Two Years.

July 25, 2013

Well, I have gained pounds and wrinkles, but nothing says two years quite like this.

DesktopI will miss these nuggets!

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Things I Won’t Miss.

July 25, 2013

Winter 002Brrrr. I said, “It’s cold in here…”

I know. I complain about the Paraguayan heat all.the.time. It really is as intense as I talk it up to be and the sweating is indeed out of control.

But once in awhile, on rare occasion, a cold snap will sneak in overnight and wreak havoc on our normally sweaty souls. Because houses are built for torrid summers, there is very little insulation to keep the chill at bay. Floor tiles give the sensation of walking barefoot on a frozen pond and the gaping cracks around windows invite in gusts of bone-crushing temperatures. It is often colder inside than out, and as my friend puts it so eloquently, “Imagine spending October, in New Hampshire, in your unheated garage.”

Generally, hiding in bed while layered in my entire wardrobe and with my face dangerously close to a small, life-saving space heater is my survival stance. It mostly works but hibernation does complicate the necessity of bathing.

When I walked into my bathroom yesterday morning, it was 26 degrees inside. Fahrenheit. I rapidly jumped ship and abandoned all notions of showering or tooth brushing. Washing my face with liquid glacier was just not an option. I was going to have to suck it up at some point, but there was nothing a double layer of deodorant was not going to temporarily solve.

But after a full day of dread and goose flesh, prolonging the inevitable was no longer possible. And by the beard of Zeus, never has cleansing been such a harrowing process.

Standing in the bathroom fully clothed is enough to strike fear in the heart of an Eskimo, so doffing the duds is quite the otherworldly experience. With an open layout and no shower curtain, your body is further subjected to the fury of nature’s forces. Even worse is that the trickle that ekes out of the widow maker and covers only the crown of your head prevents a rapid rinse off and run. It takes Sandlot FOR-E-VER to complete a full shower.

On top of this agonizing operation is the constant oscillation between lukewarm water and ice cubes. Every thirty seconds or so, I have to hop out of harm’s way (although standing wet in the frigid cold isn’t exactly a safety zone either) as the water temperature lowers severely. The knob must be deftly handled with painstaking precision to guide the water back to human acceptability, and soap lathering resumes until the next episode of temperature cruelty strikes.

I will not miss this.

Prior to coming to Paraguay, I spent two years working as a Family Advocate at an emergency domestic violence shelter. As one might assume, it was an emotionally burdensome job and the hours did not help. Commanding the 12pm-9pm shift five days a week effectively eliminated any sort of social aspect from my life, and it was really quite isolating.

So as I prepared to come to Paraguay, B and I spent a lot of time praying that I would find community here. I defined community as friends. Although, babies that I did not have to produce myself and could snuggle were also considered acceptable alternatives.

Despite my haughty and specific demands, the Lord manifest His grace in ways more sweet than I ever imagined. These four dumplings have been the light and laugh of my last two years. Amidst bouts of loneliness, ministry frustration, homesickness, and every other dark force I encountered on occasion, these nuggets remained a constant source of love, adorable antics, and yes, snuggles.

I am ever so thankful for this family and these little faces.

IMAG0677Literal bosom buddies.

IMAG0659Hole-in-one.

IMAG0678Baby Forest.

IMAG0631Dancing queens.

My First Ticket.

July 25, 2013

It was four in the morning and dark out. My car was packed with people and parcels and pressed with places to be. Although it had been wonderful having a piece of San Diego in Asuncion for the week, the introvert in me was socially exhausted. I was also running a high fever and a virulent run of the flu was madly brewing.

Several orange cones dotted the paved lanes and a handful of uniformed police were scattered about, waving some vehicles on and directing others to pull over. These makeshift checkpoints occur frequently throughout the city, but so far, simply avoiding eye contact had provided a winning escapist strategy.

Unfortunately, on this occasion, and much to my disbelief, an officer gave me an ominous wave to move right. I pulled off the paved road, and fumbled around for the car registration, still hoping to be taken for the harmless gringa that I am.

No such luck. After reviewing all kinds of cards, documents, licenses, and permisos, and taking her sweet time doing so, the officer informed me that my habilitacion had expired and I was subject to a 250mil fine that had to be paid in the moment.

I attempted to play the “I don’t have enough cash on me right now [which I didn’t], but if you give me the ticket, I’ll pay it at the office later” card. This generally works to scare off the illegitimate extortion attempts, but this only served to have the officer order me out of the car. Uh. She sternly blabbered on about the supposed infraction and pointed me to drive a few feet ahead to pay the multa.

I scooted the car up, and had to hustle my departing American friends for the last bits of Guarani change they had in their pockets in order to amass the required amount. I was still unsure where the ticket was to be paid as the surroundings were largely dark and abandoned.

After some more ado, I was instructed to cross four lanes of traffic to a corner gas station, where a group of officers on motorcycles sat passing a bottle around. No one beckoned me forward to pay anything, so I sat in the car waiting for what seemed an eternity for the original officer to reappear and give further instruction.

Finally, she strolled over and pointed me to cross yet another street where a lone patrol car hosted a queue of other unlucky victims. Oh, the runaround. F alighted from the car to accompany me, for which I was much grateful because the second I emerged, hoards of drunk men, carousing at the petrol station (classy), descended upon me, leering and giving the usual slew of crude remarks. The nearby police officers were unmoved.

So thankful this did not happen while I was by myself.

Eventually, we made it to the clerk’s desk, which was a single female seated in the front passenger seat clutching a bulging cloth bag of paper bills. The legitimacy continues. She cited a sum that was significantly less than the other officer had demanded, so I hoped to quickly pay the smaller fee and make a quick escape.

Clearly, favor was not on my side that morning as the original officer conveniently sauntered over and won a small debate with the other woman about my payment. In the end, I had to fork over the initially stated 250mil with the knowledge that Mrs. Officer was likely going to enjoy a fat steak dinner later that evening. Then we continued the journey to the airport.

My first ever ticket.