Sunday, May 24, 2015

Week One in Paraguay

We’ve been in Paraguay a little more than a week now. I think we have *maybe* caught up on our rest from traveling (not to mention Focal Point a week before we left, and all the work preparing to leave).

*Hopefully going to add some pictures to this post later*

So far the weather has been mild and rainy. Temperatures have been very similar to what they were in Texas when we left. However, I think as Texas starts to heat up, Paraguay will start to cool down. One of the hardest things to adjust to so far is that the sun sets about 5:15 pm - three hours earlier than it was setting in Texas when we left. It seems SO late sometimes when it really isn’t.

Some highlights of the week:

On Saturday we were invited to have lunch and spend time with a family in the congregation. For lunch we had Paraguayan pizza (which I have to admit I didn’t think would be my first taste of Paraguayan food). The pizza was very good, and the kids liked it as well. The kids also had fun playing with their little boy who is very close in age to Luke.

Later that day Ella and I attended a Ladies’ Tea. The Ladies’ Tea was very similar to the Ladies’ devo and desserts we’ve been having this past year in San Marcos. I enjoyed the Ladies’ Tea, though I was definitely exhausted at the time from traveling. At the Ladies’ Tea I was introduced to the traditional greeting in Paraguay: a kiss on each cheek.

On Sunday we worshiped with the brethren. It is definitely different listening to an entire service in Spanish. I could follow along ok, but I’m certainly not where I want to be in my understanding of Spanish (part of the reason we are here!). The brethren were very friendly and welcoming, and we learned that many of them speak English (on varying levels).

On Monday we moved into our permanent home for the summer: Socidad Internacional Misionera or SIM house. I haven’t taken any photos of the place yet, but it is a one-room apartment? with a tiny kitchen, a bathroom, and small hallway (which has become an “office” of sorts). Ella and Troy are enjoying the bunk beds, and Luke has been sleeping well in his “tent” travel bed. There is a playground on the grounds which the kids have thoroughly enjoyed. We have slowly been getting adjusted to the kitchen arrangement, and have cooked a few meals. We have stovetop burners, a small stovetop oven (which I have only ever seen on House Hunters International), a microwave, and a water kettle. Unfortunately, we can only plug in one of those things at a time, so we have to sometimes be creative and think ahead as we are preparing a meal.

One of the first things we learned about restaurants in Paraguay is that they all deliver (even McDonald’s!). We have successfully had Pizza Hut and McDonald’s delivered to our place. Although that seems like an easy task, it wasn’t! For one thing, addresses in Paraguay are . . . different, and figuring out exactly what we needed to use as the address was tricky. Secondly, we had to find places that had online ordering because, well, our Spanish isn’t quite up to the task of ordering on the phone. I have to admit I was relieved when the pizza actually showed up the first time we ordered! I’m hunting down some local places that might have online ordering as well.

On Wednesday one of the students in the Bible Academy came down to our place to take us on the bus to services. We barely rode the bus at all, but it was crazy and I’m not ready to do it again (especially with the kids!).

On Thursday we were invited to some of the brethren’s house for something called merienda which is a time in the afternoon for snacks and tea. We were treated to something called mbeyu which was kind of like a crumbly tortilla, and a traditional hot tea in Paraguay called cocido. The mbeyu and the cocido were both tasty. Ella particularly loved the cocido and mbeyu!

This isn’t a “highlight” of the week, but rather a “lowlight” . . . on Saturday night Luke face-planted out of his highchair and busted his lip open, sliced through the skin below his bottom lip, and chipped at least two of his top teeth. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how it heals in case we end up needing to take him to the doctor. Thankfully, through one of the families here, we already have a pediatrician lined up if we need him. And, we found out that the doctors here will text with you (crazy, huh?). 

When the student from the Academy took us to services Wednesday night, he asked Trent in passing if he was preaching on Sunday. Trent hadn’t heard anything about it, and told him probably not. Saturday night Trent found out that indeed he was preaching Sunday! This was Trent’s first time preaching an entire sermon in Spanish.

Tomorrow we begin teaching English using the book of John. We have four students lined up, and we are anxious to begin that work. 

We are continually remembering our brethren at home in our prayers, and we are also remembering those affected by the floods in San Marcos. It is strange to be so far away from our home, and to see the devastation in the area through pictures.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Traveling to Paraguay

We’ve almost been in Paraguay a week, yet I’m just now getting around to writing about our journey here. I’m going to try to do a better job keeping up with writing about our time here (otherwise I know I’ll forget something!).

In speaking with folks prior to making the journey, I mentioned that my biggest concern was actually getting to Paraguay. Not that the flights would be unsafe, but that we’d be traveling over two days (about 15 hours total in planes) to get to Paraguay with three young children, but especially with Luke who is only 20 months old. I know people do it all the time, but we hadn’t done it, and the thought of the 9 hour plane ride with my 20 month old was intimidating. (The longest flight I’d ever been on was about 4 hours prior to this trip). 

Our journey consisted of flying from Austin to Orlando, spending the night in Orlando, then flying from Orlando to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and finally flying from Brazil to Asuncion, Paraguay. All in all the kids did great on the flights, and the hardest part was sitting around waiting for our last flight in the Sao Paulo airport because the kids were exhausted at that point and our flight was delayed.  We also didn’t take into account that in the Sao Paulo airport we’d be bused from our airplane to the gate, and then back again to the next flight. It was a little difficult to get around with the kids (and all our carryons) on the buses. On the way home, I’m sure we’ll pare down how many items we’ll be bringing as carryons.

But, we made it! Coming into the country was a breeze. Trent and I traveled to Washington D.C. a few months ago to get our visas, so that was taken care of ahead of time. When we passed our paperwork over to be examined when we were entering the country, the man processing us didn’t even say a word to us. Very different from our experiences sometimes going into Jamaica where they often question us quite a bit about exactly where we are staying and what we are doing there. Two brethren whom we'd only met over the internet were waiting for us (very late at night/early in the morning in the pouring rain) to take us to our hotel. The brethren here have been so hospitable and loving toward us!

Now that we’re here, I’ve got other things to be intimidated by - like the language barrier and getting around on the buses. But I’ve also got much to look forward to - like making and strengthening relationships with the brethren in Paraguay.
Being dropped off at the airport in Austin

Spending the night in Orlando

 On the 9 hour flight from Orlando to Sao Paulo

On the 9 hour flight from Orlando to Sao Paulo

In the Sao Paulo airport

On the flight from Sao Paulo to Asuncion

The hotel where we stayed over the weekend until we could move into our permanent place. The owner was a Frenchmen who spoke (at least) French, English, and Spanish.