On Sunday morning my fellow volunteer, Emily Balog, was driving home with her boyfriend after spending the weekend
celebrating Thanksgiving with her Training groupsmates. Their car somehow went out of control, hitting
a minivan containing a music group headed towards the capital. Emily died instantly, several others are
still in the hospital in critical condition.
I didn’t know Emily
well, we chatted a couple of weeks ago when she asked me for material about
nutrition and health classes she wanted to start in her community. I did know her well enough to know she was a talented, passionate, creative person. She will be greatly missed by the Peace
volunteers who don’t know her have been profoundly affected by this loss. Peace Corps Paraguay is an great extended
family. Your g-mates and vac mates
become your immediate family, RPCVs are like grandparents and great aunts and
uncles, and everyone else in-country will back you up at the first word if the need arises.
It is astounding
the amount of trust that instantly develops between volunteers. I like to joke that the only people on earth
who can actually understand what I’m saying at all times are other volunteers. During our darkest and most challenging times
during our service, our volunteer network pulls us through. Whether it is having 2 hours conversations in
10 minutes increments (we get the 1st 10 minutes free a call, so we
set timers to cut the call just before then), dropping everything to go visit a
friend in need, hosting a friend and binging on True Blood, Arrested
Development…, we do whatever is needed to take care of one another. Losing part of that community is devastating.
Tomorrow is the
memorial service at the Peace Corps office.
The admin team is being very generous and offering to reimburse travel
and hotel expenses for volunteers who would like to attend. I am really thankful to live at a post that
takes care of us so well.
Good bye Emily. You will be missed.
PS: I’m pretty sure
a considerable number of volunteers knew about the accident before it was
announced to the family. Most volunteers
have the sense of courtesy to transmit this information via phone, but some
posted took to Facebook. Those posts
were removed when volunteers realized the family hadn’t been informed, but the
Spanish ones on her wall stayed posted.
I can only hope the family didn’t see the messages before hearing from
culture and etiquette is still being developed, I’d like to put it out there
that perhaps in the future people should avoid outing a story like this for at
least 24 hours. The family and close
friends are going to need at least that amount of time to be contacted and
start making their own calls.
Personally, I waited to post until I saw there was a new story in one of
the Paraguayan papers.
I will say I'm happy that people have been good about distributing the various news stories without linking them to her profile. It would be very irritating if the same story describing the accident was posted repeatedly on her wall. That or her privacy settings are keeping it from happening. Either way, puntos for everyone using facebook tagging respectfully.
Christmas scented air
fresheners being advertised before Halloween!
Black Friday starting on Thanksgiving evening! People rioting and
What the heck is going
on up there!?
And you wonder why I
avoid the holiday season. I wish
everyone could spend at least one holiday season not in the US or any place
that celebrates like the US so you could see how not miserably crazy and
stressful things can be.
Julia and Casey stayed
with me for a few days for Thanksgiving.
As generally happens when any number of volunteers get together, we made
amazing food and watch way too many movies.
I made a cinnamon bun
bread that was positively amazing. We
also made hamburgers and French fries, success here as well. The hummus, potatoes, and apply pie, were
Sadly the moving
watching did not turn out as well.
We watched Breaking
Dawn, Cowboys and Aliens, and Red Riding Hood.
All of which were as bad as the critics have said.
Breaking Dawn suffers
from it usual bad acting in all Twilight films and the fact that I don’t completely understand why
all of the menfolk are so twitterpated with such a shell of a female character. There was no independent plot and its clear
parts 1 and 2 should not have been separated
since their isn’t enough substance in BD#1 to actually sustain an independent
Cowboys and Aliens
didn’t have to be bad. The acting was
good, but the plot was completely predicable.
You never got the sense the characters were actually in danger. I think it would have been salvageable with
the same basic plot if the movie had been funny, but as is, it too itself far
I’m not sure what was
wrong with Red Riding Hood. Again, the
acting wasn’t bad, but the was just something not engaging about the plot. There is this whole mystery about who is the
wolf, except they don’t do a good job procedurally of leading the viewer
through the mystery. Again, another
So total fail with our
movie watching experience, but made better by the company of good friends... and a few glasses of wine.
PS: Also found out there was an animated 3D movie called "Mars Needs Moms" that totally failed. Reeeeally, never could have seen that coming
After going to the
local casino in San Ignacio for their Thursday Karoke night, my friend Casey
and I decided it would be awesome to host a Thanksgiving dinner in San Ignacio.
We could have a big early dinner at my
house or the office and then go to the casino for some singing, dancing
fun. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get
enough people to commit to coming, so I invited myself to my friend Melissa’s
Thanksgiving in her site in Villa Florida.
Villa Florida is on a river and Melissa had already arranged to have her
dinner at a hotel with a pool.
River/Pool is a very fair exchange for Karoke.
Casey made garlic
potatoes, Julia made hummus, and I made apple pie that morning, caught one of the
only double decker buses (with ac!) that will actually stop in San Ignacio without
charging the full price all of the way to the capital, even if you want to get
off sooner. Amazingly they charged Casey
and me the normal price (it was such a nice bus they could have charged up to
50% more), and they completely forgot to charge Julia at all.
(Pie and Potatoes on the Double Decker Bus)
We were all dressed
up, so there was a lot of rubber necking going on while we waited at the bus
stop, including 5-6 of the local police officers piled into their truck cruising
around, and a set of guys in a truck who
let their vehicle roll back 4 car lengths so their car would be waiting
in front of us instead of at the stoplight they were at.
We got to Villa
Floriday around 3, having only picked at food around my house and finishing off
the hamburgers I made the night before so we were getting hungry. We found out dinner wasn’t going to happen until about 7pm, so after a quick dip
in the pool we heated up some pita bread and broke open some Lays and went to
town on the hummus. I have to say, it’s
the best batch I’ve helped make. I think
I might just have to stop making it because I don’t think I’ll be able to top
In true Hora
Paraguaya fashion, the locals didn’t start arriving for dinner until 9-10pm,
after Melissa messaged them tell them to get to the hotel because the turkey
was done and we were ready to eat.
Potluck style dinners aren’t really the norm, the host usually provides
everything. But Melissa’s friends did a
good job of bringing additional dishes and we had a nice assortment of
different meat dishes, potato salad,
Julia, Casey and I
had eaten so much hummus that we could hardly take advantage of the main
course. But we did our best. Julia made a serious dent in the sausage
plate in front of her, like there was an actual divot in the cut sausage
pile. Admittedly it was really good.
Before we cut the
turkey, we each went around the table saying what we were thankful for, a new
tradition for the locals, who were very hesitant at first, especially the few
stragglers that came after the main group had gone and started eating. But Melissa held firm and told them they
couldn’t eat until they shared.
I was surprised how
some of the guests actually seemed ot like the hummus we made. It had a really strong flavor, which usually Paraguayans
don’t like. The potatoes didn’t go over
real well since we put a bunch of pepper and garlic. The apple pie, which was very tart and cinnamon,
didn’t go over very well either, since they prefer their desserts very sweet
and sugary. Not that Julia, Casey, and I
were at all perturbed by this. Casey ate
the last half piece for breakfast the next morning, most of it was polished off
while waiting for the bus that evening.
We left around 11pm
to catch a bus back to San Ignacio, got charged the correct price again!
Amazing! Got back into San Ignacio a little after midnight and started walking
the 15minutes back to my house. As we
did a carful of guys offered us a ride, we declined, and declined, and declined
again. They even offered to get out of their car and walk with us. No thanks gents. They eventually got the message
and went away. Like I said ,we were
looking pretty fancy, even if we felt like whales.