Saturday, November 7, 2009

Terere: how we live with the heat

It’s time we talk about terere. It’s hip, it’s cool and everyone’s doing it. I figure tonight’s a good night for this entry. It was about 41 or 43 degrees Celsius today, not really sure what that is in F but probably somewhere in between 100 and 145,296,238. The radio actually advises you to not go out during the afternoon hours without an umbrella to hide from the sun (or course I didn’t bring one). Ok riddle me this… why, in a country with this heat, do they think it’s a good idea to have hot soup, rice or pasta at lunch every day?!?! I mean HOT soup! What?! Why does this make sense!?? Ugh I can’t even think about it right now.
Anyway, last night I went to bed at ten and at 10:45 I awoke not by a noise, but by a lack of noise, lack of my fan noise to be precise. The power had gone out!!! Oh em gee! My room became a sauna in about 2 minutes. It was awful!
So, girls aren’t supposed to sleep with the window open because it could be perceived as you’re waiting for a guy to jump in your window or as an open invitation to jump in your window. We call this midnight visitor a jakare and it happens more in the campo (country) but it’s still known about here. There have been stories of volunteers who have innocently smiled at a guy every day as she walked to work and innocently slept with the window open not knowing that that guy thought her smiling and open window was something more, and one night he showed up at her window!

Anyway, jakare or not I was opening my window! It was so hot I figured I’d take my chances! Besides, there are bars on my window and I live way off any main roads. Plus, Sadam would here them and bark, maybe. Actually I was more worried about mosquitoes. But there was a nice wind outside and I laid on the other bed I have next to the window as close as I could to the breeze and thought about cold pools. About an hour later the power came back on and I was able to go back to my bed and resume my hot, sweaty sleep. I’ve learned it’s very hard to sleep in the hot hot heat, but when I do fall asleep I seem to have dreams that, if I were to write them down, would actually be a terrific scary movie. I’ve had 3 nights of horrible dreams, the most recent involving zombies.

One thing that’s amazing to do in this heat, cold showers. Absolutely important in my life right now. We’ve been running at night around 7 and I come home and have a cold shower and do not want to leave my bathroom hut. So good! The fun thing is, it’s only spring!! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! So this brings me to my second subject…what can you do as a Paraguayan living in an oven to stay cool for the months of spring and summer??

Well, I’ve been told multiple times by various Paraguayans that without terere, they wouldn’t be able to survive. So what is it? It’s a drink, it’s a conversation, it’s good company, it’s cooling, and, like I said, everyone’s doin it.
Basically, it’s a drink with herbs, kinda like tea. It can be drunk hot (mate..pronounced ma-tay) or cold (terere. It’s also the reason we don’t get a water purifier here like many other volunteers get around the world, but I’ll talk more of that later.

What you need to drink terere:

A termo –thermos

A guampa- special cup usually made out of a cow horn or metal with leather around it or wood. if you don’t have one any cup will do really

A bombilla- straw. Special metal straw, the bottom is shaped like a spoon with holes to let the water through but to strain the herbs out

Water and ice

Yuyos- the herbs

There are many different kinds of yuyos and they can make the terere or mate taste different and have different properties. Like using menta’i makes it taste minty, kapi’i kati helps if you have a fever, cedron kapi’i is lemon grass and koku is for digestion and hangovers.

So as you’re chillin sittin in your circle someone will bust out their termo full of ice water and guampa with dried crushed up yuyos inside. These can be bought or you can find your own and grind them up, it’s like a tea bag but without the bag part and a lot of it, in a cup. One person will act as the server and will pour water into the guampa, the first pour soaks into the herbs and disappears so the first pour is for “Santo Tomas” since it just disappears like someone drank it. Then the server will pour more in until it’s almost to the rim and the server drinks it through the bombilla. Next he’ll pour in more water and pass it to the next person who sips it through the bombilla and hands it back to the server. It goes on like this till everyone participating has had a turn and starts again with the server.


When given the guampa don’t say gracias unless you don’t want more after that. Once you say gracias it means you’re done and don’t want to be included in the circle anymore.

Never touch the bombilla while you’re drinking. I don’t know why, just don’t do it.

Pass it back to the server when finished

Remember, it’s not a microphone. Drink it quick and pass it back

Drink all the water in one gulp more or less. It’s not much really. You can take a bunch of sips just don’t take a sip and take your mouth off and then take another sip…nahaniri (no) all at once. Unless it’s mate (when they use hot water not ice water), that can be really hot and you don’t want to burn your tongue.

When finished it’s best to clean the guampa and bombilla right away so it doesn’t harden

Ok that’s it. Cool and refreshing and keeps everyone alive. There are commercials on the tv for different brands of herbs you can buy. And everyone carries around their termo and guampa with them, you will see police walkin around with them, teenagers after school, all our trainers, bus drivers have a helper who pours the water for them to do it while they drive, and today when we went to visit the sugarcane factory there was a sign that said: prohibited to smoke, talk on the cell phone and drink terere, and it had a picture of a guampa and bombilla with a red slash through it! In guaraní there is even a verb for drinking terere: aterere! It is a huuuuge part of the culture and some of us have bought our gear and are ready to go. I still have yet to but I’ll get there soon, then I can be a real Paraguaya!

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