Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bien Frio: My Terere Tutorial.

Spain has Jamon serrano; Ireland has Guinness; and since everything is bigger in Texas, I'll give the lone star state the whole category of Tex-mex. Everywhere in the world has that one thing. That food or drink not only typical but rather characterizes the place and the people living there. It holds a special place in our hearts, and it can sometimes be hard to imagine that elsewhere in the world wouldn't have the same.
There are few things more Paraguayan than that.

Paraguay is no exception.

The most typical thing in Paraguay is not making fun of your local Peace Corps volunteer, although that ranks high. The most Paraguayan of Paraguayan is sitting in your front yard with a few friends, and drinking Terere.

Terere is so pervasive in Paraguayan culture that there is nothing analogous to it in the states. Take coffee culture in Europe and combine it with couch stitting culture in the US and maybe you're getting close.

In training it is the first thing we learn, and our medical officers only feel the need to give us the cliff notes on water purification because there is no avoiding a big communal terere session. Strangers at the bus terminal, good friends, and the guy who checks my bag at the grocery store all offer me drags off their bombilla. (In Paraguay that last sentence would be the funniest thing anyone ever heard.)

I can't tell you the number of times people asked me if we drank terere in America, only to be shocked when I said no. The subsequent question is usually, "Well, then, what do you drink?" as if they can't fathom drinking anything other than terere in any meaningful quantity. I usually respond to the second question with "Beer?" and a little embarrassment, not quite sure if I just sold myself out as the new town drunk. 

Over terere, friendships are made, jokes are told, and traditions learned. Your terere thermos is often called your "Amigo fiel" (Faitful friend) and is even a fashion accessory. There are songs and music videos dedicated to this one drink.  It may appear to just be people drinking tea, but really, it's life.

This post is honestly a little late. I should have put this up months ago considering I've been drinking this stuff like crack since arriving, but the way I figure it'll be summer soon in America so maybe it's up just in time.

I put together a little how-to video for ya'll because I wasn't sure of how to best show the event that is terere. Also if you are feeling adventurous then maybe you can try yourself. I hope you enjoy and aren't too bothered by the low production quality or all the times I say "Um" or "Quintessential." I'll put together something nicer before I submit it to the Travel Channel.

If you decide to wrangle up some yerba and give it a try, have fun with it. Invite some friends over, make sure you shower before not after, and remember: NO WATERMELON!