August 23, 2013

I have been back in the United States for nearly one month. Although I’ve been jetting around and haven’t exactly settled in San Diego yet, there are a few things I have observed about my readjustment so far.

1. I cannot cross the street properly. Cars waiting to turn right on red hate me for my nervous indecision, because I still assume anything with four wheels WILL hit me.

2. I cannot flush the toilet properly. I keep panicking when I actually drop my toilet paper in the toilet for fear that those four squares will clog the entire city’s plumbing.

3. Picking produce at the grocery store is revelatory. I am used to scouring endless land mines of rotten tomatoes and repulsively bruised mangoes that unsuspectingly ooze fermented juice all over my hand only to come away with nothing because everything is spoiled.

4. No matter how safe the city (seriously, Fremont and Cambridge?), I still walk around on survival/attack mode. My code red cynicism is still alive and burning.

5. Speaking of attack mode, orderly lining up has become a foreign concept to me. Any time a queue is formed, my instinct is to rush forward, elbows out. Apologies to the grandma at the grocery store yesterday…

6. Taking showers and lying in bed may be commonplace routines, but for me, they have become awe-inspiring highlights of my days. I am pretty sure I have thanked the Lord for shower curtains, water heaters, H2O that doesn’t smell like sewage, and real mattresses more than anything else…even time with B.

7. I heard this one from many a Peace Corps returnee, but I am still shocked by the excess of choices and options and how easy it is to spend money here. The credit card may be America’s greatest weapon.

8. Last Sunday was my first week back at Existence Church, and I hit culture shock so hard. More on this to come, but, GEEZ, money everywhere.

9. The more I travel, the more I LOVE San Diego. What kind of crazy person would ever leave this paradise heaven-land?!

10. Food is delicious.


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.


Poop and Puppies.

November 15, 2012

The other morning, I hustled out the front door, hurrying to get to a meeting. Although I am forever serially early, it was a rare day when I had not a minute to spare.

Of course, this meant there would be a pack of SEVEN filthy (and I mean, I caught fourteen diseases just looking at them) stray dogs that had squeezed through the bars of my gate, dragging in a bag of somebody else’s trash, which they had conveniently torn to shreds and scattered all over my driveway in the most appetizing of ways.

Gag me.

I ran back into the house, raced down the hallway, and snatched the broom out of my kitchen. I charged back out front and commenced screaming like a banshee, swinging the broom wildly to shoo off the dirty vermin, and trying not to get any closer than necessary. I also feared that the dogs might run the opposite way and dash into the house, but thankfully that complication was avoided.

Though one dumb dog did try to come back in and snatch a snack for the road, but then he saw the look on my face (and the imposingly raised arm), thought better of it and slunk away. Hmph.

Surveying the buffet of leftovers I now had the privilege of collecting, I observed with disgust that the delectable selection included clumps of hair, chicken bones, rotten apple cores, and POOPED SMEARED TOILET PAPER. (By the way, why were these in the same trash bag??)

Life abroad…

To be burned at the stake.

The festival of San Juan originally began as a Catholic tradition in Spain, celebrating John the Baptist and the European summer solstice, an intentional combination of both the religious and the “profane.” I think. This is what I seem to have gathered from random websites that include Wikipedia and an assortment of Paraguayan verbal explanations, none of which corroborated. Take the reliability of my historical information and sources in this entry with a grain of salt.

In Paraguay, the celebration has become more cultural than religious with various Guarani traditions (ask me to name them and I couldn’t give you even one; it has been a confusing weekend), so as a result, Mi Esperanza sponsored a second annual carnival-type venture in an effort to reach our neighborhood and community.

It was quite the spectacle.

Whoever was DJing came with a five-song track that self-repeated over four hours on both nights. I heard Besame seventeen million times and it is no longer one of my favorite songs.

One of the kid’s games was Knock the Pyramid, complete with a tower assembled of taped toilet paper rolls. Resourceful.

The concept of accumulating tickets to trade in for better prizes (of which toothbrushes are¬†totally desirable–I’m not even being sarcastic), was unfathomable. I made that speech hundreds of times to no avail.

A little sleepy nugget came and asked, “It fine I sit on your lap, Big Lowen?” and promptly fell asleep under my moose hat.

And a stuffed dummy labeled with the name of a politician who played a key role in the recent impeachment of the Paraguayan president (more about that confusing mess later) was set on fire at the end of the first night.

Ah, yes. We are in Paraguay.

The beginnings.

Setting up our prize booth.

Lining up for the games.

Sack races!

The antlers hide a small snoozing snugglebug. <3

*Apologies for the low-quality photos. My camera abhors the night.