Last week I was reminded that I have not been writing much about life down here in Paraguay. Me arrepiento - this email is dedicated to sharing a little about Paraguay.
Paraguay is a third world country, but that does not mean that there are not nice things here. In the mission we call nice things "chuchi" (choo-chi). There are a lot of chuchi things/places in Asuncion and along the paved roads, but in our area there´s not a lot of chuchi. The major roads are paved, but most of them are made of rocks or just dirt.
The food here is very plain. They usually have pasta, rice or some kind of corn-based staple and then either chicken or beef with meals. There´s not many vegetables - green peppers, tomatoes and lettuce are the most commonly found - and it´s a lot of fried food and salt. So not the healthiest dining. They do have a lot of fruit though, and I hear there´s even more fruit available in the summer. They have a bagel-like food called chipa that I love (when made well) and my favorite dessert food so far is arroz con leche. Everyone is always drinking herbal-water called Terere (cold) or Mate (hot). My favorite is when members make us fresh fruit juice - it is SO good.
This week we tried making a treat called crema, but we found out we made it wrong. So now we have a pot of misionera crema. So far chocolate has been the only thing I´ve really been missing. We eat a normal breakfast with granola, fruit, eggs, whatever we have time to make. Our biggest meal of the day is lunch and it is usually served to us by members. Some days we make our own lunch and we load up on the veggies. We don´t really eat dinner - we usually just eat a snack in between lessons or just nibble on something after we come home if we are really hungry.
As missionaries we live in good housing. In this area we live in the side-house of the Relief Society president. We have a room for sleeping, a room for studies and storing food, a covered patio with kitchen and an open space where we do exercises and hang our clothes to dry and then a small bathroom as well. We have warm water in our shower, but the other faucets only have the options of on or off. To go to the mission offices or district meetings we take Collectivos - a hop on anywhere, pay, hop off anywhere bus system. But for traveling in our area we are like the pioneer children and we walk and walk and walk and walk.
Paraguayans are all about noise. We frequently hear "bombas" - fireworks without pretty colors - go off and there is music constantly blaring from someone´s yard. For a lot of Paraguayans even if they have nothing else they will have good speakers and music. Most people ride motorcycles, some people have cars, but it seems more practical to ride on motorcycles on the dirt roads.
Paraguay itself is like paradise. The trees are tropical and everything grows. Once we saw an orchid strapped to a wood pole growing onto the pole in someone´s yard. Right now the weather is perfect or a humid-chilly, but in the summer they say it gets super hot. With nice scenery and weather comes bugs though. We see a freaky-looking bug every now and then, but mostly it´s just flies, gnats, mosquitoes and small spiders. Even though I am still slightly afraid of them, I am grateful for the spiders that eat mosquitoes. There are a lot of ants as well and we´ll see giant ant hills in the middle of fields. Last week we came back from Ciber and saw that we had an ant infestation in our study/food room. We used Mata Todo to take care of them and haven´t had a problem with them since.
This week I got pique and that, according to my trainer, means I´m officially in the mission. There´s some bug that lays an egg in your skin (usually on your feet) and they call it pique. The idea of it sounds freakier than it is - I just had a little sting in one of my toes and there was a black dot, so we just got out the black dot like taking out a splinter and that was it. No big deal. My trainer said she went through 9 months in the mission without getting pique, so it´s really not that common.
Dogs, chickens, cows and cats are just kind of everywhere in our area. We have a neighbor that walks his cows every morning like people in the states walk their dogs. The people here are awesome. They have a lot of faith in Christ. Regardless of their religion, people will receive us and are usually very friendly. There are strong families in our ward, but also a lot of less actives and broken families that we work with. Something really cool here is the majority of people gain their testimonies through dreams. I´ve realized that the spirit guides us even when we´re sleeping and definitely works through dreams. The general mentality of Paraguay can usually be summarized in one frequently used word - tranquilo. If someone starts getting angry or worried/stressed someone always says "tranquilo" and I love it.
Missionary work is so cool. It is a privilege and it is very special because we get to live among these people and work with them on a very personal level as we are helping them come until Christ and strengthen their relationship with our Heavenly Father.
The work is hard, we don´t really get any breaks, but it is wonderful and fulfilling and I often feel like there is no place I´d rather be (except for maybe with family and friends).