May 18, 2009
This whole month of May is Patria Month; Paraguay’s Independence Day was last Thursday and also on Friday. It’s two days because the revolution began late on May 14th and continued until early in the morning on the 15th. The 15th is also Mother’s Day. I ate lunch with Cristina and her family that day. We had asado (grilled ribs, but with lots more fat than in the States), pork, chinchulín (cow intestines—I tried it and it was not good; suprise!) rice salad, potato salad (not like you’re thinking of), sopa paraguaya (like cornbread but more oil, egg and butter/animal fat). After eating we drank regular Coca-Cola sweetened with sugar cane rather than high fructose corn syrup. I attest that the Coke here is much better than in the States. It is custom to drink after eating rather than before. I explain to some Paraguayans that in the States the first thing the server gives you in a restaurant is your drink. Here, on the contrary, you will rarely see people drinking soda pop before eating.
This past Saturday was cold!!! I took a bus from my site to two other towns in Asuncion for two birthday parties with my friend who is in the police academy. The first party was his friend from high school and the second was for a friend of his from the academy. I think that it probably hit the low 50s if my nerves registered the temperature correctly. I even used my gloves!
On Sunday we had our area volunteer meeting in a town close to Lake Ypacarai. We had guacamole, rotisserie chicken, vegetarian quesadillas, Bloody Marys, lasagna and I brought ice cream as well. I was super full afterwards! I met the new volunteers and learned where their sites are. We also discussed having excursions in different parts of the Central Department of Paraguay (Asuncion area) with youth from our sites. We are thinking about going to the Mythological Museum. I will have to do an entire blog entry on Paraguayan myths; there are more than you would think!
Today I got my fridge, finally! Now I won’t have to get ice from my next-door neighbor. It’s not until you don’t have a fridge that you realize how much use it is! Currently I have ham, cheese, eggs, orange soda, and three containers of milk. Doesn't sound like I eat very healthy, does it? I have bananas and oranges out on my table, don't worry.
Today I went to the Junta de Saneamiento (Sanitation Council, aka the organization the runs the water wells and provides water to the majority of people in my town) one block away from my house. I spoke with the lead administrator with whom I was very impressed: she was not into small talk, or evading questions; she was serious and straightforward. For one of the first times in awhile I spoke with someone who answered my questions directly and gave me her full attention. It’s something that is much easier to find in the States. Rather than talking about where I live, where I used to live, how long I’ve been here and whether or not I like terere, she was upfront. I know that I’ve been here a long time when I’m surprised by an outright answer to my question. People here beat around the bush too much rather than just saying what they want much of the time, or maybe it’s just me trying to be too nice. For instance, if I go to wash my clothes at my friend’s house, I feel that it’s necessary to shoot the breeze with them for longer than I ever would in the same situation in the States. I don’t want to look like I’m using them simply to do my laundry, even if that isn’t the case.
I just finished watching Stranger Than Fiction. I recommend it. The day after I watched it I was still analyzing it.
I am on the verge of getting a wireless Internet modem for my computer. It will come out to be about $40 a month. I have decided that it will be very worth it.
Some random facts about Paraguay that I noted a month ago at a state-wide youth conference:
66% of youth older than 15 and younger than 29 do not attend any formal educational institution.
82% of elderly people 65 years and older have no retirement plan.
1% of property owners own 77% of all land available.
40% of cultivators that have between one and five hectares own only 1% of the land in Paraguay.
Paraguayan emigration towards Europe, particularly Spain has grown fast in the past two years.
Paraguayans in Europe and the United States send 700,000,000 USD in remittances each year, making possible the survival of 10-15% of Paraguayan families.