In the early part of my trip to Paraguay, my hosts- the Hagerman family– and I spent quite a bit of time traveling. First we headed east for about a week and a half, hitting up Obligado, Encarnacion, Ciudad del Este, and Foz just over the border into Brazil. Since then we’ve also taken day trips to Villeta, Alberdi, Asunción, Areguá, Caacupé, and around our own town of Itauguá. But most days? Most days are gloriously low key and normal, which is truly ideal for this kind of trip.
Well, you know, “normal” plus all this heat and the goats and the lizards and everything.
The average “normal, but with goats and lizards” day for us begins with Ken brewing a pot of coffee in a 90° kitchen in a country suffering from Junior High Awkwardness at the very idea of coffee. To wit: Ken was gifted a bag of Starbucks beans a few weeks ago and responded with what can only be described as giggles, and a face that looked like he’d just been told he’d won Hawaii.
Seriously, man: It’s time to get Paraguay some sister cities in Honduras.
The lack of proficiency- and interest- with coffee in Paraguay is completely understandable, however, given that the better part of the year here includes temperatures in the low 100s every day by 11 AM. There’s not really much call for hot drinks amongst those dripping with sweat. No, what’s needed here is something cool. And if you want to keep cool, and sufficiently hydrated, in this kind of heat, your best bet is to skip the coffee altogether and drink water All The Time. And what better way to drink water than socially and when it’s full of yard weeds, amiright?
Tereré (pronounced teh-deh-DAY) is the Guarani name for a drink almost everyone in these parts consumes daily in enormous quantities. It’s prepared by scooping yerba (dried herbs from a certain kind of holly plant) into a guampa (a cup traditionally made from wood or a hollowed out cow’s horn), pouring ice water over it, and drinking it through a bombilla (a long metal straw with a spoon-shaped sieve at the end to keep the herbs from going up the straw). If you’re with friends you’re expected to share your tereré with all present, refilling it with water after each drinker finishes their turn. It’s all very “puff puff pass,” and you’d do well to just dive right on into drinking it as soon as you arrive.
Most streets here are peppered with vendors selling ice and water so folks can replenish their termos (thermoses) of cold water throughout the day. You’ll find you’re also never far from a place where you can buy remedios (remedies) to add to the water for extra flavor, extra pep, or to cure any number of ailments. These remedios come in the form of herbs, roots, bits of tree bark, etc. which get crushed and mixed into the tereré water. If, by some sort of contrary miracle, you should find yourself with nary a remedio shop in sight, there are always plenty of free alternatives growing in your own back yard, or up between the cracks in the sidewalk. Cure away, friends.
Meal time is also pretty laid back here at the house where I’m staying. Breakfast can be anything from toast, to cereal, to a piece of pan Felipe (large, white rolls) with butter and a cup of coffee. My favorite breakfast so far has been a roll with veggies and a piece of white cheese. See? Laaaaid baaaack.
Lunch and dinner will usually be something whipped up by one of the Hagerman girls, Camille (15) and Caroline (13). Egg salad, rich casseroles, mandioca (cassava), baked chicken and the like are staples at the Hagermans’ house, and with good reason: Those two girls know their way around a kitchen. And lucky for all of us that includes knowing their way around serving up some pretty tasty desserts, too. This week’s treat was a batch of K Bars, courtesy of Caroline. And a week or so before that we were treated to Camille’s Avocado Mousse.
We’ve had dinner out a few times as well, favorite spots being Tia Pachi’s, home of $0.75 empanadas, and Allo Beirut, home of the Lomito Arabe. We stopped there the other night after church and ooooh was that some good eatin’.
The hottest part of the day is usually spent inside the house fixing things (if you’re Ken), reading, blogging, working on chores, or doing school work. The weirdest part about that to me is that the girls are actually working on chores or doing school work. I know. Crazy, right? But day in and day out they get it all done. Cool kids, huh?
During the cooler parts of the day- that is: when it’s down into the low to mid-90s in the morning or the early evening- there’s almost always company here at the house. Kids from Hogar Ganar will stop by to play with the girls or with Saúl, or maybe church friends will come over to chat in the hammock or practice their English. Last week we got to enjoy the company of some missionary friends of theirs from the US for a few days while they were passing through town on their way home after a conference in Chile. Never a dull moment around here!
One of our most frequent visitors is Milciades, the all-purpose maintenance guy and grounds’ keeper here at Hogar Ganar. Yesterday he came by to show us the trophy he won for a 7k race he ran in San Bernardino Saturday night. He took 2nd place out of 1,500 runners!
He entered several Hogar Ganar kids into the race as well; boys he’s been training with for a long time now. Sometimes we’ll see him working with them in the yard outside his house doing drills, running sprints, and learning what it means to develop the skills necessary to pursue something they care about. All the kids are young- I think the oldest boy is maybe 12- but they’re doing so well with him and have come such a long way. They run because they enjoy it, and because they look up to Milciades and he enjoys it. He’s just this young guy, but he’s so attentive and dedicated to these kids. It’s really a neat thing to see. Go Team!
We generally wind down the day reading and chatting on the front porch, taking turns in the hammock while the dog runs his fool self ragged through the fields and woods around the grounds. He comes back exhausted but happy, and absolutely covered in small, green burrs. Gotta love a dog!
And then finally? A nice, normal, everyday sunset…