Tag Archives: Lambare

Day 2 – An Early New Year’s Eve Service

Since today is Saturday and the paint for the school is not scheduled to arrive until Tuesday, we slept in.  It’s amazing how long you can sleep when you don’t have any place to be at a certain time.  Before we knew it, it was after 11 a.m. Paraguay time (9 a.m. EST), and we were just showering and getting ready to start our day.  After breakfast (lunch?), we went grocery shopping with Karen.

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It’s always interesting to go grocery shopping and see the familiar and not so familiar products being sold in another country.  Sometimes the names are translated to something else; other times they remain the same.  The pictures or packaging usually don’t change much.  Supermarkets have become larger and much more common here than they were in our first trip over 10 years ago.   While there are still many “mom and pop” grocery corner stores here in each neighborhood, the Paraguayan “name brand” (e.g. Stock, Super Seis, Real) grocery stores have opened more locations and have grown much larger in size than the traditional corner stores.

After we fill our shopping cart with our Paraguayan favorites while mourning the loss of favorites that appear to have been discontinued, we head for the checkout line.  With the advent of the modern grocery store, comes the convenience of using your credit card.  For some reason besides your signature, you need to write down an ID # as well.  I always just pull out my New York State driver’s license and write down the ID # from it.   I’m not sure how this helps, but this always satisfies the cashier, so it’s become a matter of ritual.  As I pick up my bags, my phone “dings” with a notification from my credit card company showing me the price in U.S. dollars that I was charged.  The technologist side of me thinks this is a beautiful thing; on the other hand it’s really scary how efficient the global economy has become.

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Well, some old traditions do still hang on.  In order to get ice, we have to go the gas station.   Yes, I said the gas station.  Karen asks for a bag of ice.  The attendant goes to the ice machine, pulls out a bag, and deposits it in her cooler.  Meanwhile, we drop Brian and Edson to purchase fireworks from one of the roadside dealers that pop up this time of year to supply the New Year’s celebratory crowds.  Karen and I go back to grocery store so that I can use the ATM to get the local currency (Guarani) to buy the fireworks.  So, “cash is still king” in many of the local neighborhood and roadside shops.

At 5:30 p.m., Marcel picks up Brian and I for church in Lambaré about 15 minutes North of where we are staying with Oscar and Karen.  Marcel has to go early to practice before church, but when we arrive at church, there are already kids waiting to get in the gate.

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The Lambaré church is attached to the Adonai school and is surrounded by a gate which is kept locked when church or school is not in session.

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The church and school are built around a courtyard that transitions into a soccer field on the school side.

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Those who aren’t practicing musical numbers with Marcel sit in the courtyard, sipping Tereré, a kind of communal tea shared by the Paraguayans.  One person holds a jug of cold water which is poured into a cup with a metal straw and passed to the next person in the circle.  Each person in the circle is passed a cup until they say “Gracias” to indicate that they don’t want anymore.  The server continues serving each remaining person in the circle until all are satisfied.  It’s a way to pass the time, share stories, and cool off from the Paraguayan heat.  It’s also, a period of unscheduled community time, that we don’t experience often in the U.S., because of our busy, over-scheduled lives.

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After a while, enough kids show up that an impromptu soccer game breaks out.

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Finally, shortly after 7:30 p.m. the service begins.  Normally, Saturday night would be a service for the youth; however, because several families are out of town visiting relatives, they are having a single “New Year’s” service for the entire church. We sing several songs followed by a sermon by Pastor Pedro.  He reads scriptures from Matthew 6:26-34, Isaiah 44:1-8, Isaiah 48:15-22, Revelation 1:9-18, and Daniel 10:2-12.  We are exhorted to examine our lives and see if we are really living the Christian lives that we are commanded to and whether our lives are different and make a difference in the world.  In Isaiah and in Revelation, God said he was the first and the last, the beginning and the end.  If we seek God like Daniel, we will be greatly loved as Daniel was and he will bless our whole life from the start to the finish.  The service ends with a special prayer for the visitors and the congregation.  We exchange hugs and greet each other with “Dios te Bendiga” (English translation – “God bless you”).

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After the service, we all take a picture in the courtyard and then the older congregants sit and visit while the younger ones start a game of volley ball.  Before we know it, it is past 10 p.m. and we barely arrive back at Oscar and Karen’s home in time for pizza before bedtime.

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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 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 7 – A Day of Rest and Sweat

We spent another morning sleeping in, still trying to work off our sleep deprivation from 2016 and recover from the hot weather.  The Las Garzas church gathered at the Quinta to use the pools and the sports court; however, with the temperature at 99 degrees Fahrenheit the pool was the more popular choice.

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The previous day when we stopped at Pastor Pedro’s home.  He told Brian that the Lambare church was having services on New Year’s Day at 6 p.m.  At 5:30, we left with Karen to go to Lambare for the service.  When we got there the only person at church was someone cleaning the church.  He told us that the service was really at 7:30 p.m.  With an hour and a half to burn, Sarah suggested that we go for ice cream.  So we drove down the street to the “Lambare Mall” to find the mall closed except for the North American beacon of capitalism, McDonald’s.  The drive through was packed, so we parked and went inside.  The lines inside were long as well.  We ordered several “KitKat” flurries and had to try out some of the specialty menu items that we don’t usually see in the States as well.

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The air conditioning wasn’t working very well on the sun facing side of the restaurant, so we were soon ready to pack back into Karen’s air conditioned car.  We got to church about the same time as Ray, a relative of Oscar’s drove up with his wife.  We have a long history with Ray.  He worked with Brian and his sisters one year helping to paint the school, and more recently, took us on a tour of Asuncion.

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We hung out in the courtyard between the church and the school visiting until it was time for the service to begin.  By this time, the temperature had only dropped to about 97 degrees and the humidity had to be near 99%.  I say that because soon after the service began, a large rainstorm struck.  It may have dropped the temperature some outside, but the net effect for those of us inside was a day of trapped 99 degree heat mixed with some of the most humid conditions we have ever experienced.

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After singing, Pastor Juan had a short devotional encouraging us to trust God in 2017, and to seek restoration if we have drifted from him in 2016.  Pastor Pedro, then had a service from Deuteronomy 28:1-14 emphasizing the many different ways that God promises to bless us if we will obey him.  He also read the blessing that God instructed Aaron to use to bless the children of Israel (Numbers 6:22-27).  All these blessings can be ours if we are just willing to be obedient to God’s will.  He promises mercy and blessings if we will just turn to Him.

By 9:00 pm the service was over and we were very sweaty.  Pastor Pedro came up to us afterward and noted that the church is in the process of collecting donations for a new air conditioning system.  I must say that we are all very motivated to contribute after the evening’s service.

 

 

Day 12 – Last Work Day – Moving and Scaling Mountains

Monday morning dawned early again for us. Connor and Stephanie left for the airport to catch their flight home and the rest of us prepared to put in our last day of work. Katrina led the devotion from Matthew 17:20-21, 21:21-22, and Mark 11:23-24 and we discussed faith that moves mountains. Faith is a belief in something we can’t see. We say that our faith is in God, but sometimes we deceive ourselves by placing our faith in an expected path rather than trusting God to lead us in His path. To move the mountains we face in our lives requires prayer, obedience, and fasting. The hunger caused by fasting can help drive us to prayer. When we are discouraged, praying for others can help lift our spirits. Meeting to pray with others and with our church on a regular basis helps unite us and bring us closer to each other and to God. Building a relationship with someone requires communication and time spent together. The same is true of our relationship with God. Instead of obsessing about the past or worrying about the future, we should focus on being thankful in the present. When we go back to North America, we need to continue to work on managing our distractions and replacing them with things of more eternal value. Ultimately we will reap what we sow, and we can only move and scale mountains if we’ve prepared spiritually to do so.

Pitching Tiles up to the Roof
Pitching Tiles up to the Roof

When we arrived back at school, part of the team went to work on completing the roof and rest on painting. Oscar asked us if we could paint the back wall of the dining room and we still needed to apply a second coat to the upper half of one of the newer classrooms. The two older classrooms which were being reroofed also still needed to be painted. And before that could be done the debris and old beams needed to be moved out of them; consequently, we had our work cut out for us. Marcello & Becca also worked on washing down the floors of some of the other classrooms which were already painted and repopulating the desks and chairs afterwards.
Milanesa with Potato Salad
Milanesa with Potato Salad

For lunch we had a beautifully plated Milanesa with a potato salad that included hints of beets, carrots, and corn, giving it a very colorful and Latin America feel. It tasted delicious too.
Painting the Dining Room Wall
Painting the Dining Room Wall

After lunch we finished painting the dining room wall, but ran out of paint while we were doing the classrooms. Sam and Katrina or Lucas and Becca will have to finish these up after the rest of the group leaves tomorrow. The Paraguayan workers were finishing up the roof replacement.
Roof Replacement
Roof Replacement

The Paraguayans also began laying the bricks for the walls of the new classroom, by the end of the day, the back wall was about four feet high and the outside side wall was started as well.
Classroom walls going up
Classroom walls going up

The new roof looks really nice from the inside. Before this you could see the light coming through the beams where they had rotted and only a covering of plastic was deflecting the rain in places.
Inside view of the new roof
Inside view of the new roof

To top the day off, the “Sandia” (Watermelon) man came by in his horse drawn cart and sold us a watermelon. This week, he was a regular coming by every day shouting “Sandia, Sandia” over his loud speaker. It really gives a quaint and homey feel to the neighborhood and I’m always afraid that some year, I’m going to come back and he and his ilk will have been passed from the scene. Already you see more motorized appliances selling in the neighborhoods, and it loses something with the roar of the motorcycle engine in the background instead of the clip-clop of horses hooves on the cobblestone streets. Anyway, we were glad to see him on our last day here.
Lucas Slicing up the Sandia
Lucas Slicing up the Sandia

The weather for the day was typical for our weeks here. Another 100 degree Fahrenheit scorcher.
100 Degrees, Again!
100 Degrees, Again!

In the end we completed painting nine classrooms and the exterior walls with multiple coats. We also painted the dining room and pillars, and replaced the roof over two classrooms. We moved the bricks and mortar sand to the roof, allowing the Paraguayans to start building the walls. We weren’t expecting to work on the roof when we came, so all-in-all we accomplished pretty much what could be expected and the Paraguayans should be able to finish bricking up the walls and putting in a temporary roof before the children return to school in February.
Back wall for new classrooms
Back wall for new classrooms

We went home and cleaned up for our farewell dinner at the Quinta. Unfortunately, a large thunderstorm came through knocking out the power in the neighborhood, leaving us to eat empanadas by flashlight in the kitchen. The blackout couldn’t prevent another beautiful sunset over the Rio Paraguay, and it was wonderful to enjoy a final one before our journey home.

Day 8 – Things that need to be Shaken

Josiah led our devotion and discussion this morning based on a reading from Hebrews 12:26-29.  Our discussion centered on the things in our lives that needed to be “shaken” and removed. Some thoughts which were brought up: “pride, excessive busyness, poor entertainment choices, too much focus on personal achievement, time wasting distractions”. The bigger question is what are we going to do different when we return to North America to help us stay closer to God? Some ideas: make better use of free time; substitute the use of Bible Apps for other time wasting Apps on phones and iPads; schedule specific times for personal and group Bible study and prayer; be willing to listen and obey even when we feel awkward; choose an accountability partner who we can trust to keep us focused and accountable.

Katrina and Sarah Painting
Katrina and Sarah Painting

Some prayer requests that we had today: Lucas and Becca will have a good experience in their year here teaching English; that we will listen and allow the Spirit to speak to us; that we will be able to overcome “unknowns” and make good progress in the short time we have left.
Stephanie Painting
Stephanie Painting

We made more good progress with our painting today. Some of the older classrooms are two-tone and require white paint to be applied above a molding. We completed this on the classrooms where it was required. We finished the second coat of the paint on the outside walls and applied a first coat to the upper half of the walls. (They were in much better shape that the lower part of the walls, so maybe we won’t need a second coat). Oscar brought us more of the interior paint; we added extensions to our rollers and began painting the areas of the wall that we couldn’t reach before in the newer classrooms with the high ceilings.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team created a pulley system to move buckets of sand to the roof while Brian and Dan made multiple trips loading a wheelbarrow with sand and carrying it up the stairs to the roof. We moved the entire original sandpile and most of a second truck load of sand which came.

Roof covered again
Roof covered again

The Paraguayans focused on the roof today and we provided help as needed mixing mortar and lifting tiles up to them. We received a another load of tiles today and by the end of the day the entire roof was covered again with the base layer of flat tiles.
Now that Lucas has joined the team, we have one more person than seats available. We squished an extra person into the minivan on the way to school today, but on the way home, Lucas decided to get a ride with Marcello instead. We captured this video as we passed them in the minivan.

Day 6 – Trapped by the System?

Leon led our morning devotion out of Revelation 2:10 and talked about the impact of persecution on the previous generation of Christians in our church and how many of them were imprisoned for their beliefs. Today in North America, we face little persecution, but we are often imprisoned in different ways. As Dan called it, we are “trapped by the system”. We are caught up in the busyness of life, trying to make ends meet and keeping up with our electronic communications. In spite of the inroads by electronic communication (e.g. Tigo, a cellphone company is offering “free” Facebook), face to face relationships appear more important to the people here than in North America. The believers come together multiple times a week, and this being Latin America, there are no inhibitions to just dropping in and visiting at a moments notice as the Spirit moves. In North America, we tend to become focused on our schedule and have difficulty working in the time we need for fellowship and spiritual renewal.

Work Team Group Photo
Work Team Group Photo

On the way to school, we stopped at a Christian book store. In a sign of the times, you can “like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Reflexion Music & Book Store
Reflexion Music & Book Store

They were advertising Nick Vujicic’s book, “Unstoppable”, or “Un espiritu invencible” in Spanish.

Un espiritu invencible
Un espiritu invencible

Once at school we divided back into two teams. One team continuing painting the “new” classrooms and the other team working on the laying the tiles on the roof. The “new” classrooms (circa 2008) had to meet more rigorous building codes and consequently are different from the original classrooms. The ceilings are much higher and the wall surface texture is different, making them more difficult to paint. It usually requires three coats of paint to make them look good, and getting the paint spread all the way to the ceiling requires combinations of ladders, tables, paint roller extension poles, and preferably someone over 6 foot with long arms. Today, however, we are spackling the walls, and just starting to paint what we can reach from the ground.

Connor Spackling
Connor Spackling

Meanwhile, the other team is moving the new roof tiles from in front of the stairs and stacking them in the classrooms, so that they can be lifted up to those working on the roof. Fortunately, Dan creates a tool for us to make the last part easier.

After another lunch of Milanesa (somebody knows what we like), we finish off the remaining ice cream and return to our work. Unfortunately, we soon run out of the paint used for the classrooms. When we go to the school office, it is still closed, and we remember that Paraguayans only work a half day on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. This means that we don’t have anyway to get more interior paint until January 2nd. Since We still have a new can of paint for the exterior walls, we redirect our efforts to taping and painting the outside classroom walls and the stairwell to the existing second story classrooms. Meanwhile, by 3 p.m. the team working on the roof has reached a point where they can’t proceed as well.

Tiling the Roof
Tiling the Roof

Perhaps, it’s just as well, because everyone is still tired from moving the bricks yesterday and it feels good to clean up early for a change. By 3:30 pm, Oscar arrives, but the minivan doesn’t return until 4:00 p.m. so we don’t get home much earlier than usual. One of the difficulties of planning a work team is that the system doesn’t always work like you’re used to at home. Materials don’t always arrive as planned and the extra vacation time over Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve tend to decrease your momentum. Suddenly, you realize that you only have a few working days left, until it’s time to go home.

Oscar lighting the Brick Oven
Oscar lighting the Brick Oven

Fortunately, Oscar is making us Milanesa Napolitana tonight in the brick oven. To us North Americans, this translates roughly into Chicken Parmesan. Traditionally, in Paraguay, the evening dinner is served at Midnight on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but when Oscar asks us if we want to eat early (10 p.m.) we vote for that instead.

Milanesa Napolitana
Milanesa Napolitana

Soon we are sitting down to another wonderful dinner in the backyard of the Quinta. The Milanesa Napolitana really hits the spot. At midnight everyone in Paraguay begins celebrating and setting off their own stash of fireworks. The air is filled with booming, banging, and plumbs of smoke. We set off the fireworks we purchased yesterday. Some only make noise, some fizzle badly, but a few light up the sky and remind us that if we look up to Christ, the new year offers the opportunity to be changed and to escape broken systems.