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...