Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Of course in all cultures death and the afterlife are a mystery that we will never fully understand until we experience it. Ña Elida’s life was cut short by an infarto cerebral, or literally a brain attack (instead of a heart attack). In past Paraguayan funerals I am very shaken up by the wailing that occurs, often to the point of fainting, and the suddenness of Ña Elida’s death only intensified the wailing. In the states, while there is sadness and emotion is displayed, what I have observed is often loved ones fighting tears back in public, or quietly weeping. No matter the age or suddenness of death this wailing occurs. When one of her daughters arrived from Argentina and spoke more Spanish I was able to catch the types of comments that are said during the wailing. She was especially expressive and upset and what she said was: “Fatima, tell me this is not my mama and that she is coming later. Where is my mama?” “My mama is not in heaven because heaven doesn’t exist because it wouldn’t allow this to happen to her.” She was in complete denial and upset that her mother had been taken from her. Although, while the physical signs of grief are more accentuated in Paraguay (wailing, fainting, etc.) after the final rezo on the ninth day life moves on with little acknowledgement that a person is grieving. In the states we realize that a person has lost someone they love and will continue to “check-in” and see how they are doing long after the burial.
The time between when a person dies until they are buried is a lot shorter than in the states. Mostly I think it is because Paraguayans don’t preserve the body and it is necessary to bury it before it decomposes too much. Until the burial it is said that someone must be up with body every hour and it can never be left alone. This time is called el velorio, and is probably similar to a wake. During Ña Elida’s velorio I became very aware of the customs. While even though the family is grieving, they are still expected to play host and offer refreshments to the multitudes of people that show up in their house. When a guest arrives they approach the family members and will say me pesame, or literally translated “it grieves me.” When I realized that this is what they were saying I chuckled a little to myself because at other velorios I have said lo siento mucho and in turn have received startled reactions.
A mourner will also turn their attention to the casket. When this happened I was always a little shocked at how much physical interaction there was between the mourner and the deceased as they caressed the face and held the hands of the loved ones while they wept and conversed with her. In the states I am more accustomed to maintaining distance between the deceased and the mourner. I think the best way to explain this difference is in what an aunt said to Ña Elida’s children the morning before she was buried. “Wake up. These are the last moments you will be able to spend with your mom.” They are saying the most final goodbye that they will ever say to her.
I interacted with many people at the velorio and the discussions I had with them all carried similar themes. The first were people sharing what they were doing when they heard that Ña Elida had died and how they were involved in the events leading up to her death. The second was people sharing how they knew Ña Elida. “She always came to visit me and drank térere. ‘Hola mi socia,’ she would say to me. She would always bring me things from her house.” Very rarely did I hear what I would call an obituary. They didn’t share about what kind of a person she was, her worldly accomplishments etc. In mourning rituals in the states we spend time celebrating the life of the deceased, while in Paraguay it is much more about saying goodbyes and grieving the loss.
As a foreigner I stood and watched these rituals, and partook in a few, and felt a little out of place, as I am accustomed to feeling. I didn’t weep over the casket or wipe my hand across the face of Ña Elida. Of course her death greatly affected me. I spent those 48 hours in shock and tried to be as helpful as I could when the family was so obviously a wreck. I shared stories of Ña Elida along with everyone else. She always called me her muñeca and her princesa and I would always ask for her bendición. I was at a birthday asado when I first heard that she had her attack, and then an hour later we found out that she died. The next morning I woke before the sun rose and went to her house to be with the family. Although I watched people around me grieving and I too felt their grief, I was not able to personally mourn the death of Ña Elida until they were laying down the bricks to close her into the panteón and I shed silent tears. And of course I continue to mourn her loss when I am with her family, pass by her house, visit with her social, or catch her face in a picture. She left behind 15 children and 11 grandchildren who deeply love her. She will be missed.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
|Making Masks at Art Camp|
|My new house, a "typical" Paraguayan house, very old, but well taken care of.|
|I rent the room on the left.|
|I am enjoying having more space!|
|Home Sweet Home!|
|Making seed beds!|
|Making homemade chicken feed!|
I have been talking to the women about proper nutrition for themselves and their families. I hope to follow this up with cooking classes. We received garden seeds from the local government and hope to also receive additional garden implements in the upcoming months. We are also working on planting trees throughout the community for reforestation. Yesterday a national organization, Refopar, brought 5 trees per woman and talked about the importance of the environment.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Monday, February 6, 2012
So after a few days of planning, asking the local libreria to donate art supplies, and inviting kids from two communities I was ready to go. This morning was the first day and I am off to a good role. The Peace Corps office had an art camp curriculum that I am following and it really gets at the goals that I am trying to accomplish. In the schools kids have art classes, but creativity is rarely emphasized, or it is creativity within a rigid set of requirements. What I want to do during art camp is help kids think outside of the box and use their creativity. The curriculum uses mediums of song and story to help lead into appropriate art activities. For example: today we sang "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" or La Arana Chiquitita and then the kids made masks of the different things included in the song: the spider, the tree(water spout), the rain, and the sun. Later I read a story about homes and then the kids drew pictures of their homes. Tomorrow we will spend time working on drawing self portraits and parts of the body by singing "Head, Shoulders, knees, and toes" and reading "Where the wild things are." I am having a lot of fun helping these kids tap into their creative sides!
Sunday, August 7, 2011
When drinking Terere you have your equipo, or your equipment which includes:
1. Guampa (a cup made out of wood for mate and a cow's horn with a wooden "plug" for Terere)
2. Bombilla (a straw that has a filter at the bottom that looks similar to a tea ball.
3. Termo (a thermos. For Terere you usually use just a pitcher, but for Mate the Termo is important so that you can have hot water the whole time)
4. Yerba Mate (The Yerba goes into the Guampa with the straw. You fill the Guampa up almost all the way with the Yerba.
5. Yuyos (Herbs. Found in the garden, in the forest, around your yard, in the street. Lemongrass, or Cedron Paraguaya is one of my favorites along with Burrito and Anis seed. You put the yuyos either in the water and sometimes in the guampa.
Now that you have your equipo invite some friends and sit in a circle. Start conversing about whatever you want. The weather, your day, a good story, some new information about farming. One person is the server. They pour the water into the Guampa and pass it to a person in the circle. That person will drink all the water in the guampa before passing it back to the server. The server will then continue serving all around the circle and will develop an order in the serving. When you no longer want to drink anymore it is polite to say "gracias" or "Thank you" so that the server knows.
Its a beautiful custom that has a lot of ceremony to it, but is surprisingly simple.
Coming from the Minnesota cold that I know, I wasn't sure what to expect. They said that it would get down to 32 degrees F, or 0 degrees C occasionally during the winter. So yes, winter in Paraguay is cold. It is at its worst in the mornings, in the evenings, or when its cloudy and rainy. If there aren't any clouds and the sun comes out during the day it will warm up and I can sit in the sun and drink Terere with my neighbors. If its cloudy and rainy the day is miserable and I usually spend my day sipping hot mate and cooking banana breads or, my new favorite, Mexican Lasagna in my house. But then there are weeks where its as if we have an "Indian Summer." It gets hot again. Reaching back into the 90's. I stay cool in the shade sipping ice cold terere and aprovechar the nice weather by working in my garden, washing my clothes, or getting out and visiting a friend I haven't seen in a long time because its been so cold. I still haven't bought a fan for my house so these Indian Summers really kill me. I am waiting until it is more consistently warm and I have the money to purchase one. I know it will be necessary when the heat picks up again. For now I enjoy the cold on the good days, and dread the cold on the bad days. Its a love
hate relationship and it makes me miss those hearty Minnesota winters where on the coldest days you run between the car and the house and then sit in front of the fireplace until you thaw out. Unfortunately my house doesn't have any insulation against the weather so this makes the winters harder.
I recently tried to explain "winter sports" to my host brother and that when it snows it makes winter fun. You can go sledding, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, play a good game of hockey, make a snow man, throw snowballs at your neighbor. Unfortunately there is no snow, so I put up with the cold weather and make winter enjoyable by cooking and drinking yummy mate!