Category Archives: Work Teams

Day 14 – Last Call for Paraguay

After another late night of visiting, we awoke with a start to find out that it was 8:30 a.m. already and church was scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m.  Thankfully, we only had to shower, change our clothes, and make our way to Oscar and Karen’s front porch.

After singing, Pastor Oscar shared the Word from Ezekiel 3:15-21.  Earlier in chapter 3, Ezekiel was given a scroll to eat.  It was very sweet when he ate it, but it became bitter.  He went to see the captives by the river.  At first he just sat with them and didn’t say anything for seven days.  We all have had difficult experiences in life or know of others going through them.  We need to learn from Ezekiel.  He just went to these captives/slaves and sat down next to them showing empathy for them and feeling what they felt.  When people brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, Jesus showed empathy for her when everyone else was attacking, pointing fingers at her.  Jesus understood her soul. Ezekiel understood the pain of the captives’ souls. This is what God wants us to do with our neighbors.  Love them, feel their pain, and keep sitting with them.  We aren’t called to be on the rolls of a church.  We are called to be Christ’s servants.  We are called to take God’s word to our neighbors.  This means starting by listening to them and drinking tereré with them. This is how we start to share Jesus’ love with them.  We can visit them in the hospital even if only for an hour.  It means so much to them.  Be the one who is bringing the “Good News” to them.  Ezekiel had a difficult message to bring.  There would be consequences to him if he didn’t bring the message.  If we don’t bring the message to our neighbors, we will be held responsible also.  People may not always be happy to hear the gospel, but we can’t stop.  We need to keep visiting them day after day.  I (Oscar) wasn’t always happy to hear the gospel.  Sometimes, I wanted to run from the person who was bringing it, but eventually, I accepted it and was converted.  We must confront sin, but always, pick up and forgive the sinner. Always be merciful to people and seek restoration and healing.  We can’t make excuses for our weaknesses.  Like Ezekiel we have been called to become weak to win others to Christ, but Ezekiel did not remain weak, he arose and taught and exhorted them.  We need to go forward as Ezekiel did with a forehead like a rock (vs. 9) to free others who are in danger of death.  God knows our hearts.  He knows if we don’t want to go and are making excuses.  We want to hear Him say to us “Come, faithful servant, enter into your rest”.  So let’s love others, not just in word, but in Spirit.  Let’s show God’s love to our neighbors, to our children by showing empathy.  Let’s all be towers for God like Ezekiel was.

After morning service, some of went to lunch at a churrascaria.  Besides the many different kinds of meat, there was a buffet with many other dishes and salads.  There was also a dessert bar, and the traditional pineapple coated with cinnamon and sugar.

And, let’s not forget the free entertainment: keyboard and accordion duets for some and soccer/rugby on TV screens for others.

Our next stop was Asuncion’s newest mall, the Paseo La Galeria.  The mall is built between two uniquely shaped towers.  The stores seem to be mostly high-end and the prices are very expensive.  Prices in many shops were listed in US dollars and/or Brazilian Reais, with some in Guarani, but it seemed like the primary target audience was well-to-do tourists; although the food court appeared to be doing a brisk business with help from the locals.

We found two shops that sold local Paraguayan goods, the rest were mostly large global brands.  After mostly window shopping, we bought some items from the Super Seis grocery store in the mall, where prices were comparable to elsewhere in Paraguay.

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Arriving back in Las Garzas, Brian was excited to find a soccer game taking place in Pastor Pedro’s back yard.  The temperature hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit today, but that didn’t stop the young men and boys from enjoying their football (soccer) games.   We finished the evening with a late dinner at Karen and Oscar’s home and then the young adults went over to spend some time at Gabe and Hadassa’s house.  Sadly, tomorrow we are already scheduled to begin our trip home.

 

 

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Day 13 – Good to the Last Drop (of Paint)

Today, Saturday, was our last day of painting.  For our devotion this morning, we read Revelation 21:1-4; 23-27 where John talks about the new Jerusalem.  The new Jerusalem will include the glory (Amplified version: splendor and majesty) and honor of many nations.  We have been given a foretaste of this by visiting Paraguay. Many things are different here than in the U.S., but we have learned to enjoy the beauty of the land, the slower pace of life, and the friendliness of the people here.  Each of us should take home something from our time here that has touched our life that we can share with others.

Oscar had requested that for our last day we concentrate on applying a second coat of paint on the exterior walls.  Besides the exterior walls and posts, the interior stairwell also requires painting, connecting the two floors in the old building with a common color.

We also applied a little additional trim where needed and finished cleaning up by taking down the painter’s tape (i.e. making the obligatory soccer ball), wiping the floors where possible, and finally cleaning our equipment so it would be usable the the next team or individuals.

By Noon we were finished.  There wasn’t enough room in the car for all of us, so Brian volunteered to take the bus and Steve volunteered to ride in the car.  Rod and Sarah decided to go with Brian for the bus experience.  We bid farewell to the school, the local store owner, and headed toward the bus stop.

Just before the bus stop, Brian noticed that one of his favorite empanada shops was open (It had been closed due to construction for most of the week) so we had to stop for a snack there.

Finally, we got to the bus stop and after about a 15 minute wait our bus came.  Our bus was air conditioned so we were charged extra 3,300 Guarani apiece (about 60 US cents).  There wasn’t room to sit, but we stood and enjoyed the roller coaster effect.  As with Brian and Steve’s bus this one veered off the main road and went through some of the neighborhood side streets.  Having learned from Brian and Steve’s experience, we stayed on the bus and eventually it turned back onto the main road and dropped us off at the entrance to the Las Garzas neighborhood.

We had just stepped off the bus and navigated around the huge mud puddle that tends to form at the corner, when a horn honked at us from behind.  It was Blanca, Marcel’s sister-in-law going to the Quinta for the kid’s camp.  She offered us a ride and dropped us off at Oscar and Karen’s street.  Karen prepared us fried mandioca (like french fries only better), as well as rice and beef for lunch.

After a brief siesta, we drove to “Stock”, the grocery store and filled up our cart with things we wanted to bring home.  The grocery store was well-stocked with Zucharitas (Frosted Flakes); however, the gluten free section with only two items seemed a little thin compared to the U.S.

In the evening Oscar drove Rod, Sarah, and Brian to the Bañado church, which we had worked on repainting after a flood two years ago.  We arrived early to church and the gate was still locked, so we did a little shopping and took in the neighborhood sites while we waited.  When we arrived back at church three minutes before the service was scheduled, the front gate was open and we were greeted warmly by the people there.

The Bañado area is one of the poorest in Asuncion.  It is also next to the Rio Paraguay which tends to flood every so many years.  The land is in a flood plain and the government looked the other way and allowed people to come and live there.  Now, however, the government would like to extend the boulevard by the river in downtown Asuncion North (as well as South), shore up the flood plain and move the people living here into government housing.  According to Oscar this plan is not going over well with the Bañado neighborhood and they are fighting against it.

At 7:30 there were only about six of us in the church, but once Frank showed up and began playing the guitar our crowd began to swell.  We ended up with about 16 adults and several more children.  Everyone sang heartily and the cement floors seemed to provide excellent acoustics for the room, making the music sound like we had double the crowd.  Pastor Alberto is the regular pastor here, but tonight Pastor Oscar led the service/discussion.  He recounted the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5:1-14.   Naaman was a captain in the Syrian army.  Syria had taken over Israel at the time and Naaman had an Israeli maid who waited on Naaman’s wife.  The maid told his wife that the prophet in Samaria (Elisha) could cure Naaman’s leprosy.  Naaman went to Israel to find the prophet to be healed of his leprosy.  Eventually he found Elisha and was told to go wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be healed.  Naaman was upset by this because the Jordan river was not known as a beautiful river (Editor’s note: any similarities with the Rio Paraguay are purely coincidental).  Eventually, Naaman’s servants persuaded him to go and fulfill the simple request that Elisha had made of him and he was healed of his leprosy.  Today, we don’t need to go searching for a great prophet to heal us of our leprosy (sin).  We can go directly to Jesus.  Just as Naaman only needed to obey a simple request to be cleansed, so, we to can be cleansed from our sin by coming to Jesus and fulfilling his simple request for obedience.  We can have our leprosy (sin) taken away and be healed completely.

After the service, we stayed and visited for quite a while.  It was nice to feel the results of the air conditioning units which were installed two years ago (while we were here painting) working.  Sometime around 9:30 we had to say our farewells and leave for dinner.  We arrived late at Dom Dario’s home for a supper of empanadas, fish, and other Paraguayan delicacies.   After supper, we bid them good night, and headed home for a good night’s rest.

Day 12 – What is Gamuza?

It was an exciting day for us as we finished with painting the classrooms and ready to move to the exterior walls and try out our new color, “Gamuza”.  I always thought the names for paint colors were cryptic, but first “Arena” and now “Gamuza”.  I would describe Gamuza as a medium to dark tan color; whereas, Arena is closer to a light tan with a more yellowish appearance.  Regardless, it is now our job to paint the exterior walls and posts Gamuza.  The posts holding up the second story of the school classrooms are all painted in two different colors. The upper layer is white and the bottom layer is, well, for lack of a better word, “Gamuza”.   We begin by taping around all the posts and walls where the current paint line changes color.  Then we roll out the new paint and attack the walls feverishly with our rollers and paint brushes.  By lunch time we are close to finishing the first floor exterior painting except for the trim.

Pastor Pedro and his wife, Marti bring us an elegant looking dish for lunch.  It is like a Swiss steak with a vegetable “white sauce” served with mash potatoes and rolls.  As usual we are famished by lunch and make a gallant effort to do justice to the cook by leaving no leftovers.  Alas, as on most other days, we make a valiant effort but reluctantly fall short and leave the cook some leftovers.

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After lunch, we have our devotion from Hebrews 11:1-6.  According to the Amplified version of the Bible, Faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for (and the proof of things we don’t yet see).   The Greek word translated evidence or assurance also means “title deed”.  A title deed shows that we own something (e.g. a house or a car).  The title deed represents our legal claim to the asset.  In this case faith represents our proof of ownership or claim on the reality of our hopes, even when we can’t yet see how they will come to pass.  Often, when we seek to do something in faith, we are tempted to become discouraged when things don’t go as we hope.  When we started this work team, we were hoping for more people, yet the enthusiasm of those who committed to this project buoyed our hopes and when we arrived in Paraguay we found Gabe and Hadassah ready to help us.  The Lord brought just the right team together and we’ve experienced a lot of blessings this week because of it.  We can’t let discouragement overcome us, we need to accept the “title-deed” to be as valuable and as real as the physical asset it represents, and step out in faith trusting God to realize our hopes in Him.

After lunch we completed painting the exterior wall and railings of the second floor  Gamuza and completed the trimming as well. This leaves us tomorrow to paint the portion above the tape line a different color and add any second coats needed.

After finishing painting, Marcello took us to Mercado Cuatro (4) a giant “flea market” type of shopping center in Asuncion.  Sarah was able to purchase a maté thermo and a bombilla “straw” so that she can make tereré (the cold version of maté, preferred in Paraguay) at home.  Brian and Rod settled for a an old favorite, a blended strawberry-peach fruit juice from the juicing stand at the market.  For supper we got take-out from Miguella’s, which was closed when we tried to stop there earlier in the week.  We took Gabe’s advice and ordered the Lomita Arabic, a large wrap loaded with beef, chicken, bacon, a fried egg, tomato, lettuce, and maybe a few other things we didn’t notice.  The boys took theirs to share at the young men’s group meeting.  Our time in Paraguay is swiftly drawing to a close: there is only one more day of painting remaining, then comes Sunday services and a farewell luncheon, and by Monday we need to pack for our afternoon flight. In retrospect, the time all seems to have went by so quickly.

 

Day 11 – Bus Adventures

After a good night’s rest we had mostly recovered from our trip to Iguassu Falls.  By the time we got back to school it was time for lunch. We had an excellent polenta served with a beef stew.

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After lunch for our devotion we read Psalm 93.  Verse 4 from this Psalm was posted on a plaque at Iguassu Falls.  Just yesterday we had heard the thundering waters and witnessed the power of their might, but today they were just memories, albeit it, powerful ones.  Nevertheless, the postscript on the plaque, “God is always greater than all of our troubles” is what caught our attention today.  Hadassah related that when they returned home last night the water was out at their house.  After the long trip home this made her feel very discouraged.  Then she read her “verse of the day” which was I Peter 5:10: But the God of all grace …….. after you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, (and) settle you.  The little tests of life have an eternal purpose for us in perfecting and strengthening our faith.  Too often, we focus on these tests and the things that went badly during the day.  If we always seek to find the blessings that God has provided during the day and are thankful for them, it will make our tests easier to bear and ensure that they work the perfection in us that God is seeking.

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After lunch we went back to work painting the second story classrooms in the new building with a second coat of paint.  Unfortunately, once again, the paint fumes in the first classroom did not vent well, and Brian ran down to the local ferreteria (English: hardware store) and bought us some masks.

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These helped some, but Brian and Steve still found the old fashioned t-shirt tied around your face worked the best.  Thankfully, the second and third classrooms seemed to have much better ventilation and the paint fumes were much less noticeable.

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By the end of the day, we finished repainting the three classrooms, and we removed the painter’s tape.  Gabe taught the “newbies” the Adonai school painting tradition of creating a soccer ball out of the used painter’s tape.

After briefly admiring our completed work, we left school for the day.  Brian and Steve walked down to the “Lambaré Mall” to make some purchases and to use the gym there.  Brian is an enthusiastic proponent of the local bus system, so the plan was to take the bus back to San Antonio where they could get dropped off at the secondary road leading to the Las Garzas neighborhood where Oscar and Karen live.  Oscar told them that they could take either the 32 or the 38 bus to get home.  After they finished their workout at the gym, they went outside and waited for these buses, when neither arrived in the time period that they expected, they walked back to the stoplight at the entrance to the suburb of Lambaré and after about a 15 minute wait caught one of the buses indicated.  It so happened that one of the other passengers sitting next to them on the bus spoke English, so he and Brian became engaged in a conversation.  Suddenly, Brian realized that the bus was no longer on the main road but was taking a side journey through another neighborhood.  Because he was no longer sure that the bus would take them where they wanted to go, he and Steve exited the bus at the next stop and spent another 15 minutes walking back to the main road between Lambaré and San Antonio.  At this point they tried to text Rod, who missed their text, and eventually sent a Snapchat to Hadassah who just happened to pick up her phone and see it.  Gabe was sent with the car to pick them up and bring them back to Oscar and Karen’s.   Needless to say, Brian did not convince Steve to become a raving fan of the local bus system.

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For supper Karen made us “vori vori”.  “Vori” is a Guarani word (the native Paraguayan language before the Spaniards came and still spoken today) meaning “little balls”.   It is basically a chicken soup with matzo balls that is sprinkled with cheese or spices as per the consumer’s discretion.  The temperature dropped to 77 degrees Fahrenheit today after hitting a high of “only” 91 degrees, so a soup was appropriate for such a “cold” day in Paraguay.  We agreed that it hit the spot for us.

Day 10 – A Trip to Iguassu Falls

We were given a “rest day” for today, so we decided to go to Iguassu Falls.  At 4:00 a.m. our rest from the previous day was ended when our driver, Gustavo, arrived with a minivan for our transportation.  We piled into the minivan and most of us slept for the next few hours while Gustavo piloted us toward Cuidad del Este, the Paraguayan city on its Eastern border near the Falls.  The main road to Cuidad del Este from Asuncion is a primarily a two lane automobile road with large shoulders for motorcycles, pedestrians, and horse/ox drawn carts to use.  It passes through many small villages, each with its own police department (read local revenue enhancement unit) and 40km speed zones.  For anyone used to navigating these types of roads in the States, the game isn’t played much differently here.  You can make pretty good time at the stated speed limit of 110 km/hour until you find yourself trapped behind a slower vehicle, at which point you bide your time waiting for the no-passing zone to end so that you can accelerate, pass your obstacle, and return to your lane.  What is different here is the variety of all of the additional traffic on the shoulder of the road (and some would say the general craziness of the drivers).

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Evidently, the wide shoulders on the road were formerly used by cars to pass on the right, but the Paraguayan “DOT” found a solution for this.  They installed mini-speed bumps on the shoulders with small cutouts that allow a motorcycle, but not a car to avoid the speed bumps (see an example of one on the right hand shoulder next to the truck in the picture above). Sometimes instead of making a cutout, they just left a small amount of room on the far side of the speed bump so that a motorcycle could just veer to the right to avoid the speed bump.  All of this makes for a very exciting or scary ride depending on your point of view.

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The main road between Asuncion and Cuidad del Este is also a toll road.  Unfortunately, there is no EZ-Pass system in Paraguay, so everyone must stop and pay cash in order to proceed.  Automobiles pay a total of about $7US total each way to navigate the entire distance of the road.  We pass through three or four toll booths in Paraguay before we reach our final destination.  I could be wrong, but when I perused the list of the charges for the different types of vehicles, I couldn’t find one for ox or horse drawn carts, so I assume they are free.

Cuidad del Este sits on the border of Paraguay and Brazil.  It is known for being one of the most porous border cities in the world.  All kinds of goods (legal and illegal) pass through this border to avoid paying duty taxes.  The city is a hub of commerce and shopping where one can find almost any good imaginable.  As you approach the bridge into Brazil, the traffic slows down because there are fewer lanes on the bridge.  Vendors line the divider between the east and west lanes of traffic and some will go car to car hawking their wares.

Crossing the bridge into Brazil, we drove past the customs guard shack without stopping.  Since we had working GPS, we decided to follow its directions to the Falls, leading to the usual GPS follies of unexpected country roads and sense of being totally lost.  Eventually, we arrived at the Falls and found a parking space.

Actually, there were no parking spots left in the parking lot, so Gustavo made his own.  We started to get in the long line to take the bus to the falls, but found that there were new “ATM” machines to dispense tickets.  While most people were waiting in another line for a human cashier to sell them tickets, we were able to get almost immediate access to the “ATM” and purchase our tickets with a credit card.  Iguassu Falls charges fees based on your nationality.  We North Americans had to pay about $20US to get in (much cheaper than other years due to the higher value of the dollar).  The Paraguayans got in for about $15US and Hadassah (a Brazilian) only had to pay about $11US.  The line to the buses was long, but progressed relatively quickly.  We were soon boarding our double-decker bus and scrambling to get seats on the second level.  Unfortunately, there weren’t enough for all of us, so part of our group exited and piled into the next bus.

The bus route to the Falls takes about 15 minutes.  We finally arrived at the beginning of the Falls and reconnected with our group from the earlier bus.  The falls are actually spread over about 2 km.  You start at the lower end where you descend some steps to find this:

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A picture can’t really do it justice, and you soon discover that this is only the beginning.  Continuing to walk up the trail, you can view various wildlife (e.g. iguanas, snakes), most of which you hope stay off of the trail.

The quati (English: coati) are plentiful and appear friendly, but can bite, so don’t get too close (or feed them anything).

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As you continue up the path, there are various openings where you can view more of the Falls and take photos.  Finally near the end of the path you have the option to descend further and take a hike on an elevated cement walkway at the base of the Falls.

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When we entered the park the attendant tried to sell us some cheap ponchos and protective gear for our cameras, but we turned her down.  As we began walking out, we began to get much wetter than we expected.  Nevertheless, the temperature was heading for 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the cold water felt good.   The walkway gets very crowded at some points, but if you’re patient, you can eventually get a chance to get views and photos at the best spots.  Meanwhile, you can’t escape the awesome power of the water’s roar all around you and the thick mist soaking your clothes as you hold feverishly onto your phone or camera hoping that you won’t lose your grip.

After you, navigate you way back down the walkway, you can get a drier view of the Falls from multiple levels of the observation deck next to one side of the Falls.  This view is no less spectacular or amazing and if anything the roar of the water is even more deafening.

After winding our way back up the pathway, we proceeded to the tourist center at the bus pickup station.  We stopped for something to eat and got back in line for the return bus trip to the main entrance to the park.

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The bus trip back to the entrance gate was uneventful, and we were able to use the “ATM” to pay our parking fee (21 Reals – pronounced “hey-ice” – less than $7US) before we returned to the parking lot.  This was when things began to “go south” as we would say in North America (maybe in the Southern Hemisphere they “go north” instead).  As we were pulling out of the parking lot just before we got to the main gate.  The Brazilian police at the entrance gate motioned for us to pull over.  They made Gustavo show his driver’s license, the ownership papers for the van, and apparently some kind of chauffeur’s license.  Fortunately, for us, all of his papers were in order, and we were allowed to continue after they checked us out.

Next we stopped to put enough gas in the tank to get us back into Paraguay.  We got out, used the bathrooms, and piled back in the van.  About 20 minutes later we were at the border just getting ready to enter the bridge back to Paraguay when Hadassah discovered that she had left her phone in the bathroom at the gas station.  Gustavo made a sudden U-turn cutting off some traffic coming across the bridge and was able to just navigate the van onto the last exit ramp before the bridge.  We returned to the gas station and miracle of miracles the phone was still sitting where Hadassah had left it.  By the time we returned to the bridge it was around 5 p.m. and traffic was heavy.  We finally crept back into Paraguay and stopped again to add more gas to the tank.  The Paraguayan and Brazilian service stations are “full-serve”, meaning you wait for the attendant to come to your car, they pump the gas for you, you pay the attendant, it all takes forever, and you marvel at the efficiency of “self-serve” gas stations in the U.S. (unless, of course, you live in New Jersey, in which case it’s pretty much the same as getting gas in Paraguay).

On the way out of Cuidad del Este, it appears that they are flattening the land next to the road and working on adding additional lanes to the road.  In my mind I see four lanes for cars and four shoulders for motorcycles, horse/ox-carts, bulls, sheep, chickens, and pedestrians.

The scenery between Cuidad del Este and Asuncion is primarily rural.  As you drive by, you see farms, animals grazing, seed corn advertisements, and farmer’s co-ops (and yes, we really did see a double-yoked ox drawn cart, going the wrong way on the shoulder, but weren’t fast enough to get a picture of it).   When you enter the small towns you see a gas station or two, perhaps a “hotel”, some stands selling food or produce, and a police station.  Actually, you usually see the police standing in the middle of the road motioning random vehicles to pull over.

Unfortunately, one of those vehicles was ours.  We had just entered the outskirts of a small town and Gustavo pulled partially into the left lane to see if there was anyway to get around the slow moving vehicle in front of us.  I don’t remember him even actually attempting to pass, but nevertheless, the police pulled him over for “crossing the double yellow line” and we had to wait while he ran over to the police station and paid his fine.  Meanwhile Brian’s body suddenly realized that he had deprived it of sleep and sent him the usual messages that this was not a good idea (i.e. migraine headache, followed by vomiting).  This led to three more stops plus another one for gas and a bathroom break.  By the time we arrived home, it was after 10:30 p.m. and our bodies were all in various stages of reminding us that too little sleep, too much junk food, and a long trip, aren’t a good combination.  Thankfully, Oscar and Karen suggested that we could sleep in and go in later to school tomorrow, and we gratefully accepted their offer.

 

 

 

Day 9 – The Sighting

One of the sounds of Paraguay that always thrills me is the sound of horses hoofs clopping on the cobblestone streets.  Unfortunately, these sounds and the accompanying horse-drawn cart making them, are becoming rarer.  Several years ago, at least once a day a street vendor would drive by the school shouting “Sandia” (watermelon) or “Pina” (pineapple) and selling his wares from his horse-drawn cart.  Nowadays, if a street vendor comes by, he is usually pulling his wagon with some version of a modified motorcycle.  Today, however, I heard the traditional clip-clop sound and went rushing to the gate (which was locked of course).   When I finally escaped the security system, I was able to catch up with the drivers of the vehicle and snap a photo.  While the two young boys weren’t selling anything, they were making stops at different houses in the neighborhood, probably to pick up recyclables that they could turn in for money. In the quickly modernizing world that is Paraguay, it was great to be reminded of the way things used to be.

This morning Sarah read 2 Corinthians 8:12 and shared how when she first considered coming to Paraguay she was concerned about her ability to perform the physical labor required by the work and her lack of Spanish knowledge;  nevertheless, she had a conviction to come and saw how the Lord used her willingness and faith to make this trip possible through seemingly small, incremental progress.  God can use any willing heart to turn small gains into big victories.

We set back to work on finishing the upstairs classrooms in the new section. The last room is exceptionally large compared to the others and required additional time.  By lunch time we had completed these rooms except for the trim.

After another filling lunch, we continued with the trim in the new upstairs classrooms and began applying a second coat of paint to the old upstairs classrooms.

The new classrooms also had problems with their ceilings sagging and not properly fitting into the bracket that was supposed to hold them in place.  With some delicate twisting procedures in the one room, we were able to snap the ceiling back into the bracket.  In the other room, Brian added a few nails to hold the bracket in place and make the ceiling appear semi-level again.

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No job is ever complete until the clean up is done and painting is no exception.  Cleaning the equipment at the end of each day is time consuming and messy.  The good thing is in the Paraguayan heat no one ever feels too bad about getting splashed with the cold water.

After cleaning up for the day, we returned to Oscar and Karen’s house to freshen up for some evening tourist activities.  We headed downtown using Karen’s GPS.  Suddenly the GPS voice came over the speakers, “turn left at M…….C……..Donalds”.  For a moment we were dumbfounded and then all laughed as we realized that we were supposed to turn left at McDonald’s, obviously, a key road side marker in Paraguay.  When we arrived in the old section of Asuncion, we browsed through a number of shops selling Paraguay’s signature goods (e.g. hammocks, knitted clothing, fancy tatting, etc.) as well as the requisite postcards, key chains, and refrigerator magnets.  After meeting the needs of our inner “tourista”, we drove a few more blocks to the waterfront development across from the Hall of Congress and the Presidential Palace.

In what had once been a “favela” or slum area on the Rio Paraguay, the government relocated the community into near by government housing, trucked in sand, and turned the former favela into a beach area.  They also added wide walking/biking/skateboarding  paths along the beach and created a large boulevard running next to it for car traffic.  At first glance it looks very nice.  Unfortunately, the Rio Paraguay is very polluted so no one is allowed to swim in it, and the garbage keeps washing up on the edge of the beach.  The other not so nice component, is that the government has proposed extending the boulevard all the way into and through San Antonio along the Rio Paraguay.  If this is done, they will reclaim the river front land from the Quinta and replace the Quinta’s current sunset viewing deck and boat slip with a boulevard and walking trail (sigh).

After we spent some time utilizing the walking trail and viewing the Presidential Palace (from just beyond the security perimeters and away from the armed guards), we drove back south toward San Antonio for dinner.  Our first choice in restaurants proved to be closed, but we returned to the Plaza (a park in San Antonio) with its festive Christmas displays and lights for a dinner at one of the food vendors there.

The food was tasty, inexpensive, and filling; nevertheless, we still saved enough room for an ice cream stop on the way home.  It had been a full day, but now it was time to rest up for tomorrow’s annual trek to Iguazu Falls and the dreaded 3:30 a.m. wake-up call.

Day 8 -Demasiadas Empanadas

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Today we started painting the second story classrooms in the original school building.  This required the usual setup of moving desks, taping the trim-work, and, most important of all, turning on as many fans as possible in an attempt to get as much of a breeze in the room as one was able. Usually this was limited by the number of fans that were working in each room.

As with previous days, the morning began with 90 degree heat and 110% humidity (the extra 10% being from our own sweat). However, thankfully, we made good progress in the smaller classrooms upstairs, completing 2 1/2 rooms before lunchtime. The lower ceilings in the classrooms made it much easier to paint the trim and use the rollers near the ceiling than in some of the taller classrooms we painted the previous week. Just before lunch the electricity unexpectedly went out. It was unclear what caused this as there was no storm or other indicators of a reason for the power failure. We pictured an Asuncion municipal electricity director deciding that it was Lambare’s “turn” to go without power for an hour or two, and flipping a switch to shut of electricity to the district. Whatever the actual reason for the outage, as the fans slowly came to a stop we tried to finish up the rest of the paint in our paint trays, and anticipated another delicious lunch.

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After lunch we resumed painting, completing the last upstairs classroom in the old building and moving on to the upstairs classrooms in the new building.

The ventilation in the first classroom in the new building was poor and the paint fumes drove us out before we could completely finish it.  We made a good start on the second classroom before the peak of the 99 degree heat made us lethargic and caused us to begin cleanup early.

The newlyweds added some final artistic touches to the second classroom.  Overall for the day, we completed the three classrooms in the old section and started two of the classrooms in the new section.  Marcello offered to get us empanadas for an afternoon snack, but the place he went to was closed, so he agreed to stop at a different empanada shop on the way back to Oscar and Karen’s house.

Marcello took us to Sante Fe Empanadas which had a wide variety of empandas, including salmon, shrimp, beef, and chicken selections.  We brought these home (well, the ones we didn’t eat on the way) and had a late afternoon snack.

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After our snack some of us walked down to the Quinta to cool off in the pool and stayed on to watch the sunset.  After the sunset, we returned to Oscar and Karen’s home, where Karen surprised us with empandas for supper.  The boys apologized for not eating more, but promised her that they would polish some more off for breakfast.