Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Che kaigue but here's an update.

Merry Cross-Eyed Christmas
Hello Everyone. Mary Christmas. Che kaigue means I'm feeling lazy. It's pretty much the official motto of the Republic of Paraguay.

So I will express myself with photos and caption.

Perhaps the best way in which I can explain cultural differences
I'm dealing with here is to say that the women at my coop think
this shirt is just beautiful.

These are the owls I see out in the campo.
For some reason Oscar walked in my house with one.

Peppers from my garden from which I made a rockin' hot sauce.
Anyone know what kind they are?

Angelic and I. A fellow very tall person who likes to write. She's the best.

Making sushi in my house with Mariela and Leidyd. Mariela is also the best.

In the Campo
I take it out to the campo just about every day before sunset.
This is funny only if you know the horse is walking very slowly.

There are about 5 little baby horses out there. They run around and play like puppies.


The thing I like about wildflowers is that they're just supposed to be pixels in the picture of the countryside. But they're equally amazing close up.

Oscar with a catch from fishing. Gross!

The sunset in the campo with horses. I counted more than 30 out there the other day.

Back at home...
This is what a perfect Sunday looks like to me.

Stable man Tito and Bigote.

In other news:

My money came in for the coop. Nearly 10 million big ones. Or little ones, as I suppose we would call a currency of which it takes one thousand to buy a piece of gum. Anyway. We're getting a new computer, new camera, and a new web site. I'm sitting back and taking the afternoons off to spend more time with my air conditioner.

This other cool thing happened where I sent an e-mail to Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. She's a writer and I listen to her podcast Writers on Writing. And she just randomly was nice enough to send me a free copy of her book. So I sent her this photo as a thank you.

Also, I'm planning on going to Brazil. Back home at my Going-Away Garage Sale, a woman said to me, "If you ever get the chance to go to Florianopolis, you have to go." I got the chance to go, and although it might be a financial stretch, both my mother and my friend Fodor said the exact same thing: "You only go around once." Plus my grandparents threw me enough cash to cover my visa for Christmas. Score!

Ok, that's all for now...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Survival Bandana

So I had this big shame had that I bought all the outdoorsy stuff before I came. I basically had a panic attack via credit card and ended up with a bunch of ugly quick-dry clothes and outdoor gadgets that are still under my bed in mint condition.

My big shame was this one thing that I bought. I never even showed anyone to make fun of myself. I needed to come out of the closet, and so I cleansed myself through the power of the spoken word, and hence I read the following to the other volunteers at our Thanksgiving Day Talent Show. When the picture is is where my lovely assistant Sasha revealed the item. Thank you.

Survival Bandana

Thank God you’re here. This just might be the talent show that saves your life.

I have with me tonight a purchase I made in my preparation to leave my suburban life for the dangers of the deep South American jungle. Thankfully, I had the smarts to acquire this item just days before I left into the uncharted, unforgiving wilderness. I discovered it in the same outfitter where I purchased no-water camping soap and two pairs of $18 quick-dry underwear because the package said all the smart travelers used them, the same place where I almost bought a personal hand-held alarm, until the man at the counter said, “But who will be there to hear it?” At that very place, I had the fortune of spending $15.99 on a companion that has been the key to tipping the scales of life and death in my favor. To increase your own chances making it out of the Peace Corps alive, I advise you to listen up to some tips from this, The Survival Bandana.

The Survival Bandana is 2.5 square feet of orange knowledge that one day might just save your keister down here. As you can see, the Survival Bandana is complete with charts, tips, and basically the entire contents of the mind of a highly decorated eagle scout. Here’s one on how to find south and locate the North Star. Oh, that only works in the Northern Hemisphere, so ignore those, ignore ‘em, there’s lots of other good stuff to save your life.

For example, when you’re in the internet cafe and Facebook is taking forever to load, the Survival Bandana says to stay calm. In any situation where you’re lost of just don’t know what to do, the Survival Bandana offers the acronym STOP.
S! Stop and take a break, possibly to drink terere.
T! Think about what you have as tools or can use for survival, such as your cell phone, Google, Wikipedia, Skype, etc.
O! Observe your surroundings and look for a street sign or someone selling maps on the side of the road.
P! Plan your actions; make a distress signal to get Help, or just send a text message.

Or for example, if you want to drink terere but the water tap is dangerously far, there’s a nice little diagram here of how to build an underground still and suck water from the earth. The Survival Bandana would like you to remember that the human body can only go 3 days without water, so if there’s no terere, water can be collected from vines, dew on leaves, grass or by melting snow.

Your body can also go just 3 weeks without food. So, if Bolsi Bar (an expensive Asuncion restaurant) is taking too long on their delivery, the Survival Bandana says that all healthy mammals, birds and insects are edible. You can cook them over a low fire, along with the marshmallows your family sent from home. A fire can also provide warmth and a signal for help.

In extreme weather conditions, the human body can only go three hours without shelter. When selecting a shelter, you don’t just want to look for places close to the clubs in Asuncion. The Survival Bandana says you should also avoid water, wind and low-lying areas. And, should the Chaco Hotel be all booked up, the Survival Bandana says you can make emergency shelter by tying a line between two trees, draping a tarp over it, and staking the four corners to the ground. You can see this methods being used by the natives in Plaza Uruguaya (where homeless live).

If your cell phone battery dies and you get separated from your friends, perhaps at the bar, the Survival Bandana says that staying in one area increases your chances of being found. If you have to move, such as to get another Brahma, you should leave a trail of rocks or sticks.

You may want invest your own Survival Bandana, because the bandana itself might just save your life. It has on here a list of its uses, such as an ice pack, splinting, tourniquet, distress flag, or for something to carry beers from the fridge to a party. I think I might even be able to tie it up into a tube top if I need something to wear to Killkenny’s.

And to make sure everyone survives this year, I offer you one last piece of advice on this wilderness survival trip we call Thanksgiving. The Survival Bandana says that overall, staying dry is the key to survival, so please, don’t forget to bring a towel to the pool.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Yo se cocinar, yeah! (con recipes)

Today I was in my kitchen, speaking Spanish and cooking Chicken Scarpariello, and I honestly can't say which one is more amazing.

You might have had to have known me, before, and known what a fire hazard I was in the kitchen.

I had this full feeling: I was proud of myself, dammit.

After 24 years of non-cooking, the Peace Corps has finally forced me to learn. I think it's the boredom as well as not wanting to have to rely on a family to feed me. That means more fried meats and mayonaisey salads.

As a former restaurant junkie, I was used to thai, sushi, pizza, burgers, vegetarian hippy feed, etc. I still like that food.

So I'm like a recipe sleuth. It starts in one of two ways. Either I think of something -- Mmm, remember pad thai? -- and I look up the recipe to see if I could make it. I usually get to the third ingredient and say, nope, no way. Or, the second way is that I find something I've never seen before in a big, chuchi supermarket in the city. I go to Allrecipes and search and search for how I can use it. I found dried seaweed and successfully made sushi. I found plain yogurt in Oviedo and it's opened up a world of Indian. One of these days I'm going to translate all the cheese names in the Villarrica supermarket and figure out what I can do with them.

Today I felt like experimenting and tried a frappachino recipe. (Fail). And I made rosemary tea out of the rosemary in the back yard, which also lead to the chicken.

I never thought that if I went to a country I'd learn recipes from all over the world except that one place. (Although I am now, unfortunately, an expert fryer.)

But here are some of the recipes I love, with stuff that it is possible to find in Paraguay:
Chicken Scarpariello I made with rosemary growing in our back yard. For white wine I used toro viejo. Only the best!

This Aloo Phujia I made once I figured out that curcuma means tumeric. It is simple and so good and Oscar called it my rice from India and asks me to make it every third night.

This Thai Eggplant recipe is awesome, of course I just use regular eggplant and basil growing in the backyard. So good, even with low-grade soy sauce.