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.

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December 143Nuts yo.

Summer in Paraguay is no joke. It is hot and humid and inhumane. There was a period in December when I didn’t sleep for a week, and it got to the point where I was hopping in and out of the shower every hour just to make it through the night. Thankfully, I had some wonderful benefactors who allowed me to seek refuge in their air conditioned guest bedroom and I survived the month by the skin of my (burning hot) teeth.

On one particularly scorching day, I was gathering up ingredients for my last cooking class of the year. I had planned several fun recipes to close out 2012 with a bang, and chocolate-covered frozen bananas were one of the items on the docket. Anticipating the lack of a microwave and equipment to facilitate a makeshift double-boiler at church, I set out to melt the dipping chocolate in advance.

I quickly chopped up my baking bar taking caution to handle the confection with my hands as little as possible, and tossed it all in a bowl. I was sweating my brains out when the thought occurred to me to test how intense the heat outside. So on a whim, intending it more as a joke, I took the bowl out to my backyard and plopped it down in direct sunlight.

Then I thought about critters and such, which come in no short supply here, and changed my mind about the experiment. As I walked out to retrieve the bowl not even two minutes later, I was amazed to discover that the chocolate had completed melted, blowing the truth of my hypothesis out of the water.

It also took my festive jello the ENTIRE day to barely solidify inside my fridge.

Ridiculous.

December 145Sweet little face.

December 147Blending up some frozen hot chocolate.

December 152A precious moment.

December 150Dipping the bananas in naturally melted chocolate.

December 159Sprinkles are the magic of life.

December 154My Christmas jello slices (made in oranges!).

December 158One whole year of Lo’s Kitchen.

Monsoon Morning.

November 29, 2012

So shiny.

I groggily cracked my eyes open feeling characteristically sticky from sweating all night and exhausted from sleeping restlessly due to the heat. Over even the vicious whir of the ceiling fan, I felt the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard rattle the bones out of my window.

Yesss! It’s raining! I thought with glee. There are few things I love waking up to more than thunderstorms.

The wind had blown my shutters closed during the night covering my room in a shroud of darkest black. As I felt around unsuccessfully for my glasses, a strange glimmer caught my bleary, near-sighted eye.

Huh? Why does it look like my floor is covered in wa……OH MY GOSH, WATER!!!

I leaped out of bed and landed with a mighty splash. I was simultaneously chagrined to find that indeed my room was drenched in about two inches of water and incredibly relieved I did not leave my computer on the ground as I often do (seeing as I don’t have a desk and all). I started fishing chargers out of the water and wringing out dresses that had soaked because of my makeshift “closet.” A pillow and towel that had fallen to the floor weighed about twenty pounds in pungent liquid. My sacred planner was utterly obsolete.

I glanced at the window sill where water generally leaks in and was perplexed to find the usual spots dry. Weird. To my continued surprise, I exited the bedroom and found the entire house (except the shower, of course) completely covered in standing water. A pouch of rat poison that formerly sat on the ground under my kitchen sink had floated all the way to the bathroom, and an assortment of other objects, including a variety of giant dead cockroaches, could be seen strewn about in various rooms.

Confusion was extensive as the cracks under the front and side doors were dry. Where was this water coming from? I slogged through the hallway out to the kitchen to find an all-consuming mac daddy puddle soaking my bare feet. After snooping about in the torrential rain, it dawned on me that no exterior drain exists for the entire back half of the house and the rain gutter conveniently positioned right outside the kitchen door was pouring a raging river into the house. I could have white water rafted that current.

What else was there to do, but call all of my bosses and start mopping. After hours of what felt like simply pushing water around, the floor of my house looks somewhat normal again. The odor in the air is no fresh load of linen (the scent actually hovers somewhere between damp armpits and soiled diapers) and massacred colonies of bugs greet me every time I check the back door for a tidal resurgence, but I am feeling remarkably positive.

There is so much to be thankful for–starting with lower temperatures (!), a mostly competent roof over my head, generous coworkers, fresh coffee, and an unaffected computer. [I have experienced living abroad without my laptop for an extended period and it was not the cat’s meow at all. I know, first world people problems…]

Now to make the dwindling last roll of toilet paper stretch…

Bathroom with floated in kitchen knickknacks.

Only later did I discover the lowest part of this room (not pictured).

The canals of Veni…, er, Asuncion?

A pond of a kitchen.

The most devastating casualty. Boohoo.

 

Two weeks prior to our planned community service event, Y spoke with the neighborhood blacksmith about assisting us with labor and materials. He assured her he could provide the necessary supplies and services for our project.

I went with Y to confirm a week later, and jovial as ever, the blacksmith volunteered all kinds of donations and several hours of manual labor. We were surprised by his unusually generous offer, but grateful nonetheless. He promised to be at the plazita by late morning that Saturday ready to work, and Y and I left feeling optimistic about the playground improvement efforts to take place.

The big day rolled around. We wrapped up our morning program, and sent the little kids back home. we rounded up a handful of older kids and the materials we had all scrounged up, and trekked out to the plazita. We were ready to work, 110 degree heat and all.

The blacksmith was nowhere in sight. Disappointed but not entirely surprised, we handed out bags for trash pick-up while we waited for him to arrive. 30 minutes later, there was still no blacksmith, so we pulled out the weed whacker and brooms, and commenced mowing the lawn and sweeping up. Machetes came out next for further weed removal, followed by more sweeping.

A phone call was eventually made to the MIA blacksmith, and he apologized saying that he had had to make a run to a nearby junkyard to collect materials and would be present at the plazita in no less than 30 minutes.

By this time, I had made numerous cauldrons full of gooey chalk paint with my bare hand, and the kids were well past fighting over who got to help paint the perimeter wall. And they were almost done covering everything in a brilliant white.

It was hot, really hot. We were sweating profusely. We were parched. And we were completely exhausted. Desperately, we took a break to buy ice cold cokes and find food.

(Side story: one kid’s mom had just killed a pig in her front yard, where the table was still dripping with pig juices and the feet had yet to be stashed away. There were buckets of bloody organs and bloody machetes lying out, and then the mom came out with an antiquated pan of something swarming with flies that resembled more children’s mud pies than lunch. A smattering of dark vegetables and pig heart were wrapped in undercooked, jiggly pork belly with the black gristle still intact, all lashed together with equally dubious-looking twine. It had been recently boiled and was fresh for the snacking. I’m just glad she didn’t make me take a bite while she was looking…)

In the end, the blacksmith never showed. But we did have a slightly nicer after product to show for our efforts, and while the following week, intended to be community service part two, did not pan out either (surprise, no blacksmith), there were still fruits to take away from the project.

For one, the kids who worked alongside us leaders took so much pride in their labor and were ecstatic about the playground improvements, however minor. Secondly, we had several parents express their gratitude for our positive presence and influence in the neighborhood, commenting about enthusiastic spiritual learning or even improved behavior in their children. More than sparkly playgrounds, I’d say that life-changing differences are the victory here.

Machete chops goodbye to gnarled weeds.

Sweeping up the scraps.

Possibly posing.

Painty painty.

Pablito hard at work.

Lunch time (and my favorite Paraguayan delicacy…).

Yum… :/

The hard-fought after pic!