Saturday, November 26, 2011

El Clasico

Last Sunday afternoon I went to "El Clasico"--a soccer game between the two biggest teams in Paraguay.  Traditionally, it can become dangerous, because the fans want to badly for their team to win.  So we got the slightly more expensive tickets a little farther away from the danger, and paid close attention to who we were near and when.  We planned to go to the stadium an hour early, but got a text from a friend saying the area where our tickets were for was filling up--fast!  So we practically ran the 10-12 blocks to the stadium, and in the process of searching for two side-by-side seats, a friend of my friend noticed us and had two seats.  (Thank you, Lord!!)  We got to sit right at mid-field, and had a great view of the entire game.
 The fans for Cerro Porteño, all on one half of the field.

 The fans of Olympia, all on the other half of the field.

 I was told the tickets across the field from us don't sell as much because if it's sunny, you're in the sun the entire game.

Cerro getting ready to start the game.  At the bottom of the picture are a few policemen.

The game ended in a tie: 0-0.  That's right.  
The first El Clasico (back in August) ended in a tie as well: 1-1.
The reason they can end in a tie, is that this is a months-long tournament with other teams here in the country.  If the score is different, the winner gets 3 points, and the loser gets 1 point to add to their tally.  If they tie, they each get 1 point to add to their tally.  On the positive side, since each team got 1 point added, and no one won the game, there really wasn't any violence at the end of the game. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Manifold Evidence

         This week, I have seen a lot of evidence, evidence of many different things: a world without Christ, a mouse in the house, a friend placed in my life by God, and a returning Savior. 
         This week I began to experience a small beginning of what is called "culture shock."  Thankfully, it's not a taser-like sensation.  [There are vendors selling tasers on the street here.  They walk up and down the street triggering the little device...all the while I can't help giggling and thinking "Don't Taze Me, Bro!"]  But nonetheless, culture shock is...well, shocking.
         My pastor here was recently talking about why adolescents struggle--they are in the middle of massive changes: relational, emotional, physical, spiritual, and spreading their wings to leave the house--and I realized THAT is why missionaries struggle when they get to the field!  We're basically teenagers again, in all the awkward ways.  Our friendships and family members are in another country, and we ache for time with them, at the same time God is placing in our lives new friendships and like-family.  We physically are in a new climate; a new house; a new pattern of living; new items in the grocery store (or old items more than twice the cost in the U.S.); and, for some, a new style of dress.  We are recognizing more than ever before the spiritual battle with the enemy that goes on for a soul--for the unsaved to never become followers of Christ, and for the saved to be distracted beyond usefulness.  And sometimes a spiritual battle within ourselves, as we meet all these changes, and wonder "Did God really send me here?  Did I hear Him wrong?"  A dear friend of my grandparents, and now of mine, told me a few years ago,
"Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light." 
--Dun Gordy                       
Oh, how comforting to remember those words of wisdom as the "dark" seems to settle in. [Disclaimer: So you can focus on the heart of this post, I am not doubting my presence in Paraguay--but at times, missionaries do wonder if God really wanted them to leave the comforts they knew for everything they don't know.]
         So this week, and really, I guess going back as far as two weeks, I've begun the culture shock process--and so far, the best way for me to continue through it is to remember that what bothers me is evidence of Christ-less lives.  And that gives me a more motivation.  Motivation to study Spanish more thoroughly, to be able to use it more appropriately.

         On the practical, icky side of culture shock there is evidence ::ahem:: of at least one mouse in my kitchen.
         Where I eat.
                  Where I store my food.
So today, when I got up a little later than normal, I found, waiting to greet me in the kitchen, a little gray mouse.  I gave the neighbors great breakfast entertainment--should've charged tickets!--as I tried to keep the mouse in one room of the house...without going anywhere near it.  I quickly made plans to go get traps and peanut butter.  (I wonder if Eve begged Adam to set the traps for her in their first home?  When was "the best mouse trap" made?  When will the "better mouse trap" be made?!) 
          But I had a God-given friend coming to make cookies.  I started praying a while ago that God would give me a really good friend in Paraguay.  What I meant (or what I thought I meant) was a Paraguayan friend.  I guess what I kept asking for was a good friend in Paraguay.  And God answered, with my new friend whom we shall call G, a fellow American.  G came to PY for two months, and leaves on Monday.  So today was kind of our personal "goodbye" time to visit together, and she wanted to make cookies for her host family.  She got here, and started preparing to make cookies--but I warned her about the mouse, which was last seen near the stove (but I had to go answer the door, so who really knows now???)  Out of her backpack came a bag, with a  brown mouth sticking out of it.  I had told her a few weeks ago that 3 years ago in Monterrey, Mexico I wanted to buy myself a souvenir, but was advised not to because there was no room in my suitcase.  Really, it was wise advice, but in three years, I always have regretted not buying it.
Friendship is manifested in different ways--

That's right, folks, G bought me a cow head.  
And it pretty much made my day. 
Considering I had been out of bed for about 30 minutes and 29 of that had been watching a mouse take a self-tour through my kitchen, I realize that's not saying a whole lot. 

     THEN G superceded my expectations.  She started moving things.  She started looking for the mouse!  If there was any doubt (which I think we would both agree that God totally put our friendship together), this was evidence to me that He loves me: enough to give me mouse-hunting, cow-head-giving friends!  We encountered the mouse, but I'm pretty sure we lost him between the wood paneling and concrete wall in my office.  I like to think that he took a stroll on the wild side and went out the open door while we weren't looking.  But, I'm on the offense now--and I've got traps set in two rooms.

       So, that's a brief snapshot of how I'm doing these days.  Please do pray for me as I enter this initial time of culture shock.  Pray that I'll keep my focus on Christ, and not on myself, or my surroundings.  Pray for G as she returns to the US & prays about returning to PY in the upcoming year. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

When In Rome...

Around the time I was leaving the US, I frequently heard "There's an App for that!"  Well, here I am hearing "There's a yuyo (sounds like jew-joe) for that!"  Paraguayans as a whole seem to really like natural remedies--and I'm willing to try them.  Since it generally just means drinking what we might call weed-water, I'm okay with trying things out.  (I have a friend in Asia who had a friend scrape her back with a coin...she left with 33 stripes!)

Cola de Caballo=Horsetail 

This week I've had a urinary tract infection, and my friend suggested I drink cola de caballo.  She gave me some today to try, and said to boil it in a liter of water for 1-2 minutes.  I can drink it hot or cold (I'm going with cold tomorrow because it's 74* outside...and I did some research--it's a diuretic.  Definitely not drinking it before I go to bed!)

According to Wikipedia, "The plant contains several substances which can be used medicinally. It is rich in the minerals silicon (10%), potassium, and calcium. The buds are eaten as a vegetable in Japan and Korea in spring time."  It also came with some long-term use warnings, so despite the many benefits, looks like this is not a daily thing I'll be drinking.

The list of illnesses it treats were quite diverse:
  • Kidney and bladder stones.
  • Edema
  • Weight loss.
  • Hair loss.
  • Gout.
  • Frostbite--definitely not an issue here
  •  Fluid retention.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Incontinence.
  • Tuberculosis
  • Jaundice
  • Hepatitis
  • Osteoarthritis and osteoprosis
  • Use on the skin for wound healing.
  • Strengthen fingernails
  • Polish pewter and wood--yikes!
  • Other conditions.
 And my favorite use I found:
It was used by Hurdy-Gurdy players to dress the wheels of their instruments by removing resin build up

Everyone hates a resin-chunked Hurdy-Gurdy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Please pray--

Please pray for me this week, I woke up this morning with a UTI & started taking antibiotics late morning.  Thankfully, it's an easy "fix"--because of my history with UTIs, I know when I have one (ie--don't have to go to the doctor for a test), and the medicine I'm always prescribed is over-the-counter here.

Please pray that my body will respond quickly and completely to the medicine--thanks!  Carrie 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Needless to Say...

...I'm not interested in going anywhere today.  It's been raining for the majority of the past 48 hours, so I think I'll curl up with some reading & grammar.
(Picture from

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Long-Awaited, Likely-Forgotten Answer this post...
CLICK HERE to know what I'm talking about

The question in the post three months ago, was "What that thing used for?!"

I can't say with complete confidence, but I'm pretty sure drinking "térere" is a national past-time, right up there on the list with soccer, appropriately known as "futbol."  This particular cup is hollowed out wood, but there are also silver or cups made out of cow hooves.  I don't mind the wooden or silver ones. :-)  This particular cup is for some friends back in the U.S.

From the picture above, you can see that the "bombilla" or straw has a filtered end.  This is very necessary, as the "yerba" is dried and cut, leaves.  The direct translation to English is "weed, herb, grass."  The yerba is harvested from the South American holly tree.  The flavor is a little bitter, but it grows on you after a while, and I'm getting to where I like it.  This is a staged picture, because there is no ice in the water.  Generally, when drinking térere, the more ice in the water the better.

Drinking térere is a group activity--using one cup, one straw, and one pitcher of ice water (or more depending on how long they'll be drinking!)  It's more of a social activity than anything else, I think.  One person is responsible for serving, so they pour the water into the cup, and pass it to the left. After each person drinks all the water in the cup, they hand it back to the server, only to pass it right along to the next person on the left.  It's very typical to see a group of Paraguayans sitting in a circle drinking térere.

So, what does térere do?  Here's a list I found on line of the benefits (note, this website was trying to sell the yerba, so I'm not sure of the true accuracy!)

•Strengthens the immune system
•Reduces fatigue
•Reduces blood pressure
•Breaks down fat (lipolytic)
•Balances sleep patterns
•Delivers oxygen to the heart and lungs during exercise
•A great diet aid
•Increases focus
•Increases creativity
•Increases strength, energy and endurance
Recent research has shown that Yerba:
•Reduces cholesterol
•Contains antioxidants
•Contains 15 amino acids
•Contains 24 vitamins and minerals
•Is a whole body tonic

The main effect I've noticed in just about everyone, is that soon after drinking a quantity of térere, everyone needs to use the bathroom!  It seems to be a diuretic.  I'm planning to get a termo (thermos), bombilla (straw) and guampa (cup) in the next few months.  I've got my eye out for a really good set!

Monday, November 07, 2011

And the Results are in!

 On September 18th, I had a language evaluation to see how I've progressed (or in this particular case, regressed) in my Spanish.  Two weeks ago I got the results of my evaluation, and I was quite surprised at how much I didn't regress.  Remember, after studying Spanish in Mexico for 11 months, I left at level 6 of 8...but then I spent 18 months in the U.S.  I expected that my language level would have dropped down to level 4, but, it only dropped one level--to 5!

This level is called "Progressing Mid", which basically means that I'm in the middle.  (Down south, they call this "fair to middling.") As far as language, it means that I can communicate fairly well in Spanish with people who are accustomed to how foreigners talk.  I have a fair amount of vocabulary; know quite a few verb tenses, but don't use most of the regularly in their appropriate time frame; I regularly confuse the articles preceding nouns & adjectives (everything here has a gender); and I need to learn how Paraguayans use prepositions instead of translating in my head from English to Spanish.

 The simple explanation: I can frequently understand enough to think I understood but still often misunderstand the meaning behind the words.  

The goal for level 8: To understand almost everything, minus the occasional word in a new topic, and even understand why the Paraguay is saying what they are saying.

Simply put, I have a lot of work ahead of me--but I have to remember that I have a lot of work behind me, too.  The upcoming levels are some of the hardest to work through, because of the more complicated verbs (remember learning what "I would have eaten was called?)  I'm also learning Paraguayan culture, which will take quite a while.

I thank you profusely for your prayers--they are a huge part of what keep me going each day.  My next language evaluation should be in January, so in February we should know how much progress I made in my first six months in Paraguay!

Appliances, check.

 Last week I was able to get my final appliance for the kitchen: the washerIt's been thoroughly welcomed to the family (I named her Wanda), and I was so excited to wash clothes (never thought I'd say that!)
Some interesting things about washers here:
-most of the top-load washers, the lid actually folds in half.  
-washers are measured by how many kilos of laundry it can do.  Due to the type I wanted, mine is 7.5k (16.5lbs); a friend informed me that my washer is "nearly industrial!"  Which struck me really funny, because of how small it is. :-)
-until further notice, my washer drains into the right side of the kitchen sink.  The plumber was supposed to come at 8am, but for some reason didn't come today.   
-next to the washer is a little Rubbermaid(ish) container holding my laundry detergent.  I'm hoping this deters critters from living inside of it.
-Wanda likes doing laundry so much, she plays a song at the end of the wash cycle.  This makes me happy!

The landlady is loaning me this table and the chairs until I get my own.  It's been nice to have a place to eat & have grammar class.  The green tray on the table was a necessary purchase.  It's ideal here to serve drinks on a tray, so when I have a group over I empty the items off the tray & use it for juice or water.  Can you see the little spray bottle next to the sink?  It gets used pretty often, because it's 50/50 water/vinegar.  I'm trying to get rid of gnats that have decided to take over the kitchen.  

The stove hasn't been announced here either, but I got it last month.  It's a four burner, but the oven space is a lot smaller than we would normally find in the U.S.  It has a little cover over it, and I really don't know why.  But it comes in handy since the only place to put it is under the chimney that the bugs come down from.  And, yes, that little green bottle peeking around the side is a propane the to the flaming stove.  It still makes me a little nervous, and I usually turn the gas off each time I'm done using the stove "just in case."  A few weeks ago I was also able to get my water filter put together.  I'm very happy to have this done, and I'm enjoying drinking many liters of rust-free water everyday!