Sunday, December 19, 2010

more pics from the pilgrimage

The beautiful sun set.
Cunchi and Jake

Are we there yet??

Trying to take our minds off the pain.

Myrtha fell and went boom. Getting some attention from the doctors.

All the people the in the morning.

Hanging out at camp.

Cunchi and Jake again

Pilgrimage to Itape

The Virgin of Itape

Religious pilgrimages are a big deal here in Paraguay. The biggest one is for the Virgin of Caacupe which is December 8th. People from all over the country arrive in Caacupe by walking, riding a bike or taking a bus. People from really far will take a bus to a certain point, then will walk about 7 km. The second biggest pilgrimage is to the Virgin of Itape. Well Itape happens to be semi close to San Salvador. I remember last year I had just arrived in San Salvador at this time and had no desire to go with the people to visit the Virgin. Well this year I decided to join the people and walk 32 km to Itape.

We left at 5:30 pm, the hottest time of the day, and walked directly into the sun for 2 hours. Well walking wouldn't be the correct word, running is a better description of the pace we were going. About 2 km into the journey I started to hear; my feet hurt, its so hot, i need water, etc. At one point very early into the walk one woman, Mirta, was calling all the people she knew to come and pick her up. The local doctor passed by and she asked for a ride and he said he wasn't going there. Well about 2 hrs into the walk we passed by the town where there is another volunteer and picked him and his buddies up. Oh I forgot to mention, I was walking with about 6 women who are very "chuchi" or prissy.

Cynthia, Cunchi, Noelia, Maria and Me

We picked Jake up and kept on going. By this time we were walking in the shade, the sun was going down and it was finally cooling off. My face gets very red when i work out but everyone was convinced that I was sun burnt. I was soo hot, soaking wet dripping with sweat, but my spirits were still high. I had to put my game face on because the only thing I was hearing was the complaining of the women. walking along the long dirt road

It finally got dark and the mosquitoes came out. We passed by a place to fill up our waters and one woman filled her bottle up with beer. We asked the owner how far to Itape and she said 5 km. We were close! Walking, Running, Walking, Running...5 km later, we still hadn't gotten there. We could see a town off in the distance that was at least 5 km more. By this time the people had slowed down a little but not much, and we still hadn't taken a break. My whole entire body was stiff. I could hardly bend my knees and couldn't feel my feet. But I didn't express my pain to anyone wanted to keep moving. Oh yeah since I've been in Paraguay I really haven't worked out or done much exercise.

We were 1 km away and the women wanted to sit and take a break. I said "don't sit down, keep moving we are so close." We arrived at the main street that would take us to the Virgin. It was full of vendors, food and people. I felt like I was at the state fair. Of course in large crowds people get separated. But at least we had a meeting point, the medical tent. The local doctor, who originally wasn't going there, was there and the other nurses from San Salvador. It was hilarious; every person would go up to the medical tent and ask for muscle relaxers or something for the pain from walking. We finally all met up and then looked for a place to set up camp. Imagine a huge fair ground with people sleeping on every inch of the grass. There were probably about 5,000 people sleeping.

We put all our blankets on the ground and laid down. It felt soo good. There was a party but I had no desire to go dancing. We sat there and listened to the mass at midnight meanwhile trying to sleep. But not possible. At 4 am there was another mass. And at 5:30am one of the women called her husband to come and pick us up. The main mass was at 6 am but she had no desire to stay. Neither did I to be honest. So we ended up leaving at 6 am and got home by 7 am. The other people who stayed didn't get home till 6 pm, the bus broke down along the way home and no one had the energy to walk.

All in all it was a good experience, I got to know some people from my town a lot better, I was able to see the beautiful country side and see the Virgin of Itape. But I don't think I'll walk it again!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Summer Again

Melissa, me and Angelic at Thanksgiving.

The sunflowers infront of my house.

Yummy quiche that I made.

English class graduation, and their sweeet shirts

Veggies from the school garden

And summer is Hot, Humid, and Sticky. Luckily it started a little later this year. We actually had a very pleasant spring with a few hot days broken up between crazy rain storms. There is no such thing as "drizzle" here, when it rains there is a crazy show behind it all.

My summer is pretty packed with happenings so hopefully I'll stay busy enough I'll forget about how hot it is. One of the stores in town started selling ice cream, and I think I am their more frequent customer.

Ok...sense its been a long while sense I've written I do a little update of things that have passed.

-The school year ended, and our school garden was a huge success. I had them all write poems about the garden and they were super fun to read. Oh and the veggies are still growing and delicious.

-The nuns sabotaged the Halloween party at the train station. Now I am stuck with 2 bags full of decorations. By the way...thanks mom for dragging those down here from the states.

- I wrote and finished my first grant ever and it happened to be in Spanish. The grant is funded through USAID. We, the Association, are fixing up the train station, which also functions as our community and culture center. There are no chairs, so we'll buy those with the money. There is no bathroom, so we'll make that will the money, and the lighting system is going to be reinstalled, making it possible to have night events, plug in the computer, and the new printer we are buying with the grant. All in all the station will be a place where everyone in the community can go to take different courses offered there with all basic necessities met.

-Chase and Kimmy came to visit. But only after getting to brazil and realizing that to enter into Paraguay you need a visa. So their visit was cut down to 2 days. But two of the funniest days in paraguay! We went to Aregua to see the lake, and hung out around Asuncion.

- Peace Corps Paraguay thanksgiving was held in Encarnacion this year. A blast as always. Lots of good food, good people, new friends, boos, sun burns, and laughs.

- We had our 2nd year english class graduation. The girls were surprised when I presented them with the shirts that say "english class 2010" that some friends at home helped buy. Thanks again everyone, the girls started to cry.

- The first "Feria Atesanal" is going to be tomorrow. The Association with whom I work is putting on a fair for the women in town who make traditional artisanal work. We've been very busy prepping this, I hope they have success and can sell some stuff. I have a feeling I'll be one of the baggiest clients buying Christmas presents.

- Both of my cats had kittens, so at one point my house was full of 11 cats. Yes I was that crazy old cat woman. Now I'm down to 3.

Now a few things I am planning on for the future.

- I am finally going to start the business class for youth. There is A LOT of movement going on right now in San Salvador with the construction of the new road, and lots of construction going on in town, the people need to take advantage of the movement and open some sort of businesses. they would make a killing off all the workers.

- I am taking two youth to a leadership camp in January that will focus on civic education, leadership, and much much more. Our goal is to come back and start a youth group.

- We have more art fairs planned for january and march.

- Our patron saint day is january 1st so there will be a week of parties.
- Angelic, Melissa, and I are going to take a vacation in February and go to Uruguay for a week. Yes the beach finally. Its time to get out of this land locked country and see some salt water.

- Jake, the volunteer closest to me and I are planning on doing a few weekend summer camps filled with sports, geography, art and much more. The kids have NOTHING to do here in the summer so hopefully we can have some fun in the heat.

- In march there will be a business workshop that I'll hopefully take two people from San Salvador. There is such a huge need for business here and hopefully we can get some going.

Well that's about it. I am really starting to miss home. Starting to think about the future, what the heck am I going to do after Peace Corps.?? Makes me a little nervous and anxious.

I really truly miss everyone so very much. I hope everyone is doing well and has a great holiday season. Enjoy the snow while I die of heat.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Only in Paraguay

Last night at about 11:30 pm I went to the bathroom. In the bathroom there is a window pretty high up and it was open. I could hear the sound of a cow eating grass, and realized that cows had entered into the yard. I ran outside, grabbed a bamboo stick and started chashing after the cows, making the sound vrrroomm vrrroom. The cows ran to the back enterance, which they had opened to get in. The cows, and the baby ran to the yard of our next door neighbor. One cow ran sraight to the washing machine that the neighbors have outside, which is literally right next to the house and started licking it. Meanwhile the baby went to see what was around the corner. I heard the noise of a plastic bucket. The baby cow came around the corner with the bucket on its head. I was on the ground laughing. What a scene, a cow is licking a washing machine while a baby cow runs around with a plastic bucket stuck on its head. The owners never woke up to see the action outside their house.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fighting for the cupcakes

The English class that I have continued to teach consists of 9 girls ranging from 12 to 15 years old. We are currently in our second "year" of English class. Without fail they come to every class which are held Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5pm-6pm in the train station.

Besides just English class we've gotten involved with the World Wise School Program that Peace Corps does. It is basically a pen pal program. The Volunteer, Me, is set up with a teacher in the states, my mom. First I wrote a letter to her class explaining what Peace Corps is, what I do, and about Paraguay. Then we decided to start do to pen pals because my mom's class has a lot of spanish speakers. The 7th and 8th grade science class of my mother wrote the letters first. The letters were in spanish and the girls were very excited. Then my girls replied, they were supposed to be in English, but some of them wrote in only spanish and sealed the envelope without showing me. In the letters we receive photos and send photos, the girls LOVE it.

We've gotten to know each other at this point on a more personal level so I feel like our English class has become more of a girls club more so than only English. The other day we were locked out of the train station, so we played charades outside with action phrases. For example; eating ice cream, throwing a ball, holding a baby, blowing bubbles, sewing fabric, and riding a bike. We ended up just goofing around and talking and then one of the girls said can you print off song lyrics in English, we want to learn Lady Gaga. Then they started to make a list for me of the songs they wanted to learn in English. Then another girl said " lets raise money so we can go on a field trip." It was a good idea. Lets do it I said. Then the topic changed to, lets raise money so we can make t-shirts that say "English class". Then the argument started. What color are the shirts going to be, what picture is going to be on it, but the decision was made to raise money to make shirts.

The next week we had class at my house. I had printed off the song "paparazzi" by Lady Gaga, and we started to sing. They wanted to know what every little word meant, I said it doesn't translate well and a lot of the phrases don't even make sense in English. So we just practiced the pronunciation. They want to sing the song for their graduation of English class. Then we decided the next day we would make cup cakes, something they have NEVER seen before, to sell and raise money for their t-shirts. We made a list of ingredients needed and split them up between everyone. The next day, without fail they all showed up, with ingredients in hand. I decided to make a simple cake from the Peace Corps cookbook. Therefore I had the measuring cups and spoons out, and the girls were so confused. In paraguay they don't measure anything. They just know how to make a cake apparently. So they thought we weren't making a cake, it was something else. Then we decided to dye the cake green, and blue. We went over to my host families house to use their electric oven because I didn't want to use all my gas. We put the first batch in and waited. While waiting we played "telephone" in English, and charades again.

The first batch came out, and the girls bought them all and ate them. Then they liked them so much, they pre-paid for the second batch, and waited very closely to the oven. When I took the second batch out the girls ran to me, and were taking the cup cakes out of the pan even though they were really hot, burning their fingers. Some girls paid but didn't get their cup cakes because the other girls ate them, so they had to wait for the third batch to come out. They ate every last one of the cup cakes. I didn't even get a cup cake, neither did my host mom or dad. We didn't even get to go out and sell the cup cakes. They raised money for their shirts, but it was their own money.

We decided the next time we'll make 4 times the batter and actually go out and sell the cup cakes. But the whole novelty of the cup cake is what blows their mind. They have never seen them before, and because they are in their own little spaces, its not cake. Thanks mom for bringing the cup cake pans, a real hit!!

Other news...Hesaka my cat is now a mother, I am now a grandmother. She has four beautiful little babies. Ndikuaai is pregnant also and will be giving birth soon. When I told a fellow volunteer she told me, "you're supposed to be the responsible american and get them fixed." I am guilty, I am irresponsible. But only this one time. I went to the vet, and I am going to get them fixed when they are doing nursing. He also told me he can sell the kittens that I can't get homes for. Yes I am that crazy person with the house full of cats.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reggae Fest

This past weekend I went to my first concert in Paraguay. It just so happened to be the 2nd annual Reggae Festival. Last year the Whalers were the headlining show, and I heard so many great stories I decided I would go this year. There wasn’t a lot of advertisement done for the show, but of course the American Peace Corp volunteers are the first to hear about the show and buy tickets. The advertisement that was done was this…

When it comes to racism in Paraguay there is a lot of it, or its not that they are being racist they just aren’t conscious of being racist. For example, David’s skin tone is a little dark and the people call him Morocho instead of his name, Morocho meaning dark skin. When explaining how a person looks the first thing they say is if they are dark or light skin, then if they are fat or skinny. In Peace Corps Paraguay there are African American Volunteers, here in Paraguay they are automatically Brazilian, a famous singer, or in some cases the president of the United States. When my friend Paulette showed me the advertisement for the first time I was shocked. Did they seriously paint a Paraguayans face black? Do only “black” people sing or listen to reggae music? In fact at the concert there was only two groups, one from Jamaica and the other Bolivia, who were from African decent. The other bands were white guys with dreadlocks from Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay.
When entering the concert there was security, like at all shows, who looked in our bags. I had a bottle of water they took, out of Angelic’s bag they took her pen, meanwhile she had a bottle of water, and Joan walked passed with a bottle of water in her hand. I am pretty sure every security guard had this assigned object that they were looking for and didn’t bother with the other stuff.

At the show I was amazed by the turnout, there were tons of people from all different styles of life. The diversity of the youth in Paraguay is astonishing. Living in the campo the youth don’t get to express themselves like they do in the capital of Asuncion. Therefore I have yet to experience this crowd. The people at the concert knew the words to the majority of the songs, danced along to all of the music, and had a great time. Nosotros, the volunteers enjoyed ourselves as well.

The music was very good. A few of the bands had the feel of Ska music mixed with Reggae. My favorite band of the night was called Nonpalidece from Argentina. The other bands were The Skatalites from Jamaica, Notevagustar from Uruguay, Matamba from Boliva, and Ese Ka’a and Ripe Banana Skins from Paraguay.

They also had a Hippie Market; yes above the stands it said “Hippie Market”. Again, racisim..? Anyways there was some very nice jewelry and other handy crafts for sale. My favorite item was the stand with Mobiles, made out of origami cranes and different types of local seeds.
All in all the entire concert was a success. I thoroughly enjoyed myself along with all of the Paraguayans. I learned that the Paraguayans are good clappers, when the band tells them to clap, they clap and continue to clap, unlike some people.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

San Salvador Update

I admit I feel like I've gotten a little lazy with the blog. Its not that I don't want to write, I just don't have time and when I do have free time I choose to do other things like; ride my bike, make ao po'i, play in my garden, or visit my friends. But I feel its time to update you all on what I have been up to, what is occupying my time.

In July I started a school garden with the 8th grade class. Every Thursday and friday I go to their class and either give "charlas" or work in the garden. All of the students know about gardening because their families either have them or have had them in the past. What my goal was to teach about new ways to plant veggies, about the eco system, and about making a compost pile. I started out with a "charla" about basic gardening tips. What plants you should transplant and what ones you should just leave in the raised bed. We talked about companion planting, for example, if you plant basil and tomato together its proven that the tomato will grow faster. We talked about what plants are best for winter and summer and made a list of the vegetables that they wanted to plant. I suggested a few veggies such as broccoli and jalapeño to try something new instead of only lettuce and carrots. It took a few weeks to get the garden ready to plant. We had to build a fence, clean the soil it was full of rocks and who knows what, and make the raised beds. Paraguay gets a lot of rain therefore a raised be is necessary. When it was time to plant the seeds the teacher, who only stands on the other side of the fence and never enters, started ordering us around. He always left the room when I gave the "charlas" with the kids, so he didn't know what we had planned. But he had the seeds and told us what to plant and where. I tried telling him that we had discussed companion planting and trying new veggies but he wasn't about to listen. So our garden has a huge raised bed of carrots, half of parsley, half of green onion, some radishes, and some beets. We planted lettuce in a tub in the school that we will transplant when they are big enough. The latest "charla" I gave was about compost piles. It's something I should have done before the garden but we started late in the year and need to get things planted, if we want to see veggies before the school year ends in late November. The people in Paraguay use cow manure, dry, to fertilize their gardens. One of my goals, again, was to teach them a new way to do something, that hopefully when show a better result. So the kids brought more bamboo to build the compost corner, and went around looking for fresh cow poo, grass, branches, and leaves while the others had brought food scraps from home. While we started putting in the different layers of Carbon, Nitrogen and Other nutrients the teacher came over and said “I think that’s sufficient for the entire garden." What he didn't understand because he missed out on the "charla" is that a compost pile will take up to 3 months until there is compost and that every day we should be adding something to the pile. The worms will eat the materials and with the sun and the process of decomposition the materials will get smaller. So that is where I am at now with the school garden. I have “charlas” planned on nutrition and about how all of the “things” in the garden are all apart of the life cycle helping each other grow stronger.

I have also started teaching English again. I started a class for adults on Saturdays, and continued with the same 9 girls that I taught last time. The community wanted me to teach more, but I do not have the time or energy to teach another class. People from both of the schools have come to my house asking me to teach English in the school. I said no.

I also became a member and started working with, The Comision Centro Cultural y Comunitario “La Estacion” San Salvador. It’s basically a community center and/or group of people who are working together to bring life to the train station. We are working with a German non-profit called GTZ. They came in and helped develop an annual plan, mission, vision, and strategy with the group. Everything that we did, I know how to do and could have done it but, being a young American girl with no money to give, not a lot of people listen. So when an older German man with money came to talk they were all ears. With GTZ we made a plan of what we want to do this year with the group and the train station. Every person is responsible for something. For example 2 women started a reading club with kids 6-10 years old, I am teaching English in the station, and we are planning on having a Play later this month. One of the biggest problems in the station is that the lighting system in the station is terrible. The computer turns off and on because the system isn’t strong enough. We want to have movie nights at the station but can’t use the projector, we can’t have night events because they lights will turn on and go off for a few minutes and turn back on. Well with Peace Corps we have the option for a grant called SPA. The money comes from USAID, and up to $5000 is donated for projects that are for development. I thought to myself, “hey, I could get the group together and we could do the paper work and try to get this grant to fix the lighting system in the train station.” This morning in my house I was supposed to have a meeting, but no one showed up. So we’ll see if the grant paper work ever gets done, because I am not doing it alone!

The cooperative is falling apart. I am trying not to get involved, but it’s hard when everyone trusts me and tells me their side of the story. To make things short… There are three employees in the cooperative, the cashier, secretary, and assistant cashier. The secretary is my contact. She is very hard working and smart. I’ve been teaching her more than anyone how to use the computer and she understands best how to use the system. Apparently one day the cashier went to my contacts house to ask for the key to the cooperative to open a little early. She said that she had to call the president first to see if that was ok. The cashier has been working in the cooperative since the day they opened so he feels that he has the right to open the cooperative. He said he was quitting after that. The assistant cashier went to Villarrica to deposit money, came back and it was 12:34 and hadn’t opened yet. The president went to his house and yelled at him saying that people were waiting and that he was late. He was tired of her and quit. Well I don’t know what was said in the meetings but both of them are back there working. Well at least until yesterday. The cashier didn’t go and apparently isn’t going to say anything and never go back. Well it just so happens that the cashier and my contact are both in my English class. Neither of them came plus the others didn’t come. They are causing so much drama that no one wants to be around them. One girl came to my class, the girlfriend of the cashier, and only wanted to know what my contact has told me about what is going on. I do not want to be in the gossip circle so I kept my mouth shut. But from what I can tell, is the problem is big, and is going to blow up sooner or later. Oh and in the meantime we were so close to using the computer system, but I have a feeling its going to take a lot longer.

I took my contact to a workshop that lasted 3 days it was called Community Project development and management. We got a lot of great ideas on how to start and continue with community projects, and want to get started working. But being that my contact is the person that not many people like right now is going to be hard, becasue no one will want to work with her.

David's nephew, Juan David 5 years old, came and stayed with us for a week. We had a blast coloring, playing soccer, riding my bike, and going to the train station. But a week was plenty!

So there is a quick update of the bigger projects that I have been working on. I hope everyone is doing well!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My first Funeral

Every morning I wake up, open the windows and doors and go outside. Out the front door I am greeted EVERY morning by an old man sitting on his front porch in a Poncho and cowboy hat drinking mate. This man looks about 90 but in reality is only 73 years old. I think the reason he looks so old is because he has lived his life working in the chakra and raising his 12 children. He lives with his son and daughter, Maria Justa, who has her three children. He doesn’t just sit on his porch in the morning to drink mate, he sits out there ALL day long. Usually he is along on his porch, occasionally his son or daughter will sit and drink terere with him, or his grandkids will sit and talk but that is the extent of his visitors. I notice that he goes inside to eat lunch and take a nap but is back on the porch by 3 pm. Every time I walk by I say hello and he returns the hello.
About 2 months ago he started having health issues. His children say he started feeling bad long ago but didn’t want to bother anyone so he never said anything. Some people say that back when he was younger working in the charka he smoked a carton of cigarettes a day. The day before I left on vacation with my parents I ran into his daughter walking quickly down the street. She told me her father had gotten sick and they were taking him to Asuncion to the hospital there. I was surprised to hear this people he showed no sign of being sick. Apparently while on vacation he spent 20 days in the intensive care almost dying several times. He had problems with his heart and it was too late for surgery. When he returned a part of his heat was “dead” they say, some of the muscles weren’t working anymore. I returned to my house from vacation and there he was sitting on the porch like always. I had no idea the kind of health issues he had been going through. ( side note: his daughter passed away while I was on vacation, she had been battling breast cancer for 3 years. So not only was their father sick, their sister had just passed away.)
Angelic and Paulette came to visit San Salvador for a weekend. One day Paulette woke up before anyone and went out front to drink mate. When I went outside to sit with her she told me to look to my left. I looked and it was the old man sitting on his porch in a red poncho and black cow boy hat drinking mate. It would have made the perfect picture. The days passed and he stayed on his porch. I noticed that when I would say “adios” he would return the “adios” but using a lot of strength. It seemed like it was very difficult for him to talk.
5 days ago his health worsened and a few of his children took him to Asuncion to the hospital, but not without a fight. He didn’t want to bother his family, make them go out of their way to take care of him and he just wanted to stay on his porch. But his children insisted and took him to the hospital.
Yesterday at 11 am the old man passed away. I was in Villarrica, but when I returned home the house was full of women sweeping, washing, and cleaning the house to prepare for the funeral. Chairs had been delivered, and the visitors were starting to congregate. I have never been to a funeral in my life, let a lone a Paraguayan funeral. I had to ask David what you say in Spanish to someone who has lost a loved one. I sat in my chair outside doing Ao Po’i while the women continued to clean and prepare. Maria Justa, his daughter, my neighbor came to the fence and called me over. She started to cry and told me her father had passed away; I told her the phrases I learned and told her I would go over a little later. I went over at about 4:15 and her father still had not arrived. They were all waiting anxiously. Every time a new person came to the house they greeted all of his children and then sat in a chair. I had to go to English class at 5 pm and when I arrived home at 7 pm the yard was full of people.
I changed my clothes and went back to their house. A rosary had just started to I stood with the people until it finished. All of the visitors sat down, and the children stayed in the room with their father crying. One of his sons is a Priest; another of his sons is the head of all of the police of the department of Guira. At one point 6 police officers dressed in their nicest uniforms came in with beautiful flowers. The rosary was prayed every hour. Only the new visitors and some others with go into the room and pray while the others sat around the yard. A waiter would come by every once and awhile with soda, candy, or cookies. There were around 75 people sitting around the yard praying and talking to their friends. While sitting in the yard I could hear his daughters crying, I started to get a little choked up. My throat felt like it was closing up and I felt tears building up in my eyes. I really didn’t even know the man, I kept thinking about how I will never see the man sitting on his front porch drinking mate again.
The process of a funeral in Paraguay is long. The “resa” lasts nine days. That means for nine days the house will be full of people saying the rosary and sitting their yard. Most of the people stay up all night long. I am sure his children are exhausted and would probably want some privacy and rest. Another job of the family is to feed all of the guests the entire 9 days. This morning I woke up and there were about 50 people sitting outside, while neighbor women cooked behind the house.
I started to think…This man, sense I’ve been his neighbor, he has never once had a visitor that wasn’t a family member. I had never even gone over there to visit him. Then why, once he has passed away, does the entire community go to visit his family and pray for him? Wouldn’t he have been happier if these people visited him while he was living? Isn’t it a little late? I started to think about when I die I don’t need people I don’t really even know to visit me. Why go sit and mourn the people who have passed away, why not go and visit your friends and family and the people you really love? Make memories, have fun while we are still living and when the time comes for one of us to pass away we will die satisfied knowing we are loved. From now on I am going to make a vow to be a good friend, daughter, and sister and never forget about the people I love, no matter how far away we are from each other.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Tippy Family does South America

Wow. The Tippy Family had a blast in Paraguay and Argentina. I don’t even know where to begin but I guess it would be best from the beginning.

On June 21st my parents arrived to Asuncion, Paraguay. I found them at the airport with a checked bag and a carry on bag for each one, plus a large duffle bag full of goodies for me!! With that being said a local bus was out of the picture, even though it could have been very fun and interesting. We took 2 taxis because the driver told us it would be safer that way, instead of putting the four of us with luggage in one taxi. ( it didn’t make much sense but whatever.) The first night we relaxed in the hotel and went to dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I know they came here to try the local foods, but while in the capital I was taking full advantage of it and eating foods I rarely get to eat. On the way to dinner we passed by a San Juan festival at the mall, where they were making all of the local foods and much more. I didn’t want them to try all the foods yet because I knew that when we got to my house they would go to a San Juan festival.

The next day we walked around down town a little then went to the boat dock. My dad has been waiting to ride on a boat on the Rio Paraguaya for about 6 months. Therefore we got on a little boat that the driver had to crank start and went over to a little island called, Chacoi. My dad had the biggest smile on his face the entire time. There wasn’t much to see on the island so we just walked around a little bit then got on the next boat that came to go back to Asuncion. When arriving to the dock in Asucion there was “Tippy” biscotti truck on the ramp waiting to load food onto a boat. The driver of the boat knew our last name and said TIPPY! We told him we were the owners. For lunch we ate at Lido Bar and had fish soup, chipa guazu, chicken empanadas, and milenesa napolitana yumm soo good!!! Then I decided to introduce them to the national past time or drink of Paraguay, terere. It was a lovely day and so we sat in the park, and rented a terere equipo. Luckily they didn’t get sick! For dinner, I took advantage again, and we ate Sushi. It was a very fancy, and over priced place, but well worth it. ( In my eyes).

Lots more shopping was done, hammocks bought and much more. Therefore a box needed to be shipped home. After shipping we were low on time to get to the bar where we wanted to watch the USA world cup soccer game so we went to the food court at the mall and watched the game while eating asado. That night we ran into another San Juan festival in the plaza. We ended up staying and watching a Torin. It’s a Paraguayans version of a bullfight, drunk men messing around with steers.

We had to leave really early the next morning in order to get to my host families house in Paso de Oro in time for the Paraguay world cup game. To get to her house from down town consists of 2 pretty long city bus rides. We were going to do it, but the guy at the hotel suggested taking a taxi. An agreed price of 120 mil was set but after an hour and 3 kilometers more of a crazy sand road he charged us 150, but it was well worth not stressing on the city bueses. We watched the game at Tita’s house with Tita’s daughter, Analia, Lucy, and David’s sisters Sonia and Yessica. We although were the only ones with Paraguayans jerseys. We had a lovely stay at Tita’s house, even though my family speaks no Spanish and Tita and Ramon speak no English. Tita and Ramon never actually thought that my family would actually stay at their house, they were very honored and happy! Another taxi was taken from Tita’s house to the highway to catch the bus to Villarrica. Luckily there were 4 seats to sit for the ride.

We got to Villarrica and while my mom and brother watched the stuff, my dad and I ran to the bank, and to the grocery store to stock up on food for the few days we would be at my house. From Villarricac another Taxi was taken to San Salvador where David and the cats were anxiously waiting for us. There wasn’t much time for chit chat because we had to shower and get ready for the San Juan festival that my town was putting on the night we arrived. We got to the train station where the festival was and the party was just getting started. Kids were playing with pelota tata ( fire soccer balls) while my host dad ( Dj Ricardo) played the music. All of the women, and even some men were cooking (frying) all of the traditional foods. We ate, drank, and danced. Watched the people dance in a line, and the train car almost burn down. But thanks to the mayor with his one small cup and a little puddle the fire was put out. At one point the women told me to sit down to take a picture of me cooking beju ( its like a pancake). After they wanted my dad to sit and get his picture also. Well little did they know how much skill my dad has. I told him to flip the beju, he did it, and the crowed went wild. An American man flipping a traditional food was amazing to them.

In San Salvador we spent a lot of time at my house relaxing. Well washing clothes by hand. Not very relaxing but my family got to integrate into my daily life. We walked around meeting the people of San Salvador. And seriously the same questions were asked by EVERY person. The first being, What do they think of Paraguay? Do they like it here? Also saying how I looked like my mom and my brother my dad. Do they like David? What do they think about where you live? Are they happy here? Of course they couldn’t respond so I got to answer the questions.

The last day in town we went fishing with my friend Nancy and her boyfriend Oscar. With our little bamboo fishing polls and worms we didn’t do so bad. We sat out at the pond for about 5 hours and caught enough fish to make fish soup that night. Nancy and Oscar came to make the soup, it was delicious. Cook onions, tomatoes, and garlic in oil. Then add your fish with skin and bones. Add milk let it boil. Then add cheese. And some oregano. Try it!

We took the bus to Ciudad del Este during a Paraguayan world cup game. Right when we got to the terminal it was time to watch the penalty kicks to determine the winner. Thank goodness Paraguay won! Then all of us (5) david came too, got in a taxi in the crazy crowded streets and went to the port to get on the ferry. At the port you can see Brazil to the left and Argentina to the right. We took the ferry right in the middle of the two countries on the Rio Parana, leaving Paraguay behind. We arrived in Puerto Iguazu and went straight to the hostel. The next day we went to the Iguazu Falls. They are so remarkable that words can not describe them. One fun thing we did was get into a boat that took us right underneath the waterfalls. It was like splash mountain times one thousand. We were completely soaked down to our underwear, well everyone except my mom because she had rain pants and a rain coat. At another point in the park you walk for about a mile over an enormous river that takes you to the Garganta del Diablo, the devil’s throat, and then you are literally on top of the falls, breathtaking! The waterfalls are one place that I suggest if anyone ever goes to South America, they have to stop by and see them!

Our next stop was a place called Colonia Carlos Pellegrini to see one of the biggest wet lands in the world called Esteros Ibera. Well it´s not the easiest place to get to. From Puerto Iguazu we went to San Ignacio Misiones on a night bus where the driver dropped us off on the side of the road at 2 am, and then we walked about 10 blocks to our hostel. That next morning we went to see the Missions. That afternoon we took another bus to Posadas, a large town in Argentina which is just across the river from Encarnacion, Paraguay. We spent the afternoon walking along the board walk and in the centro. Our hostel was called Vuelva el pez, Return the fish, and we hung out there drinking beer and playing uno. The next morning at 8 am two trucks came to the hostel to pick us up and take us to Esteros Ibera. It was a 4 hour drive and 180 km of the drive was on a dirt road. Thank goodness it hadn´t rained in awhile because they said the drive takes 8 hours because of the muddy roads. We stayed at a very lovely place called Ypa Sapukai. The owner spoke English so my jaw got a break from being translator. The first day we arrived we went on a boat ride into the wetlands where we saw jakare (little alligator type animals), carpinchos ( the largest rodent), deer, thousands of varieties of birds; including cranes, hawks, storks, the red headed black bird or the black butted red bird as my dad would say, and many more. We even saw baby jakare, a baby boa constrictor and monkeys. We took 3 boat rides, 2 in the day and 1 at night. One of the days we spent in the campo (country). We spent the entire day on horseback in the middle of what felt like nowhere, but we would come upon houses where the women would serve us mate, and little snacks, show us their handicrafts and then we´d be on our way. Mom and Patrick´s horses were a little slow, while David and I had fun galloping on ours. While on the ride we saw lots of Rias, it’s a large bird like an emu. At the end of the ride we arrived at estancia of the owners of the hotel where we were staying. They have a very nice meal set up for us. Asado, wine, salad, and bread. The meat was so tender we didn´t believe that it was beef, we thought for sure it was pork, but the owner assured us it was beef. The best beef we had ever eaten. We had a very nice relaxing afternoon sitting in the shade and enjoying the scenery but it all ended when listening on the radio we found out the Paraguay had lost the world cup futbol game. Argentina had lost that same day and our driver was not very happy, every time he had to get out of the truck to open a gate he would stroke his head and say “que verguenza” , how embarrassing because they lost 4-0. That same driver drove us to the town of Mercedes where we would catch our bus to Buenos Aires. His truck was so old, and not in good conditions to be driving on the road to Mercedes. 4 hours on a dirt road going around 20 mph was very painful. I told my dad I would from now on never call him a turtle again for driving too slow.

The bus ride in total was about 16 hours to Buenos Aires. We had rented an apartment, so we took a taxi there where the owner was waiting for us to pay her and sign the papers. We did a lot in Buenos Aires because we stayed for 7 days therefore I am going to mention the highlights.
- The food, or steak to be more specific. We succeeded in eating our weight in beef, and pork. We even went as far as going to an all you can eat Parilla (grill) where we sat at 10 pm and ate our way till 12 am.
- Walking to all of the more popular barrios. Palermo, La Boca, San Telmo, Centro, Puerto Madera. Walking, walking, walking. David´s legs and feet hurt. He wasn´t ready for a Tippy family “Vacation” or marathon.
- We went on a tour of the Boca soccer stadium. One of the most popular teams in Argentina, where Maradona played.
- Tango at El Tortini. We saw a wonderful show of 4 couples tango and a live band.
- Shopping. Leather. Boots. Purses.
- Patrick cooked a wonderful lunch (stew) for us while we watched the semi finals of the world cup in our apartment.
- Eating lunch in La Boca, where my mother tango danced on the street with a stranger.
- Tango show at Bar Sur, a very intimate environment. My dad learned how to tango. David, my brother, and I also learned how to Tango. It is very difficult with all the kicking and jumping I was so nervous the whole time that someone was going to get hurt.
- Eating. Eating our way across Buenos Aires. Even when we weren’t hungry we ate.

We had a very wonderful time in Buenos Aires, but the time had come and it was time for us to move on. That meant sadly that David had to go back to Paraguay while we continued on the adventure. He took a bus from BA to Asunción Paraguay almost 24 hours. While we flew from BA to Salta, almost the same distance but it only took 3 hours.

We arrived late into Salta and went directly to our hostel where we had made reservations in March. We had to make reservations so early because it is winter vacation for the Argentineans and everywhere was filling quickly. We arrived and they had no record of our reservation. We even had a paper with conformation numbers and everything. Luckily the guy found another hostel for us to stay. The owner from the other hostel came and picked us up. But the room they had for 2 of the 4 nights was dorm style bunk beds, without heat, and we had to use the bathroom outside, literally outside. But it was probably the only place in town that had an opening that wasn´t super expensive. The first day we spent wondering around Salta visiting the churches, and went on a gondola ride to the top of a hill to see the view of the city. We ate delicious empanadas, and watched great street folklore street music.

The next day we had made plans with a tour company to go to a town called Cachi, which is up in the mountains on crazy windy roads. It took the whole first half of the day to get there, stopping along the way to take pictures of the gorgeous views. The guide gave us all coca leaves to put in our mouths to prevent altitude sickness and calm our stomachs from the windy roads. They seemed to work. No one got sick. Along the way is a national park that is filled with Cardons, huge cactus like the ones in Arizona. The driver had told us if we were lucky we would see Candors flying above. We had spent so much time driving and stopping along the way that when we arrived in Cachi we only had 2 hours, 1 hour to eat and an hour to see the sites. It was such a quiet and quaint town with a beautiful church and plaza. We got back to the hostel pretty early and went out to eat. We went to a wine bar first where we drank a bottle of wine and a sample platter of some of the best salamis and cheeses I’ve tasted. I was full, but that wasn’t dinner, we had made reservations at a place with a dinner/show. So we went, watched dancers dance and a man sing, all while falling asleep at the table. We left early to get some sleep before the next days adventures.

We left at 8 am and went north up to the hills of the 7 colors, purmamarca, humawaca, and miamara. The drive was spectacular. Every kilometer the scenery was changing colors and formations. Its amazing how beautiful the country side is. We had waited to do some shopping until we got up north ( almost in Bolivia) because people had told us tapestries and hand crafts were cheaper. We had a delicious llama lunch and went to the streets. Oh did I mention at this time it had gotten very very cold! My mother bought a beautiful tapestry with people woven in, all hand made. We didn’t have much time in humawaca either because we had spent so much time on the road stopping and searching for lost papers that we had to leave shortly after arriving.

From Salta we decided to make our way south, very far south, to Mendoza. My family was not going to miss out on lots of wineries and wine tasting. We hired a private tour company to take us south because it would have been a 24 hour drive in a bus, and there is gorgeous scenery and national parks a long the way where we knew we wanted to stop. We left Salta and it was starting to snow. Well the higher in elevation we got, the more snow there was. We first passed through Cafayete which is the northern wine country of Argentina where we tasted a bit of wine and ate lunch. Continuing on we passed through Quilmes, an old fortress what was made 400 years B.C. and has been restored. We were supposed to stay in Tafi del Valle that night on the other side of the mountain, but due to snow we couldn’t pass that night and stayed in Santa Maria in the only hotel whose pipes weren’t frozen, and that had heat. We got lucky. By this time it was VERY cold. I was not prepared. The next day the passes were still closed so we had to backtrack 300 km to Salta. No one was complaining because the scenery was beautiful, and we promised the driver we would only ask to stop 2 times to take pictures. That day we drove about 1,000 km to the town of Rojia. Stayed the night and left early the next morning to get to the National Parks. The first park was Talampaya, at this national park there were petroclifs and beautiful rock formations. The second park, I don’t remember the name, is where they have found some of the oldest dinosaur bones. We could not pass through because a lot of snow fell and made the sand very muddy, therefore cars could not pass. That night we stayed at nice hotel in a small town that I don’t remember the names of, but it was pretty!

We left the next morning to get to Mendoza. After 4 days of travel we arrived in Medoza around lunch time. We ate lunch with our three wonderful guides and then they were on their way to Cordoba. We took laundry to be washed and hit the town. It had finally gotten a little warmer so we were happy to be outside without 12 layers of clothing.

Day 1 wine tasting- Our first full day we decided to go to Maipu, one of the parts of Mendoza that makes wine. There we rented one speed bikes and decided to follow the guide that consisted of 12 wineries and 12 km. We went to the first one, La Rural or Rutini, where my brother knew he wanted to try the reserve wines. So we paid extra and tried 3 reserve wines, we got two servings to share between the 4 of us and it ended up being about 2 bottles, the pours were enormous. But we were off to a great start! After that we decided to go to the furthest winery and make our way back. Well it was an incline the entire way, and with one speed bikes wasn’t easy. My mom and dad decided to take it slow, and we made plans to meet for lunch. So Patrick and I continued on the journey. We went to one winery called, Serno, before lunch and sat outside in the sun tasting 8 different wines. After we got on our bikes, put the box of wine in the front basket and rode to where we were going to have lunch. We arrived very hungry! My parents had not arrived yet, but we decided to eat anyways. We decided to try two different glasses of wine at lunch and not do the tour of the winery. The food and wine were fantastic, and the brownie with ice cream at the end even better! We tasted at one more winery before running into mom and dad riding down the road. They didn’t make it that far but did taste some great wines. By this time it was almost 7, time to return the bikes. At the rental place we drank a cup of fruity not so great wine, while waiting for the taxi to come pick us up.

Day 2 wine tasting- We hired the boy who works at the hostel to drive us around the second day because the place where we went, the wineries were more spread out, and we wouldn’t be able to do it on a bike. We first went to the Pulenta Estate winery, this winery is at the foothills of the Andes. There is a huge long story about the owners, to make it short they are really rich sons of a rich wine maker who died and sold his enormous winery. So the all of the sons with that money bought their own land and started their own wineries. The two owners of Pulenta Estate are race car fanatics, they even have a label with Porsche, and Carrera written on them. Downstairs in the cellar, there is a business room that consists of glass for the walls, and while we were down there we got to see the owners, with their wine consultants talking about wine and tasting it too. We were the only visitors at the winery which was really nice and personal. The second place we went to, Villalba, we were the only visitors also. We decided to skip the tour and go straight to the tasting. Come to find out the owner is another brother from the family of wineries. The third place we went was Septima, which is enormous compared to the other two places. The export I think over 70% of their wine to the United States. The guy tried telling us quality was more important than quantity, but when you produce millions of bottles of wine a year…The last place we went was Ruca Malin, we had lunch reservations there. We arrived, and whoa, it was fancy. We were not expecting this. We sat down, they brought us the set menu for the day, which was 6 courses and with each course a wine or two that was matched with the type of food. We were ok with this it looked fantastic. First course we ate a quinoa and granny smith apple salad with foam that came in a little shot glass, with a nice white wine. Second course we ate a baked pumpkin empanada with a little meat skewer thing and a good wine. Third course was a homemade cheese with a cracker and delicious sauces, and wine. The fourth course was the main course. A steak with chopped veggies and a smoked eggplant paste, this came with two types of wine. The fifth we had a lemon sorbet, that was to clean our pallet. The sixth and the best was a fried banana and white chocolate dessert. Two and a half hours later we were Very satisfied. We had just eaten the most outstanding gourmet lunch, and realized that it was a once and a life time meal. Oh the best part, there were huge windows in front of our table overlooking the Andes. After that we got in the car fat and happy and went back to the hostel.

The next day was my flight home and my parents flight to Peru to continue on their journey. The Tippys succeeded to do it again, have a fantastic, unbelievable, perfect vacation. Thanks to the months of planning that my parents did, and the wonderful people of Paraguay and Argentina we had a great time. My parents say it’s a once in a life time vacation, that they planned so much to do because they will never come back to South America, but I say for sure they will come back!!!!