Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Highlights Magazine....In real life!

I just put another round of photos on facebook. This album is of my house and some the the other residents. (Link is at the bottom) But why don't we take some time to get to know my new family before you go all stalker on them?

I essentially live in a game of hidden pictures. It looks beautiful and idilic, but then you begin to look closer and you see things that are just a little off.

Yeah, and that’s not the only bicycle in a tree either.

  I live with 10-ish other people depending if it’s the weekend or not. Five of whom are kids ranging from 4 to 14. We’re kinda like the Vontraps, but with less singing.

Meet Carlitos. (7)

He’s pretty high on the awesome scale. Carlos likes jumping out of trees, climbing barbed wire fences, and discussing the finer points of Machete use during a Zombie attack. (Go for the head, and if you make sure your machete is sharp enough you can get up to three zombies with one swing.)

Then we have Erica. (11)

Erica is quite, but once she starts to open up, she too climbs the ranks of awesome pretty quickly. She loves music, and plays the guitar. She generally spends her time getting the younger ones out or into trouble, depending.

 Let’s meet Marley. (9)

Marley is goofy. She likes to make funny faces, and tell dirty jokes. (They start them young here in Paraguay.)  Marley is really bright, and has aspirations to be a hairdresser. In general, girls aren’t encouraged to have life goals here. Honestly, I don’t know if boys are either. There’s a big push to get married and start making babies, even though it usually happens the other way around. So I commend Marley, and let her do funky things with my hair whenever she pleases. I’ll try to get ya’ll get some pics of her masterpieces.

Last, but certainly not least is Maria Ana. AKA Monsey.(4)

I once heard a comic describe children as “just like drunk midgets.”  If the above photo doesn't confirm this analogy lets review some of Monsey's other habits.

She never has her shoes on the correct feet. Nor does she like to walk in straight lines, unless the most direct path to where she is going involves crawling over furniture or people. She has a freakish ability to puff out her stomach to something that looks like a scene in alien. It's weird. We all agree, so she'll chase her brother Carlitos around the yard with her impossibly huge belly.  This is all with out even mentioning her ability to power down food. It makes no sense that something so small could consume so much. I have personally witnessed her take down over half a chicken, cabbage salad, and a couple pieces of mandioca. She really is very cute. Too cute. And unfortunately for all of us, she knows it. 

Well that’s most the kids. I’ll write another blog about the adults. They’re awesome too, but mildly less ridiculous.

Here's the  Link to the rest of the photos. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

And At The Top There Is Summitt

I know this is a few days late. Let's just say I'm acclimatizing to hora Paraguaya.

A few days ago I found out with the rest of the world about the diagnosis of Tennessee basketball coach, Pat Summitt, with early onset dementia. There are a million things that can be said: Tragic, Sad, Unfair, ect. I don't care to comment on her illness, nor my personal sadness of knowing that the era of Pat Summitt will end sooner than expected. I just want to take the time to talk about what a complete bad ass she is.

I remember as a small girl who loved basketball watching Tennessee play in the final four. I then thought I was going to go to Tennessee and play basketball. My Dad had taught we the fight song, and in fact he had a hat that would play Rocky Top when you pressed a button on the brim. A few years later I realized I wasn't very good at basketball and that dream ended. Nonetheless, I still have great affinity for Tennessee Basketball. I love that women's basketball at Tennessee is the marquee sport. I think it's safe to say it's perhaps the only women's marquee sport in the NCAA. That huge achievement is 100% attributable to Pat Summitt.

For those of less interested in college sports, Pat Summitt is the single winning-est coach in college basketball history. Not in women's basketball history, in NCAA basketball history. Men's or Women's programs. She's never had a losing season.

Pat Summitt's success can be summed up in her innumerable accolades, but all that misses a crucial element of her bad-assery. The woman has swagger. Leading the Lady Vols to 8 national championships in various brightly colored pant suits, she proves that women in male dominated fields don't need a boost, nor a handicap. There are no excuses. There are no short cuts. She doesn't pad her non-conference schedule, and her girls graduate. All of them graduate. She doesn't stop at being "good for a girl." She's just damned good. The Best.

So I want to say thanks to Pat Summitt. Thanks for showing me that excellence is achievable, and that girls are no exception to that. You are awesome.

Me? Bad Ass? Yeah, I know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Only in Paraguay...

A text conversation between me and My buddy Richard:

Me: The kids are fighting overhte Mate dulce. Apparently no one is drinking fast enough. You think I could just get them each their own cup?

Richard: Their own cups? DO YOU HATE PARAGUAY?!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Today's Adventure in Eating

Wanna know how to freak out an American in Paraguay?
Feed them a dish of unidentifiable cow innards with rice.

Wanna know how to freak out a Paraguayan?
 Put Siracha on unidentifiable cow innards with rice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The long and the snort of it.

There are few loves in this world that are pure and true. When you find one you have to hold on to it. I, myself, have found such a love. No, I'm not referring to my darling novio, Zack, but rather a love I discovered much earlier in life. PORK

My love for pig products started with a humble ham sandwich and has grown to a rich mature love, embracing many facets of pigginess. Notables have included Pork Chops at Las Brisas, and the Italian Hoagie, and the pinnacle of pork products, Jamon Serrano.

I, like most young people in love, thought never a moment would come that I would think twice about my commitment. But alas, as with all lasting relationships there are struggles and low times. Today, I stared it straight in the snout.

This evening my host family dined on pig face, and I was given the honor of receiving the snout.  When first recieving this plate of what is essentially pig fat, I was not so alarmed. I love Pig fat! It smelled great, I assumed there was meat involved, somewhere. I was so very wrong.

I did not notice the nostril right away. I just was confused as to where on a pig is quite so cylindrical. Nonetheless, I cut off a piece and it was fatty and slimy, and worst of all it still has some hair on the skin. This was not succulent, sweet pork that I had known. It was rough. I turn the piece around looking for any spec of actual meat to carve out, and this hunk of fat's true origin reveals itself to me.

I was able to carve out enough meat to make a suitable dinner, and all together it wasn't that bad. I still love pork and all things piggy. But I guess nobody is perfect. This is just another chapter in a long love affair.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Photo Palooza!

So I did a big photo drop on Facebook and wanted to share the link to my non-facebook readers. You know who you are. (Oliver.)

Most of these were taken at the end of training, and a couple before I left. If any of you were having doubts as to whether or not Peace Corps is a serious agency, I'm sorry but this might re-enforce those doubts. I promise we do more than have people dress in drag, and play with machetes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I AM IN SITE!!! and can't do anything

This will not be an interesting post. Just wanted to let everyone know I'm in my new home. I'll be living with a family for a while before I hopefully move into my own house.

There would be more enthusiasm and detail about arrival to site and my 5 days in Asuncion except for the fact I'm really sick right now, like mouth breather type sick. I haven't smelt anything for about 48 hours. I actually got permission to show up to site a day late because yesterday I was in no condition to do anything. If you need convincing look at his photo.
Like my awkward thumbs up. Very Paraguayan.

Pathetic, right? And tha'ts me feeling better!

My new "Host mom" Ema has been really kind. She's made me mate with special jujos to help me get better. (jujos = medicinal herbs.) I don't attest to effectiveness of natural medicine, but when a mother of a many insists on giving you jujos, you take them. *important update! They made me take a spoonful of carpincho fat. I googled it. Carpincho = worlds largest rodent. Now that was just unnecessary.*

Ok, time to sign off. The light of the computer feels like it's burning a whole into my brain.

I promise a big fancy post about the swear in ceremony and my night out in Asuncion. Much fun was had, and much fun was shared. Can we say awesome!?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The end of the beginning...

Peace Corps Paraguay G36 Training from brittany boroian on Vimeo.

So I swore in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer yesterday.  It's a little surreal. A lot of my buddies have been very caught up in the "Official-ness." Many times people would turn to each other and say something along the lines of, "OMG! We're VOLUNTEERS."  People were really into the word, because until now we were just trainees.  These terms become very important. This is after all government work.

I am almost embarrassed to be less enthusiastic about my official transition. I can relate to my peers joy over the semantics of it, but really I could care less what you call me, so long as I can start keeping my own schedule.

I don't want to be completely blase about this, but my dream wasn't to be a Peace Corps volunteer so much as to live and work abroad and to do work that improves the lives of others. I am over joyed to be given the opportunity to do that. I'm absolutely passionate about the journey I'm going to embark on, but it really hasn't started. I cannot wait for all the stories to come, and the challenges to be had. For me, that's when it'll be official.

The past two months have been crazy! to show you all some of it, above is a video my friend Brittany made. It's a photo montage of our training. I hope you all enjoy. The video is definitely more fun than the training itself.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I swear to God, good food could lead to world peace. A case study:

Meet Ginsey. Besides being awesome and wicked smart, she shares my love for cooking. As all good cooks, she learned to cook from her mom, who in her case is from India, Meaning, Ginsey makes bomb Indian food.

Now, I know nothing about Indian food. I didn’t even think I liked Indian food, but Ginsey assured me that I did. (We’re becoming close friends. You know, the kind that make those sorts of decisions for each other.) So with a generous donation via care package from Mama and Papa Ginsey, her and I decide to plan a dinner for all our friends.

A dinner we originally thought would be for about 10 people quickly grew to 25, since our host families wanted in on this too. I think they just thought it odd that we could actually take care of something ourselves. We were pretty helpless when we got here and it’s been an uphill battle changing their minds since. I assumed the roll of sous chef, or as Gordy would say, Kitchen Bitch. I de-boned a gazillion chickens; peeled and chopped a quadrillion cucumbers; and all was well until I diced enough onions to make something big look small. (I couldn’t think of a good analogy. Recommendations are welcomed.) This was all done with one of the world’s dullest knives. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of law in Paraguay but I have yet to find a knife that isn’t approaching PlaySkool levels of dullness.

Ginsey took care of the real cooking. Although, I don’t totally recognize what she did as cooking. It was more like alchemy. She claims to start with a recipe but from there she conducts magic over her cauldron like a witches brew. Adding some of this, adding some of that, constantly tasting, and patiently getting through the phase where it doesn’t taste so good. Ok, maybe not patiently, she freaked out pretty hard during the “scary part.” Apparently that’s part of the process. Momentary melt downs aside, it was very impressive to watch her work. With each taste she knew exactly what element needed to added or balanced out, and she whittled her way to exactly what she wanted, not totally sure what she had done.

So with 2 huge pots of Chicken Tika, and enough rice to feed a good part of China, we sat down with our friends and family to break bread. Ginsey and I were nervous if people would like it, but quickly all worries were put aside. As the food was passed around the table, a silence came over the group. You know food is good when all you can hear is forks. Cue awesome night.

We stuffed our faces. We drank decent booze. We spoke three languages, and we told dirty jokes in all of them. There are few more loved traditions in Paraguay than telling inappropriate jokes, and making fun of people similarly. At one point the joke was that we were eating Tembo’i, which sounds remarkably close to tembi’u. (Tembi’u means Food in Guarani. Tembo’i means Small Penis. It’s a easy mistake to make and one that gets taken advantage of.) This joke went on for a long time, and was being lead by the women in attendance. These four middle aged women had every American in ear shot falling out of their chairs with laughter and blushing with embarrassment. I was literally hiding my face and covering my ears un able to take the discomfort anymore. Thus making it all the funnier.

I would like to take moment to commend our Paraguayan friends for trying Ginsey’s food. All of them were eager to try something new, even though spice and spices are not popular here. They enjoyed it as much as the rest of us, especially the non-hot version we made them. Throughout the night people would regularly get up and refill their plates until there was talk of taking turns licking the serving bowls. Ginsey and I looked at each other with pride and decided this was a really good decision. Four hours of cooking suddenly felt like nothing. It was incredible to look around the table and see what fantastic friends we had made.

In a lot of way we had just begin to hit our stride here in Ita. These first months while in training have been trying. The struggles were many and diverse, but the people I have met here have been nothing short of remarkable. Our group has become like a family, and to think I won’t see them every day starting next week is, well, sad. Not to mention, how much we appreciate our host families. They can only be described as generous and hospitable. Let’s add crazy to that too.

Saturday night was one of those perfect nights where that magical blend of good food and good people came together to make something meaningful and memorable. It’s hard to underestimate how much culture affects us, but there are some universals in this world. Sharing food as a way of sharing part of yourself is one of them. (I’m such a poor man’s Anthony Bourdain. Like a really poor man.)