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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While making chipa Karen (the oldest daughter in the family) and I did lots of chatting, per usual for us, and I mentioned that one of my favorite Paraguayan foods is clerico.  Clerico is a drink served during Christmas Eve dinner, and could be associated with sangria, but it has lots more fruit, chopped up extra small.  Unbeknownst to me Karen took my offhanded comment very seriously and a couple weeks later she came telling me that she had been able to get all of the ingredients to teach me how to make clerico, even the melon that was out of season, which she had to find through her aunt.  And happy as can be, we both chopped and chopped, and I enjoyed a big pitcher of clerico afterwards. It was like Christmas again.IMG_0941 IMG_0965 IMG_0975 IMG_0980IMG_0984

One of Jon’s To-Do while in Paraguay was to kill a chicken, and while it’s something quotidian for many Paraguayans, neither of us had ever done it.   With the same family that we made chipa and clerico with, Jon finally got the opportunity to kill a chicken.  This chicken was one of four that had lived in our yard for the past few months, eating lots and getting ready for a timely death.  The whole process was much less gruesome than I expected and there was no cringing.  The day after prepping the chicken we enjoyed eating it with some delicious spaghetti.

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Moving away from the food itself, and more in the agriculture end of things.  We also got a very up-close and personal encounter with honey harvesting.  Romina, a Paraguayan friend, invited the volunteers in our town to her dad’s farm to see how honey is harvested.  And while it’s not evident in the pictures, there are thousands of bees buzzing around you once the boxes are opened up, and yes, it’s as terrifying and exciting as it seems. Afterwards, we each took a small container of honey with us, and as we’ve been slathering it on everything, I feel like we can’t get closer to farm to table than this.Collage1 _MG_0831 _MG_0834 _MG_0841 _MG_0853 _MG_0857 _MG_0866 _MG_0867 _MG_0875 _MG_0877

Romina also planned our last little adventure I have to share with some help from another volunteer in our site.   Six Peace Corps volunteers along with nine Paraguayans all squished into a van for a trip out to an eco-adventure park an hour and a half from our site.   There was zip lining, rappelling, and a tightrope course.  It was fun.

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So yes, our life deviated from what we thought our future held, but in the best of ways, now it’s full of small charming moments that we never imagined to be sharing in a little landlocked country by the name of Paraguay.

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Your Comments

  1. I think I might have been willing to kill the chicken. I like to eat chicken. And I’m terribly scared of bees. And I would love another taste of chipa. But the eco adventure park? No think you. I’m not great at dangling in the air (like a soon to be expired chicken?).

    • Nalena

      Haha, you could of certainly joined in on the cooking! Bees are scary, but their honey is so delicious!

  2. Jane

    Great reading and what memories, eh? Wish i was there now!!!

    • Nalena

      Paraguay certainly misses you Jane! It was so great to be able to meet you, and hopefully some day we will be able to visit you in Spain!

  3. Warms my heart and brings me a big smile to read this, Nalena! So happy for PC’s help in crossing my path with yours.

    Also, I can’t help but giggle at the photo of Jon petting the dog right after the killing chicken ones. It’s almost as if he’s thinking it over and sizing up that little doggie neck. (I know, know, know that’s not what he’s thinking, though!)

  4. Mark

    Are there clams in the clerico?

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