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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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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13 Days in Bolivia

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Bolivia was not one of my must-see countries during our service, but I wanted to meet my friend Matt during his travels in South America and Bolivia was what worked best.  (In hindsight, it should have been on my list.) During the planning time two amazing Seattle friends, Brian and Chris, also showed interest in the trip and just like that we had a great crew of friends to travel with in Bolivia.

The trip began with an unexpected day in Santa Cruz for Jon and I after missing a flight to Sucre.  Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia, but yet it felt less city-like and much more spread out than La Paz.  During our time there we lingered in the beautiful plaza, enjoyed a real breakfast (I am still trying to introduce the notion of breakfast in Paraguay), got to enjoy some frozen yogurt, and visited several museums.

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Then we were off to Sucre.  Sucre is known as la Cuidad Blanca, the White City, because the buildings in the historic center are all white with red tiled roofs.  It is a very endearing town with its meandering streets, cute coffee shops, and amazing food. They are also known for their chocolate shops, so I of course had to stop and enjoy a couple truffles.
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A Trabajar en Villarrica

When folks from back home email/chat/talk with us, a question we always get is “What all do you guys do down there in Paraguay?” So, here you have it, a post solely dedicated to what we do in Paraguay with pictures galore.  And yes, we do things other than constantly sweat and kill bugs. (Please excuse the quality of some of the pictures– they were mostly taken with a point and shoot).

1. I teach/taught typing. 

For the past two months I taught typing at a local middle + high school.  This school was the very lucky recipient of a fully equipped computer lab courtesy of the Korean aid organization (KOICA), but unfortunately since the Korean volunteer has left the lab was only used for two class hours per week.  My original plan was to teach Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. but I quickly discovered that many students could barely manage using a mouse and a keyboard.  So, we started at square one, typing.  The students have a way to go, but I plan to continue once summer vacation ends and school starts back up.  (Yep, we are in the midst of summer here on the other side of the hemisphere).  During the same time Jon taught PHP at the technical high school, the same stuff that runs those websites that go by the name of “Facebook,” “Wikipedia” and even this little blog.  

2. We walk a lot and drink terere. 

A significant chunk of our day consists of simply walking. We live a good distance away from the center of town, and once in town have to walk from offices to schools to markets to home, etc.  Thanks to a sweet little birthday gift (a.k.a: a Fitbit) I received from a friend all the way from the U.S. of A. (love you Eab!) I now know that on average we walk 7 miles per day.  To cool off from all that walking we drink lots of terere with fellow Paraguayans.  Terere is the national drink of Paraguay/a way of life. It consists of a guampa (metal or wood cup), a bombilla (metal straw with a filter at the bottom), a thermos (filled with really cold water to refill the guampa), mate (a loose herb), and friends.  You get together with friends and alternate drinking from the same guampa via the same straw.
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Birthdays, Parrots, and Ignorance

I am an ignorant fool.

I very incorrectly imagined adapting to Paraguay’s culture would be easy peasy.  This was my train of thought “I am a Latina, Paraguay is in Latin America, therefore Paraguay must be very similar to my Latin roots of Puerto Rico.”

Here’s the thing I didn’t take into consideration: Paraguay is over 3000 miles away from Puerto Rico.  Its influences and historic backgrounds are vastly different.  Its traditions, culture, and manner of speaking are on separate playing fields.

The amount of words/terms that are used here that I am unfamiliar with are infinite.   For example, last Friday I got a “Brushin” – which, by the way, consists of getting your hair washed (for 25 minutes) with a head massage, thoroughly blow dried, then straightened for a whopping  $4.80.   I digress, during my “Brushin” the stylist and I start discussing architecture degrees/licenses in the U.S. of A.
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