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 Guaraní 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!)

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 abc.com/py)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Long-Awaited, Likely-Forgotten Answer

...to 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 tank...in the house...next 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!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Wish I Had a Picture...

I've seen a lot of things on the street here in Paraguay.
Some things I wish I'd never seen, and other make me smile.
There are little kids running around barefoot from car to car asking for "monedas" (coins, the most valuable coin is worth a US quarter.)
An old man regularly begs from money at the corner near my house. 
I've seen people dressed up, and people dressed down.
I've learned some of the bus routes while walking, looking to see what buses are passing me.
I've seen taxis cruising for passengers.
I've seen groups in a park, sleeping under plastic tarps while trying to get the government to give them land.
I've seen kids thrilled to ride the bus, and old ladies struggling to get up the steps of the bus.
I've seen four wheelers flying down the road on Sunday afternoons.
I've seen countless motorcycles driven by men in suits.
I've seen motorcycles driven by women in high heels.
I've seen horses with their ribs sticking out pulling carts of trash.
I've seen a person pushing a cart of trash that was twice his height.

But before Friday, I had never, in Paraguay, seen a tractor.
On a busy road.
At rush hour.

I had to laugh a little (inside) when I saw the tractor--and, if you'll remember from a previous post, honking is a way for the guys to acknowledge the presence of a girl on the side of the road.  He honked his tractor horn, which made it even harder to keep a straight face as I waited for my bus.  And ever since Friday, I can't get Kenny Chesney out of my head, because I'm sure, without knowing the song or English--that's what the tractor driver must have thought.  I'm still laughing about the tractor!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


 Saturday night I hosted the youth/singles group here at my house.  We had a church service, and a "chorizada" with chorizo (a sausage-type meat.)  We had around 25 people coming and going through the evening.  One friend came early to help me wash, peel, and cook the mandioca (yucca root)--we used the pressure cooker again.  (The fear of the pressure cooker is dissipating!)  We prepared all the chorizo, and then waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

The pastor presented a very clear & understandable explanation of the cross--how we use it wrong (as a fetish), and how we should view it: EMPTY & CONQUERED!

The "spread" for the chorizada: bread, chorizo, and mandioca

My neighbor Fatima, my friend Hilda, and two girls that came for the first time Saturday night

About half of the group is represented here, they were playing Jenga all evening long!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Doot, Doot, Doot, Lookin' Out My Front Door

Last Sunday we got home from church, and this mural was being painted across the street from our house.  (I go to church with neighbors, hence the "we.")  The landlady's daughter eventually went over to see what was going on--and it looks like we're getting a hostel in the neighborhood.  They seem to still be working on getting it running, but hopefully this will be a good improvement to the neighborhood!  At least it's fun to look at!  Reminds me of Mr. Plumbean in one of the best kids' books ever written!

Some Electric Work

Great news: Thursday I finally bought a fan!  It hadn't been too hot in the house just yet, so I was able to wait a while.  Here I am, happy with my new fan:
The down side, is that when I was trying to plug it in on Saturday night,  the prong on the plug broke.  Out of desperation, I figured I would try super glue, but that didn't work--it blocked the connection.  So I consulted two friends, and decided I had a new project on my hands...
 ...change the plug on the fan!  I'd never done this before, so it was pretty interesting, but not very difficult.
 Trying to get the little wires underneath the little screws
 This is what the inside of the new plug looks like:
 And this is what a happy Carrie looks like!  You can't tell, but the fan is plugged in & running in this picture.

It's been nice to have a fan running while sleeping to block out the music from the bar down the street!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A Frequent Question

I'm frequently asked, here and in the U.S., if I cook for myself.  
The answer is--yes, only when I'm hungry.  Generally, I'm hungry.  

I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes I forget to eat (I'm getting better at this!)  It used to be really bad, and I wouldn't stop what I was doing to eat when I was hungry.  Now I've learned that if I don't answer the hunger call right away, I'll pass the hungry stage.

Next in line of frequently asked questions, is when/how did I learn how to cook.  Not really sure I've ever "learned"--I just grew up in the kitchen with my mom.  I guess you could say I learned how to cook, but I really think I just watched while we talked, and then out of necessity (hunger) started to use my memories to cook.

But, when I do stop to cook, fun things turn out.  I have a recipe book, and e-copies of 3 different boxes of recipes from my Grandma Martin, my recipe box, and the amazing Lisa Parker.  But, I generally only touch these when I'm desperate or using the pressure cooker (which is occasionally the same thing.)  And for baking--definitely can't do that on the fly!  
 For example, a few weeks ago, I found out that Paraguay has corned beef.  So, I bought a can, then I bought potatoes, then the store I was at only had purple cabbage.  I grew up on corned beef, (green) cabbage, and potatoes.  I figured, since I wasn't planning to serve anyone else, it was worth a try with purple cabbage.  It was beyond worth it!  It tasted like home, and everything turned purple!!
 This week's shopping trip brought with it a LOT of veggies.  Remember The Roast Beef Story?  Well, since I had so much meat, I figured with the end of it I could make a beef vegetable soup!  So tonight, I got all ready to make soup in 85+ degree weather, and I'd like to say it was worth it...but...I don't have a can opener yet, and I really wanted to put my little can of corn in the soup.  So I ran up to the landlady's to ask to use her can opener.  And she gave me a plate of food: rice & beans--which I absolutely love.  So after chopping, frying, salting, boiling, chopping, adding, salting, and waiting...I ate a different meal!  But I'm looking forward to this pot of soup lasting me the weekend! :-D

So parents: Let your kids help you in the kitchen!

Carrie's Ishy Beef Vegetable Soup:
4 cloves of garlic, diced
3 medium onions, chopped
           *Fry in the soup pot in about 2 Tbs of olive oil
           *Add reserved juices from when you cooked the meat (I cooked a roast beef.)  I added a beef  
             bouillon cube and a cereal bowlful of water at this point.
The following items I added as I had them chopped, along with keeping enough water in the pot to cover the veggies:
a lot of tiny baby potatoes, quartered
5ish carrots, chopped
green beans, snapped
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
beef, chopped
small can of corn, opened by the neighbor
salt & pepper to taste
             *I brought the soup to a boil, and added about 4 handfuls of little pasta tubes.  

I'm really looking forward to trying my soup tomorrow!  Let me know if you try some, too!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Roast Beef Story

*Warning: This story contains things vegetarians may not like to think about.*

I wanted beef.
Nothing else, just beef.

So, on Monday I went to the grocery store, and waited in line to ask the butcher for beef.  Unfortunately, I still don't know what the cuts of beef are called.  I pointed to one small chunk of beefy looking product, and said, "I want this."  She asked if I wanted lomo; I said yes, figuring that my option must've been lomo.  Then the lady proceeded on to the next customer...I stood around the butcher area for about 10 minutes, wondering if I had communicated that I actually wanted to buy that piece of beef.  I saw a guy come out of the back freezer with a very large piece of beef...we're talking: bones, fat, meat, the whole thing.  So I watched him cut up some beef.  Eventually I started to realize he was cutting my lomo off of the former cow.  The lady returned and asked me how much lomo I wanted, so I said "one kilo" thinking that was about the size of the little chunk of beef I had pointed at earlier (and wondering why I wasn't just getting the pre-cut chunk; maybe it was display only??)  Well.  It's not the same size.  I walked away with a huge chunk of meat, probably 4 times as much as the little chunk of meat.  I walked away with just over 2 1/2 pounds of beef.

Tuesday I resolved to freeze the HCOM (huge chunk of meat), because I didn't want it to go bad, and I didn't have the time to cook it on Tuesday.

Wednesday I wanted to cook HCOM, but it was still frozen, and I figured it would take quite a while to defrost that thing.  So I got a bowl & put it in the fridge to cook on Thursday.

By the end of Thursday night, I was realizing that HCOM wasn't going to be cooked that day either.  Yet, I still wanted beef.

I actually considered getting up early on Friday to cook HCOM before I was going to be gone about 8 hours.  But those of you that know me, know that getting out of bed for me is pretty difficult--even for HCOM  So, by 10pm Friday night, HCOM was still uncooked and sitting, defrosted, in the refrigerator.

Saturday is actually a story all on its own, with very few of my plans actually occurring.  Including, yes...cooking HCOM.  I went out with a friend in torrential rain (not really exaggerating here, the pictures are on her camera, but you'll see soon enough!) and returned at 1:30.  Hungry, and ready to cook my HCOM!  I was pleasantly surprised that when I plugged my computer in, it finally didn't spark!  (I'm apparently tired, because I didn't notice that the lights I had turned on didn't light up either!)  The neighbor stuck her head in the window, and asked if I'd eaten yet.  I said no, that I was just getting ready to cook.

And I was given the worst news for the day. 
The electricity was out again.

See, I'm still using small electric stove.  And my aging meat was in the fridge, which can't stay very cold without electricity.  And there was no telling when the electricity would be back.  So I figured I may as well take a nap since it was raining and the lights were off.  The neighbor texted about 20 minutes before we were to leave for church last night, and as soon as I started to get ready to leave the house--the electricity came back on.  All I could do was laugh--because if I didn't laugh, I may have cried!  I was still hungry, had possibly fermenting meat in my fridge, and no time to cook it.  I toyed around with the idea of cooking it after I got home--which ended up being 1AM, but our time changed last night, so the "new time" was 2AM.  Obviously, I chose sleep.

Today, Sunday, after church I came home and smelled my HCOM.  It still smelled beefy, so I pulled out the pressure cooker, and cooked my first roast beef on my little electric stove.  And I must admit, it's got a very satisfying taste!

**"Ironically": Selah's song "Through it All" just played as I was finishing this...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Paraguay in Photos

Soccer Tournament

Yesterday I got to go to my first soccer tournament here in Paraguay.  All the CMA churches from the area came together to play--seven guys teams, and seven girls teams!  It was a very hot day, with a lot of soccer, and a lot of fun!  Here are some pictures:

 The cheering group, watching one of the matches.

All the youth from the church, and the guys' & girls' team

After the tournament we went back to the church & had empanadas.  
The guys got second place!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Value of a Word: Journal Thoughts

      "Saturday night was youth/singles group.  I was a little bit frustrated by the end because I don't follow well in conversation.  I follow, but about a minute behind."  [Disclaimer: one-on-one dialogue is better, when more than three people are talking is when I get lost.]  "So unless someone directly asks me a question and is willing to wait for the answer, I have nothing to share in the conversation.  It's really frustrating for me, because I feel like what I have to say has value.  Granted, it's not always important, but sometimes a thought will be so clear--yet one minute late.

Maybe the Lord is teaching me to be silent.

Maybe He's teaching me to listen.

Maybe He's telling me to get to know the people I'm talking to before I share things
    that are culturally inappropriate or just have no need to be said.
       How much eternal value do my words really have?  Most of what I wasn't able to say over the weekend would've burned: wood, hay, & straw.

Maybe God is giving me the opportunity to change my wood, hay, & straw in for gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:12)

--the time to slow my speech,
                  to weigh my words,
                               to test them with fire,
                                             & to speak words useful for eternity.

I'm anxious to speak, Lord; I miss being able to easily communicate truth.  Fill me with your love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Sprechen Sie Deutsches?"

My family likes words.  The funnier they sound, the happier we are.  My brother was saying things like "Saskatchewan & Bosnia-Herzegovina" by the age of four.

We also like to say "Sprechen?!" just for fun.  "Sprechen Sie Deutsches" means "do you speak German?"

Remember the other day I went to the hardware store?  While I was there, an older man came in with a circular light bulb in his hand.  The girl nearby asked, "You want another one like that?"  "No, I want one that works"--I already liked this guy!  She headed to the back to search for a useful light bulb, and the Friendly Neighborhood Hardware Man (FNHM) says to him in Spanish, "She's from Carolina del Norte!"  The older man promptly looked at me and said, "Sprechen Sie Deutsches?"  I can't tell you how happy I am that I didn't laugh, just to hear the familiar phrase!  FNHM told him, "She's Americana; she speaks English."

The following conversation was in English:
Older Man: "You speak English?"
Me: "Yessir."
Older Man: "I need about 3-4 months in the United States to get my English back.  I don't speak it like I did 40 years ago."
Me: "Why did you learn English 40 years ago?"
Older Man: "I worked with some good Mennonite boys on the Trans-Chaco Highway."

Me...speechless...because this man had a pretty big part in a pretty big road in Paraguay, 40 years ago.  It's the road that I'll likely use if I work in a tribal area in the western half of the country.

He left with his light bulb, I left with my plumbing project and with a greater respect for the neighborhood hardware store.

PS--To make it better, his English had a Dutch accent to it, so I'm honestly not sure if he was one of the "Good Mennonite Boys" or if he retained their accent for 40 years!  Maybe I'll see him on the next trip to get nails.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today, I had a choice

Today I decided to go to the hardware store to buy supplies for a project.  What project?  The drain under the kitchen sink is open (well, unless the brick is over it...) and the drain from my future washer will drain into this open hole.  I went to the hardware store down the block to get what I thought I needed: 2 1/2 meters of PVC pipe, 2 elbows, plumbery glue, and a saw. 

The man that owns the store has helped me before, in buying adapters for plugs & straight razor blades for scraping excessive amounts of paint off the windows.  He has a brother living in North Carolina, so he likes to talk to me about NC. 

Today I went in mentally prepared with my list, and he showed me some different items.  When we both knew that I wanted pipe to drain the washer (not load it...that was my fault!) he showed me some flexible tubing with an elbow built onto the end.  We agreed I would need two for the distance, then I asked about glue.  My culture says that plumbing needs to be glued in order to keep the water in the pipe. 

He pulled out a box with this little connectors, and searched through until he found the size he was looking for.  He showed me that this plastic connector would seal off the two pipes. 

I immediately had a choice.
Trust the man who has been doing this his entire life
do it my way because I "had plans" already.

I bought the flexible tubing.  I bought the little plastic connector.  I bought zip-ties to connect the tubing to the other pipes.  And laughed at my plans.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chores: 101

 Some of you ask me what a regular day looks like for me.  Well, that doesn't exactly exist.  Sometimes a fairly regular week passes by, but, overall, I stay pretty busy.  It's pretty nice when "hanging out with people" is basically your "job."  So, I thought I'd show you what some chores look like for me.  Today you'll get a brief glimpse of laundry.  I haven't done laundry much since moving to my own house, because, honestly, I don't like to!

 I frequently start out my chores-ritual by making sure I have the Spanish recordings I want to listen to.  This way I can wander around the house without losing my focus on the audio coming out of the computer.

Then I download them onto my iPod.  I plug myself into the iPod, and I'm ready for the chores!

For laundry, I haul my wash up the stairs to my neighbor's house.  She's been really great, and is letting me use her washer until I buy my own.   The plus, is that I don't have to scrub my clothes out by hand. After the clothes go through a wash cycle, I wring them out, drain the water out of the washer, and refill it with clean water for the rinse cycle.  I try to unwrinkle the clothes a little, and add them back into the washer.  After a brief rinse, I wring the clothes out again and drain the water, or add soap for a second load.

Then I go outside to hang up my laundry on the line.  After a few hours, I can usually bring it inside & put it away.

 I'm looking forward to getting my automatic washer in a few weeks.  I'm thankful that they make them here, and my days of wringing out my clothes are short!