Lo’s Despedida.

August 22, 2013

Shortly before I crossed the one-year mark of my commitment in Paraguay, I hit a dark spell. I was coming off a month of delighting in the wonderland of San Diego (seriously, what kind of crazy person voluntarily leaves that paradise?), including celebrating my bff’s wedding, and I did NOT want to be back in Asuncion.

Life in the Southern Hemisphere had been rough, and upon my return, it only seemed to get harder. Ministry frustrations were rampant, I had a run-in on the street with some indecent human beings, B and I were stuck in a miserable six-hour time difference rut, and then my grandmother passed away.

Between subjecting B to a lot of tears over Skype and trying for once in my life to exercise the sadness away, I contemplated going home with serious intent. Home offered an escape, and frankly, quitting was tantalizing at that point.

Still, I had committed to two years, and I wanted to be a person of my word. Not to mention, the prospective mess of returning financial support was a nightmare I dared not face. So I forged on, and with tidbits of Psalm 27 tossing around in my head. I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Fast forward to the very last month of my two-year commitment, and although I didn’t deserve it, the Lord was outrageously gracious in pouring out moments that made me overwhelmingly grateful for sticking it out. Somehow, somewhere, in the midst of the madness, friendships were formed, ministries were kick-started, and living in Paraguay became so much more than simply surviving.

Mi Esperanza hosted a farewell party for me shortly before my departure. I was humbled by the ways the Lord had moved in the hearts of children and adults alike, because it was so clear that any visible transformation of lives was nothing I could have done but miracles He had worked. In spite of my bitterness and sadness and doubts, He used weakness to create triumph, and it was a privilege to witness His glory in victory.

Cheers to two years.

Misc 028Playing the ninja game I introduced during the days of La Ruta.

Misc 040Announcing the winner of the marshmallow-spaghetti Eiffel Tower contest.

Misc 056Performing a new song he learned post-iPraise!

Misc 058If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth a million.

Misc 044Misc 046Lining up for the merienda.

Misc 080The Alvarenga family.

Misc 079The Caceres family.

Misc 083The Enciso family.

Misc 084A few of the Baez and then some.

Misc 078My girls.

Misc 082My boys.

Misc 088Sweet, dear friends.

Ah, I made it!

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Ratatouille 009Love this picture and these girls.

Somewhere in the mix of discussing hamsters, rats, and lipstick, I realized that I have arrived.

Generally, the progression of time is an essential requirement for meaningful relationships. Now nearly two years into my Paraguay stint, many of the friendships I have established have finally stepped beyond the threshold of superficial. Bantering fluidly back and forth with the girls about life and love at cooking class last night felt so natural. It was a proud moment of accomplishment and belonging, but one, of course, tempered with tinges of regret that I am also leaving in a month.

Still, I am thankful to be departing with memories of easy conversations about the monumental and the mundane. In spite of the anguished tears and white hairs and nightmares accumulated over the months, I am grateful to know that Asuncion, against all hope, as become some sort of home, complete with friends, family, and comforting meals shared around a smoking space heater.

Ratatouille will always be a warm reminder of these times.

Ratatouille 001Ratatouille 003Ratatouille 006Ratatouille 008

MS Walk Asuncion 2013.

April 21, 2013

MS Walk 2013 004Woohoo!

This is our family and friends’ thirteenth year of walking together as TEAM ANA in honor of my mom at the annual MS Walk in San Diego. Since I obviously am not able to join the rest of the crew, I decided to form an extension of the entourage here in Asuncion by sponsoring a makeshift MS Walk.

I hoped for a basic turnout and instead was blown away by the incredible presence of my Paraguayan community, who helped make the event not only a reality but a smashing success. They even surprised me by having purple TEAM ANA shirts made and showed up en masse and in uniform.

I am so humbled by the goodness and support of people all over the world, working together (and so enthusiastically) to further the cause of finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.

Watch out, MS! We are gaining ground.

MS Walk 2013 007MS Walk 2013 016MS Walk 2013 017MS Walk 2013 015MS Walk 2013 011MS Walk 2013 010MS Walk 2013 013MS Walk 2013 009MS Walk 2013 006MS Walk 2013 008MS Walk 2013 012[We walked 5K too. I just did not carry my camera with me then. ;) ]

Warning: Pothole.

December 1, 2012

I daresay the majority of roads in Asuncion are unpaved and in antiquatedly miserable condition. Cobblestone is the number one car killer and potholes are commonplace facts of daily life. While generally unmarked, the jarring cavities that are particularly deep (and often not visible until one is right next to it) will occasionally be marked by vague found objects. I have seen kindling sticks, lush leafy branches, jagged pieces of metal resembling handmade crowbars, and even entire tree stumps shouting their warnings by casually sticking out in the middle of the road.

This is how my neighborhood has chosen to warn of the growing gap on my street:

IMAG0067WARNING WARNING. Hole.

IMAG0068Getting bigger with each passing day…