Encarnacion: Costanera.

June 15, 2013

Kablooey 144A beach! A veritable beach!

Here are a few facts about Paraguay: it is landlocked. It hugs no deep blue sea, and in fact, around these parts, bodies of water, including that which trickles out of my shower head, tend to be brown and smelly.

Imagine my surprise then when, after some six hours of driving away from Asuncion and toward the southeastern region of Paraguay, we came upon a coastline.¬†A remarkably modern development of tiled boardwalk bordered by a stretch of alarmingly clean sand, itself then also touching a cerulean-colored pane of glass that uncannily resembled water. Say it ain’t so, but we had in fact arrived at the Costanera of Encarnacion and its recently improved section of the Paran√° River bank.

Of course, it was juxtaposed between the modern skyline of Formosa, Argentina located just across the river as well as the shambles of primitive housing more reminiscent of the Paraguay I’ve grown accustomed to. Just behind the parking lot were overgrown plots of dry brush and an unsightly cemetery of rusting bleachers, but regardless, I was impressed to see such development in Paraguay at all. Furthermore as a native San Diegan, I was thrilled to be anywhere near a passable beach.

The serenity of staring out into a watery horizon and watching the sun slowly melt into a thousand warm hues will always evoke a sense of home no matter the exact location. While I was actually several thousand miles off from everything I know to be San Diego, reclining in the thatched lifeguard tower (illegally as I was informed much later) felt reassuringly familiar.

Cheers to those moments.

Kablooey 126Kablooey 124Kablooey 129Kablooey 143Kablooey 141Kablooey 146Kablooey 147Kablooey 148Kablooey 149

5.8Peewees on the beach six years ago. That’s a whole first grader.

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. :)

That’s me flying over the Parque del Amor!

Paragliding off the cliffs and over the Pacific Ocean in Peru was definitely one of the most simultaneously exhilarating and serene things I have ever done. Floating hundreds of feet in the air, legs dangling and ponytail bobbing with the wind, and observing the busyness of life on land from such a removed perspective was surreal.

The beautiful teal sea quietly lapping a comforting heart song below and the crisp temperatures I love so much underscored an absolute serenity that transcended understanding. I marveled that not a single moment over the course of the flight, including take-off and landing, held even a beat of anxiety or fear. No stomach flips or internal panic. No paranoia or conditioned happiness. Just freedom.

It has been a really difficult year. There has been death and disease and distance and discouragement. I have clawed my way through ministry frustrations, physical trauma, deep dark loneliness, and whole lot of spiritual static. In many ways, it feels like Paraguay has ravaged a bit of my soul and I am surprised to be here at this end of the yearlong tunnel.

But having said that, I am also emerging from a week of sheer and utter grace. I spent an unexpected six days in Peru submerged in a glorious deluge of love and amazing lightness. A community of a jolly old friend and divinely appointed new ones not only welcomed me with a warm familiarity, but they also poured laughter, normalcy, validation, healing, and restoration into a weary heart.

Today marks exactly one year in Paraguay. The second half awaits and only God knows what it holds. A week ago, I probably would have dragged my feet across the threshold of twelve more months of Paraguayan unknown. But there is a peace that pervades with contentment, confidence, and generous unconditional love. And I claim so much freedom–from the past, from my insecurities, from my future fears–from that.

Be free, Lo. Paraguay Year Two is yours for the living and keeping.

I am actually throwing up a shaka not an awkward hitchhiker’s thumb.

Getting hooked up.

Ruuuuuuun!

Up, up, up, and away!

(We definitely had a good laugh about the foreground of this pic. Oy.)

So amazing.