OANSA: Love is Loud.

March 20, 2013

Existence 013Doing work.

Y and I called out our chau chau‘s as kids trudged across the field to head back home. We gathered our own belongings and stacked them in one place for temporary safekeeping. On a normal Saturday, we, too, would be heading out to continue with our weekend, but this occasion called for some extra hours.

Water deposits persist in posing problems at the Primero de Marzo site where our OANSA program meets weekly (see: this post). While the general situation had improved greatly, one large headache still remained in the form of a murky puddle-cum-lake just screaming mosquito larvae factory.

Our thought was to fill it up using the mounds of dirt on the outskirts of the field in attempt to eliminate one potential, if not current, source of disease germination. And so, we pulled out the borrowed shovels and set out to complete the task at hand.

Then without being asked, without even knowing what we were doing, S grabbed the third shovel, and fell into step with us, stating simply, “I’ll help.” Somehow instinct told me it wasn’t boredom or curiosity motivating this assent to assist, but rather it was a testament to the work of the Lord transforming a surprisingly malleable heart to mirror that of a true servant. It was was one of those small, unassuming moments that speak profoundly of rapidly progressing maturity and give nod to huge glimmers of potential in our kids.

And because love is contagious, JC observed S’ gesture of service and followed his example, not knowing what he was acquiescing to either but volunteering nonetheless. Suddenly, Y and I had a faithful little army to aid us in our mission.

Honestly, this neighborhood breaks my heart every day. The heaviness of sin and darkness lurk not only in the obscurity of night, but worse, and often, parade proudly, brazenly in the glaring light of day. The grave realities of poverty, abuse, brokenness, and things so incredibly messed up that nausea is the only answer I can produce when I try to wrap my mind around them, are stark and sad.

But victories like these are beacons of light in a tenebrous world, where no matter how dark, little pinholes still shine through.

Light, like love, is loud.

Existence 015The lake of Primero de Marzo.

Existence 010Getting down to business.

Existence 011A far more daunting task than expected.

Existence 012One scoop at a time.


Field Hockey Firsts.

March 19, 2013

Field Hockey 012Field Hockey tourney on the national field.

One of my friends here in Paraguay, J, who is also a teacher at the American school, plays on a field hockey club team. She is really good. Like she got voted MVP at the most recent tournament good.

I got to be part of her cheering entourage on Sunday and in passing also had the opportunity to visit the National Sports Facilities of Paraguay, where all Paraguayan Olympians go to train. Except that 90% of the grounds were under severe construction. Only an all-weather track (though a beautiful one) and hockey field have been completed, the rest still relegated to piles of red dirt and bricks. Typical.

In any case, it was a beautiful “mildly” sunny day with a wonderful breeze (I kept closing my eyes, pretending I was at the beach…a girl can dream, no?), and it was fantastic to be outside enjoying old friends, new experiences, and fall in Paraguay.

Field Hockey 008This was J’s (#5) second shot to land in the goal that day.

Field Hockey 011Dale, numero cinco!

Field Hockey 002Not my best angle considering I look GIGANTIC here. :)

OANSA: First Day Back.

March 17, 2013

Existence 014Primero de Marzo.

February was a month defined by dengue fever, an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Symptoms can include muscle and joint pain, headache, sustained fever, vomiting, and measles-like rash. Because there are no antiviral drugs for dengue, persons inflicted must simply rest, stay hydrated, and wait for the virus to run its course.

It is estimated that a rising number of 13,000 people in Paraguay have been infected in 2013 alone—a small portion of those having resulted in death. Recent sporadic flashes of heavy rain combined with extreme humidity have sustained standing bodies of water and moisture all over the city. Puddles like these are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which of course create foreboding circumstances as dengue has proven in its rapid spread.

Our OANSA’s Santa Maria neighborhood has not fared so well during this peak season of contagion, and surely the exposed sewage lines that run through the streets have not made for a particularly healthy environment. Seven individuals in the Baez household alone have contracted the virus, some of whom are still experiencing symptoms.

The Primero de Marzo site, where we hold our weekly OANSA meetings, was in terrible shape after a spate of tropical storms and heavy rainfall. Already a less than sanitary area, the large pools of festering liquid only served to create a quagmire of disease. It was clear, even as the start of our OANSA 2013 program approached, that the cancha was not fit for any sort of gathering, much less one involving children. The myriad possible liabilities made me cringe all the way to my toes.

We scouted alternative locations in the neighborhood, we considered a number of superficial, bandage solutions, we weighed our other options all to no avail or even the slightest sense of settling peace. And so began the waiting game—an uncertain venture of hoping for the moisture to dry up and the swarming populations of mosquitoes to decrease quickly.

The start date for OANSA was postponed several times and much nail biting ensued as conditions did not improve. Finally, halfway into March, we bit the bullet and set an official commencement Saturday.

And WHAT UPPPP answered prayer! There was only one puddle this past Saturday, absolutely no mosquitoes, and eighteen little chums who came out to jump rope and sing songs (and rather enthusiastically so, might I add). I was stoked.

The Lord provides!


March 17, 2013

[Moments to remember when I am back in the States.]

I hoisted the jug of detergent onto the conveyor belt along with various food items and a sieve for checkout. The grocery clerk scanned each item while chatting with another employee who was hard at work standing around, neither individual paying nary a mind to the real task at hand. That is until the sieve brought pause to the riveting discussion about boiled mandioca. The bar code was unfortunately nowhere to be found on the item, so a bagger boy was dispatched on a mission of price check.

I think I could have run a marathon worth of laps inside the the grocery store by the time the boy returned. Expecting a quick scan of a resolution, I was instead met with the report that none of the sieves had barcodes and neither was there any sign delineating price, therefore they could not sell the item to me.


Why then was there an entire display devoted to this one apparatus shown with a big honking “SALE” sign? The bagger tried to reassure me that I wasn’t the only one who had suffered this bait and switch. “Senora (yeah, I also got elevated to Mrs. status…), this has happened to several other customers as well,” he attempted soothingly.

Obviously, this only furthered my indignance. “Well, if you can’t sell it, why is it still out there? Take it off the shelves until it has been recorded in your inventory!” While the constructive criticism may not have been delivered with the utmost of grace, it was still one that regardless made perfect sense to me. But the employees just stared dumbly at me like I was a crazy woman for daring to make such an outlandish suggestion. I left sans sieve.

Only in Paraguay.