Warm Hearts and Big Smiles

I recently read an article about those whose life doesn’t go exactly as planned, but in the end the deviation from the plan brought more joy than they could have ever imagined or hoped for.  The message couldn’t have ringed truer for me.

Doing the Peace Corps was something I always dreamed about since learning about it in high school (or was it middle school?).   During college, when several friends decided to do the Peace Corps after graduating, I felt a twinge of jealousy when I discovered what their next step was.  How awesome for them to do something unconventional.  But the Peace Corps, for us, just wasn’t in our cards; we were to move to Seattle, work, and eventually start a family.

What I didn’t realize, is that my husband is just as adventurous as I am, which in hindsight is one of the reasons I married him, and for his stunning good looks as well, of course.   So, before finishing my second year of AmeriCorps, we discussed what was next for us, and well… you can figure out how the rest of the story went.

Four years after the planning and discussing began, and the longest application known to man, here we are one month+ away from completing our service, saying goodbye to all of the amazing friends we have made.

Much of this blog space I have dedicated to our projects and travel, and while much of our time here in Paraguay has consisted of this, some of the most treasured memories I will take away with me are just the simple moments we spent with Paraguayans.  Paraguayans are truly some of the most hospitable and friendliest people you will ever meet.   They have welcomed us into their homes for many meals, giving us many rides, shared many tereres and mates, and most of all, have shared with us much laughter.  So today, is a day to share with you guys some of those small/big moments we have shared with Paraguayan friends lately that warm our hearts and bring big smiles.

During Easter it’s a tradition to make chipa, a traditional cornmeal and cheese based bread, so this year instead of just eating lots of it, I got to try my hand at making it with our friends across the street (who also are our landlords).   Jon even joined in at the end of it and become an expert chipa shaper.

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12 days in Patagonia

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After my family’s visit to Paraguay we all flew to Patagonia, more specifically El Calafate, Argentina.  Call me ignorant, but I wasn’t exactly aware that people traveled to Patagonia.  But in my early days as a volunteer I kept hearing other volunteers mentioning their trips to Patagonia, and showing their epic photos, and so Patagonia quickly went on the “To-Do” list during our service.  Thankfully, my parents were also up for the adventure to travel to the end of the world.

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Our first outing in El Calafate was ice trekking on a glacier.  It felt surreal to be walking on the infinite expanse of ice with crampons.  The colors of the ice were mesmerizing, the deepest blue you could imagine.  During the trek we also stopped to see the front of the glacier Perito Moreno.  Perito is one of those “must-sees” when you visit Patagonia, you simply don’t get tired of looking at it and waiting for a chunk of ice to break off and go plunging into the water.
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Parents visit Paraguay

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This past February we were graced with my entire family visiting us.  Though to be fair my “entire” family consists of 3 people (five including Jon and I), while Jon’s family is many, many more… I would get lost if I were to count. 20 to be exact.

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It had been almost two years since I last saw my mom and sister, and a little less since I last saw my dad, either way it had been way too long.  I was pretty darn glad to see those familiar faces arrive at the airport and to be smothered in kisses by my mama.

In the end, they spent almost two weeks in Paraguay.  We adventured out in an old rental van to do our explorations, the van may or may not have died on us 3 times during the trip, adding a bit more to the sense of adventure.  We visited a waterfall, went to Encarnación to watch carnaval and go to the river beach, felt the hustle and bustle of Asunción, and enjoyed the tranquilo life of our town, while they got to meet some of our favorite people.
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Photos, Computers and Friends

It’s hard to believe that Jon and I are coming to the end of our service.  This July we will be making our way back home.  They say that the Peace Corps is the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” and I couldn’t agree more.  While I wouldn’t trade this experience in Villarrica for anything, it definitely hasn’t been a walk in the park for either of us.  It has now been almost two years since we last touched American soil.  We miss family, we miss the comforts, we miss friends. So thank you, thank you to all of those that have made that void a little smaller for us, sending us encouraging messages and updating us on life, Skyping with us, mailing us packages full of goodies and letters, we truly appreciate it.  And thank you to those who have visited us or met us elsewhere in Latin America. Seeing familiar loved faces is always a welcome respite.

Today I wanted to share some highlights of what life has been like lately. And by that I mean these past 8 months.

A while back I shared pictures of our town taken by our students. Below is an image of the final exhibition of the photography course. Everyone was pretty excited to find their photos.

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When we first visited our town one of the first places we went to was the Telecentro, a free public computer lab run by a local NGO and the municipality. The lab had 10 computers that were 14 years old.  They were so old that they couldn’t run Windows, which in turn meant no MS Office.  With the staff in the lab I wanted to teach computer classes, but felt it would be irrelevant doing it with Linux.  I crunched numbers to see how much we needed to replace the computers and it was just too much to ask family and friends back home for.
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13 Days in Peru

Remember those friends we went to Alaska with before heading out to Paraguay?  Well, we did it again, this time in Peru. And then in my normal timely fashion, it took me over two months to tell you about it.

Meeting up or having friends and family visit us are always highlights during our service, and this trip was no exception.  The trip started off with one night in Lima, Peru.  Jon and I got there in the early morning so we were able to explore Miraflores, the hip suburb of Lima.  We visited the chocolate museum, perused the plazas, visited the coast with its surfers, ate sushi, and then ate some more at the very popular “sangucheria” La Lucha where the sandwiches are over the top and the smoothies extra delicious.   I shall owe you the pictures.

Then we patiently awaited the arrival of our friends.  I practically jumped from my chair when their taxi pulled up to the hotel; the real fun and adventure truly was about to begin.

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That next morning we headed to Cusco, where we stayed for four days.   Cusco is an endearing town, with its winding cobblestone streets and red tiled roofs.  It was also once the heart of the Incan empire, so walking down narrow alleyways you are flanked on both sides by original Incan walls.

A little side story:  I would have completely missed the cute girl below, if it weren’t for the fact that she was reading her magazine out loud to herself and I heard her.  I just had to snatch the camera out of Jon’s hand and capture the moment.
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