1 June 2008
Today I passed my first Sunday in Guarambaré. I set my alarm to wake up for mass at 7:30 am, but when I was getting ready the entire house stayed dark, so I discovered that everyone was sleeping in! I had the impression that attending mass on Sunday is a central part of Paraguayan culture since its culture is influenced strongly by Catholicism. Perhaps this Sunday was different because the family with whom I am staying had many family members visiting today.
Most of my time I spend with Addie because she is thoughtful and is often ready with a laugh and smile. She and I were on our way to pick up her aunt at her house, when we met her aunt on the way. Addie´s family has many family members in the local cemetery, so we went to give our regards. The cemetery in Gurambaré is full now. There were at least 10 family members or relations of Addie buried there. Her aunt lit some candles at her husband´s and stepdaughter´s graves. Her stepdaughter passed away in an accident when she was only 18 years old. While we walked among the graves, which are nearly all monuments—think a small room with a door that the living can lock and enter with a key to light candles, place photos of the deceased at an altar and to place flowers by the deceased. Some are quite elaborate, with dark blue ceramic tiles. Addie kicked over some of the plastic bottles full of water and flowers because they are an attraction for mosquitoes that carry dengue. I thought, go for it, dengue is one of my biggest fears of being in Paraguay. It´s on the list along with tarantulas, yellow fever and malaria. I had my yellow fever shot this week and I´m not sure if when I´ll start taking the malaria prophylaxis pills. It´s possible that since it´s winter here now, the Peace Corps doctor will hold off until summer.
I went to the granja (farm) to feed my family´s pigs some potatoes and get some milk with Addie and Laura. The pigs are cute and ugly at the same time; more ugly when they are oinking and squealing when they are about to be fed. I think to myself, “Oh, you´re such pigs!” Then I think, “Yes, you are pigs! I suppose that´s not a fair accusation.” Again, we were with the people who don´t understand much castellano style Spanish, so I didn´t say much.
My host father “papa’’ cooked loads of pork and beef for his family and relatives. The relatives included a great uncle of my sister Addie, her uncle Jose, the aunt that I went with to the cemetery and helps me with Guaraní and her cousin Patricio. Patricio is in his 20s and lives nearly four hours away. He works on a boat that goes among Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. Along with the meat I had mandioca, a soft textured vegetable that has a similar consistency to a potato. It is an off-white color and is a staple of Paraguayan meals. In addition I ate salad of leafy, rich green lettuce, grated carrots, mishi mi (a little bit in Guaraní) of salt and sunflower oil.
I was supposed to meet the other Peace Corps trainees in my town, which number 11, at the local Cyber Café at 2 pm, but I was late because I was still finishing the lunch with my host family. When I finally got to the Café, it was closed and was 2:20 pm. I kept walking down the main route in the town and started talking to a woman that has known a lot of the Peace Corps trainees in Guarambaré. They have been coming here for years now. While we were talking, her neighbor who is a veterinarian pulled up to buy some gum from her store, one of the few that is open on Sundays. He has known some of the trainees as well and speaks a little bit of English because he spent a year in the United States studying to be a vet in Minnesota and some time at Cal Poly in LA. I thought of you, Erin!
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