we were going to visit and if we had to leave Friday because they were far away or Saturday if they were closer. So I was off to visit Kevin two hours away at his site where he’s been living for a year. Not a bad ride since other people had 7 and 8 hour bus rides, plus another volunteer was taking the same bus and getting off before me. the bus was crowded so we had to stand for most of the ride in the isle and there were all these vendors selling snacks going up and down the isle that had to awkwardly squeeze past every 10 mins. They would jump on and off at random stops, must be the thing to do here. Kinda like the knife salesman that came on our bus when we were going into Asuncion thurs.

So I got there around 11am and Kevin was waiting for me at the terminal. After introductions over lunch we went to his house which on the outside looked like an old big shack but it’s a sweet deal what he’s got. The yard is big with a lot of fruit trees and it’s all fenced in. The house belongs to some guy in Italy and the landlord is letting Kevin live there rent free to look after it. It needed some work like a new sink and he bought a fridge and a mattress but everything else he is borrowing from neighbors like his bed and tables. There are four big rooms but no doors other then the bathroom door, and the bathroom is nice. Running water, hot water, electricity, the works.

We had a lot to do though, first we went over to this church that some of his friends volunteer at. Ever Saturday they provide a snack to the poorer kids in a community near this one. The snake was just rolls that we put some jam in but the kids came, about 37, and first they all sat down and got ready to sing. They love to sing songs here with kids and the kids love doing it. They sang along to this tape they played with kid church songs on it, then the girl running it taught them a mini lesson about being nice, then they went to the park next door to pick up trash. So that’s good, teachin them some garbage management, but then of course they burn the trash so……that’s not so good. Then they ran back in and washed their hands and had their snack with hot chocolate. They kept staring at me like they do and I think they were calling me Miley Sirus … or at least the one girl was talking about her.

After we had to go to another church and give a speech on global warming. A youth group was doing a campout that night so we walked out pretty far out of this town looking for the church. We were alittle late but we knew they were watching the movie first, or so we thought. When we finally got there turns out they hadn’t even started it because they were waiting for us, and asked us if we needed to rest before they started it. we told them we’d be able to sit and watch the movie without resting first because we’re guapo like that (here the word guapo doesn’t mean pretty like it does in other Spanish speaking countries, it means hard working. It’s very important to be guapo here they like that). So the movie they picked out to watch for our global warming charla (speech) was… the day after tomorrow. In Spanish. It was pretty long. But after we played an icebreaker game and then Kevin did a chat on global warming and how they can help reduce it in Paraguay. (most of their power is from a hydroelectric power so they’re good on that one, although they cut down their trees like there’s no tomorrow).

After that we had a birthday party to go to. A teacher he works with at school was turning 24. So we walked back down the long dirt road and got back into town and to her house. Tables were set up in the dirt yard and there were lights all over the trees. It looked very nice, the food was already on the plate at all the seats so we just sat down and started eating. Ok so on the plate was hunks of meat, and potato salad and rice salad and..a salad and of course sopa paraguay. Ugh. There was a lot on it and the only good thing was the potato salad. I didn’t want to appear rude and have it look like I wasn’t eating anything but I couldn’t’ eat all that! So it sat on my plate for awhile and what luck, a dog came by. He had a good meal that night… during the dinner there was a Paraguayan group singing traditional Paraguayan songs! 2 guitars and a accordion, it was really nice to hear. After we ate came the cake. It looked really nice a lot of icing, and it was a circle shape. They cut cake different here, she cut a small ring around the outside of the circle and then cut little pieces of that ring so it was like little slivers of cake. And thank god it was! Because I was all excited and took a bite and it was…not yummy. Ugh another thing I had just get it down and over with quick and hope she didn’t’ give me more. So that was the party. And what would be a birthday party without a lot of sitting around and staring, which is what we did. Then we left.

Sunday was a chill our day. We watched movies and there was a huge rainstorm that killed the power for a few hours but it was nice and we walked in it and got soaked. Made a stir fry for dinner though which was an awesome change.

Monday Kevin does a radio show for an hour at 8 with some other volunteers. We went over to the station, or room with a computer in it, and we were the only ones there. So Kev had to do the show on his own. I wasn’t about to get on air and wing a radio show about the environment with my Spanish! So I just hello. That’s all they get from me. but it went well, played some music, talked about gardening, who knows who listens to it but I’m sure there’s gotta be one or two people! After we went to one of the schools he works at on Monday where he made a garden with the kids. It’s a special needs school which is kinda unique there’s not many that I’ve seen or heard about around. There’s a fica volunteer here, it’s kinda like the Peace Corps but a Japanese version. Speaking of Japan, this community has a lot of Japanese Paraguayans living in it. A bunch settled here to grow rice or something awhile ago and they’re pretty integrated now. But they do still learn to speak Japanese and about their culture. I met one volunteer and it was cool because her Spanish was like mine, we’re both still learning.

After we went to lunch, had some terere during the siesta, then went to Kevin’s main school that he works at every day. He made a huge garden there with his different classes! So sometimes he just goes and sits in the library, other times teachers may ask him to teach a class on some environ theme, he also just got a grant to buy more books for the library because they really don’t have many. He’s doing a good job over there. After that we met up with another volunteer who was hosting a trainee as well and we all went and had a Japanese dinner at the Japanese hotel in town. IT WAS SO GOOD! Such a nice chaaaange. They brought out a nice spead of sushi and noodles and tofu with shitake mushrooms and dumplings and other things. Nice change of pace. After we all played uno.

Left Tuesday morning at 11 and got home around 2 (after spending time at the internet cafĂ©). At home I hung out with the fam for a bit then decided to have a nap. Ok. So this is random and weird. I go into my room and close the door, unpack my bag and lay on my bed and have a 30 min nap. I’m drifting in and out of sleep and at one point I hear a little noise under my bed like a cat is under there. I figured it was just Pingy and went to look if she was under there. No. it was not Pingy. It was a small child!?!?!?!? He appeared to be sleeping on my cold tile floor, I left my room and told my h mom there was a small child under my bed, she was like what? And I repeated and she went to look, she came back and was like “ooh that’s just Gustavo, he’s so crazy. He’s your friend” I don’t know little Gustavo nor did little Gustavo ask to sleep under my bed. I think what happened was his mom was gonna take him to the dentist and he was hiding and my door was open so he went in there and hid and fell asleep. So lesson learned, always check for small children under your bed.

Speaking of which I’m gonna do that now. It’s 8:14 pm! Bed time waits for no man! Night!

here´s some pics of the massacre of my toe to get out my third pique. some uno times in the room that looks like it could be out of one of the texas chainsaw movies. and a really good dinner we cooked!

Friday, October 16, 2009

a quicky

I came here with all intentions of posting my blog about my weekend site visit, but subsequently forgot my pindrive in my room. Que lastima! So I´ll take this time to report that yesterday I was pretty sick with a fever and stomach probs, today I´m ok. I was still pretty guapa (hardworking) though since I went to class anyway, fever and all. But I did go to bed at 7 pm...

Today Leah and I started our Dia de Practica, our practice days to do a project in the community just like a real volunteer. we have five days throughout the next 2 months to pull this off even though in real volunteer time this would happen in like 2 days. Anyway we decided we´re gonna go to the school and ask the directora what she would like. They were pretty into it, I brought some school books to show them that we could work with and they were very excited about that. So we decided we would do a class about trees an animals and why we shouldn´t randomly go around killing them with our slingshots for target practice. Then we´ll go outside and plant some trees. Hopefully it will go well!

Chiquitin, my piglet, has become pretty friendly and i can pet him and he rubs his dirty nose all over my feet. Images of Wilber come to mind, I need a spiderweb....

more later..

Sunday, October 4, 2009

La Huerta y El Chanchito: Farmville Live!

La huerta y el conchito: Farmville Live!

Yes that’s right, after my summer months of planting and tilling and harvesting and collecting eggs on my electronic farm on facebook, I can say it all prepared me for… absolutely nothing to do with planting a garden. But I’ll get back to that.

Yesterday we went into Guarambare with the agroforestry group for some more information sessions which included reminding us that although we are here we are not volunteers yet, we still need to earn that spot. So while we already have applied and gotten in (kinda) we’re still on a three month long interview and job training process. So come December when we’re sworn in it will have been a year long application process! And of course, this being a government position, we had papers to sign. Then we watched a movie called “Living on the edge of Death” or something like that which was just as depressing as it sounds. Not about us living on the verge of dying! But about helping communities learn to help themselves as opposed to not teaching them and just giving them money. You know, the whole “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”.

After the other 2 groups showed up and we learned all about vegetable gardens (huertas). We learned how to transplant and why, where to put what in the garden for the best results, how to make organic compost and a fence out of bamboo with a machete and wire, and of course a practical lesson on making of the garden itself. Hoeing, turning the soil, making a raised bed, putting on the fertilizer (compost) and transplanting some little onions and lettuce plants. Good information but I felt like a lot of people knew a lot more about growing plants and organic gardens and soil..and they did, because all I know about was the tomatoes my mom and I tried to grow which just got really big and turned green and fell off (although looking back we could have had fried green tomatoes). On a side note they made us a spread of all sortsa fresh veggies and dip to eat, we descended on the table like Paraguayan children at a candy store. Eating raw veggies here is a big deal, something you don’t get a lot since healthy food here consists of white bread on sugar on white bread on meat and mandioka. It was a fiberus surprise we all needed!

Walked home, watched the news and the lottery like we do every night. The lotto here is a bit different and I’m not sure exactly how it works but the host fam seems to win something like every night. Last night was $3 tonight was $20! After a whole buncha things happened at once. Well two things. First a moto semi crashed, more like fell over in front of the house. The one kid got up and got the moto up and the other wasn’t really moving so my host mom went down there and then he got up, he had just cut his leg. Then this boy showed up holding a screaming piglet about a month old. I’m not sure who the boy was hmom started to tie a rope around its neck and middle like a harness and I thought the boy just need a rope and was showing us his piglet, but then he walked away and left the piglet with us. But he was sooooooooo cute and little. Also terrified out of his mind, deff taken away from his mom way to young but, I could go into a whole entry about how they treat animals here which I won’t do right now. Uh. Anyway after we gave him food for him to step in and he stopped squealing I asked “Por Que tenemos este conchito?” (Why do we have this piglet?) and apparently it was a regalo (gift) and then I asked the question I already knew the answer too : What are we going to do with it *wince*. “We will kill it in four months and eat it”. Of course this I knew. But he’s sooo cute! Can’t get attached! Just like the fuzzy little chicks that hatched last week! Our yard is overflowing with cuteness I can’t even handle it. and more chicks are going to hatch in a couple days!

So today was our half day tech session in which we started our own huerta! We had to finish building a fence, hoe out all the grass, turn over the soil with shovels to aerate it, rake it down, make raised beds and plant the veggies. No standing next to a plot of land and it’s all of a sudden a plot to sew (Farmville). NO! this was 3 hours of hard labor with the hot hot hot sun on our backs and Terere by our side. So much work to get some lettuce, I now have a new appreciation for those little veggies we all eat.

The other night when we were walking our friendly neighborhood farmer invited us into his garden to see his vegetables. He had rows of goodies and he gave us some lettuce and squash to take home. He was just a random guy who said hi to us on the road who wanted to share his garden with us. He was very excited about it. He also showed us his pig he was going to slaughter for new years and invited us into his house for a piece of something that was a pig skin roll with fat. It made my stomach turn just to look at it but he was so happy to give it to us and 4 slices off so we could try it. Omg. We all didn’t know what to do. First off more than half the people in EE are/were vegetarians or ate little meat, which is funny (but not really) because we’re all here in a country who loooooves their meat and thinks you’re absolutely crazy if you don’t. So we all took our slices in a napkin and said we would try it later (by that we meant we’d give it to one of the street dogs). Then he gave us a piece of sopa Paraguay, the countries national dish, which I already knew I didn’t like. I took a bite (it’s kinda like corn bread) and chewed for awhile until I knew I could muscle it down without gagging. After we said our thanks and left I gave my pig skin roll to Mangey, our favorite street dog who we named for his mange, who was very happy to have it.

On another side note, I was sitting outside tonight with the h sis and h dad talking about the environment and the US and Paraguay and Mayans and toads when I realized we were having an actual fast paced conversation without me stopping to think about what words I need to use. Grant it I’m sure my grammar was scary but it’s all about the small steps!

here are some pics: the first one is our Pingy the cat