OANSA: Catcalls.

August 22, 2013

Misc 017

During my last month in Paraguay, I ran the other OANSA program, which is held at La Plazita–a small triangle playground area sandwiched between three busy streets.

On one particularly chilly Saturday morning, I sat on a bench with 11-year-old J waiting for the other children to arrive. In the short span of fifteen minutes, nearly every passing truck, car, and motorcycle manned by a male driver had either blatantly checked us out or hollered something explicit.

After two years in the country, this sort of thing had become commonplace for me, even if not comfortable. But the nonchalance with which J laughed off the advances still disarmed me. She started telling me these crazy stories about men, young and old, who drive-by catcall, often times going so far as to double back several times in their vehicles to get a few more looks and comments in while she innocently sits on the swings or kicks around a soccer ball.

One afternoon, she was at the park (she lives only a few small houses away), stationed on the very bench we were seated, and fiddling with a borrowed cell phone. A police truck drove by, caught sight of her, circled back around, and parked. Several officers filed out and sauntered over to her. They attempted to cajole her into sharing her name and giving them her phone number. They told her to call them for a good time or come with them now for an extra special treat. The police force of Paraguay, everybody.

Repulsive.

I hate that these disgusting things happen to 11-year-olds, and I especially hate that children are recounting these events casually as if they were just another day in the life.

So much to pray over these kids.

I would like to attribute my recent blog hiatus to a spate of illness. I have actually been surprisingly healthy over the last two years considering how many environmental factors indicate otherwise why I should have many forms of severe cancer by now (oh, you know, an explosive microwave, cultural customs of extreme sharing, and mold of titanic proportions e-ver-y-where just to name a delightful few). But of course, with less than a month to go, Paraguay had to have its say.

The adventure began with a raging fever, miserable body aches, and a dry, itchy cough. By virtue of timing and a high volume of work, rest was simply not an option. My body exacted violent revenge on this rebellion and my symptoms evolved into an extreme strain of the flu that progressively worsened over the course of a week and a half. I felt like digested bacon.

At the two week-mark, I had a world monopoly on mucus production and if coughs could kill, I could have won wars. Singlethroatedly. Seven giant boxes of tissues later, I still had not turned the tide towards healing. So I finally schlepped myself over to the doctor for my first time in Paraguay. Let us not speak of woozily taking buses and walking about town.

The notoriously conservative doctor known especially for his hesitance to prescribe medication immediately put me on six days of antibiotics and double dosage of codeine cough syrup. My fling with the flu had now blossomed into a “complicated viral infection” with benefits. And not the good kind.

Unfortunately, this was not the beginning of the end either. Day one of meds messed me UP. I spent half the day in bed curled in a fetal position, moaning about my stomach disintegrating and wondering how on earth I’m going to get through childbirth. Later in the evening, I just about coughed both lungs up and then some before S forced a tablespoon of honey (yuck) down my throat to keep the tickle at bay.

Day two has been waiting for Seltz to deliver my 20L filtered water and resorting to consuming tap water. Well, almost. When I saw this come out of my kitchen faucet in blasting fury, everything made so much sense.

IMAG0651Not a cocktail. Not apple cider. Just Paraguayan tap.

I demonstrated to the class how to carefully ease the metal lid off the can and then squeeze it back in to drain the fluids out. Each pair of students sharing a tin of tuna repeated the process; everyone siphoning the excess liquid into a common bowl. As I walked towards the sink to toss the murky juice, a few students yelped.

“Why are you tossing that out? The juice is good to drink!”

Let’s all take a moment here to let the gravity of this statement fully sink in as I repeat that my students appealed to me to save the canned tuna liquid because it is good to drink.

GAG ME. I immediately froze in shock and turned to stare at my students in horror. “Excuse me, it is WHAT?!?”

“Yeah!!!” they all clamored together. “We love drinking it! It’s so delicious! That’s the best part about eating tuna!” And on and on went the rave reviews.

I carefully placed the bowl on the counter and not making any attempt to mask my disgust, informed the kids that if they really truly meant it,  I would leave the liquid for their consumption. But it absolutely had to be done out of my eyesight and far from earshot. Ew. I am not normally squeamish about such things, but it was just too disturbing to consciously allow. Only occasionally starving bellies could convince me to turn a blind eye to such absurdity.

I have never eaten a tuna melt in my entire life. I mean, I eat tuna, I definitely consume bread, and I LOVE cheese. But there was always something slightly disturbing about the whole fishy package of a sandwich. Stigma perhaps?

Regardless, such dish is exactly what Lo’s Kitchen is about—simple ingredients, accessible for kids, quick to assemble, and cheap. And clearly it was a hit in more ways than one.

Cheers! I think.

Lo's Kitchen 002Lo's Kitchen 003(That’s the nectar of the sea gods in the bottom right corner. Yikes.)

Tarantulas.

April 21, 2013

IMAG0015The guest of honor.

I had heard rumors about the legendary tarantulas roaming about in the wild here in Paraguay, but never had I actually seen one. Truthfully, the only ones I ever encountered were the ones at the San Diego Zoo and they were always trapped in a tiny exhibit behind a thick slab of glass (fine by me).

Yesterday, I pulled up to church, and as I alighted from my car, I was hurriedly waved over by J and his daughter. With no inclination whatsoever as to what was inspiring the pressing need, I trotted over. I kind of expected a puppy and instead was greeted by my first sighting of a massive rogue tarantula.

I meant to squat for a closer look, but J immediately squawked, “They are poisonous! And they jump! That thing could kill a kid!” Then he promptly stomped on it, eliciting a loud crunch of the exoskeleton, spraying spider juices everywhere.

Delicious.