Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday in the piscina

Today was a great day for me in Paraguay. The sun was shining-not a cloud in the sky. I went to brunch with the girls and had mimosas for the second weekend in a row. Then, we lounged around in the pool. It was finally warm enough today to use our second story patio pool, so we took out the floaty chairs and enjoyed. Chaya and I did have some reading to do for our class, but no reason we couldn't do it poolside right?

Lapacho Trees

In the late 1970's or early 80's, a law was passed in Asuncion that trees could not be cut down in the city. This has resulted in a few problems in electrical wires, but a gorgeous and very green city. One of these trees is called the lapacho. This tree is absolutely beautiful and is all over the city. Right now is its flowering period, and the pink flowers are a symbol of winter in Paraguay. This picture doesn't quite do the tree justice, but its the best I can do for now. Around our school playground, there are four or five huge lapacho trees that grace the sidewalks with their small pink flowers.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Brunch, a Hash Run, and a PTA Picnic

This past weekend was quite a busy one! I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of the festivities, maybe one of these days I'll remember to bring my camera with me. We started off the weekend on Saturday morning with a small brunch at my neighbor's house. I say small because of the amount of people, it was not a small amount of food! It was the first time since I moved here that I've had an actual cooked breakfast (breakfast burritos) and I stuffed myself! I don't think it helped that we made mimosas too! Now, I've never had a mimosa before, but they may have become my new favorite drink.

Our brunch went until 2:30, when I left to do a Hash Run. I've never heard of this before, so its a new thing for me. Apparently, the Hash House Harriers is a running club that operates runs throughout the world. A worker at the embassy has started one here about a month ago. They are generally biweekly runs, with dead ends, beer stops, and a flour trail to follow. I went to the one yesterday with a few other "virgens" and I decided to walk it since running on cobblestones doesn't seem like a good idea with my ankle track record. We had a good time laughing and searching for the trail, and when we finished, I realized that we had to chug beer. There was also a song and few other interesting aspects of the group. I'm not sure yet if this will become a fixture in my routine or not, but it was a nice way to see new parts of the city.

Finally, today was the PTA picnic at school. Jesse and I had signed up to play in a parents vs. teachers volleyball tournament. I played with 5 other elementary teachers, and we had fun, but man, the parents were good! We got creamed! Jesse also played in a pick-up basketball game and he played soccer against some parents too. The picnic also had a raffle (we didn't win the trip to Miami) and an asado (barbecue). It wasn't too bad, although I really wish we could have won something valuable!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to School

Our school down here is associated with a graduate program with the University of Alabama. Professors from the U of A come down to Asuncion four times a year and give master's degree classes. Well, Jesse and I decided we weren't busy enough (yeah right) and we have signed up for classes. Our first class is next week! We will be spending an extra 3 1/2 hours at school every night for the next two weeks (and four and 1/2 hours on Saturdays) taking this class. The blog might not get updated very much the next two weeks, because of said class, but we're looking forward to starting (me) and continuing (Jesse) our graduate degrees.

August Birthday Parties

Coincedentally, there are quite a few teachers at our school with August birthdays. Two share my birthday, one is three days later, and another is 11 days after. In order to celebrate all of these birthdays, the "big house" threw a celebratory party. (The "Big House" is a very large house where 5 teachers live- huge back yard). Now, this wasn't just your everyday college-esque party. This party had a theme. A white trash theme. Many people (mainly Paraguayans) prepared themselves for the party by googleing images and shopping a little bit around town. However, Jesse and I, being from Wisconsin, had everything we needed for our costumes in our own apartamento- no need to shop here!
Here are all of the August birthday girls (+ Lorenzo) looking in fine form. Someone had even thought of providing birthday hats for us.
Jesse and I are always the classy couple. And to clarify, yes those blue pants did come to Paraguay with me from the states; yes, Jesse did bring a lime green bandana from Hodag; and yes, that is my orange cell phone stuffed into my bra. Oh and yes, that is a forty I am holding and Jesse has a can coozy. Like I said, classy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quick Hits: Security

Everyone told us when moving to Asuncion that it was a fairly safe place to live. We believed them, yet wanted to see for ourselves. We have been happily surprised to find that it is a relatively safe place and we can walk most places we want to go. One thing that helped drive home the overall perception of safety by Paraguayans was when we were given our keys to our new apartment.
You might have thought that those types of keys went out of fashion with suits of armor or powder wigs at the very latest, but you would be wrong. Instead they followed the path of carbon paper and migrated south. I guess it must mean that it's a pretty safe country if people still use these keys cuz it can't take a criminal mastermind to pick a lock operated by this key which opens the chemical store-room at school either.

Quick Hits: Interesting Product Name

The other day I was in the supermarket that's located 2 blocks from our house and needed to buy some towels. I picked up what first appeared to be a normal if somewhat low quality towel...
Upon closer examination I noticed the name brand and logo of the towel, and what had appeared to be a towel that was not quite up to my standards became the most exciting towel purchase I have made in quite some time...
Now you may call me immature for having to buy this towel just because of the name and ensuing jokes about McDonalds branching out into the towel industry, names for an Irish cat, etc. (I'm sure you can imagine where it went from here and you would be right), but how many times do you really have a chance to buy a genuine McPussy?

Dia Del Nino

In Paraguay, they celebrate the holiday "Dia del Nino" which is day of the children. They celebrate the children that during the wars, sacrificed themselves for their country. The holiday is celebrated in Honduras also. This year, the students were treated to a Disney type play. Here are some pictures of the play.
The kids got a real kick out of the actor on the left. He played a very good villain.
Snow White is Blanca Nieve in Spanish, and the villain kept calling her Blanca Vaca which means White Cow.
The evil villain played the Beast too. It was very entertaining for me to see all the students getting into the play, from 4-K to 5th graders. And I got to practice my Spanish during the play.

Mi cumpleanos

This last Tuesday was my 25th birthday. Since turning 21, I have to admit, I've had some cool birthdays- 22nd eating apple pie in Japan, 23rd scuba diving in Honduras- and now my 25th in Paraguay. As an elementary student, I was always jealous of the kids who had birthdays during the school year, and their moms would bring in cupcakes and the class would sing Happy Birthday. Well, this year I got my wish.

My students asked me on the first day of school last week when my birthday was, and since they found out it was going to be during the second week of school, they started planning. I was interviewed about my favorite cake and cookie types, and what types of material things I like. One girl even started a petition to the principal to allow me to sleep in on my birthday. Well, my birthday came, and I was immediately bombarded with presents from my students. I got two pairs of earrings, a bracelet, homemade chocolate chip muffins, Bath and Body Works lotion and soap (you can't find it here, I got them from an embassy family), perfume, and miscellaneous cards. The students were incredibly sweet and sang happy birthday twice during the day.

At 3:15, a parent came into my room and asked me to take the kids down to the cafeteria/cantina. They had a birthday party for me! The kids sang happy birthday again, and we ate snacks together.
Several of my students showing their excitement for the day.

My students gave me a card with a photo of all of them, a huge birthday cake (its still only 1/2 gone 5 days later) and a nice shirt.

I shared my birthday with one of my students and two other teachers. After my party, I came home and the girls and I went to pilates. After returning home, Jesse took me out to dinner and gave me a coupon for a non-complaining shoe shopping trip and a travel coffee mug with a picture of Jackson on it! Everyone was really sweet and I really had a wonderful day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nuestro Primer Asado

Today, Jesse and I had our first asado. Asados are Paraguayan barbecues. Almost every apartment has a grill in the back for asados and there are quite a few places to buy big cuts of beef for asados. They are a very common occurance and a facet of Paraguayan culture. Yesterday, our neighbor Dan (high school English teacher) took Jesse to a store that specializes in asado meat. Below, Jesse and Dan are grilling the meat.
Below, is Jesse's picture of the meat. You can't tell by the picture but the cuts of meat are huge! And the amazing part is, that we ate almost all of it!
Jesse, grilling out. On our asado grill.
We had all the neighbors over, Chaya, Shauna, Dan, his wife, and Jesse's principal (who loves meat) and his fiance. It was our first time hosting at our new apartment and it was a lot of fun. I have a feeling, there will be a lot of asados in our future.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


So, five other teachers and I have decided to take a pilates class at a local women's-only gym. Last night was our first class. Now, we aren't taking a pilates mat class or a ball class. We are taking a reformer class, which uses a torture like contraption called a reformer bed. Its got pulleys, bars, and cables attached everywhere! Its a new experience for me and it was difficult for me to do everything because it was so different. I used some muscles last night I haven't used in quite a while. Classes are twice a week and I'm excited to get some muscles put back on me. I am also starting (tonight is the first night) to train for a 10K run in November with two other teachers. There is a local park called Parque de la Salud, that has a 1500m loop and is right by school. We'll see how tired I get doing all this exercising!!

First Days of School

The first two and a 1/2 days of school are done and I have survived (Jesse will have to speak for himself later!). I have 24 students, most of whom are Paraguayan, but I do have some embassy students as well. My schedule is very similar to what I had in Honduras (the first year-not the second) and I am enjoying the energy of the students. My kids look like babies compared to what I had two months ago. It also feels good to be back in an elementary classroom, and all the technical things that elementary teachers have to do.

Here is part of my classroom. The school is set up similarly to the school in Honduras, with outdoor covered walkways between sections of the school, with trees and plants everywhere. The whole school shares a cafeteria and library, and there is no teacher's lounge or workroom. Overall, I like it so far. Ask me again in a few months!

Summer in Wisconsin

I didn't blog much over the course of our five weeks home- it went by so fast! But, I have decided to share some pictures of our time home on here.
Our first weekend in the states, Jesse and I went down to Milwaukee to visit my brother and sister-in-law, and we went to a Brewers game.
Two weekends later, we went to Minneapolis to visit Jesse's sister Tricia. That is Jesse and Tricia walking on the riverside downtown Minneapolis.
I spent a weekend camping with the girls-Jenna, Maggie, and Mary Beth. We have already decided that it has to be an annual event.
During the fourth of July weekend, we went up to my aunt's cabin in the northwoods. It was freezing!!! But Nathan (nephew) was able to entertain himself with the singing bass fish on the wall.
Hodag music festival! Country music and good Wisconsin beer.
It was a good time home!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

El Tren al Lago San Bernadino

One week ago exactly, all the newbies, Jesse and I included, went on a train ride to the close by lake San Bernadino. The train is the oldest train in South America and still runs on steam power. It basically is a tourist attraction, and on the train ride we had some entertainment. It was a neat experience and it got us out of the city to see some of the countryside.
Here Jesse and I are on the train. It is still chilly. Check out Jesse's hat!
Me, looking out the window of the train.
This is the engine. It is still the original engine used from 150 years ago.
A picture of the lake. It looks really picturesque. For $20 we could take a little spin on the boat in the lake, but its a bit chilly for that.
The town that we went to was called Aregua, which is known for its pottery. We didn't really see anything that jumped out at us to decorate our house with, but it was a nice day trip away.