Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last days in Paraguay

Thursday, Christie and I rode the buses to Itagua to get Heather. My last bus rides in Paraguay. Heather came and spent the weekend here with us. We had a blast. A great way to end our time here.

Friday, the two of us walked to the market to look for a few more souvenirs. We stopped and got an ice cream to eat while we walked back home. I love this town and everything about it! I love walking through the town, looking in stores, seeing people I know, having someone drive by on a moto and honk and wave because they recognized me. It’s just amazing here. And I have no words that will tell you why, no pictures that will show you. It’s something you would have to feel for yourself. I thank God everyday that I got the chance to be here and feel how special this place is! I know that sounds cheesy but if you know me, you know I don’t care.

I spent Friday afternoon doing what I love most – baking. For the first time ever I baked cookies that both looked and tasted incredible. And I’m not sharing my recipe with anyone outside of Paraguay. I also baked a chocolate cake. I have used this same recipe several times since I’ve been here. That one I may share. It’s a recipe from the great depression. It doesn’t have eggs or butter. And it tastes amazing. I made two small cakes, layered them with chocolate peanut butter bon bon filling. The only icing here comes in a bag. You have to heat it up to make it soft enough to use. Then it hardens back up if you put it in the refrigerator. It made for a super tasty cake. Unfortunately, it wasn’t big enough. The people who showed up late didn’t get any cake.

That night we had my despedida, going away party. I think by the end of the night about 30 people showed up. We had a lot of fun playing games and hanging out. I didn’t make it to bed til about 3 that morning.

Saturday we got up early and headed to Asuncion. We went to the zoo. I really don’t know what to say about that. I saw some of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen in my life. The animals were cool. I loved the monkeys. There were a lot of beautiful trees and flowers there.

That evening, I baked more cookies. Fun and delicious. That night Heather and I walked with two of our friends to Mana, a great little restaurant by the plaza. I wanted to eat one last lomito before I left. It was fun, sitting outside eating, seeing the usual weekend in the plaza stuff going on. We walked around the plaza and took a few pictures. Then we walked to Metamorphosis, a great youth outreach here in town. We listened to a great lesson, then played games and had fun. We walked home around 11. I’m going to miss those quiet walks home at night.

Sunday morning I made popcorn and kool-aid for la hora feliz. Then I napped most of the afternoon, since Heather and I were up late again the night before. That evening I went to church one last time. The pastor had me say a few words. Of course I was scared half to death but thankfully I had Camille translating and she could make it sound a little better than I had said it. Everyone at church was so sweet. Lots of hugs! I will miss them all so much!

On Monday Christie, Oscar and I rode out to the country where we visited with some friends. I needed to leave some of my clothes and shoes behind to make room in my suitcases. So I wanted to give them to someone I knew needed them and that they would fit. We also visited with the little grandma out there. I just love her! She’s 92 years old and just as precious as can be! We gave her a couple more blankets. The room where her bed is we would probably call a porch. It only has one wall and the rest is open to the outside. She only speaks in Guarani. So Oscar was translating it into Spanish, then Christie would translate some into English.

Tuesday night, I went to visit with my pastora one last time. Camille and I visited with her for about an hour. She served us coffee and bread. She is such a sweet lady! I pray God gives me the chance to visit here again someday. But if He doesn’t, I know I will see them all again and I can’t wait!

I should be in the bed by now but I’m wide awake. I have a big day ahead of me. We will try to leave the house around 9 am. My flight leaves Asuncion at 2:45 pm. We have a 3 hour layover in Argentina that includes an airport change. I’m praying all of that will go smoothly. Another layover in Atlanta. Then we should land in Chattanooga around 9:45 am tomorrow (Thursday). My mom and dad, grandparents, Matt, April, Seth and Alex should all be there waiting for me. We plan to stay in Chattanooga until Saturday.

When I get a chance I will be changing the name of my blog. But I still plan on blogging because I still plan on having adventures.

Monday, June 28, 2010


A few months ago, my sister told me about how my nephew, Seth, was having a really hard time with change. A chair being put in a different place, the garbage man taking the trash away. It all seemed to bother him and cause a complete meltdown. This broke my heart because he’s only 4 years old. I thought about how this is the one thing I have always struggled with and still don’t know how to accept change. I wrote him a book and put it on Power Point for her to show him and read to him. It was called He Stays The Same. Tonight I had to read it for myself. Here are a few lines from it:

Things around us will always change….
the weather, the seasons,
the people in our lives.
But no matter what….
God will always be the same!

He calls us His children.
He watches over us and gives us peace.
He hears us when we pray.
He meets our every need.
He knows our thoughts and our hearts.
He loves us all the same.
No matter what may happen in life.
God will never change!

For me, it has always been the change of people in my life that I can’t figure out how to deal with. When someone dies, moves away, or when their season in my life is over. I’m an extremely sentimental person. I hold on to memories and anything that holds a memory like you wouldn’t believe. Today I sat outside of a store and I just let myself cry. I couldn’t not cry any longer. I don’t know how to let go. I know the “letting go” happens with time and usually you don’t even notice that it has happened. But what do you do with that emptiness in the meantime?

A lot of “letting go” and healing has taken place in the last 6 months. A lot of seeing things as they really were and accepting it. An absolute favorite line from a song I love: “Hope which was lost now stands renewed.” Some days I can sing that and some days I just don’t understand. And that’s ok.

I have had to do a lot of packing my things and walking away throughout the years. Even when it wasn’t my choice, I still had to turn and walk away. But why do I always feel like I’m the one being left? I don’t like that feeling one bit.

I have no idea where I’m going with this.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What will be different?

This is a great question, an important question, a much-needed question….

How do you think your life will be different when you come back because of what you learned in Paraguay? Will you use technology less, worship God differently than before, etc.?

But I’m still not sure of the answer. I can, however, answer with talking about some of the things I’ve learned here in Paraguay. And by sharing some of my desires for when I return home.

I think what has made the biggest impact on me is the sense of community. I’ve talked about this in other blogs. It’s amazing to walk down the street and see someone you’ve only met once, have them stop and greet you, then spend of few minutes with you. It feels like you’ve known them your whole life. That has amazed me! It makes me want to treat people like that, treat relationships that way. I don’t want to be in a hurry. I want to stop and let people know I care about them.

A friend asked the other day, “What is the best thing that happened while you were here?” At the time, I felt bad because I couldn’t answer the question. I’ve experienced a lot of really great things here but the best things are definitely the changes that have taken place on the inside.

At the beginning of the year, I asked God what this season is all about. The answer – TAKE ROOT. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7,8)

I don’t know how life will be different but I know it will be because I am different. I know God has a plan for me! I don’t yet know what the next steps are. I trust that when He leads me to that next step, He is my hope and my confidence, nothing is impossible with God!

As for technology, I don’t see that changing. I’m not very knowledgeable in that area anyway. I’ve never been one to rely on technology. Since I’ve been here, I have probably spent more time emailed, blogging, and on Facebook than I did before I came. It’s been my way of keeping in touch with family and friends.

I’ve always felt that God calls us to simplicity. I do have too much stuff, compared to what one needs to live on. But I’ve always tried to live a simple life, not wanting too much “extra stuff.” I want to continue to be thankful for what I do have, giving to those who do not have, and live the life I feel God has called me to live.

I want worship to always be my life, not just something I do. I definitely have reason to wake up every morning and live a life of worship for God. He has carried me and loved me from the very beginning. This is a passage I love: I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts His praises! My body rests in safety. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever. (Psalm 16:7-9,11)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Questions about Paraguay - Part 2

* What kind of jobs do the people have there?

This is a really fun question to answer because I love the answer. You have your banks, retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores. What we would see as usual jobs. But then….this is what I love….anything you want to do to make money, you can do it. You don’t need a degree, a permit, a business license.

Our pastor and his wife make fruit salad everyday. He puts it in a cooler on the back of his moto and drives around town selling it. Their son and daughter-in-law do the same thing with homemade bread.

Some people sell things on the buses. They get on at one stop and get off at the next. It’s free for them to ride. They could have anything….chipa, drinks, candy, cough drops. One day we were on a bus and a man was selling dish towels.

Then in the city, you have your folks who stand at the traffic lights selling things. Literally, anything you can imagine. One day we saw a man carrying one of those model ships. It was 2 or 3 feet long. He was walking down the sidewalk beside the cars, trying to get someone to buy it. People also stand at the lights and wash your windows while you wait.

We see a lot of people in parking lots selling lottery tickets and directing traffic. They will get out in the road and guide you out of your parking space in order to make a few cents.

A lot of people have businesses in the front room of their houses. Markets, restaurants, hair salons, copying and printing.

*Do they have a lot different religions there like we do? Do they have a lot of churches?

About 90 % are Catholic. Every town has a large Catholic church. Every neighborhood has a small Catholic church. There are also a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Any church that is neither Catholic nor Jehovah’s Witness they call Evangelical. I believe there are about 5 or 7 Evangelical churches close to us.

*What kinds of food do they have?

A few of their usual foods include….tortillas (not what we call tortillas), sopa (somewhat like corn bread but much better), rice salad, bean salad, mandioca, empanadas, asado (barbecue). I’ve had several meals of what I would call stew. It was a thick soup with rice, meat, vegetables, and egg.

I expected the food here to be spicy. I was hoping it would be because I love spicy foods. But it’s not at all. Even black pepper is too spicy for some people here. I think a lot of their flavor comes from salt and garlic.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

mi abuela paraguaya

I spent the day with my pastora. She is so special to me. I have been so blessed by her love and her gentle spirit. She has allowed me to come into her home about once a week and help as her and her daughter-in-law bake bread.

Today I thought I was going there to bake bread but she had other plans for me. When I first arrived, she had me cracking open cocos with a rock. It was much easier this time. The last time she had me doing this, the palm of my hand was bruised for days.

When I finished with that, she gave me a bucket of apples to peel. The pastor and their son spend the morning peeling and slicing fresh fruit. Then they make a syrup and add to it. The pastor carries the fruit salad in a cooler on the back of his moto. He drives around town selling it for about 30 cents a cup.

After I finished peeling all the apples, the pastora gave me everything I needed for mate. As I sat at the table drinking mate, she decided she wanted me to paint. She gave me these big seed things that come off a tree here, along with a few colors of paint. I thought I was painting them for her but she ended up sending them home with me. I’m giving two of them away. But there’s one I really love that I painted a tree on. I’m going to try my best to bring it back home with me.

Then she served me lunch….an amazing soup with rice, egg, vegetables, and some kind of meat. Yes, meat. Yes, I ate it. I have eaten it a few times at her house. The first time it was because I didn’t know how to turn it down and explain why I couldn’t eat it. The other times I’ve eaten it because I knew it would taste amazing. But it definitely doesn’t come without consequences.

After lunch, she showed me to my room. Each time I’m there, she prepares a room for my rest after lunch. The after lunch nap is something I do want to continue when I get home, the eating meat is not. I slept late today and didn’t think I needed to sleep after lunch. But I thought I’d rest anyway. Before I laid down on the bed, she sprayed lavender over the bed. Within minutes, I was sound asleep. Before falling asleep, I laid there thinking about my mama (my mom’s mother). I could hear the pet bird chirping, hear the tv on and smell the bread baking. I almost forgot where I was and how old I was. For a minute I thought I was lying in my mama’s bed. I thought I would get up, go in the kitchen, hug my mama and talk to her. I was almost in tears. Then I woke up and had to remember I was not in my mama’s bed and I could not go give her a hug. But I felt her near me. I felt her loving me.

After I got up from my rest, I went in the kitchen, where there was a cup of fresh fruit salad waiting on me. As a pan of fresh baked bread came out of the oven, she gave me a steaming hot loaf. It was delicious!

We watched some of the fĂștbol game together. Then she turned into my Granny for a little while as we played Phase 10 and she beat me by 50 points.

It makes me very sad to think that I have to leave her in only 2 weeks. Today was a day I will never forget. God knows when we need a day with abuela (grandmother). He knows when to satisfy our souls with a love that can only come from a grandmother. And no matter where we are in the world, He will do just that!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Questions about Paraguay - Part 1

April asked: What is the population of Paraguay? When was it founded? What is the average family income?

- The population of Paraguay is around 6.3 million
- It was founded August 15, 1535
- The average man makes around $120/ month. The average woman makes around $70/ month.

* Do people seem to be as technology driven as we are or do they choose to live without it?

- The people of Paraguay are definitely not driven by technology. Most people don’t own a computer or home phone. I have noticed that just about everyone has a cell phone. That was something that surprised me when I first came here. I don’t see people talking on them often but they text all the time. And that really comes in handy. Texting has been a great way to send invitations and reminders. A lot of people even reply to let you know if they’ll be there or not.

I’ve been in a few houses that do have small televisions. You’ll never see a giant flat-screen TV in a house here. However, they are all over the malls. That was a little shocking. TVs in the elevator, in the bathroom, everywhere at the mall. I’m not sure how it is in the city but here in the country, people can’t afford to live that kind of lifestyle.

* I've read from several people that no one is ever in a hurry and there's a lot of time to just sit and enjoy each others company. How do they do it?

- That’s one of the things I love the most about the culture here! You hear that and read it but until you have actually been here and experienced it, it’s hard to comprehend that it really is that way.

Don’t take that as they have nothing to do and just sit around all day. They are extremely hard workers. They still get the things done that need to be done. But they don’t get in a hurry.

Someone can stop by to visit at any time. And when they do, you stop whatever you’re doing and you visit with them. The “things” are not what’s important, they people are. I think this goes hand-in-hand with the question about technology. Their lives are not filled with technology. So they’re able to build relationships in a way I’ve never seen before. Sometimes it may be a little frustrating when things start an hour later than you expected. But the way they treat their time definitely enriches their relationships. And it’s a healthier choice, less stress, less worry.

I really don’t know how to answer the question “how do they do it?” They don’t do it….it’s who they are. It’s the culture and the way of life. I love it! I want to write more about it, incorporate it into my life when I get home. I have learned so much since I’ve been here on relationships and community.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

blog, blog, blog

If anyone actually reads my blogs, you’ve probably noticed I didn’t do so good at it last month and this is my first one for June. Sometimes, I try to figure out what to write about. Other times, I know what to write about, I just can’t get my mind to focus on writing. A habit I really have to break, as I love to write and always have something to write about.

I’m going to try these next few days to really focus on writing. Until then….help me out a little. If there’s anything you want me to write about, any questions you have about Paraguay, my time in Paraguay, or pretty much anything….leave me a comment, email me, whatever. I promise to answer you.