Friday, November 5, 2010

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Back in Good Ol' Corvallis

Wow. It has been almost 3 months since I got back from Paraguay - longer than I was there for, but definitely the time seemed oh so much slower. I truly miss so much about Paraguay. And I never thought that it would be so hard to leave my home down south. I miss the kids at Santa Teresita, and I miss my family. I miss speaking,dreaming, and thinking in Spanish everyday, and waking up to that feeling that I knew I had dreamed in another language the night before. I miss eating chipa, and drinking cocido en la guarderia. I miss chocolate caliente y pan for merienda, and my favorite juice in the world, which I now know is passion fruit. Literally, I think of Paraguay every day, if not every hour.

It was hard when I first got back. Not everyone understood how much I had gained from those short two months in the opposite hemisphere. I couldn't have the same type of conversations with my AFS friends about their experiences. And after a few days, the excitement for being home wore off, and I realized que me faltó era Paraguay (what I was laking was Paraguay).

It's kinda funny how I seem to slip little things about Paraguay and my life there into all of my classes. It gives me a different perspective on things in International Lit/Studies, and I now understand better what it is like to have lived in a developing country. I think back to the beginning when it took me two or three tries to completely understand what everyone was telling me, and I compare it to now and when I left. The ease of being fluent made my last few weeks so enjoyable, and in that time I know I learned so much. I'm pretty sure I haven't lost much, if not any, of my Spanish. I prefer to think things in my head in Spanish, and I'm still reading Harry Potter (though that is because I have no time to finish it because of school work).

Actually, it seems that my Spanish may be getting better because I have Spanish 4 right now, and even though it is a breeze, I'm solidifying all that I learned over the summer. I'm never going to forget Paraguay, my family, all the little niñitos, and all the wonderful people I met. Paraguay es un parte de mi alma - ahora y para siempre. Nunca la voy a olvidar. Espera para mi - yo regresaré.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

One More Light Bulb

So, I'm sitting here at the computer after watching a video about Paraguay with my siblings, and I'm still not quite sure if it has hit me that tomorrow at this time I will be squished onto an airplane, leaving my second home and second family in Paraguay. Originally, seven weeks seemed like a long time, but, as everyone says, Time flies when your having fun. And literally it does. Of course, life always has it's ups and downs, where the downs seem to drag, seconds are minutes, minutes are hours, but then there are the ups where Time just doesn't want to stop and take a breath.

I have learned and experienced so much these past seven weeks. Here are a few:

-always appreciate what you have
-live in the moment
-if you put your mind to it, you can do it
-nothing is ever perfect
-you don't truly realize how lucky and fortunate you are until you see and experience those who have less
-a roller coaster wouldn't be very fun if it didn't have its ups and downs.
-I'm a Paraguayan carnivore and an American vegetarian
-Of course, the list goes on and on....

I know I'm going to miss a lot about Paraguay. The food, the people, the 2 kisses on the cheek, the way that people come up to your car and shake your hand through the window, terere, mandioca, chipa, all the children at Santa Teresita, the crazy traffic at 6:30 am, the street vendors, the fresh juice at lunch, the occasional siesta, speaking spanish, dreaming in spanish, and most of all, my family. I can now say that I have 4 siblings, not one, and 4 parents, not two. I can't express how grateful I am to my family here, who was always loving, enviting, and the best teacher possible. Muchisimas Gracias, mi familia! Nunca me voy a olvidarte!

Okay, and now a quick briefing of what I did today. My dad and sister drove me through lots of different towns such as San Lorenzo, Itaupu, Aregua, and Luque. Each has it's own specialty. Itaupu - nanduti, Luque - plata y oro, y Aregua - pottery. Plus, I got to see some beautiful country side, and a bit more of the less-westernized Paraguay. Yo vi muchas vacas!! :D We stopped in Aregua at the Frutilla Expo (Strawberry Expo), which had about 40 stands filled with strawberry this, and strawberry that. Strawberry torta, helado de frutilla, y strawberry juice. Delicious!!!! Mouth watering!! and yes, their strawberries grow in the winter, not the summer where they would shrivel up and die. :D

In light of what i've learned and experienced, i like to give this analogy about AFS exchanges. Every time you travel some where, whether it be another country or city, maybe just another state, you can imagine what life is like (a daily routine, what's for lunch). After awhile you start to accumulate images, like little light bulbs on an interactive map. But after living in a country for 2 months, you are a part of that culture, you know what life is like, you know what is for lunch. And you just turned on 10 more little light bulbs.

So, to all my family, friends, relatives, and Paraguay, Muchísimas gracias! Mi tiempo acá era muy corto, pero yo aprendi mucho sobre las personas, la cultura, y yo misma. Paraguay siempre está en mi corazón! Un día, yo voy a volver. Hasta luego, Chau!

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Last Few Days

Time has literally flown bye, and now I have 2 full days left (well, really only one because I have an AFS camp tomorrow) with my family. I have learned and experienced so much these past 7 weeks, and I have become so acustomed to the Paraguayan way of life and speaking Spanish, that it will be very strange, and hard, to leave.

Before I left, I told myself that I was going to dream in Spanish. Well, I have. About 5 times. The first time, about 3 weeks after I came, and that was only partially in Spanish. But this past week, almost every night I've had a dream in Spanish. And last night, it was completely in Spanish. This is pretty exciting, as it really shows that I've learned a lot. :D

Today was my last day working at Santa Teresita. I took lots of pictures of the kids who have all changed my life. At lunch, the directora, Senora Zully, came and gave me a large card that the staff signed and the kids "hand-printed". They also gave me a small towel engraved with Santa Teresita, Asuncion, Paraguay. Never will I forget working with the kids, and I know I will come back and visit.

It seems weird that in 3 days I will be speaking English, not waking up at 5:30 am, not driving through lots of traffic, not seeing all these kids, all my family, not eating delicious food like chipa and chorizo. Yes, I will probably even miss not throwing toilet paper in the toilet. They say time flies by when your having fun, and it truly does. 7 weeks went like that. And now I'm at the last weekend with my family who I have grown so close to.

I know it will be hard to say "Chau". My sister and mom already left on a bus for Buenos Aires, and it was so hard to say goodbye. I don't know when I'll see everyone again, but I can be sure that I will be returning often. Para siempre, Paraguay esta en mi corazon!

The Picture of Americans

Last Tuesday, a woman who works at la guarderia asked me an eye-opening question. She asked why so many Americans were close-minded, and didn't know/want to learn about other cultures, but then there were people like me who were willing to adventure and learn. She asked if now schools did more to teach about the world and other cultures. This was a bit of a shocker. So far, no one had asked me much more about the U.S. than the weather. I'd get the occasional, "Que tal Obama? Te gusta?" and at least I could truthfully say "Si, me gusta" and not die of embarrassment to be marked as an American. But never had someone asked me why so many were closed-minded.

Actually, I'm glad she did. It served as an eye-opener, and made me think again about how the picture of Americans today is often muttled and warped by what is shown on T.V, and in the news. I don't deny that some are close-minded, and think mainly about themselves, but not everyone is perfect (and that goes for the whole world, too). My reply to her question was that, now, in schools, they teach many more classes about the rest of the world; that I have world history classes, world literature classes (well, all this coming year, but it was simpler to state it that way), and that much more people are aware about what is going on in the world.

I realized that I haven't had much exposure to the way Americans publish themselves to the world via media. I don't watch T.V., I don't live in a big city, I don't listen to the 10 Pop Stars, I don't drive a gas-guzzling SUV. And Corvallis is such as small, liberal town that sometimes I forget that not everyone wants to explore, to travel, and to learn. Sometimes I forget that what other countries see on their T.V.s are scantously-clad women wrapped in an American flag driving large cars, or the U.S. army blowing up villages in Iraq, or millions of gallons of oil flowing into our world's precious oceans.

But I owe a big "Muchas Gracias" to this woman, who really made me stop and think, "Do I do things that make me seem like the "average" american?" "Have I come to Paraguay and represented my beliefs well?"

This is the point of exchanges, right? To learn about other cultures, and in turn, share things about yours; change the way they see the stereotypical _______ (in my case, American).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

S'MORES - an American Favorite

Seven weeks ago, when I was contemplating what would be a good present for my host family, my mom and I came up with the idea of s'mores - america's favorite camping food, and probably something they don't eat in Paraguay too often. So, I bought a box of graham crackers, a bag of marshmallows, and two bars of hershey's chocolate. It is actually a lot more difficult to fit all of those things into a backpack than you might think, but I suceeded. Only concern - What would they (meaning the security people) think at the airport? Suspicious? But, my marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate survived the beedy eyes of airport officials, survived being squished into my backpack, survived the heat of the first week, survived the cold of the Paraguayan winter, and made it all the way to the end of week 5, where they were made into delicious s'mores, via la micro-onda.

Yes, sadly we had to use the microwave, as there was no campfire handy to do the authentic toasting of the marshmallows. I did try using the gas stove that my family has to toast them, but that didn't work so well. Ended up burning them more than toasting, and not fulling warming all the way. Oh well. Actually, it is quite entertaining to make s'mores in the microwave, as they puff up really big and ooze onto the plate, if you aren't careful. And they taste wonderfully yummy, all the same. As much as my family tries, they can't pronounce marshmallows correctly. It is more "marsh-shmaaaaallows" instead of "marshmeuuuuhhlows". I did get my parents to try them, and they did like them (seriously, who wouldn't like s'mores?). My dad then asked me how many people in America eat. I answered anwhere from 1 to 3, but that when I was little, I probably ate as many as 5. My siblings easily ate 3 to 5 for merienda, as first they has to try it, to see if they liked it, then once they discovered how wonderful they were, they had to make lots more in the microwave, plus try one on the stove.

It definitely was a very entertaining merienda, and gave them a good taste of traditional American camping. :D To my surprise, you can buy marshmallows in Paraguay (even the little colored ones!) I kinda thought Americans would be the only people crazy enough to pack that much sugar into one tiny little piece of comida.... hahaha. Here are some pictures:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What a Wonderful Weekend!

This weekend I got to experience the real downtown of Asuncion. What I had thought was the "downtown" that I drove through every day on my way to work was really just the outside of "el centro". Saturday, my siblings took me to lots of historical places en el centro de asuncion, such as an old train station, el Palacio de Heroes, and the President's Palace. It was a beautiful day for walking around, in the 80s, which was a nice change from the previous weeks of frio. I tried chipa so'o, which is a softer chipa with carne (meat) in the center. Riquísimo!

Sunday, Andrea and I did some Paraguayan cooking after I chatted with my parents in the E.E.U.U. on the phone for 45 minutes :D We cooked chipa guasu, which is kinda like corn bread, but not really a bread. It has corn, milk, queso paraguayo, and eggs, and you bake it. it is still kinda wet on the inside, and crispy on the outside. Very delicious, and traditional! While we were cooking, my dad was preparing his "vaca" or cow that he had bought (yes, a whole one). We had chorizo, a traditional sausage, with mandioca for a "snack" around 1 pm, and then more of the cow for our real lunch around 3. It was really good, and had been Paraguayan bbq-ed (i'm not going to attempt to spell bbq, haha). Later, my mom prepared cocido, a drink with yerba, sugar, and more sugar, that is mixed with milk. It is super good. We drank that with mbeju that my mom and i made for merienda around 7. Mbeju is a tortilla, pancake - like food that isn't really like that, but oh well. it has mandioca flour and queso paraguayo, and a little milk. You cook it in a pan, like a pancake. Love it!

Friday my sisters and I went to the Expo, which is a display of Paraguayan industrial, farming, and artistic products. pretty cool to see it all. I bought a guampa and bombilla so that i can drink terere and mate back home in corvallis.

I feel like I am a ton closer to my whole family now, after this weekend. But, i think that has to do with the fact that i can understand about 95% of what is said, plus, I can respond with more than just Si,Si. I only have a week and a half, which is definitely not long enough. My time has flown bye. Well, I'm too lazy to put up pictures, but you can creep on my facebook page if you want to see them.