So this is the first day I’ve felt useless in awhile. I did learn how to make “chipa” this morning but other than that all I did was help out in the kitchen, learn how to wash my clothes here (I was spoiled in my last house because they had a washing machine). I’m feeling a little down for the first time since I got to PY. Probably because I left all my training buddies and we’re out on our own. Which is good! But it’s still a little sad. Time to make new friendships again and new connections and I’m really really really going to miss my old host family in Guarambaré. Going back there after traveling always felt like coming back home.
I know that this new place will probably become even more important to me in time. I just have to be patient!
I also spent today figuring out my internet situation. I have a nifty little USB device that get reception from the cell phone towers around here. Reception is iffy in some areas but it’s portable internet. Conclusions? Reception in my room SUCKS to the point of it’s not even worth using the internet but I have excellent internet service… in the middle of my backyard! Imagine me walking around with my laptop trying to find signal today and my host family watching, amused.
OK let’s back up to swear in weekend:
I woke up at 4 am on Friday morning to try to look decent (read: formal wear) for swearing in at 8 am at the US Embassy. Our bus was leaving at 5:15 meaning I had to start walking from my house around 4:45. Oh man. I woke up to the sound of pouring rain! I love rain, but not when I have to walk 2 km in nice shoes with all my electronics in a bag! Got to the embassy, went through security and we had our ceremony on their porch area in monsoon type rains (apparently the first time this has happened in the last 16 years of PC Paraguay). Wouldn’t be the Peace Corps without a good laugh from Mother Nature I suppose. Swore in, got my bank card and cell phone (WHOOP! call/text me) and headed to the hotel I was staying at for the weekend.
The rest of the weekend consisted of me having a food vacation. Let me explain: food in everyday Paraguay is pretty bland and pretty starchy. Bottom line: I missed my veggies and my spices. So, while I was in Asuncion, I ate a slice of zucchini quiche, I had falafel, I ate delicious bread pudding, Italian food, and ordered two magnificent (albeit overpriced) margaritas.
Monday I headed out to my site early in the morning with Jeff and Carly who live along the same route as I do, about an hour East of my town (on the paved roads, lucky ducks). Our bus was PACKED. Not regular Paraguayan packed, but Semana Santa (Easter week) packed. Meaning: I climbed over people and bags to get out; I saw someone pass another person their toddler through the bus window because it was so crowded; there were no food vendors inside the buses (which is rare). Semana Santa here in Paraguay to me seems to be sort of a mix between our Thanksgiving and Christmas. Families all travel to go back home and cook absurd amounts of food together and exchange gifts.
Naturally, PC decides to send us to site that week. I appreciate the cultural exchange I’m about to receive but all I can say is THANK the SKIES for luggage storage beneath buses.
Also as a weird creepy after note (I don’t mean to freak you out, mom) having a cell phone is great but it has its disadvantages. To preface, my host mom in Guarambaré is the ONLY person who I gave my number to there. Sunday, less than 48 hours after I even had a cell phone, I got a phone call from a random number and answered it thinking it was another trainee whose number I hadn’t saved yet. It ended up being a Paraguayan man from my training community who knew my name and wanted to know what I was up to. My response to that was “how the hell did you get my number and who the hell is this?” I didn’t really get any direct response although he claims he got my number from one of my friends which I HIGHLY doubt any of my friends are dumb enough to do and I KNOW my host mom did not do.
Anyways, I hang up on him and get a text a few minutes saying roughly, sorry Nicole, you just have such a sweet voice and I want to go out with you if that’s OK with you. OK I don’t know about you but that just gave me the HEEBY JEEBIES. First of all, I don’t like the idea of my number floating around Paraguay with people I don’t know. Second, I wish men in general (not just PY men, I’m talking about MEN here) would harass me directly face to face instead of waiting to do it via the safety of cell phone towers. I mean come. On.
That and I understand enough Guaraní to be able to understand what people (i.e. men in buses) are saying about me now for the most part but not able to respond. I wonder if ignorance is bliss sometimes.
Good news is that I haven’t heard back from “Creeper Carlos” (as he is saved as in my phone) since I haven’t responded to that last text so I’m hoping he’s just a dumb guy that got the hint and not a creeper. Here’s to hoping!
Here’s a Chipa recipe to brighten up the end of this post:
- 200g PIG FAT (yes, you did read that right, prep your arteries!)
- 8 eggs
- 500g Queso Paraguayo (cheese from here… not sure what the equivalent would be)
- Corn flour (until it looks right? That is the only indication I got)
- Pinch of Anis seed
- Pinch of salt
- 1 kg almidón (mandioca flour)
- Milk until the texture is like pizza dough (doesn’t fall apart but doesn’t stick to everything and anything)
So, you mix up everything up to the salt part then add the almidón little by little add milk to make it easier to mix little by little too. Then you roll it out into rolls and bake it in a tatacua (brick oven that is heated with wood beforehand). 30 minutes later, you’ve got an absurd amount of chipa!