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.
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.
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.
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.
The church and school are built around a courtyard that transitions into a soccer field on the school side.
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.
After a while, enough kids show up that an impromptu soccer game breaks out.
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”).
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.