Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paraguay's National Anthem

The national anthem of Paraguay is quite long and usually only two verses of it are sung. The kids at school sang this every Thursday when they had their "formation" at the beginning of the day. The classes would line up and the kids would sing the anthem. Arms are to be straight down at your sides and no one is to move once the anthem starts. Bear with this music. There's a lot of introduction before it gets to the words. I apologize for the boring video while the music is playing. This was the best one I could find to post on here, though. Enjoy it anyway! I did.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Good Neighbors = Big Blessings

We have the best neighbors around. Mr. Ivan, as we call him (because we didn't know his last name when we first moved in), is such a wonderful man! Grandpa would have loved him, I'm sure. Ivan is one of those guys that knows a little bit about everything and has connections with everyone all over the country. He can rig up a rain barrel or a composter out of miscellaneous pieces of stuff that he finds when he's out driving around. (I'm telling you, Grandpa would have loved him!) He's amazing.

He's also sooo generous when it comes to helping me out with my garden. Ivan's garden has been green for several weeks now and he's sticking more things in every day. His garden is not anything like what we used to have to slave away in as kids (sorry parents, but it felt like that at the time), but for a little city lot, he's got an amazing thing going over there! He is semi-retired, so he spends lots of time in his garden tending it, making it a bit better, checking everything out over and over again. A few years ago when he saw me trying to be some sort of horticulturist, he wandered over and gave me a few tips. Then he offered me some stakes to label my garden. Then he gave me his surplus when my peppers and tomatoes didn't grow. See why he's a dear neighbor?

Well, this year we've expanded our garden space. It's more than twice the size it was last year and I was excited to get out there when we got home from Paraguay to start planting a few things. Ivan suggested I get it rotatilled again before I started. Well, I would do that if I had a rotatiller, but since I don't, I was out there on Saturday turning the soil over with my shovel. I took a break because we were going to meet Oma and Opa at the park for a few hours and when I got home, my garden was all plowed so fresh and neat! Can you believe that after Ivan and I had that talk, he got on the phone, called one of his friends, went over and picked up his tiller and came back and did our garden all before we got home from the park?! What a great neighbor, I'm telling you!

I told him that this kind of thoughtfulness deserved something like a warm rhubarb pie or a loaf of homemade bread for starters. He just laughed and asked, "Do you need any seed potatoes? I've got lots left." This man isn't out for rewards and payments. He's out to be a great neighbor! What a blessing he and his family are to us! I hope he can say the same thing about us!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Back In Business!

I'm so excited! I'm back in business again. We have a working washing machine again that has replaced our deceased. Our front loader broke down and spun it's last load the day we were leaving for Paraguay back in April. I'm thankful that we were able to wash all but the clothes on our backs before we left Karen's house to come home because it's now been over a week since I've had the chance to wash clothes. Fred's mom so kindly took two loads for me last weekend and Jo took two more loads for me on Wednesday, but with a family of little boys that love to play in the dirt, a washing machine is generally put to good and constant use!

We had the repairman here on Tuesday to assess the situation and he gave us the news that it would be about $510 to repair the machine. Uh ... no thank you. If we're going to shell out $510 for repairs on an eight year old machine, we may as well get a new one. A new washing machine isn't in the budget, though, so we prayed! We knew that God loved us and that He could provide a solution for us, and did He ever! Someone found out that our machine had died and called Fred to tell him that they had replaced theirs when they moved and now they had an extra one that we could have. I'm very grateful for this machine and value it as a special gift from God.

As I'm typing here tonight, I am hearing the whirring and spinning of our new washer and it is music to my ears. Who would have ever thought that one would rejoice over the sound of a washing machine?! Well, I am! God gives good and perfect gifts and that is a reason to rejoice!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

There IS Such a Thing As A Free Lunch!

Today we continued to celebrate Stephen's birthday and we were all treated to a free lunch! The kids belong to the Birthday Club at PizzaPizza so every year on their birthdays they get a card from PizzaPizza with a coupon for a free slice of pepperoni pizza and a drink, which in our house means that they get a HUGE chocolate milk all to themselves!

We were on our way to PizzaPizza to get Stephen's free slice of pizza when we passed a grand opening event of a store close to the pizza shop. Out front was a big sign, "Grand Opening! FREE BBQ - Everyone welcome!" So ... we stopped in, took a look around at the store, got a free M&M hamburger and a can of pop and went on to get Stephen's free birthday pizza!

There IS such a thing as a free lunch! We enjoyed ours today. Got any of your own "free" stories to share?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy 6th Birthday, Stephen!

Today we celebrated Stephen's sixth birthday! It's so much fun seeing the excitement of a child about his/her birthday. Everything today revolved around the fact that it was his birthday, and not only that, but that it was a Pac Man birthday for him!

At Christmas, he fell in love with Pac Man at Aunt Liz and Uncle Joe's house and it has been a dream of his ever since to have a Pac Man birthday. At breakfast we started out with pancakes that he insisted needed to be cut into Pac Man shapes. (Thanks, Daddy, for the finishing touches.)

Then his cake for tonight's celebration was Pac Man as well. Stephen designed the cake and the cupcakes to look like a Pac Man game, and I must say that he was quite successful at it. That was a good thing since I'm not sure I've ever even played Pac Man, so I don't have a clue what's what with all these dots and colors and everything else. We had a great birthday celebration today for Stephen and he's a happy little camper tonight!

We also got to celebrate his birthday along with all the rest of the little boys at Aunt Karen's house last week. We had cake, gifts, toys, and a pinata. How great is that to celebrate your birthday twice in two different countries with two different cakes? How great is it that even if it wasn't your birthday any time soon, you still got to have a birthday party with everyone and say it was for you, too! Happy Birthday to everyone, especially Stephen!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Is This Canada?

Christopher's first question when we got off the plane was, "Is this Canada?" I guess after almost 24 hours of airports, one looks the same as another and it's not easy to identify where you are anymore. Stephen saw a Canadian flag and went crazy, shouting so loudly that he could see the flag of Canada that all the other people standing in the line for customs were grinning at him. Yes, we are home in Canada and are slowly but surely getting reaquainted with our surroundings.

Thank God, for the most part our trip home was uneventful! We were a bit anxious in the airport in Asuncion because all the computers were down and the staff was doing their best to manually fill out all the forms, boarding passes, luggage tags, etc. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 11:00AM and we were told we would start to board at 10:20. The TAM Airlines attendant was telling us this AT 10:20! We still wanted to pray with Oscar and Karen before they left and we went through security. We needn't have worried. By the time we finally got to the gate at 10:45, there was no one there and we still had to wait about another hour until we finally left.

When Fred was checking us all in at the airport in Asuncion, the attendant asked Fred if he was aware of the fact that my landed immigrant papers for Canada were expired! Can you believe they expired in March and I didn't even catch that! I knew my passport was ok, but I never thought to check my immigrant paperwork! No one caught it on the way down, so I just tucked that card away in my wallet and used only my VALID passport for the rest of the trip. No problems! Thank God!

Our flight got in to Toronto nice and early at 5:30AM. It took us about an hour to get through customs, luggage gathering, etc. Plus, with three little guys, it took us probably twice as long as everyone to get off the plane, walk from our gate to customs, find our bags, and all that. We always seemed to be at the end of lines, but that's ok. The boys were so tired at that point that most of the time they were laying on the floor crying while we waited our turn in the lines, so it was ok that there were only other families in the same boat, or smiling (probably deaf) grandparents in wheelchairs around us. The boys all fell asleep on the ride home, too, so I know they were exhausted. We all took long naps this afternoon, and none of them complained tonight when they got in bed either. Poor Stephen is all confused about what day it is. He couldn't understand how it could be May 15 at the supper table tonight when it was May 15 when we got to the airport. He couldn't understand why we had to eat two breakfasts yesterday - one with heart waffles at Aunt Karen's and then one on the plane (20 hours later). He keeps checking the calendar and the clock to try to figure out what really happened. Poor guy.

So here we are, safe and sound and exhausted. Christopher got into our van in Toronto and asked, "Is this OUR van?" And then when we said we were going home, he asked if our house had toys. Stephen assured him that it did. When we got home, the boys wanted to play outside and Christopher was about to step out onto the deck when he came back in and asked me if it was snowing outside and could he shovel. That was his last memory of being out on our deck, I guess!

Thank you all for your prayers for our family this past month. It was an amazing experience for our family. I hope that some day we will be able to go back and do some more work, but I think I'd like to wait until the boys are older. It was harder on me to deal with three little kids, in the airports especially, than I thought, so I would rather wait until they're older and can handle themselves better. They still loved it, too, and all day today we talked about Paraguay ... Aunt Karen's house, Sasha the dog (I didn't talk about Sasha, but the boys did!), the school, Edson, Uncle Oscar's birthday today, La Quinta, Gaby's hair cut, empanadas, mosquitoes, etc. We will miss a lot of things from last month in Paraguay! Thank God for the memories, the pictures, the gifts and the blessings of growth!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nine More Hours

In nine more hours, our bags will be in the car and the boys will have one last ride of freedom in the back seat of a moving vehicle without safety restraints. In nine more hours, I will have to remember to do one last look around to make sure we didn't forget anything. In nine more hours, Nancy will probably be taking "just one more" picture. In nine more hours, I will be looking around for the last time at this beautiful house that we've been privileged to call home for the last month. In nine more hours, I will have to brace myself for the good-bys that I am dreading to say. I'm not going to be ready to say them; I am crying as I type this! But I know it must be done, so I will force myself to go through the motions. I hate good-bys. My friend that I see only once a year for a few hours always tells me to say 'see you later' instead of 'good-by' because it's not so final. Sometimes I'm tricked by that, but this time I don't think I will be.

Our month here is over. It's time to go back home and try to get back into our old routines. Can that be possible? My life is forever changed because of these four weeks here. Sure, we can slip back into our familiar surroundings and routines and lifestyles, but I don't think that the lessons my heart has learned will allow me to remain the person that I was on the inside. I have a lot to digest from this time, so maybe a 20 hour trip home will be a good thing after all!

In nine more hours, the gate to the Caballero home will close behind us and we'll be on our way to the airport. I will miss this place terribly, but I know that I'll see many of these loved ones again in a far more beautiful place some day. Good by, Paraguay! Good by, Colegio Privado Adonai! Good by Karen, Oscar, Brandon, Gaby and Edson! See you later! I love you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Two Lists

Things I Will Miss From Paraguay
(In no significant order)

* Karen, Oscar, Brandon, Gaby and Edson (ok, that one is first on the list in significant order!!)
* The beautiful plants
* Sitting in the back seat of a car with a ton of people, holding my kids on my lap as a result
* Empanadas (especially con carne)
* The hugs of rumpled first graders and sweaty sixth graders (and all the other kids in between)
* The stretching of my brain as I try to speak with someone in an intelligible manner
* Sharing family stories with my nephews
* My surprised reaction each time I see free-roaming dogs, horses, cows and chickens on the streets
* The beautiful red dirt (except on the laundry or my children)
* Having help with the care of my kids, making meals, doing laundry, cleaning, etc. (There's something good to be said about communal living!)
* Chipa
* Being in the classroom again
* Hearing "Dios te bendiga"
* The beautiful weather and sunshine
* Watching my sister use Godly wisdom when raising her teenage boys
* The interesting architecture of buildings and the fascinating (and mostly make-shift) signs
* The way everyone shares things so freely with each other
* The many times people stop to pray, especially the teachers in school
* Getting excited when I can actually understand and participate in a conversation spoken in another language
* Reminiscing with Karen (and Oscar and the boys)
* Hearing Gaby burst into song

(This is an incomplete list of things I will miss.)

Things I Will NOT Miss
* Mosquitoes
* Lack of soap and towels in public bathrooms (and sometimes some homes)
* Red dirt in my kids' clothes and under their fingernails
* The trash that is just thrown on the ground in public places, even when there is a trash can a few feet away
* The traffic rules - which really means 'the lack of'
* Getting up early and staying up late (even after a month my body is not used to this schedule)
* Wanting to speak to people, but not having a CLUE what to say (so that they can understand me, that is)
* The smell of smoke every day from people burning their rubbish all the time, even in the middle of streets
* The stuffy classrooms, especially in the afternoon

The Last Day at School

Today is the last day of school here for the boys and for me. Fred finished his work this morning and Nancy is going in tomorrow for a few hours, but my work here is done.

(As a side note here, today I felt as if I was the most unpresentable that I've ever been as a professional! I was sweating like you wouldn't believe! My school uniform was drenched, especially under the arms and down my back. My hair was a total disaster thanks to the high humidity, rain, wind and lack of mirrors. The kids all gave me sweaty hugs which also turned my face into a slimy, dirty mess. I was so grossed out by my sweaty face that I went into the bathroom to splash water on my face in an attempt to clean up and cool down. Forgetting that there were no towels, I splashed my face with water out of desperation for relief. I glanced in my bag for a tissue or old napkin or something to dry my dripping face. Ahhh! A piece of cloth! I wiped my face in relief until I realized that I had grabbed Timothy's dirty and sweaty shirt and was now smearing that all over my face! Well, what can you do? My face was dry, and that's what I wanted. Getting out of the shower tonight was no relief, either. As soon as I turned off the water, I wanted to rinse myself off again because I was sweating so much! Ugh. Relief is supposed to be coming by Friday, but we'll be home by then!)

The boys had a fiesta in their class this afternoon in their honor. I was invited to come and the teachers and Jason gave a gift to the boys! The teachers had taken pictures of the class on the one "cool" day and Jason put it to music. It's absolutely adorable and it made Jazmine and Estrella (the teachers) and me cry. Jason asked Stephen if he made friends here and if he could talk to them. Stephen said that he made friends, but no, he couldn't talk with them.

My good-bys to the students today were a bit hurried and unfortunately, I wasn't able to hug each one, but that may be for the best anyway. I don't need to shed TOO many tears here before we leave! The teachers, on the other hand, were not so easy to say good-by to. I've been given so much by the teachers today: kisses, gifts, food, and many blessings. I struggled to convey my thanks and appreciation for everything. I know I botched up my words royally, but I hope my actions and my (spontaneous) tears told them the truth. Teachers and students of Adonai, I will miss you. You have been my extended family for the past month and I will miss you very much!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Random Thoughts On A Sunday

We almost hit a cow on the way to church this morning. All of a sudden, one appeared in front of our car. Karen slammed on the brakes, we went around it and kept going. Oooooh kayyyyyy....

Church starts at 8:30 AM. We leave the house at 7:30. The kids are dismissed from el templo (the sanctuary) after the singing in the morning. They go into a Sunday School room (one of the school's classrooms) where they are given a snack: a cup of Coke and a half an empanada (or a sandwich or sweet roll or some other small snack).
Nestor is telling the Bible story at Saturday night's "Sunday School".

This morning before the older kids left the snack room for their class, three of the boys came up to the front of the room to recite their memory verses ... THE ENTIRE CHAPTER OF HEBREWS 11!!! And our kids gripe about having one new verse a week!

We were supposed to go to the zoo after church this morning with the other young people. Instead, it rained, so the zoo trip is off. Stephen was quite disappointed, but since I'd been there before, I knew we weren't missing much (sorry Asuncionites - or are you Asuncioners? Asuncionians? Asuncionos? Asuncionarios?) It would have been way too muddy. Maybe Wednesday. Maybe not.

Paster Pedro asked the congregation to kneel for the final prayer today (all the other times we've stood). As I was kneeling on the cold, hard, tile floor, I had to think about how much of an issue it was for our church when we were choosing carpet for the new sanctuary; which carpet would hurt our knees the most? What a contrast. And what a humbling action to kneel together before the Lord this morning.

Pastor Pedro, his wife Mary, Pablo, Matias and Marilyn in their home.

At the end of the service, Pastor Pedro called Fred, Nancy and myself up to the front to thank us for coming and he wanted to pray for us as this is our last Sunday here. The church also had a prayer for us the first Sunday we came, and what a touch of a blessing it was for us. The first time, I had a feeling of excitement as Oscar prayed for our family and our anticipated ministry here for the next few weeks. This time when Pastor Pedro prayed, I had a hard time holding back the tears. After the prayer, many of the brothers and sisters streamed past, hugging and kissing us and whispering "Dios te bendiga" (God bless you) in our ears and I had no choice but to cry openly.

Liliana and her husband, Jose Luis
Marlene (Pastor Dario's wife)

I will miss everyone. I don't know if or when I'll ever be able to come back to share time with these brothers and sisters, so it's hard to say good by. I'll be back in school on Tuesday, so Liliana only said, "See you Tuesday!" We weren't ready for parting words yet. Marlene said, "I'm not ready to say good-by. I'll see you later this week." Pastor Pedro (who only lives two doors down) hugged us tight, said something a little too fast for me to catch, and then hugged us tight again. The children asked if we're coming back to school, and when informed that we were, they ran off to play. It's premature to say goodby to Jason because I'll be seeing him again this week, but I did thank him again for letting me be a part of his classes this past month. It meant so much to me and I'll miss tagging after him every day! Ah yes. We still have 3+ days left, and I'm already having a hard time saying good-by!

After the boys wake up from their naps this afternoon, we're having a birthday party for all the little boys. Stephen's birthday is on the 19th of May, Timothy and Christopher on September 15 and Edson on November 15. Since we've never had a birthday party together with this group of cousins, we're having one now! There will be gifts, balloons, cake and ice cream and a pinata!

The older boys also got gifts of CD's, the Caballero's gave me a Mother's Day gift of an Alex Campos CD that I've fallen in love with here and Nancy and I gave Karen the gift of a new coffee pot (pictures and story to come). We're all enjoying gifts today!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

San Pedro Pictures

I promised you some pictures of San Pedro, especially the bread making that Oscar's mom did. Unfortunately, I think I must have picked up Karen's camera by accident because most of the pictures that I took are not on here. Maybe some day she'll post my pictures for you.

The brick oven was heated up with hot coals while Oscar's mom made the dough. Sorry, Aunt Heidi, I have no idea what the recipe is, but it seems like a basic white bread. She did not let it rise, but just made the dough and saved it in a big, green, plastic tub covered with a towel until she was ready.

She cut the dough and twisted it into rolls. Each roll was placed on a piece of banana leaf and then placed into the oven after the coals had been removed and the bottom of the oven brushed out. Karen told me that the banana leaves don't burn, so that's why they're used.
When all the rolls were put inside and the oven was full, they blocked up the openings with pieces of wood and baked them for about 15-20 minutes.
As soon as the rolls were finished, people came out of the woodwork looking for some super-delicious HOT bread! We were not disappointed!
Christopher is sitting on an ant hill. These ant hills are rock hard and fill the fields with little mountains everywhere. The only way they can be removed is with dynomite, they are so hard! The pictures don't do it justice, but they are bright red in color and are fascinating to see.
Our hotel room in San Pedro. The boys were watching a Mickey Mouse show in Spanish on the TV before we left in the morning to go back to Oscar's mom's house.
The bathroom at the hotel is a typical bathroom. Note the shower directly next to the toilet? I found out the hard way that it's not wise to put your clothes on the toilet while you are showering. They get drenched. The shower is also a fantastic breeding ground for mosquitoes. Oscar told us that when he got in his shower, the shower head that has a little tank warming the water started on fire! He jumped out of the shower, flicked the switch off and made Karen ask for another room to shower in. The joys of dealing with a laid back country!

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Handsome Family

Stephen - Kindergarten - Age 6 (in one week)

Timothy - Preschool - Age 4Christopher - getting messy at home while everyone else was all dressed up! 2 1/2 years old

Brandon - 10th Grade - 16 years old

Gaby - 8th Grade - 14 years old

Picture Day at Adonai

The afternoon first grade class is getting ready for their official photograph. The girl on the end is a mainstreamed 12 year old with a tender heart.

What a tiring, but FUN day we had yesterday! It was Picture Day at school! The students came all dressed up in their special occation uniforms with green ribbons and ties and shiny shoes. The girls had their hair combed beautifully and some little girls even had bright pink lipstick! Nancy and I had a great laugh at the boys, though. When we knocked on Professora Emilia's door (6th grade) to call them out for their pictures, the boys swarmed Emilia begging her to let them go to the bathroom first. They tore off down the hall and disappeared into the boys' room. The girls, in the meantime, casually sauntered over to where we were set up for the group photo. Nancy and I cracked up as the boys came out of the bathroom one by one with their hair nice and slicked down! They cared more about their looks than the girls!

The sixth grade class with their slicked down hair.

We were also quite entertained by the reactions of the students when it was their turn for individual photos. The giddiness in the clowns stopped and a look of panic and apprehension came over their faces. Some of the normally timid ones had no problem posing and pretending to be models. There was laughing and joking and a true felling of excitement with each of the classes.
This Coke truck decided to pull up and unload JUST as we were ready to snap pictures of the first graders! It wasn't exactly the background Nancy was hoping for!

The onlookers at recess time wanted to see what Nancy was doing.

Nancy was the photographer (always referred to as a semi-professional, and for good reason!) She was busy finding the perfect lighting and the perfect background. And did she ever! My job was to call up the children in their class order. Most children have at least four names, sometimes five. It wasn't easy to first of all figure out which name was their first name, much less figure out how to pronouce some of them! I was laughed at quite a bit, but the students were still helpful with the weird pronunciations.
Each student has a story behind them. As we were looking through the pictures today, Karen was telling me some of the sad stories. One child had a brother deep into drugs and satanic practices and last year he was found dead in their home. The death was set up as a suicide, but homicide is greatly suspected. One child's parent didn't want him, so she left the family and went to Spain. One child's parents are drug addicts and have been accused of abusing the children. One child misses school due to suspected malnutrition. One child was deserted by her parents and lives with her grandmother. The stories go on and on....

At the end of the day, Nancy and I were exhausted, but happy. It was a long and tiring day, but these kids are sooooo cute, you can't help but fall in love with them. Picture Day is over, but Nancy's gift for capturing those beautiful faces God created will bless many families for years to come!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Adonai's Computers

Fred's been working hard on the computers at school this week. He was finally able to purchase some of the materials that he needed to get the different computers and laptops networked to the new scanner/printer/copier. The teachers are thrilled!

He met up with some frustration this week when he was told by the copier company that a representative would be there at 10:00 on Monday to train the staff on the new machine. Surprise, surprise! It was cancelled and rescheduled for Tuesday. Tuesday's appointment time came and went and no one really seemed too bothered. Believe it or not, the rep DID show up around noon, so Fred was able to meet with him, go over the machine and work with the staff on the training.

Exams are coming up next week, so the teachers are overjoyed that they can get all their exams done on the new machine on their cleaned-up computers. I give Fred a lot of credit for working on all these machines ... since the majority of them are all in spanish!!

Well done, Fred! You've made an entire school excited because of the work you put into those computers and the printer! God bless you for your gifts in the area of this technology!

Teacher Jason was THE Man! (or The Mom)

Wow! I loved team-teaching with Jason today! He was amazing with the kids! It was not an easy day, especially with those sixth graders, but I'm telling you, that teacher was amazing today! He marched right into the first class of the day - the fourth graders - and he took immediate command. He had those kids so under control that we both walked out of there in awe! It's amazing how smoothly things can go when you hand them over to the Lord, wouldn't you agree?

The sixth graders were a bit antsy and disrespectful, but you should have seen Jason! He hung in there, stood his ground, demanded respect and I think that he opened the eyes of some of those difficult students. It's not always easy teaching this age because these kids will slip into speaking Guarani and then neither Jason nor I can understand what they're up to. It's really not fair to the teacher, but once again, he marched right through those awkward moments and he did great!

Jason laughs about Karen's advice to him when he first started teaching. She told him that he needed to be the mom in the classroom so now we joke about how he's learning to be a mom. He's doing great at knowing when to discipline, when to be firm, when to be the one in charge, and when to be soft and give out hugs and smiles and laughs. I'm sure it sounds funny to the rest of you, but I love hearing Jason say that he feels like he's becoming a better mom! I can see that he's becoming a better teacher, that's for sure! The children love him and he loves explaining new concepts to them, interacting with them in Spanish, teaching them things like "y'all" (which I complained a bit about!) and he especially loves joking around with them and using word puns and language idioms. He's my kind of teacher and I was so proud of his ability to be The Mom today! I sure will miss teaching with him next week when we leave.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mosquito Bites

My poor kids are getting a lot of attention these days ... and it's all because of their mosquito bites! Maybe it's because they are so sweet that the mosquitoes are drawn to them and can't resist them. It's probably more that there are just so many mosquitoes and I forgot to put in the little raid tablet into the scent-warmer that keeps the mosquitoes away. I also forgot to close the windows at dusk, and I think there was a mosquito reunion going on in the boys' room last night. I feel terrible about that because the poor kids look like they have chicken pox!! Everyone wants to touch them and comment about it and I just feel awful that I could have prevented it. I thought about it around 4:30 this morning when one of those reunion members made it's way into our room and continued to buzz around my face until I woke up, remembered the boys' room and went running in there to put a new tablet into the contraption. By then it was too late. They are now speckled and somewhat swollen and scratched. Pobrecitos!

A New Week

Nancy's back from Argentina, and is full of stories! She had a great time visiting her cousins there and has enough stories to keep us entertained for days! We're thankful that she was able to take advantage of the long holiday weekend last week and that she is now back safe and sound.

Jason let me participate in his classes today! His students were thrilled to have him back in class, but he kindly let me have some time, too, since my days here at Adonai are numbered. My sister-in-law, who has lived and taught in so many countries herself, told me that since I know the language, I am able to form more relationships than she was able to when she was teaching overseas. I thought about that a lot today, and she is right! I stumble and struggle with communicating at times, but I do know enough to have simple conversations, and my new friends and many of the students want to help me learn and speak their language, so they are more than helpful in leading me through the words and sentences I'm trying to use.

In the sixth grade classes today, Jason and I did a little dialogue from their book to help the students with some listening and comprehension skills. When we were finished reading, he asked them if they understood what we were reading and NO ONE DID!!! The blank stares were almost comical! They listened to every word, but they didn't understand. (Hmmm. I see a spiritual application here! How many times do we listen to every word that is spoken from church, Bible Studies, one-on-one interaction, etc, and yet we don't pay attention or even try to understand what is spoken?!) When Jason went through it phrase by phrase, you could see understanding come to their faces, and excitement when they could actually tell him what words they understood. I do love that sixth grade class, even if they did lose all their smile face incentives today and had to have homework! They're wonderful kids and I'm glad that Jason let me teach a wee bit more today! Thanks, Jason!


A Gomeria is a tire shop. There is a Gomeria about every 100 meters, it seems. Not really, but they are EVERYWHERE! Once you drive on some of the side streets of Asuncion (or Lambare' where the school is, or just about anywhere around here, I guess), you understand the need for a Gomeria every 100 meters. Many of the roads are made of HUGE stones, not even cobblestones, which gives the impression of being small, round and quaint. These stones are LARGE and pointy and not always evenly laid. I wish I had a good picture of them to share with you, but Fred is currently working on all the computers from school and a few other people's computers and he has not had time to download any pictures for several days. That's why I haven't posted any San Pedro pictures yet either. But anyway, the little Gomerias crack me up. You can recognize the shop by a tire immersed in the red soil with white spray painted letters "GOMERIA" following the shape of the letters. I never actually see anyone in those places, but they're there in case you need it, and you probably will many times over. Many of the tires are repaired and patched and repaired and patched until they just can no longer take the roads. Gomeria ... a Paraguayan necessity.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Psychology of Terere (at least in my opinion)

I think that there must be a psychology behind drinking terere. I know many of you will have your own opinions on this, but remember that this is MY perspective and MY opinions!

A bit of an explanation here, terere is a drink similar to loose tea that is pressed into a "mug" made out of wood, cow horns or gourds or probably other things I don't know about. There is a bombilla, a silver straw with a strainer on the tip at the end stuck in the yerba mate', loose tea, in the cup. Cold water is poured into the cup and then sucked out through the straw. (Hot water poured on top of a different type of yerba mate changes the name to "mate") The social aspect comes in here. The "host" server fills their cup with water and passes it to someone else in the group who drinks the entire cupful. They pass it back to the server where it is filled up and passed to the next person. This continues until each person has enjoyed the terere enough, at which point they say 'gracias' and their turn is then skipped during the next round for the rest of the social session.

This is where my opinions come in. I see that the whole aspect of sharing terere is similar to sharing communion with other believers. The host serves each person in the group, so good communication is a must. I'm sure it must be difficult for someone to serve terere to someone that they are at odds with or holding something against. Karen was just telling me this morning about a wife who, several years ago, was having such a difficult time in her relationship that she told Karen that she couldn't even serve her husband terere. That's what got me thinking about the psychology behind this all.

I see friends sitting around sharing terere and they are laughing and enjoying each other's company. I don't see people sitting around with long faces when they are sharing this drink together. Oscar just told me that my perceptions are true. It is very difficult to share terere with someone you are at odds with. You would not be rude and skip them in the circle, but inside you are in turmoil when you are serving. This is why it is best, and following scripture, to make sure that you are at peace with all men, as much as possible within yourself.

Every other time I've been in Paraguay, I've politely used the excuse that I am a visitor and I am not used to the taste or practice of sharing terere. This year I decided that if I am going to be living here and working here for a month, then I need to share their practices and show that I am willing to work along side them. The sharing of the bombilla does gross me out, but if I can share a common cup at Communion with my brothers and sisters in Canada, why can't I share the same here in Paraguay? I also confess that at times I pray hard before I accept the cup because I'm a little leary about the mouth that touched it last, but God is good. I enjoy the blend of terere that Karen makes, but some of the others' are bitter.

Even though I share terere here in Paraguay, it's still not a practice that I want to start or participate in at home. It's still a bit gross enough for me to reject it in my familiar culture, but here in Paraguay where it's the norm, I am ok with it.

And there you have it, my friends, my opinions on the psychology of terere.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

God Changed Our Plans

This morning as we were getting to leave the hotel, God changed our plans for San Pedro. It started pouring and pouring and pouring! Just the day before, Oscar's mom was showing me her trees and how dry everything was. She said that there hasn't been rain for about 3 or 4 months. I guess God decided to change that on our only day in San Pedro.

We were supposed to go to Maria's house (Oscar's niece) to see how she makes cheese, spend the day there and then leave after lunch. Maria lives down a dirt road (did I mention that the dirt is a beautiful shade of bright orange/red?) and Oscar was afraid that we'd get stuck with our cars, so we just stopped by his mom's for one last visit and then headed home several hours early. As I said to Karen on our way out, as much as I would have loved to have stayed and visited Maria, they needed rain more than we needed to visit. It was unbelievably dry there!

Now, for a few more interesting stories: all of you germ-free lovers will appreciate this one (or not). On the way there and back we stopped at some public restrooms. They had the toilet paper rolls sitting on the floor of each stall and then came through and swished the water to clean the floors, completely drenching the toilet paper! Uh, hello! What good is super thin toilet paper if it's sopping wet?! Thank the Lord for a HUGE pack of Kirkland brand baby wipes that happened to be in my bag! Most of our family has been hit with the runs now, so good quality toilet paper is extremely helpful.

On the way home today, there was a double decker bus that seemed to be playing games with us as we drove. The driver would zoom past us, and then slow down to pick up passengers and then zoom past us again. Well, we were just commenting to the boys about how dangerously this bus was driving when all of a sudden we saw him try to pass a slow, almost falling apart pick up truck. The truck swerved causing the bus to swerve AROUND A CURVE! We slowed down, prayed awfully fast and LOUD, and watched as it sprayed dust and dirt everywhere on the left side of the road, almost losing control! It continued to swerve while we continued to pray and thankfully, it regained it's control without any mishap! That was awfully scary! I thought for sure we'd see a major accident in front of our eyes!

Now we're back home safe and sound and we're trying to wash out all the red dirt from our clothes. I'm sure it will stain, but that's ok. We'll have permanant reminders of our time in San Pedro. I'll write more about the other things like the ant hills and the bread when I can post some pictures. We need the pictures!

Good Morning, From San Pedro!

The kids are still sleeping so I'm going to take a few more minutes here while I have the chance before we head off again. The hotel here isn't as sound proof as the ones I'm used to in North America. The heavy, wooden doors are extremely squeaky, the halls are all made of beautiful tile, but they are just one long echo-tube. The air conditioners in the rooms hum very, very loudly and once again, sleep was not the best. Oh well.

So I forgot to tell you about last night's adventure. After we had dinner at Pastor Marciel's home, he took us in his "auto" to the home where all the young people were playing volleyball and all the older people were observing and drinking terere'. Marciel's "auto" is a single horse drawn carriage. We really enjoyed that! Fred and Christopher rode up front with Marciel and Stephen and Timothy and I were on our backs on a blanket in the back observing the sky. It was dark, so we could see tons of stars! We could even see the Milky Way so clearly! It was beautiful!

Once we got to the home where we were headed, the boys were immediately drawn to the toys ... Timothy had a tin pail and a stick that he was initially banging on and then eventually turned it into his cooking pot. The adults were humored by his offerings of fish, chicken noodle soup and tea. Stephen set up a little mini-golf game with another pail, a deflated volleyball and a stick. He was entertaining everyone with his game. Christopher spent the time pushing trucks around in the dirt all over the place and Edson got a thrill out of hearing everyone scream when he got too close to the volleyball game with his cars.

The animals roam freely here. We had to stop several times on the way here, on the highway, no less, to let a cow or two wander across the road. There were a few sheep that were brave enough to cross without looking as well. At a few of the homes, the chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, dogs, and pigs also have free reign and are in and out of the houses as often as the children, it seems. The boys LOVED chasing after the chickens and pigs especially.

Everywhere we went, Karen would introduce us and I would catch a bit of people's comments. What I kept hearing was, "She looks just like you!" and then immediately followed by "she's so white!" Uh, well, yeah. That's always been the case. Here in Paraguay I stick out even more because everyone is so dark already and I'm so white. My rosacea on my face doesn't help things either, as that's the next comment I hear: "Why is her face red?" The delicious and plentiful citrus fruit here doesn't help that either! Yesterday Oscar finally convinced me to try one of the grapefruits that was almost as big as a volleyball. I don't like grapefruit, but WOW! This was amazing! It didn't even taste like a grapefruit! So when I have things like that, or the lemons from Karen's lemon tree, my face gets redder and more people comment.

The boys are up now and it's time to get packed up and go back to Oscar's sister's house to meet up with Brandon and Gaby. They wanted to stay there because they could play with their Playstation. See, San Pedro, with it's dirt roads, horse and buggies and free-range animals still has technology! A TV in almost every home and even some with Playstations!

Until we're in Asuncion...adios!

Friday, May 1, 2009

San Pedro, Paraguay - On The Cutting Edge of Technology (or not)

Well, here we are in the Santa Ana Hotel in San Pedro and I'm writing on a laptop using wireless, high speed internet technology. Sounds pretty advanced, right? Well, yeah. This part is, but the rest of the city is not nearly so. We've seen a wide range of technology here, but that will have to wait for another blog. No time to write about it all tonight.

We started out for San Pedro this morning and we were on the road by 8:10 (goal was 8:00, so we did pretty good!). We were driving for MAYBE 20 minutes when I looked behind me at Stephen just in time to see him mouth, "Mommy, I think I'm going to throw up!" I grabbed a towel that Karen had sitting next to her and the poor kid puked all over the towel, his shirt, his shorts, shoes and unfortunately, the towel we had down on the seat and on the floor. Karen had pulled over by this point and Stephen stumbled out of the car to heave another load. Blech! As the mom, I had the privilege of also getting spewed upong.

Stephen got cleaned up, the car got wiped down as much as was possible with a couple of wipies and I tried to force down some anti-nausea medicine into all the boys. We were on the road again, only to hear Christopher's meager littlevoice say, "Mommy!!!!!" I grabbed a plastic bag this time and the poor kid vomited HIS breakfast into the bag, too! Once again, we pulled over, cleaned another kid up, wiped Mommy down and started off again. Thankfully, that was the last of the barfing. I think it was because they're not used to being so free in a moving vehicle. They're used to their carseats and boosters in the van, but here, there's no car seats, no seat belts, no restrictions. Plus, the Paraguayans love the thrill of weaving in and out of traffic. There was just too much movement for their little tummies.

So we get to San Pedro, checked in at our hotel (which is only about $21/night because we have kids - Jason has a room to himself so his room is only $11/night), and started off toward Oscar's family's homes. Karen asked, "Where's Stephen?" Huh? I thought he was with Fred in the other car, but Karen said she didn't see him. She quickly called Oscar's cell phone and found out that neither Stephen nor Timothy were with him and they weren't with us, either! I ran back into the hotel, frantically looking for them, but all our rooms' doors were locked and they were no where to be found! Finally, they came down from the third floor where they were trying to find the balcony that they had seen from the outside. Boy, did they get in trouble!! We gave them a good lecture about being away from us in a foreign country, etc, etc.

Anyway, I could write tons tonight, but we're going to sleep. We have another long day of visiting and driving ahead of us and we need rest. I'll write more when we get back to Asuncion.

I need to remember to tell you about:
* stopping for cows to cross the road
* the bread that Oscar's mom made in her brick oven
* the beautiful scenery on the way here
* the red, red dirt that is everywhere
* the car that Christopher pulled out of a blob of dog poop (or maybe I don't need to tell you that story)
* the ant hills that are taller than the boys and solid as a rock
* the way the folks in San Pedro love to fellowship and just sit around and talk with each other
* and more!