Friday, February 26, 2010

Rub a Dub Dub

Summer’s cruel hold has finally been broken!

Last night, for the first time in months, I was able to sleep without my trusty and faithful fan, Brisa. Actually it was so nippy I had to break out my sleeping bag since the sheets and blanket I had weren’t cutting it.

While I don’t doubt that nature may still have some lovely melty temperatures in store for the next month, I’m fairly certain we are on the downward slide into fall.

Overall evaluation of this summer = Toasty but tolerable.

I am officially a bucket bather-at least for the next two weeks.

The only bad aspect about cooler temperatures is that my electricityless, and therefore light and hot waterless bathroom, has become more than a mild inconvenience. When the temperatures were in the mid/high 90’s and 100’s, a cold shower was refreshing. But right now, no thank you.

My new habit is to put a pot of water on my hotplate to heat up right when I get home from a run. It starts to boil just after I stretch and feed Lila dinner. Then I put the boiling water into a bucket and mix it with the cold water from my shower until it cools down to a non-scalding temperature. And bathe. It is actually not bad at all.

This is one step above the usual bucket bathing arrangement of some volunteers. Most people who have to bucket baths do so because they don’t have running water and have to pull their water up from a well. I have running water and a drain for it to go down, so I don’t have to worry about hauling water out of the well and over to the bathroom or throwing it out afterwards.

I feel like I’m paying my dues for the fact that I live in a really nice community and for the fact that in about 2 weeks I’m going to be moving in with Carly. A little suffering makes me feel more like a proper volunteer 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Goodbye Luna

Since I had known her, Carly’s dog Luna had always had shaky health. When I first arrived in site, 6ish months ago, a bad day would consist of not eating and being really listless. Unfortunately these past few months the bad days have gotten more numerous and more painful. Carly and Stephen made numerous trips to a highly qualified vet in Asuncion, did everything possible in this country to help Luna, and researched options for treatment back in the states.

Sadly they were not able to find any satisfactory solutions. Even though Luna was on pain killers generally given to cancer patients, she was still in considerable pain. Carly and Stephen realized that Luna probably was never going to have a life that didn’t consist of being in pain and heavily medicated.

While I was in Brazil, they decided the most humane option was to put her to sleep. She is now resting near a tree in an empty lot 2 houses down from Carly’s house.

Luna was not my dog but after being her babysitter for a cumulative total of almost 2 months while Carly was on vacation or out of town, I cared for her greatly. Visiting Carly’s house will not be the same without her. I cannot imagine how much Carly and Stephen are hurting. I’m sorry you guys. I’ll miss you Luna.

PS: My heart and condolences also go out to my former Red Cross co-worker,Sara, who also recently lost her most gentle of gentle giants, her Great Dane Edward. The big guy always made office life a pleasure.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I'm back

When I left Rio I was pretty sad to be leaving. However as we drove towards Paraguay my desire to get back to my community grew. First it was just being able to speak Spanish to the bus drivers and attendants. Then one of them told me “I’m going to marry you, you’re pretty.’ And I was reminded of all of the lovely and ridiculous compliments I was going to get by random men on the street back in PY.

When I got to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay I truly felt at home when I got on a bus, paid my fair, and told the bus attendant I was going to get onto the bus through the back door because my pack was too much of an impediment in the front. When I left the bus to go to the back, the driver promptly closed the door to the back and drove off.

I also left my umbrella in the bathroom in the bus terminal and it was gone when I went back to retrieve it.

And the moment I stepped off of the bus in C9 the stares returned. I miss my anonymity.

Ahh Paraguay. It is good to be back.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brazil Trip-Speaking Portuguese…sort of.

Brendan and I speak Spanish, so we can read Portuguese pretty well. However this does not translate to being able to speak Portuguese. The vowel sounds are very different from Spanish vowels, so we struggled significantly to understand when people spoke to us.

Fellow volunteer Stephen, gave us a Lonely Planet phrasebook which was good for getting us through the basic phrases ‘Where is…’ ‘Do you have…?’ etc. However it was primarily useful as a source of entertainment for us while riding on the bus and our Brazilian friends.

(Please take note of the token gringo dancing like an idiot on the left hand side next to the drummer)

Here are a few of the phrases Lonely Planet thought it was important for travelers to know…

Personal favorites are marked with a *

In the safe traveling section, with a subsection on ‘Police’:

Please telephone the Tourist Police
I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong
Can I pay an “on-the spot fine” (Umm bribe?)

Medical Section: ‘The doctor might say…’
*You’re a hypochondriac

On drugs:
I’m high

Pick-up lines:
You look like someone I know
You’re a fantastic dancer

Piss off!

Getting Closer:
You’re great! (goolly gee willikers)
Do you want a massage?

(I copied the entire section; it is one of the most entertaining)

Kiss me (Fred told us that if we said this to someone using the phrasebook’s pronunciation they probably would give us a kiss just because we’d sound so silly, in an endearing way of course)

I want you.
I want to make love to you. (and then we’ll watch the telenovela, I’m pretending we’re in afterwards.)
Let’s go to bed.

Do you have a condom/Lets use a condom
I won’t do it without protection
(five gold stars for safer sex)

Touch me here
Do you like this?
I (don’t) like that
I think we should stop now.

Oh Yea.
Oh my god!
That’s great.
*Easy tiger.


That was …

This is my first time

*It helps to have a sense of humor
*Don’t worry I’ll do it myself

(Personally I think if you need a phrase book for any of these, you may need to rethink the grounds for a relationship)

I love you
I think we’re good together

Will you…
Go out with me
Live with me
*Marry me

Are you seeing someone else?
We’re just friends
You’re just using me for sex.

I don’t think it’s working out.
We’ll work it out.

Sadly I didn't get to use these colorful phrases, but I am proud of how well Brendan and I communicated considering our limited time in the country. It has been a long while since I’ve been a tourist in a country where I didn’t speak the language, but I was amazed how far we could get with a few phrases mixed with some Spanish vocab. We didn’t do the obnoxious touristy thing and expect everyone to speak Spanish or English. While I know we butchered their language in the process, we did our best to respect the local people and language.

Another amazing revelation was that, initially at least, I realized I felt more comfortable speaking Guarani than Portuguese. Who would have ever thought that was possible?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Brazil Trip-Highlights and Surpises


I have to say first off that I think Brazilians must be some of the nicest people I’ve met. From the bus drivers who didn’t get frustrated with us and our broken Portugese/Spanish hybrid even though to Nati and Fred who Brendan and I might while climbing Tijuca Peak in Tijuca National Park in Rio and ended up spending all evening with to Fernando’s family in Guaruja who took us to dinner, let us stay for the night, averted a major scheduling disaster for our Ilha Grande leg of the trip, and took us to the ferry at 4:20am.

(Fernando's Family)

Rio is the most beautiful city I have ever seen, and it has the most beautiful, most diverse group of people I’ve have ever seen. It has the most not so pretty people who are walking around like they are just the hottest thing this side of the Sun which makes them seem like they belong amongst all of those arses that you could bounce a dime off of. Though I think I reached the peak of my tolerance of beer bellies hanging over itsy bitsy banana hammocks.

(Banana Hammock right-hand corner)

Urban Dictionary: Banana Hammock

Evidently there is a huge rivalry between the people from Sao Paulo, who are known for being workaholics, and the people from Rio, who are known as superficial beach bums.

Being the only woman in the ‘mixed’ dorms, which made me consider the fact that since I was strongly outnumbered, that I should be the one to leave the toilet seat up.

Passing by the favelas and thinking ‘Hey that isn’t so bad, it looks like my house.” Granted, in Paraguay, everyone has a house like mine in the community, where as the favelas are nestled inside a huge wealthy metropolis and are the product of unequal wealth distribution. But still, it is something to think about.

Feeling so relieved not to be constantly whistled and started at all of the time, which is what happened in Campo 9.

Realizing how very Paraguayan, or at least Latin American all of the volunteers have become. Especially with food items, you share everything. As long as there isn't a flu going around, its kinda nice.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brazil Trip-Don’t Drink the Water...Is that a Challenge?

After living off of Paraguayan well-water all of us volunteers came to the conclusion that we now were the proud owners of cast-iron stomachs and…travel advice be dammed…we were going to drink the water.

Brendan and I took the contest to the next level. We not only drank tap water in Sao Paulo, Guaruja City, Ilha Grande, and Rio de Janiero, but we also drank from waterfalls and streams while hiking in Ilha Grande and Rio.

(Me next to a waterfall in Ilha Grande, and yes, I filled my water bottle from it)

I felt just fine the entire time...Though I am going to ask Medical Mary for an anti-parasite pill next time I’m in Asuncion, just to be safe.

Brazil Trip-Travel Buddies: Not my husband, not my boyfriend, not my brother

On this 10-day adventure a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Brendan Hughes, was my primary travel partner. I met him very briefly at the US Embassy 4th of July party during Training, and saw him again at Thanksgiving, where I mentioned the trip I was going on to Rio with some other volunteers. He was also interested, and we started planning the trip from there.

Initially I had planned on staying with a group that rented a condo in Rio for 10 days. However Brendan and I discovered that neither of us wanted to spend the entire time actually in Rio, so we planned our side trips to Sao Paulo, Guaruja City, and Ilha Grande.

During the trip I began describing Brendan as my ‘Not my husband, not my boyfriend, not my brother’ since people always assumed that we were ‘together.’ Sorry folks, we’re just friends who happen to have the same travel interests and style.

In Rio Brendan and I met up with two other volunteer groups. One was the original condo group through whom I initially learned about the trip, which consisted of about 5 other volunteers and 2 US friends, who were staying in Copacabana. We did end up staying with them, though Brendan and I did our own sightseeing most days. The condo was packed at night: 3 people in a full size bed, 2 in a 1.5twin, 1 in a trundle bed, and 3 on sleeping pads on the floor. Fortunately there was a really nice terrace with a pool table and pool on the roof, so we spent most of our group time up there. Also Brendan and I usually got a much earlier start than the rest of the group, so we stayed out of the morning preparation chaos.

The second group consisted of 4 volunteers who were staying in a hostel in Ipanema. We weren’t able to meet up with them until the night of Carnival since, without cell phones or constant internet access, we kept missing each other.

Brazil Trip- Just In Time

The theme of this trip was “Just in Time’. Brendan and I seemed to arrive ‘just in time’ for everything, just before the bus left, just before the park closed, just before the last ferry left... I would say that we almost never arrived more that 30minutes before the scheduled departure of any of our buses. The Ilha Grange leg of the trip in particular was especially fortuitous scheduling wise since if any part of the trip had been late or left early, we would have been stuck in Sao Paulo for an extra night. Thanks to Fernando’s family however, we stayed on track.

G = Guarani (5000G=1USD)
R = Real (2R= ~1USD):)
USD = US Dollar

Here is a quick rundown of how the trip worked out:

Saturday, February 6th:
5pm-Brendan and I arrive in Campo 9 after spending Friday night in Asuncion to attend the 10am NVAC meeting on Saturday

Sunday, February 7, Leave for Sao Paulo

6:30am-Wake up, drop Lila off at Carly’s house, go to seamstress’s house to see if she has finished my skirts… she isn’t open yet, go to the grocery store to pick up a few last minute items, finish packing, go back to seamstress’s house and pick up skirts

10:30am-Get on a bus to Ciudad del Este (20G,~$4USD),
Noon-Arrive in Ciudad del Este, get off at the wrong stop, go to a cyber and book a hostel for the next night because the friend we were going to stay with seemed to be having second thoughts
2:00pm-Arrive at bus terminal in Ciudad del Este for our 2:30 bus (270,000G, ~$57USD)
3:30pm-Bus actually arrives and we are on our way to Sao Paulo Brazil!

Monday, February 8th, Sao Paulo Day 1

11am-Arrive in Sao Paulo and Check into the LimeTime Hostel (24USD/night), wander around looking for food and a place to exchange money. I realize there is something wrong with my credit card because none of the cash machines will accept my card, but they will accept Brendan’s

Mercado Municipal
Sao Bento Basilica and Monastery
Metropolitan Cathedral of Se
Italia Building with a Terrace and Restaurant at the top and panoramic views of the entire city- 15R
Ibirapuera Park
Asian Market and food district near metro stop Liberdade

11pm-go to bed

Tuesday, February 9th, Sao Paulo Day 2/ Guarujá City
9:30am-Wake up and go to Butantan Institute/ Venom Farm-6R
2:30pm-Catch a bus(16R) to Guarujá City‘ The Beach’ to Stay with Fernando’s family
5:00pm-Arrive in Guarujá and wait for Fernando’s family to come and pick us up
Fernando’s parents and aunt take us around the city in their car and show us some of the sites
Midnight/1am-Go to bed

Wednesday, February 10th, Leave Guarujá City, Ilha Grande Day 1

3:45am-Wake up
4:20am-Leave house to catch the ferry(2R) and 5am bus(16R) to go back to Sao Paulo
7:30am-Arrive at bus terminal in Sao Paulo
8:00am-Get on bus (16R) for Angra dos Reis
3:30pm-Arrive at bus Terminal in Angra dos Reis , taxi (12R) to the ferry dock
4:00pm-Take last ferry of the day(12R) to Ilha Grande
5:30pm-Arrive on Ilha Grange aka paradise and check into Holandes Hostel (17USD/night), wander around the city, go to the beach, get dinner, play cards with some Swedish girls at the hostel

Thursday, February 11th, Ilha Grande Day 2

6:30amish-Get up for a quick 30-45minute hike before breakfast
Noonish-Finally get back from the ‘quick morning hike’ after getting thoroughly distracted by trying to find a waterfall on a trail that branched off of our original one
3:00pm-Go on a 3 hour hike to Lopes Mendes Beach
5:15pm-Arrive at Lopes Mendes Beach, aka most beautiful beach in paradise, for a 20min swim before catching the last return ferry
6:00pm-Take water taxi (10R) back to the main port area

Monday, February 12th, Ilha Grande Day 3, Rio De Janiero Day 1

6:30am-Brendan goes hiking to the tallest peak on the island around 6:30am, gets back around 1pm
9:30am-I wake up, read, bum around
5:30pm-Take last boat off the island in a package deal with a company called Speed Connection that promises to take us on their boat and then shuttle us directly to our condo. 65R
7pmish-leave for Rio de Janiero
10/11pm-Arrive at condo ($200USD) in Copacobana in Rio de Janiero, meet up with the rest of our group, 7 other people including other volunteers and their state-side friends, Go for a walk along the beach
Midnight/1am-Finally go to bed

Tuesday, February 13th, Rio de Janiero Day 2

7:30am-Wake up and run errands: Pick up Carnival Tickets, find a place to exchange my travelers checks, drop off laundry (15R)
3:30pm-Botanical Gardens (5R)
7:00pm-Go to Pao de Azucar ‘Sugar Loaf’ lookout (44R)
9:30pm-Meet up with the group at the condo and go out to Lapa for some Carnival block party fun

Saturday, February 13th, Rio de Janiero Day 3
4:30/5am-Get back from Lapa and go to bed
6:30am-Wake up around and go to Tijuka National Park
4:30ishpm-Go to late lunch with a Brazilian couple we met at the National Park
7:30pm-Arrive at the train station to visit Christ the Redeemer statue, but find out they closed around 6:30pm

Monday, February 15th, Rio de Janiero Day 4
9:30am-I go with Brad to try and see the famous stairs of the Santa Teresa Convent, unfortunately Monday is the beginning of the official Carnival Holiday, so everything is closed
1pm-Meet up with the group to see the Christ the Redeemer statue, find out that tickets for the train are sold out until 3pm and decide to take a tour minivan to the top (50R)
4pm-Get back to condo and get ready for Carnival Samba Parade($141USD)
6:30pm-Meet up with Jesus, Pooja, and Joan to give them their tickets
8:30pm-Arrive at Samba Dome

Tuesday, February 16th, Leaving Rio de Janiero
5am-End of Samba Parade
6:30am-Go to bed
Noon-Wake up and run errands
2:30pm-Leave for bus terminal
5pm-Bus leaves Rio de Janiero for Puerto Iguazu Argentina (450,000G, ~$95USD)

Wednesday, February 17th, Home!
3pm-Check out of Brazil, arrive in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
4pm-Catch a bus from Puerto Iguazu, Argentina to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay (8,000G, ~$2USD)
Check out of Argentina, drive into and out of Brazil again,
5pm-Arrive in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, do some shopping
6pm-Leave Ciudad del Este for Campo 9 (20,000G, ~$4USD)
8pm-Arrive back in Campo 9! *Finally catch my breath

Friday, February 5, 2010

Its a Small World

Yesterday I visited the Amish colony in my community and did a tour of the health post. One of the maintenance guys is from Texas, Austin no less! Okay, Bastrop technically but w/e. It was completely bizarre to hear that soft Texas accent and talk about places that only a local would know or care about.