Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What do you say?

What do you say when someone gives you a compliment?

What do you say when everyone is telling you Merry Christmas?

What do you say when someone asks if you'll marry a Paraguayan?

What do you say when someone asks when you'll be going to work in a tribe?

What do you say when a man greets you on a street and you don't know him?

What do you say when New Year's comes around?

What do you say when someone is in the hospital?

What do you say when a good friend's mom dies?

     These are some of my current questions--and, unfortunately, some are getting answered more quickly than I would like.  The mother of one of my really good friends passed away this morning after a two-week downturn, including a heart attack and pneumonia.  When I said goodbye to her on Friday, I did not expect to see her again on this side of heaven, but still hoped to see her this week and have another chance to pray with her.  She has an amazing testimony of serving the Lord, and has raised her family to serve Him as well.  Tonight there is a vigil being held in their home, and tomorrow will be the funeral.  It hurts that I will be more of an observer-participant this week than a participant-observer, because I don't know what to say to this family.  I understand their pain, but I don't know how to put that into words culturally, in a manner that it will be received well.  I don't like that this event, the death of a friend, has to be a part of language and culture study.  But I will go and support my friends, observe the actions of those around me, and ask questions another day. 
      I will hug my friend, share in her tears, and let her know how much I love her. 
     Please pray for their family, and for the local church as we encourage them through this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ahead of the Game?

Every once in a while, you get a ridiculously true, and sometimes unbelievable recount of my day.

Yesterday, I knew it was going to be hot.  Think 100*, hottest day so far this year (summer) hot.  I'm still waiting on my A/C, which means lots of showers throughout the day and planning ahead to get things done in the slightly cooler (think 85*) parts of the day. 

So yesterday morning at 9:30 (to beat the heat), I headed off to the pharmacy three blocks away, and the supermarket another block farther.  I stopped in at the pharmacy, and the usual pharmacist wasn't there--just a teenager [warning sign] tending the store.  My ears have been bothering me for a few weeks, and after starting with some dizziness Sunday and Monday, I figured I should do something about it.  She gave me three options, two with antibiotics in the drops and one with hydrocortizone.  I chose one with a lesser amount of lidocaine but still having antibiotics and set off for the super market. 

On the way home from the super market, I bought a newspaper to read, and hiked the 3 blocks up the hill to my little house.  I quickly changed clothes to something cooler, put the refrigerated (now lukewarm) grocery items away, and sat down to the internet, only to discover that the girl had sold me eye drops.

So I changed back into street clothes and walked 3 blocks to the pharmacy.  Teenager said she would call the doctor to make sure she was selling me ear drops this time.  She picks up the phone and says, "Tio..."  Tio means uncle in Spanish.  So I left the store with ear drops, after reading the directions inside the box to make sure for myself I had the right thing--it's heating up outside, I'm not feeling amazing, and I reeeeally didn't want to walk three blocks again (when really, the coming and going is 6 blocks.) 

I got home, quickly changed clothes again to something cooler, and pulled out the ear drops to put them in my ears.  I glanced at the bottle and noticed that not only was the seal broken, but the cap itself had been screwed back on so tight the tip popped off.  And you know what I did?  I considered using it.  For about 15 minutes I just sat there staring at this bottle, wondering about the damages of using an open bottle of ear drops with Cipro and Lidocaine, and if something like the Tylenol scare would happen inside my ear.  (After all, this is why we're so seal-savvy in the U.S.)  Since my life pretty much revolves around language learning and hearing, and I need what little hearing I have left...

...I changed back into street clothes and walked 3 blocks to the pharmacy.  Teenager said, "You're not convinced?"  I said, "No, I'd really like these, but the cap is broken."  She had sold me the last one--which of course is why that one happened to be on the shelf!--so she returned my $5 and told me where there was another pharmacy.  A nice, big, shiny, name-brand pharmacy.  At the second pharmacy, I took the bottle out and examined it, checked the expiration date, and made sure the bottle matched the box.

I got home and changed into cooler clothes, and settled down for the horribleness known as putting ear drops in your own ears. 
Start time: 9:30a.m.
Starting temperature: 85*
Final arrival time at home: 11:15a.m.
Temperature upon arriving home: over 90*
City blocks covered: 24.   
Farthest distance from my house: 4 city blocks.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


This week I have the opportunity to take some rest--physical, emotional, and spiritual.  Pray that this will be a productive week spiritually, and that I'll come back refreshed to continue studying language and culture.  I'll leave you with a picture, that shows I have a lot to learn:

The Head Tilt

I love these girls dearly; they are all from my church, and we were on our way to a quince (15th birthday party.)  I guess part of growing up in each culture is learning the appropriate way to pose for a picture.  Personally, I learned through those rough teenage years to not show all 28 teeth in a picture, to try to sit up straight, and to recognize what a "real" smile actually feels like (and the difference between a real smile and a fake smile!)  I guess I should practice The Head Tilt this week during the photo ops. :-)  

I have friends in Asia who had to learn to do the peace sign with their fingers for nearly every picture.  Anything you learned in a different culture about posing for pictures?

Hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

After "A Day That Will Live in Infamy"...

Today, December 8th, is a national holiday in Paraguay.  It is quiet, with few buses or cars on the street.  Everyone seems quieter today, even inside their houses.
Today, around the world, the Catholic church is celebrating the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which has been celebrated now for over 1500 years.  The idea is that from conception, Mary herself was free from sin.  Scripture teaches us that only One was ever free from sin from conception--Jesus Christ, who is 100% God and 100% man. 

But, here in Paraguay, there is a twist--they are celebrating the "Virgin of Miracles" as well.  Over the past two months, I have heard many local stories relating miracles.  Sadly, each one ends with the worship of a person, place, or thing--not the worship of the one and only God who deserves the worship from all peoples and nations.

(picture from abc.com.py)

This is the story here in Paraguay:
         In the sixteenth century (1500s) a converted-to-Catholicism GuaranĂ­ indian was out looking for clay for his sculptures.  While he was out in the woods alone, a group of hostile indians from a neighboring tribe came past.  The now-Catholic indian hid behind a tree and prayed to Mary that she would protect him--and he made a promise to her: if she would protect him from the hostile neighbors, he would sculpt a statue of her out of the tree that was hiding him.  He did in fact live, and fulfilled his promise to Mary by carving the statue of her.  He placed her statue in a local church, and it was housed there until 1603.
          In 1603, a lake near the church flooded, and washed away everything in its path--included the statue of Mary.  As the waters receded, the statue miraculously reappeared, and began to be called the "Virgin of Miracles."  A carpenter constructed a building to house the statue, and people soon began to make pilgrimages to the Virgin of Miracles.  The statue is now housed in the Basilica in Caacupe.  For over 400 years, people have been walking to pay homage to the Virgin of Miracles.  Throughout the year people make promises to the statue, and say "If you do this__________, I will walk to Caacupe on December 8th." Caacupe is approximately 35 miles outside of the city of Asuncion.  People walk, bike, drive, and ride horseback from all over the country to fulfill their promises.  I read in a news article that the plaza in front of the Basilica can hold over 300,000 people--and it is always overflowing. 

I am reminded of Isaiah 44, where Isaiah prophesies to Israel about their idolatry.  A carpenter cuts down a tree, and with half of it he carves an idol to worship, and with the other half he warms himself with a fire.  "He makes it into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it.  He prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god!'" (verse 17)

Please be in prayer for the people of Paraguay.  Many are in a fight for their souls, and do not know it.  I believe one of the greatest lies of Satan is for someone to believe they are a Christian and saved, when they have never trusted in the blood of Jesus Christ alone to wash away their sins and reunite them with God.

Also today, as I am considering my own life--are there areas of idolatry?  Have I placed something in a greater position than God Himself?  If the statue-worship of over 300,000 people concerns you, take some time in prayer today to consider if you have put the God of all creation in second place.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

 Did you know that Thanksgiving is not a holiday recognized around the world?  My friends got up for a normal day at work and school, without once thinking of turkey, stuffing, and pies.  Except for a few--I had asked some friends to come over for dinner at 9pm.  

I started cooking around 4pm, and my neighbor, A came over soon after to help out.  As you can see from the picture, there were chickens (a 10 lb turkey cost 182,000 guaranies--roughly $45!!), stuffing, potatoes, and olives.

A was in charge of cutting the bread from the supermarket.  She was amazed with the bread knife, and said "If I learn how to cook, can we ask your mom to send one of these?!"  Her own mom later told her--we have a knife like that, why don't you use it?!

The chickens almost done cooking, and ready to eat!

All six of us anxiously waiting to eat.  By this point it was about 9pm, and everyone was hungry!  The next morning a few people said "My stomach hurts."  Welcome to Thanksgiving! :-)

Carrie's Thanksgiving Chicken
In a bowl, mix rosemary, oregano, salt, and enough olive oil to make a little paste.  I would have used sage as well, but didn't find any in time.  Lift the skin off the chicken breast (without removing it), and evenly spread the paste around.  Replace the skin over the paste.  Smear butter over the skin of the chicken on the outside, and flip upside down in the pan.  In the pan and inside the chicken, I cut up 1 orange, 1 lemon, and one onion per chicken.  I squeezed an orange wedge over the chicken.  For liquids in the pan, I used a Schweppe's Citrus soda, which reminds me of Fresca, and one cup of chicken broth.  Bake 15 minutes at 500*, 15 minutes at 425*, and 15 minutes at 400*, before dropping the temperature to 350* for the rest of the time.  It took about an hour to bake until the breast read 165*.  (Note--use your own discretion here, chicken should really be baked until it reads 180* on a thermometer.  The juices were clear at 165*, so we ate it!)