Kablooey 205Pretty grand.

In the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries set up camp in what is now known as Encarnacion, naming their settlement La Santisima Trinidad de Parana. Eventually the Jesuit sect declined in popularity and with the mission’s exodus followed the decay of their physical dwellings. Today the reasonably well-preserved ruins are one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Paraguay.

The Sch family and I spent a humid morning exploring the community remnants, pitting our expedition against the ominous brewing storm threatening to drop forth at any second. True to typically lax Paraguayan style, climbing up on the ruins was technically strongly discouraged, but a lack of tangible barriers made for very loose interpretations of said suggestion.

We ducked under archways, leaped off staggered pedestals, snuck behind headless statues, crawled into dark crypts (shudder), had competitive and completely inappropriate footraces, and almost made it out dry. Almost.

All in all, an excursion done right.

Kablooey 153Kablooey 157Kablooey 164Kablooey 171Kablooey 199Kablooey 183Kablooey 188Kablooey 182Kablooey 173Kablooey 193Kablooey 189See more here!

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Tearing Around Tobati.

May 19, 2013

I don’t particularly like to admit that I dislike outdoorsy activities (unless laying on a beach counts?), because it sounds prissy. But to be frank, if I am deciding how to spend a day off, camping and hiking will never, of my own volition, be the foremost options. That said, I had a fantastic time exploring Tobati with the Sch’s on our holiday last week. Maybe sassy four-year-olds are simply the answer to my hiking reservations. Then again, sassy four-year-olds may be the answer to many of life’s conundrums.

In any case, Tobati is located about an hour and a half drive outside of Asuncion, and is especially known for its brick-making. Something about the composition of their red dirt is particularly conducive to producing quality bricks. We managed to make it to the city, clamber around, and climb back down the mountain just before the skies starting pouring forth violent rain. Thank God for large 4-wheel drives and snuggly peanuts who fall asleep and snore softly on my shoulder on the soggy ride home. Seriously, sassy four-year-olds…the best.

Hiking 101Hiking 105Hiking 111Hiking 010Hiking 019Hiking 040Hiking 044Hiking 073Hiking 046Hiking 048Hiking 082Hiking 084Hiking 112Yikes.

See more photos HERE!

OANSA: Love is Loud.

March 20, 2013

Existence 013Doing work.

Y and I called out our chau chau‘s as kids trudged across the field to head back home. We gathered our own belongings and stacked them in one place for temporary safekeeping. On a normal Saturday, we, too, would be heading out to continue with our weekend, but this occasion called for some extra hours.

Water deposits persist in posing problems at the Primero de Marzo site where our OANSA program meets weekly (see: this post). While the general situation had improved greatly, one large headache still remained in the form of a murky puddle-cum-lake just screaming mosquito larvae factory.

Our thought was to fill it up using the mounds of dirt on the outskirts of the field in attempt to eliminate one potential, if not current, source of disease germination. And so, we pulled out the borrowed shovels and set out to complete the task at hand.

Then without being asked, without even knowing what we were doing, S grabbed the third shovel, and fell into step with us, stating simply, “I’ll help.” Somehow instinct told me it wasn’t boredom or curiosity motivating this assent to assist, but rather it was a testament to the work of the Lord transforming a surprisingly malleable heart to mirror that of a true servant. It was was one of those small, unassuming moments that speak profoundly of rapidly progressing maturity and give nod to huge glimmers of potential in our kids.

And because love is contagious, JC observed S’ gesture of service and followed his example, not knowing what he was acquiescing to either but volunteering nonetheless. Suddenly, Y and I had a faithful little army to aid us in our mission.

Honestly, this neighborhood breaks my heart every day. The heaviness of sin and darkness lurk not only in the obscurity of night, but worse, and often, parade proudly, brazenly in the glaring light of day. The grave realities of poverty, abuse, brokenness, and things so incredibly messed up that nausea is the only answer I can produce when I try to wrap my mind around them, are stark and sad.

But victories like these are beacons of light in a tenebrous world, where no matter how dark, little pinholes still shine through.

Light, like love, is loud.

Existence 015The lake of Primero de Marzo.

Existence 010Getting down to business.

Existence 011A far more daunting task than expected.

Existence 012One scoop at a time.

OANSA: First Day Back.

March 17, 2013

Existence 014Primero de Marzo.

February was a month defined by dengue fever, an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Symptoms can include muscle and joint pain, headache, sustained fever, vomiting, and measles-like rash. Because there are no antiviral drugs for dengue, persons inflicted must simply rest, stay hydrated, and wait for the virus to run its course.

It is estimated that a rising number of 13,000 people in Paraguay have been infected in 2013 alone—a small portion of those having resulted in death. Recent sporadic flashes of heavy rain combined with extreme humidity have sustained standing bodies of water and moisture all over the city. Puddles like these are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which of course create foreboding circumstances as dengue has proven in its rapid spread.

Our OANSA’s Santa Maria neighborhood has not fared so well during this peak season of contagion, and surely the exposed sewage lines that run through the streets have not made for a particularly healthy environment. Seven individuals in the Baez household alone have contracted the virus, some of whom are still experiencing symptoms.

The Primero de Marzo site, where we hold our weekly OANSA meetings, was in terrible shape after a spate of tropical storms and heavy rainfall. Already a less than sanitary area, the large pools of festering liquid only served to create a quagmire of disease. It was clear, even as the start of our OANSA 2013 program approached, that the cancha was not fit for any sort of gathering, much less one involving children. The myriad possible liabilities made me cringe all the way to my toes.

We scouted alternative locations in the neighborhood, we considered a number of superficial, bandage solutions, we weighed our other options all to no avail or even the slightest sense of settling peace. And so began the waiting game—an uncertain venture of hoping for the moisture to dry up and the swarming populations of mosquitoes to decrease quickly.

The start date for OANSA was postponed several times and much nail biting ensued as conditions did not improve. Finally, halfway into March, we bit the bullet and set an official commencement Saturday.

And WHAT UPPPP answered prayer! There was only one puddle this past Saturday, absolutely no mosquitoes, and eighteen little chums who came out to jump rope and sing songs (and rather enthusiastically so, might I add). I was stoked.

The Lord provides!