Friday, July 24, 2009

Low Temperatures and Social Gatherings

Over the past week and a half, there have been many meet-and-greet opportunities for us to get to know everybody. Our superintendent had a very nice cocktail and asada party last week, and last night we started a tradition- the Moveable Feast. Every Thursday, someone will host a dinner get together, potluck style. Last night, we went to my teaching partner Tim and his wife Molly's house. They have a beautiful dog named Sandy, and a cute older home with a great yard. The plan was to have the feast outside in that great yard, however, with the chilly temps we've been having, an outside endeavor was just not possible. The feast was a great time and I'm looking forward to hosting it at our place sometime soon.

In regards to the low temperature part of the title, it is ridiculously cold here. Now, I know, I'm from Wisconsin, a little chill in the air shouldn't bother me. But it is really cold! Today's high was around 50 degrees, which is a great spring or fall day in Wiscoland. But in Asuncionland, its cold! The reason why is because the houses are built for maximun airflow for the hot summer months. No insulation. To add to the no insulation aspect, there are not heating units. Most houses have fireplaces or air conditioner/ space heaters. But at the good ol' J & J casa, our fireplace doesn't have a screen or doors to contain the fire, and our air conditioner/space heaters don't have a heat option. So the houses are very drafty and usually are colder than the outside. To which most Wisconsinites would still say, its still in the 40's. What are you complaining about?? To which I say, I'm cold. I haven't had below 60 in two years. When does summer arrive??

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Some of you Stateside might have heard of of Yerba Mate as a kind of tea that is very popular in South America. Yerba Mate is from a plant which is native to Paraguay and the areas of Brazil and Argentina directly surrounding it and was originally used by the Guarani people native to the area. Most all countries of South America drink Mate as a tea brewed with hot but not boiling water. Paraguay does this as well but they also do something unique and drink it by pouring cold water over the Yerba Mate to make a drink called Tereré. Everyone here drinks this stuff and it is a source of national pride that they are the country where Tereré originated. Given this, we thought we should give it a try. Jenna, our neighbor Chaya, and I decided to buy the special glasses called "guampas" and the special straws called "bombillas" with filters built into the end of them and give the drink a shot. Jenna and Chaya are ready to try their first Tereré here. Note how the Yerba Mate is just floating in the water.
After trying it they weren't smiling quite so much as it turns out that our Tereré has a bit of a bitter flavor and is very much an acquired taste. Our guard laughed a bit when we asked him for advice on how to make the Tereré and kind of suggested that the stuff we bought sucked and we should get some better Yerba Mate. I'm dedicated to liking it and will drink it as long as I need to in order to acquire the taste. I hope to bring some home with me next July for those who are interested to give it a try! Here is me drinking my Tereré as I made the posts about flying over the Andes and our apartment.

Getting to know Paraguay

The school has been helping us get to know Paraguayan customs and culture by taking us around to do some things in town. Last Saturday we went downtown to see some of the government buildings, historic buildings, and other sites. We saw the changing of the guard ceremony at the Plaza de Heroes which honors most of the important figures in Paraguay's history which consist mostly of soldiers and Jesuit priests.
We were then taken to The Expo which can best be described as the Paraguayan version of the state fair. There were a ton of artesan stands and food stands as you might imagine and we had plenty of food options to choose from. While wandering around we came across this and Jenna had to have her picture alongside it. If we didn't tell you we were in Paraguay, you might have guessed Wisconsin...
They had an equestrian competition going on so we stopped by to watch it for a while. I have never seen equestrian live before (only on TV during the Olympics) so it was a new experience for me. From left in the picture are: Amy, Chaya, Sara, and Jenna.
Apparently moving south of the equator has already improved my soccer skills so much that I made the Paraguayan National Team... World Cup here I come!
On the way out of the Expo we heard some Michael Jackson playing at the Claro stage (interestingly Claro and Tigo are the 2 dominant cell phone companies here just as they were in Honduras) and stopped to see what was happening. We were surprised and amused to see a dancing chicken with some incredible moves grooving on stage. The chicken danced solo and also pulled people from the crowd that had gathered up on stage to dance with him. It was the highlight of the day.

New Apartment

Our apartment is a bit of a work in progress but we like it overall and are trying to make it our own. It is a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom apartment in a 6 apartment condo on a small side street here in Asuncion. Since Asuncion is an old city (aparently it used to be the most important Spanish city in South America) there are plenty of older buildings and all of the streets used to be cobblestone. Since our street isn't important, it still is cobblestone.
Here is the entrance to our complex. There is a guard at the gate 24/7 and our apartment is the first one on the left.
This is the entrance to our apartment. The windows on the left are in our living room and the pipe you see is from our fireplace!
The living room here still needs a few decorations and the couches are kind of ratty so we're thinking of getting them reupholstered which apparently is kind of cheap here.
Behind the living room is the dining room as you can see here. The decorations on the wall might look a little familiar to those of you who visited in Honduras.
Our kitchen is kind of small but the fridge, toaster, and coffee maker are all brand spankin' new! The open door in the back leads to the maid's quarters which consists of 2 rooms with our washer and dryer, a bathroom, and a separate small patio area with clothes lines in it.
We have another patio area behind the living room with a built in barbecue on the left side (this is a view from the second floor master bedroom).
This is the master bedroom on the second floor.
Last but not least is the crown jewel of the condo... our pool! It's small and shared between the 6 apartments but it's still a pool and it's gonna be fantastic when it's 110 degrees outside!

Over the Andes

On the trip down we flew over the Andes which, since it's winter here and all, were covered in snow and absolutely beautiful. Here are a couple of pics I took out the window of the plane.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Arrival in Paraguay

We have arrived! I know some of you expected an entry immediately upon arrival, however, it was a long day of traveling! We had a three hour delay in Detroit, and some problems in security in New York. Six airports, five flights, and 28 hours later we made it! The amazing thing is that our luggage made it too!! All six bags. Its a bit chilly here in Asuncion, especially to my Honduran heat adjusted body. The architecture and the plant life are very similar to Honduras, and other things are too, like police checkpoints, and guards around houses with razor wire. We can walk almost everywhere though, including to school, grocery stores and malls. It is very nice to be able to get around without a vehicle or taxis. We moved into our new condo two days ago and I will be posting pictures once we finish getting the house put together. We did some shopping yesterday to get the house ready- we bought a fridge and a TV. I almost had a heartattack purchasing the two large appliances; they cost 5,000,000 guaranis. The ratio from Guarani to USD is 5,000 to 1. So basically, we're millionaires. More entries and photos will be added once internet is set up at the condo.