Saturday, January 30, 2010

So hot...

I talked to Mateo and Shola in the last few days, and both said exactly what I've been thinking.

"I just don't feel like doing anything. I don't know what my problem is."

I remembered, and reminded them, that it's 96 degrees outside. At least it is today. Mateo swears that's nothing, that it gets up to 110. Anyway, it's hot. You shouldn't want to do anything.

Clothes come off in twisted ropes, sticking to your body. Your hair mats down anywhere bare skin is. In the summer, "Haku," or "It's hot," becomes the greeting. I can't imagine that any babies are born in September in this country.

In the afternoons I retreat to my fortress of solitude, a.k.a. my air conditioned bedroom with my Snuggie hung in the door frame to keep the cool air in. I'm too ashamed to pay my electric bill to my friend who collects them, so I've been waiting to go to Villarrica to do it. I don't want them to know how much I'm willing to pay for some cool, sweet relief.

Once I'm in my room I have to stay. Going in and out of a 20 degree temperature change can make your head explode like a deep-sea fish brought up to fast. So I stay in and Oscar's happy to stay in with me, breathing out heavily and saying "Haku che ra'a," something like "Man it's hot."

I still work, here in the fortress. I'm on the 12th episode of the Guaranime podcast, which I can do from home. But other than that, my sweaty roped clothes pile up high, my dishes that I have to wash outside wait in a potential avelanche, the porch needs sweeping.

I'll be here on my bed, the slats of my magic cold box turned right on me, until March at least, available via e-mail, if anyone needs me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

For my mom's birthday, I made her two ao po'i placemats with crocheted edges. They literally took me a month and a half to finish, causing me to be the shame of Yataity. But I had to learn to make Ysypo'ity, this stitch below.

And I had to learn to crochet.

Oscar would like it to be stated that these gifts are half from him, because he had to serve the terere for the whole month and a half that I was working, instead of switching on and off like we normally do.

Happy Birthday mom. Hope they arrive in the mail soon! Thanks for teaching me to be crafty and adventurous!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Pig Head, My Pig Head

My Pig Head, My Pig Head, wherever I go, you're gonna go...

Shh, he's sleeping...

Monday, January 18, 2010


Brazil. Roll that "r" and get real excited on the "i".

Brazil is a green land of wonder. They speak Portuguese, which is almost like Spanish until every other third word, which is nothing like Spanish. It was almost a little too much fun to watch Oscar struggling to speak with people. Ha ha! Now you know how I've been feeling for the last year and a half.

Brazil is also noted for its ladies. A place where I plummet to a 2. Here are some little-know facts about Brazilian Women.
  • Brazilian girls are born with a thong tan.
  • At womanhood, Brazilian women sprout coral-colored nail polish and three-tiered dangling earrings.
  • Brazilian women sleep hanging upside-down by their stiletto heels in a sub-zero anti-gravity chamber.
Our trip was with a college friend of Oscar's. Forty-five Paraguayans and one Americana, coolers packed with meat and beers, sheets and pillows. In Brazil the land became green. It became huge hills and houses stacked nearly one on top of the other. We all saw the beach at the same time, on our left and glistening.

We rented a house near the beach for 50 or so people and got out on the sand as soon as possible. We were in Camboriu, which is more crowded with buildings right up to the beach. There are vendors that come around with portable stores of beach cover-ups, necklaces and hats piled high on their own head. There are also churros filled with dulce de leche, chocolate or sweetened, condensed milk. Yum!

Then we headed to Florianopolis...

Me with my new Brazilian regulation-size sunglasses, purchased from my
trusted Prada dealer on the beach for 10 Reales.

At a Brazilian phone booth, tracking down our CouchSurfing host.

Florianopolis is a more natural part of Brazil. While the group went back after just one day, Oscar and I stayed for CouchSurfing! CouchSurfing is a web site where people from all over the world open their homes to host travelers. There is a reference and verfication system to make sure the people you are staying with are not ax murderers. We were not ax murdered but instead had a great time with a guy named Marcos. He spoke English and Portuguese and just a little Spanish. I speak English and Spanish and two words of Portuguese. Oscar speaks Guaraní and Spanish, a little Portuguese and English curse words. Between us all, we managed to have a conversation into the night. At one point, I was making Paraguayan rice salad and the guys were in the kitchen and we started talking about the differences in all of our cultures and it felt like what CouchSurfing should be.

Marcos told us about this awesome beach that is almost empty, because it takes an hour hike over a mountain or a boat to get there. I made Oscar try the hike.

At the entrance.

The scene going up and looking back.

Up Higher... the left

To the right

Here's Oscar with a celebratory beer after the hike where he almost fell on me and killed us all. Notice the change in facial expression from the entrance to here.

On this beach there was hardly anyone, just some people enjoying the waves and some campers.

On the beach, we found the biggest bug ever, dead piranhas and crabs.

We rode the waves a bit, then opted to take the boat back.

I started to get a little sea sick going backwards.

They told us to look up at the rocks.

Please don't puke, please don't puke.

At least we didn't end up like this chick, who puked and then fainted. Oscar asked me to take the flash off so he could take this picture escondido, but I didn't understand and put it on instead, so everyone knew he was insensitive.

It rained on us on the way back. We were freezing and not sure if we would vomit or not. We got to shore really dazed feeling and I went into the first restaurant I saw to change into dry clothes. The restaurant owners took pity on us and warmed up a shot of liquor to warm us up.

This is a picture of the picture on front of the menu. It made us laugh because...

Here's how it looked that day.

While we were there, we ordered the Frutas del Mar (Fruits of the Sea), and Oscar tried his first oysters and fried shrimp and crabs.

Luke, I am your fa-ther.

Back in Camboriu, we took a tour in one of these bubble-like contraptions.

The view. Still a little cloudy.


We rode this crazy two-person rollercoaster.

Then back for one last terere in the ocean before we left.

We returned like tourists, all of us in our Brazil/Camboriu/Florianopolis shirts. I hope to be back one day!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lessons on being happy from The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

Before Peace Corps, I was in Florida and working and kind of a little miserable at times. Worse, I was so angry at myself for being miserable. “You are American!” I’d say to myself. “You have enough food! Air conditioning. A good job. Friends. Family. What is your deal?”

Part of the reason I joined the Peace Corps was for a good “Alright young lady, let’s see if you can’t appreciate your life when you get thrown into poverty.” Obviously, that didn’t happen. But I did happen to read this book. It talks about something called Adaptation. Basically this is the idea that anything externally that happens to you, you get used to, for better or worse. Win the lottery? You’re initially happy, but you get used to it. Lose your hand in a fireworks accident? You’re initially miserable, but you get a nice hook and you get used to it. In a year’s time, people in both these situations reported being just as happy as they were beforehand, no more, no less.

We’re the richest people in the world. We know we don’t appreciate it and we hate ourselves for it. But it’s not our fault. It’s nature. Whew.

We enjoy our pleasures while they’re novel, our shiny new things. But the pleasure wears off, which still surprises us every time. This is called hedonic adaptation. (hedonic: of, characterizing, or pertaining to pleasure)

“As society’s affluence grows, consumption shifts increasingly to expensive, durable goods, with the result that disappointments with the consumption increases. Faced with this inevitable disappointment, what do people do? Some simply give up the chase and stop valuing pleasure derived from things. Most are driven instead to pursue novelty, to seek out new commodities and experiences whose pleasure potential has not been dissipated by repeated exposure. In time, these new commodities also will lose their intensity, but people still get caught up in the chase, a process that psychologists ... labeled the hedonic treadmill. No matter how fast you run on this kind of machine, you still don’t get anywhere.”

The hedonic treadmill. What a great name for how we live our lives.

Schwartz goes on to talk about another thing called the satisfaction treadmill. Let’s say that you get you’re life going good to where you are feel good about your rank in society, the comfort level in your home, the way you look in your nice clothes. It will feel good climbing the ladder at first, but you get used to the rung. Soon you want to move up to the higher rank, the bigger house, the more expensive clothes. You work your ass off at a job you’re starting to hate, thinking these things will make you happy, you get into debt buying newer, shinier things, (and more chained to that desk), but the thrill eludes you every time and fades farther into the distance. We expect to get to some level where adaptation won’t take place, but it always will.

That’s good. Now I know I don’t have to be rich, I’ll just get used to it. What I really need to work on is knowing that I'll be just as happy if I do have a lot of success with my work. (We all have our trophy we strive more. Mine is more success than riches. Although come to think of it, both would be nice.) I can accept where I am and accept that I’m pychologically incapable of really appreciating it. Yet I’ll appreciate it in practice. I won't sell out thinking it will make me happy. I'll remember to give back and not grab for more. I'll remind myself that I'm rich and should be content.

We slam another nail into our happiness's coffin with social comparison. It used to be that people lived in tiny villages and compared themselves with 100 or so people. Now we live in a world where we are fed with info about the lives of the most rich and famous of 6 billion people. We invite this information into our lives via gossip magazines and the E! chanel.

Advertisers tell us: “If you use this product you will be happy” and provide us with photographic evidence of people using their product and looking very happy. We buy the thing and we’re no more happier. Dammit. Of course none of think that we really fall for this, but why would companies spend billions on advertising if it didn't really work?

The Paradox of Choice suggests we limit our exposure to unrealistic social comparison. Stop reading women’s magazines. Stop watching so much tv. Dip your feet into reality and see how real people live.

By exposing yourself to too much advertising, too many gossip magazines, too many hours of shows like “The 100 Wealthiest Celebrities under 25,” you’re conciously stepping on that hedonic treadmill, choosing to remain forever unsatisfied with your own life.


And because I love that you find the truth where science and spirituality intersect, an excerpt from the Tao Te Ching:

If you look to others for fulfillment,

you will never truly be fulfilled.

If your happiness depends on money,

you will never be happy with yourself.

Be content with what you have;

rejoice in the way things are.

When you realize there is nothing lacking,

the whole world belongs to you.

White Lies, Where are you?

I miss my American white lies.

Against my better judgement I went to the hair dresser to get my hair done for New Years. It is straight and thick and doesn't do well in curls. It didn't turn out well and I didn't want to come home. I knew what waited for me.

True to form, my host mom said: "Ivai kariay", which translates to: super ugly.


Also, there's this rule where they ask you really personal questions and you pretty much have to answer or risk seeming rude, and then they make judgements on your personal life that you didn't want to share in the first place. It's like being strip-searched and then having the strip-searcher say: Wow, your thighs are so thick!

Like: "How much did you pay to get your hair done like that."

(Internal sigh) "15 mil"

"Oh my God, that's so expensive! Why did you pay so much when she doesn't know how to do anything?!"

All this on top of a bad hair day.

The ironic thing is that Paraguayans are at the same time timid and yet brutally honest. If you invite them to a party or a meeting and they know they won't go, they'll say "Sure, I'll be there," and then just not show. But if you're fat, your food isn't good or your hair is having a bad day, they have no problem telling you and everyone else.

Just yesterday I was wearing a dress and my friend said I looked pregnant. They other friend who was trying to help jumped in and said, "Oh no, she just needs a little exercise, right Pauli?"


The worst was a while ago when I spent a month on this ao po'i with a beautiful dress in mind. I had the dress made with the fabric I had embroidered, and it came out too short and too not-cute. Oscar did not spare me.

"Yep, it's really ugly," he said.

I got upset, mostly at the situation, but also at him.

"What?!" he said, genuinely confused. "It's an ugly dress. If your dress is ugly, I'm going to tell you. Why is that a bad thing?"

I wanted to say: Where are all the women in America when I need them to be on my side?

I want to say: It's RUDE! It's rude when he tells his mother her food sucks. It's rude when my host mom takes one bite of a cake at a wedding and says, "Ndahei" (It's not good). It's rude when they tell me all the time that I'm fat or I'm too skinny or I've burned my skin again and it looks really ugly. It's rude!

But it's not rude. It's just not acceptable in my culture. And although I know this in my mind, my heart can't seem to catch on to the spirit of it: It's just hair. It's just food. It's just your body.

Why do we lie those little white lies, in our culture? To spare feelings, we say. I'm in a place where those feelings are not expected to exist. Yet I can't help it, I packed them anyway.