Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Buenos Aires- Day 1

This past weekend, we had our a six day weekend and tickets to the "New York of South America"- Buenos Aires or BA for short. This has been our first break from school, and we took advantage. We flew out of Asuncion on Thursday. Arriving in BA, we knew we were in a whole different world than Asuncion. We caught a ride into the city. One of the first things I noticed while driving through is how European the city looks and feels. I could very easily have been in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, or London with the architecture and the feel of the city. Asuncion is a very laid-back quaint city. BA is a city of constant movement and activities.
After we arrived at our hostel (if you remember from the last post, it was Jesse and 5 ladies- lucky him) we went up to the roof. Our hostel had a roof-top terrace with a beautiful view of the city. The bar was also up there so we had a beer to cheer our first South American vacation.
Then we went off exploring. Our hostel was right downtown, so it was very easy for us to walk to some very cool places. First, we went to the Plaza del Congreso, which is where the Congress meets.
Next, we walked down the other way from our hostel and went to see Casa Rosada. This is where Eva Peron (Evita) did her big speech to the masses. The traffic was crazy around this area, but we needed the picture.
BA is known for its shopping, and since Asuncion is not, and we were five women and Jesse, shopping is what we did. Since it was kind of late, we mainly just walked down Calle Florida to see what is available. Calle Florida is pedestrian only street goes on and on forever. It has stores and shops of all kinds, and has access to two or three malls. It was incredibly crowded, and with the street vendors in the middle of the street, it was difficult to get by sometimes.
We ended our first day in BA with dinner at a Thai restaurant and drinks at an Irish pub. I love Thai food, and thankfully, so do all of our companions. Here is a picture of my neighbor Chaya and I.
Jesse found an interesting beer (note to Simpsons fans) to try at the Irish pub while we planned the rest of our BA activities.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Well Deserved Vacation

Starting after school today, spring break has started. We are free of students and responsibilities until next Wednesday at 7:30am. Jesse and I, with four other female teachers, are traveling to Buenas Aires, Argentina for the weekend. We are super excited for the break from work and for the chance to experience a new place. We'll do some new posts when we get back on Tuesday.


It seems as if the "thing" to do in Paraguay is to hire a housekeeper or maid. Jesse and I, trying to keep up with the Joneses and our neighbors, have one. Well, we share our housekeeper, Rosa, with our neighbors, meaning that Rosa gets a full time job and we get a part time maid. Rosa has worked in the complex for the past few years and comes highly recommended by both our neighbor and our landlord.

And I love her. I walk into my house every day after school and my clothes are washed, bed is made, dishes are done, and the house is clean. She gets our big 5 gallon jug of drinking water, and will pick up things for us at the grocery store. I can't say how thrilled and ecstatic I was when one morning, I thought there couldn't be any coffee because there was no milk, only to find that Rosa noticed we were out, went to the store, and bought some for us. She will also cook for us; she makes a mean potato empanada. We have not washed our own clothes nor washed any dishes almost the whole time we've lived here.

I'm writing this post today, because I was reminded how quickly one can start taking things for granted. Rosa's sister passed away last week, and she's been dealing with a lot of family issues. I came home from school today, saw a dirty floor (there had been a storm the night before and leaves and dirt blew in from under our door) and found myself a little annoyed. I walked into the kitchen and saw dirty dishes and realized that Rosa didn't come today. Her sister's body arrived today from Spain and she shouldn't have been at work.

I think its important to stop and evaluate how lucky I am that I am in a position to be able to afford to employ someone. We are indeed lucky. I also need to remember that we have this lifestyle because of some social injustices in the country that we currently life in. Many housekeepers, afraid of losing their job, will come to work ill, injured, or when serious family issues are taking place. Also, many housekeepers, or empleadas, will try to fix things that break or get stained. They fear of losing their $240 a month job. These social injustices, fair or not, are a part of life in Latin America.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Community Service

At ASA the students are required to do a certain number (100 I think but I might be wrong) of community service hours before they graduate. This means that starting in Middle School they have community service projects and once a month the school has a half day where the students spend 4 hours or so in the morning doing the projects. Last Friday was one of those days and the first one that my community service group participated in. I have a group of 11th and 12th graders who are not in my normal classes and our mission is to educate the community about environmental issues.

We chose to work with 2 schools in the community with the hope that the kids could grow up with knowledge of these issues and hopefully help exact some change. The school we went to on Friday called Onodivepa is a very poor school on the outskirts of town near the airport which has as student population of over 200 from grades K-9. There are many more students in the lower grades as many students leave school to work and help support the family when they reach about middle school age. The school doesn't have much of anything for supplies and was a very spartan place in general. In speaking with the director I realized that they are so short on books that they only have one or two books for each subject for an entire class. It's no wonder that students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade there still need help because they can't read well when there are no books!

My group worked with the students in grades 6-9 teaching them what global warming is, what causes it, a mini lesson about water pollution, making home-made lava lamps out of left over materials, and also setting up a recycling program with the school including arranging with a company to come pick up the recycling and pay the school for it. We decorated boxes for recycling with the students and set up reward systems to encourage them to recycle. If they reach the goals by the next time we visit the school, we'll throw them a party.

Meeting the students at the school and seeing how little they have really makes me want to help so I'm going to work hard on my own to get them some supplies (books mainly) wherever I can find them to help the school out. This is where you come in as a reader. I know that some of you out there might know a little about a charity or two that could be willing to help some students in a 3rd world country get a good education. If you do know of any charity or organization (this could even be your child's school if they are willing to raise some money for the cause) please get in contact with me and I'd be glad to show them a place where their help would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paraguay vs. Argentina

Wednesday night Jenna and I had the chance to go to our highest profile World Cup qualifying match yet as Paraguay hosted Argentina. We had fantastic seats for the game as we sat just off of midfield in the 14th row! The stadium is a very different setup than Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro. There is no track around the outside so the seats are much closer to the field, there are assigned seats so you don't have to get there 4 hours early, they just renovated part of it so it seems nicer and newer, and it is a bit smaller than Olimpico as well.
This was a huge game on many levels which I'll try to summarize for you. First for Paraguay a win meant qualification to the World Cup. Secondly Argentina has not been playing well recently (that's putting it mildly) and is in danger of not qualifying for the World Cup which is a big deal since they're one of the world powers and a legendary team in general. Speaking of legends, the coach of Argentina's team is Diego Maradonna who is one of the 2 players people talk about in the discussion of the best player in the history of soccer. Here is a fuzzy dark picture of him roaming the sidelines.
Argentina also boasts one of the current best and most famous players in the world in Lionel Messi. (I made the analogy that it was like watching Michael Jordan coach LeBron James.) Naturally I took a few pictures of him given his fame.

Overall Argentina didn't play well and Paraguay was impressive. They dominated the game and should have won by a bigger score than the 1 -0 final but the crowd was not complaining! The fans did a lot more singing and chanting than the Hondurans which I think was a direct result of them being a bit more coherent since there is no beer sold inside the stadium (though you can ask some vendors for "leche" and they'll bring you some beer on the DL). Fantastic experience all around and we look forward to watching the team next year in the Cup!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


One of my favorite things about Latin America is the cheap price of produce. Paraguay is no exception. Produce is extremely cheap. One thing that Asuncion has is a local, all natural, quasi-organic farmer's market. It is called Agroshopping, and it's held every Tuesday.

Its nice to see the community getting together and supporting it. Its funny, because the market takes place in the parking garage of a local mall. The stands are full of Asian food, homemade pizza crusts, Paraguayan cheese, spices and all kinds of wonderful fruits and vegetables.
Below is my bounty. I bought all these wonderful vegetables and a whole wheat pizza crust for the great price of $6.

School Concert

Every year, the school tries to bring in a musical group from somewhere around the world to bring culture to the students. This year, the group brought in was from Germany, and they played Boogie Woogie music. I was originally thinking something along the lines of "The Wiggles" from the Disney channel, but actually, the music was a mix of blues and jazz. The groups was really quite good and they got my elementary students up dancing.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Anniversary and One Master's Class Down

This Saturday was a big day for us in two ways- one, we have now officially been dating for one year; two, we finished our first master's class from the University of Alabama.

The master's class was linguistics for teachers, with a focus on second language acquisition. How we acquire/learn language really interests me, more than Jesse, but overall the class was intense but good. The first of 10 courses is done! Well, except for the final exam.

Our anniversary was yesterday. We celebrated being together officially for one year (what officially means anyway I really don't know) by going out to eat. We went to a restaurant called Un Toro y Siete Vacas which means One bull and 7 cows. This was a fancy place. Cloth napkins, an extensive wine list, and a waiter to refill our wine glasses. We both got rib eye steaks, about the size of both hands for the nice price of $9 each. Add a bottle of red wine, two side dishes, and a salmon appetizer, we spent about $45-$50 dollars. I love the prices in Latin America.

Our New-ish Furniture

For some of our loyal readers, you will remember a time when we took pictures of our new apartment. Well, the furniture that we had purchases from our predecessors, was, shall we say, less than ideal. So we took our living room furniture to a re-upholstering place. Below are our new chairs and couch.

It took a great deal of comparing color swatches, but we decided on a colorful red couch, and two off-white couches. They have brightened up our dark apartment quite a bit. They are comfortable, and cheaper than brand new ones!