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We created this blog to inform our community about our experience in Asunción, Paraguay.


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October 5, 2011

Baseball, Life, Paraguay and Loose Connections Between the Three

Joe Poznanski, a former sports writer for the KC Star and current Sports Illustrated writer, recently wrote a piece about the historic and unprecedented last day of the baseball 2011 season.

Joe wrote:
Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. That in many ways is the beauty of it. I realize that's a hard thing to explain to someone who doesn't love baseball, no, more than hard, it's an impossible thing to explain because many people want sports to be more than life, they follow sports to jolt them out of the steady rhythms of the shriek of alarm clocks, the monotony of morning meetings, the rush to get our kids to soccer practice by 4 p.m. They want sports to be bigger than life. What's the point, otherwise? There is nothing in baseball as jarring as a blind-side hit, as jaw-dropping as a perfect alley-oop, as tense and heart-pounding as a breakaway.
And the hard thing to explain, the impossible thing, is that many of us love baseball not in spite of these failings but because of them...
Later in the same article he wrote:
Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. That's what you get most of the time. You stand in driver's license lines, and watch Alfredo Aceves shake off signals, and sit through your children's swim meets, and see bases loaded rallies die, and fill up your car's tires with air and endure an inning with three pitching changes, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk.But then, every now and again, something happens. Something memorable. Something magnificent. Something staggering. Your child wins the race. Your team wins in the ninth. You get pulled over for speeding. And in that moment -- awesome or lousy -- you are living something you will never forget, something that jumps out of the toneless roar of day-to-day life.  (full text)

Joe Posnanski often reveals a deeper truth than the sports he writes about.  I've written on this blog about our trips to Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and cities in Paraguay, but those do not represent our life here.  Those are the moments between the monotony of life.

I haven't written in this blog in months, not because nothing happen, but because life has happened and life here is still just life.  That is not to say our life here is boring, but rather, many times it is comfortably routine.  We are blessed with friends, employment, and a great place to live.  Our life in Paraguay has become well...life.  Cassie and I drag ourselves out of bed five times a week (six times if you count church) and go to work.  Most weeks we plan, teach lessons, grade, make copies, have casual conversations with friends and coworkers, take Spanish and Guarani lessons, take a 20 minute bus home, go out to eat, attend a Spanish speaking church, go to the movies (with subtitles) and hang out with our friends, and repeat the next week.  Some things might jump out when reading the list (especially because many of them have to be done in Spanish), but all have become mostly normal.

Other things jump out of the routine of daily life. We have frustrations: the cultural and language can be pronounced at times, I get yelled at for something I didn't know I did, Cassie gets frustrated at not understanding a sermon, we are unintentionally rude by not greeting everyone, people on the bus stand uncomfortably close, Cassie's debate team took last place in a tournament.

Incredible things stick out: I saw 3 geckos eating bugs under a light, bright green parrots lined a fence at our school, and Cassie's debate took first place in a tournament, we understood someone speaking another language.  Those moments are memorable.

The baseball season lasts 162 wonderful-terrible-boring-fun days.  Wasn't that last day of the season awesome?

April 2, 2011

Short Trip through Uruguay

I realized our blog posts have been telling about our trip backwards, starting with Iguazu.  In reality our travels went like this:

Dec. 4 took the bus to Florianopolis, Brazil
Dec. 18 took the bus to Montevideo, Uruguay
Dec. 22 took a bus to Sacremento Del Colonia, Uruguay
Dec. 23 took a bus to Punta Del Este, Uruguay
Dec. 24 took a bus back to Montevideo, Uruguay
Dec. 25 took a bus to Asuncion, Paraguay
Dec. 28 took a bus to Foz do Iguazu, Brazil

It was great month of traveling.  Our passports have stamps from three new countries (we went through Argentina at night on our way back to Asuncion)

Florianololis was a great way to start our travels.  Uruguay was a great way to learn how to travel on our own.

When we were traveling on the bus, I noticed Uruguay was relatively flat and there were a lot of corn fields, farm houses, cattle.  It reminded me of...KANSAS!  The main differences in the countryside was the occasional palm tree.  However, upon entering Montevideo there were few remaining similarities.

Montevideo

Montevideo is a beautiful city.  It looked similar to what I think a European city would look like.  The architecture blew my mind and it was so beautiful.  There were beaches that were a short bike or bis ride away.  We had a great 3-4 days in the city.

Highlights:
falling asleep on the beach while we waited for check in at our hostel.
eating one of the best pizzas I have ever had
happening upon a Carnival-like parade
hearing and seeing fireworks from the roof of our  hostel at midnight on Christmas morning
meeting interesting people at the hostel
biking around the city
eating a giant chunk of meat at Marcado Del Puerto
swimming in the ocean
walking around Ciudad Vieja

One of the beaches in Montevideo

A carnival parade

Biking around Montevideo

Eating some great food at Mercado Del Puerto

Beautiful architecture at Palacio Salvo

Teatro Solis

Mercado

Sacrimento del Colonia

Highlights

Museums
Swimming in Rio Plata
Biking around town
Visiting an old bullfighting ring
Seeing historic buildings and fortifications
old city walls to protect from pirates

Chivito sandwhich - steak, egg, tomato, lettuce and delicious

the oldest house in Uruguay


lighthouse and ruins of a monastary 

old bullfighting ring

Rio Plata


Punta Del Este

highlights
fun hostel
brava beach
sleeping on the beach
quiet Christmas Eve together on the beach




Cassie and I had a great time in Uruguay.  We loved the beautiful buildings, beaches, delicious food, and the freedom of backpacking in South America. 

March 20, 2011

Small Falls

After visiting the falls in Brazil, we planned to visit the Argentine side the following morning.  We woke up early, had breakfast at the hotel, and hopped in the cab.  Our cab driver took us through Ciudad Del Este and down a few country roads to a ferry that would cross the river into Argentina.

It seemed surreal to go from Paraguay to Brazil to Paraguay to Argentina in two days.  The driver took us down a road towards the ferry.  We had our passports exit stamped and then went to watch the ferry cross the river until it was our turn.



Our driver returned with bad news.  We would not be able to cross because there was a New Years Eve parade and we would not be able to get back to Paraguay before the ferry closed.  We were all disappointed.  I think Mom was the most disappointed of all because she would miss the opportunity of visiting another Spanish speaking country and might not have the chance to visit Argentina again.  We also had been told the Argentine side was a completely different experience from the Brazilian side of the falls.  I was told, in Brazil you see the falls and in Argentina you experience the falls.

Though we were disappointed, our driver suggested we visit the Itapu Dam, so we went.  Itapu is the world's biggest, or second biggest dam depending on who you ask.  The Dam allows Paraguay to be the world's largest exporter of hydro electric power.  At Itaipu they had a nice movie explaining how it was built, a bus tour that took us along the dam, English and Spanish speaking tour guides.  While it was interesting, it was not what we were hoping for.



When we were debating where we would go next, I saw a pamphlet with a waterfall and picked it up.  Our driver said something in Spanish.  Mom said, "he says we could go there."  Salto Monday (pronounced mon-da-oo not like the weekday) is a 130foot waterfall in a city park a few kilometers outside of Ciudad Del Este.  I think it cost about 2,500G(about $0.50) a person to get in.  The park was quaint and there were few others there.

We did not see Iguazu from Argentina, instead we saw a smaller waterfall that was exactly what we hoped for.  We stayed for a little longer, and experienced the small falls.






March 13, 2011

Iguazu Falls

Last year my brother, Levi, went to see the Grand Canyon.  I asked him about the experience and he said that he could show me pictures, but it would not show the full grander.  He could tell me about it, but his words would be inadequate to describe what he saw.  After visiting the falls at Iguazu, Brazil, I understand.  Iguazu Falls is over two kilometers of waterfalls on the border of Argentina and Brazil and only a short drive from Paraguay.

* Both the Grand Canyon and Iguazu Falls are on some seven natural wonders of the world lists.

Cassie and I planned our trip to Iguazu Falls when my parents visited after Christmas.  Our friend, Victor Gonzalez, gave us the name of a cab driver in Brazil, Daniel, who drove us for nearly two days in Paraguay and Brazil.  He picked us up from the bus terminal and booked our hotel (maybe not the best idea).  Having a taxi driver saved us money because he drove us around immigration in Brazil (it would have cost $140 each for Brazilian visas for my parents).

We stayed in a Hotel in Foz do Iguazu that had the worst hotel room I have ever stayed in.  The building, pool, and breakfast were decent but the room was horrible.  There was mold in the corner of the room (where my head was), the towels were so thin they had holes in them, my pillow was lumpy (as in only lumps of cotton no actual pillow, one of the windows was broken, and it cost $150.  Oh well.

We got to the park and purchased tickets to take a bus through the park to a paved walking trail.  The park is well developed and a very popular tourist destination.  We walked a short ways down the trail and the trees opened up to a panoramic view of the falls.  I had never seen anything so beautiful.  My throat choked up and my eyes blurred for a few seconds.  I cannot fully describe what I saw.  It was overwhelming.















March 2, 2011

More to Come

Much has gone on since Thanksgiving.  I hope to update the blog with a few of the things that happened in the last three months with topics including:

Traveling to Florianopolis
The Paiva Family
Uruguay and Backpacking
Christmas in a Bus
Seeing one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
Small Falls
Family Camp Con Luque Iglesia De Nazareno

December 1, 2010

The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, otherwise known as "Food Christmas" is by far my favorite holiday of the year.  I love everything about it (except washing dishes).  I love the large family gatherings, card playing, and laughter.  I love the feast of turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing, giblets and gravy, and all kinds of pie.  I love watching the Detroit Loins and Dallas Cowboys.  I even love the idea and history behind the holiday.  The first Thanksgiving involved people groups from different continents and cultures who ate and drank together and thanked God for the blessing of food and life after a difficult year.

This past weekend we chose to travel by bus to Encarnacion, about 5 1/2 hours away, instead of celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving.  We made the trip with our friends and neighbors Nick and Maraliz.

Nick and Mara looking through Lonely Planet on the bus to Trinidad.
Encarnacion is a small city across the Rio Paraná from Posadas, Argentina.  Encarnacion is known for being a gateway to the ruins of several large Jesuit missions in Trinidad and Jesús.

Part of the Encarnacion bus terminal.
Our second day in the city we took a short bus ride to see the ruins for ourselves .  It was quite breathtaking.  To me it felt like a holy place.  Standing in the remains of the cathedral, I was struck by the beauty of the remains and the enormity of the history.

 
   

After seeing the ruins in Trinidad, we walked to the crossroads and took a cab to the town on Jesús to see ruins there.


After our day of visits to the ruins, we took the day to see the city of Encarnacion.

The view of Encarnacion from our hotel room.  Argentina is on the other side of the river.


We took a cab to the border between Argentina and Paraguay and walked along the bridge for some pictures. 



We then took the same cab to the Plaza de Armas to see the town park and walk to the parade grounds of the Carnival.  At the plaza we purchased gifts for family members.  Mara got into conversation with the lady making the gifts.  She continued to work on the items we purchased while we ate lunch.  When we returned, she had made a small gift for Mara and Cassie and invited us to return in a few hours to share some tereré.

We did not have a turkey feast, we ate Chinese food.  Instead of being surrounded by family, we shared a hotel room with new friends.  We did not go to a church, we walked through the ruins of a cathedral.  Though Thanksgiving was completely different from any in my past, it was also more like the one the Wampanoags and Pilgrims experienced.  We also found it difficult to adjust to new people places, surroundings, and new languages thousands of miles from family and the comfort of the familiar.  Instead of sharing a feast, we shared terere with a family from a different culture and on a completely new continent after a difficult year.

November 4, 2010

Attending Church in Paraguay

The first year teaching is difficult.  As a former first year teacher I remember the stress and internal conflict through that whole school year.  One of the best things about my first year teaching is that I do not have to repeat it.  Cassandra is going through that right now.  Her weekdays are consumed by grading and planning and on the weekends it is difficult to relax when she needs to plan all the lessons for the next week, prepare the science lab and more grading and planning.  It is a difficult job and adjusting to a new culture makes it that much more of a difficult transition.  Attending a Spanish speaking church adds to the anxiety of the week in some ways.

We have been attending an evening English church service started by the teacher and chaplain, Kevin Van Rensburg.  We visited a Paraguayan baptist church with a couple friends one of our first weekends here.  Once school started it was difficult to give the extra exertion to find and attend a service in Spanish.  However the last two weeks we have attended a morning church service in Luque at Iglesea de Nasareno and we believe we will continue to attend church there.

A few weeks ago, Jim and Zeida Lynch, Nazarene missionaries from Peru and the United States, invited us to attend a church in Luque**.  Cassie was getting slightly more adjusted to living here and we agreed that it was time to stretch ourselves and attend a Spanish speaking church.  I called Jim to get directions.  I got confused and had to called him again.  I looked up the directions and found I was still totally confused.  I spent serious time on google maps tracing the route and called another friend to find out the bus numbers.  We would need to walk five or six blocks (cuadras) to Avenida España, get on the bus 30 yellow, travel down Avenida España which turns into Au. Silvio Pettirossi, then to Avenidas Aviadores Del Chaco, then in Luque turns into Avenida General Aquino.  We need to exit the bus and find the street called General Diaz, which we found by taking the bus into Luque and getting directions from someone waiting for another bus.  With our limited Spanish we were able to understand how many blocks we needed to walk back(cinco o seis).  General Diaz is not marked until much farther down the road.  Once we found the street, we walked five or six cuadras to Boqueron where we found the Nazarene church.

**Luque its own town but close enough to be a suburb of Asuncion.  Luqueños are extremely proud of the city and their futbol team(but their team is in last place right now).

It was exhausting just to get to church.  We left plenty early because we did not know how long it would take.  We made it to the church an hour early, which is really early in this part of Latin America.  We were welcomed to church with big smiles and kisses on the cheek.**  We loved the church and attended the last two Sundays.

**Ladies press their cheek against both sides of you cheek and make a kiss sound.  Ladies greet each other with the kiss on both cheeks.  Guys DO NOT greet other guys with a kiss on both cheeks: only handshakes or hugs.  I learned this lesson in cultural literacy the embarrassing way.  Also, DO NOT go for the left cheek.  It is awkward when you both go for the same side.  At church I almost actually kissed a lady on the lips doing that.  Sometimes when I get tired of kisses on the cheek, because I am North American and like my personal space, I stick out my arm to shake hands in greeting and avoid getting close enough for kisses.

Some Thoughts on the Church

It is strenuous to listen intently to a service in Spanish.  Right now I can pick up very few words.  The music seems to transcend the difficult communication for the most part.  The music at Iglesia de Nasareno en Luque is beautiful.  The musicians are well rehearsed and the instrumentation is tasteful in every way.  Congregants sing along and clap** with joy and passion.  The words to the music are displayed and it is not difficult to pronounce most Spanish words and sing along with the music.

**Is it normal for Paraguayans to clap on beat one and three?  I have no idea.  It seems to be this way most places we have gone where people clap.

Last Sunday the lyrics to many of the songs were about God's love.  As I tried to sing and clap along with the music I found I could not stop crying.  I didn't have any tears roll down my face, but my eyes welled up and my throat choked so that I could no longer sing along.  In reflection, I think the emotion came from realizing I am a part of the Church with a capitol C.  I previously had only a knowledge level understanding of the international Church.  Attending Iglesia de Nasarena, I experiencing a part of the overwhelming enormity of God's love and what it means to be a part of Christ's body, the Church.  I am in communion with believers in parts of the world and we are singing in praise to God together.  Even in writing about it I get close to tears.   Seeing a new part of what it means to love and praise God is difficult to even describe.  I am part of something much grander than myself, my knowledge, and my experience.  God's love is bigger than I can know.