Where have I been?

I’ve been bad about updating the blog–apologies! I could make all sorts of excuses, but honestly, life has just gotten away from me.

Here’s a small snapshot of what we’ve been up to since I last posted:

Everyone in our office got sick. A miserable, clogged sinus, drink-all-the-tea-with-honey kind of sick. As a result, I had my first experience with an Argentinian doctor. I brought a friend along for translation purposes. I got some antibiotics, ibuprofen, lozenges, and cold medicine. It also took twenty minutes to try to explain what DayQuil is to a person who has never heard of it before. (Pro Tip: Call it by it’s brand name, Vicks, and explain that it’s a cold medicine from them.) Also, I was instructed to cover my throat at night to keep the blood moving. I’ve felt that the medicine down here is 80% normal Western medicine, and 20% homeopathic horse-hockey. There’s a lot of “drink this random mix of herbs so you get good vibes” or “do this to chase away evil spirits.” Not quite my cup of tea, but never hurts. T and I are still trying to fully get over the cold, so we’re still suffering through lots of bland food and increased water consumption.

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It’s fall in Ituzaingo, which means that the weather is beautiful! But, that also means that for days at a time, it suddenly erupts into violent downpours. Our little house isn’t well sealed, so even during normal rainstorms, we get a flooded kitchen. This time, it flooded all the way to the living room.  I also found my salt shaker entirely humid and with the consistency of play dough. After some internet sleuthing, I discovered how to remedy the situation–spread all the salt on a baking sheet, put in the oven on low, and give it about 15-20 minutes. Break up clumps, let cool, and it’s good to go again!

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We discovered a nice little nature trail near town. Someone just took a mower through the meadow and maintains it. We got about 10,000 steps just hiking around it a few times. We saw lots of birds, and even saw a little brown wild guinea pig!

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We’ve also started a new, fun tradition: One night a week, a bunch of our friends come over for dinner. I mentioned wing night before, but we’ve continued the tradition since then. Sometimes they cook for us–we have the larger kitchen out of the group, so they just bring the ingredients and cook up some delicious Argentinian and Paraguayan dishes. We’ve also been enjoying sharing some American customs with them. I spent a long time explaining the concept of brunch, and they love to challenge each other to eat a small teaspoon of the spicy Tabasco sauce. We had a spirited game of Uno this weekend–which actually ended up being a great cross-cultural game, since colors and numbers tend to be easy things to learn in other languages. The other thing we teach each other is dirty slang in each others’ languages. This week’s English lesson was “talking shit”–a phrase which was a big hit amongst the group.

We also managed to do some walking along the Costanera in Posadas. It’s a new, beautiful walk all along the river, which demarcates the border with Paraguay. The walk was partly a mission to figure out where the new train across the border was! Although it can take up to three hours each way to wait in line to cross the border by private car, we’re told that the train is infinitely shorter–and judging by the ease of access, we’ll be making a trip to Encarnacion soon!

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The Costanera area is filled with restaurants with beautiful patios that overlook plazas filled with public art. A lot of planning and time went into making this public works project–and it’s well-used by the local populace. There were lots of people sitting in the shade drinking mate, walking dogs, or just going out for a run.

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Baltimore from Afar

The news of Baltimore hit the international press yesterday. The images of looting and burning and rock throwing are in the local papers. As always, there are questions from our Argentinian and Paraguayan friends. Why is this happening? Why are they so angry? Why are they destroying stores?  I never know what to say to them because I have a hard time coming up with words in English, let alone Spanish.

I have several friends who live in Baltimore, our home in the US is about an hour away, and I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the city visiting–so my heart hurts today seeing the city as a warzone.

Yes, South America is obviously no stranger to protests–and even violent ones.  But they seem to be particularly confused by the US’s version of protests. My bet is it has something to do with the distinct prevalence of guns. Down here, only the police and army have guns. (This brings up some entirely different problems–see Argentina from 1970s to late 1980s for an example.) But, when mass shootings and gun violence happen in the US, it seems to be so unthinkable to them.

A case in point: recently, a man in Cordoba (about 12 hours from where we are located) had three men break into his house. He took down the decorative samurai sword on his wall and started slashing at them. The men were tracked down later by police by the trail of blood they left. The man with the sword was detained for psychological evaluation. Down here, there is no “stand your ground” or protecting your own property. If someone breaks in, you can use your fists and your words to get them out–but it’s socially unacceptable to use a weapon to deter them. A completely different culture than in the US.

We were all sitting outside eating wings on Sunday, and we were discussing how the kids down here in South America just don’t have the rage that kids in the US have. That’s what I’m seeing in Baltimore–rage. I’m not saying it’s not a justified anger–I just don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to harbor that amount of rage. There’s so much vitriol in the US that I just don’t see down here. Yes, there are opposing political parties–but outside of a few crazies, no one is constantly calling the other “Satan.” Down here–if a kid does something bad, they pickpocket you or they steal your purse–but you don’t feel the indignant rage and the feeling of “I deserve this more than you do” that I’ve seen in crime in the US. There isn’t such blatant entitlement down here.

I really don’t have anything profound or important to say in this post–I just needed to get these thoughts out. I hope everyone in Baltimore stays safe and peaceful in the coming days.

 

Edited to add this quote from MLK in 1966 to Mike Wallace:

“But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity.

And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

Felices Pascuas!

I know I’m a few days late here, but Felices Pascuas a todos!  Happy Easter, all!

Easter is a huge deal in Argentina and Paraguay. Our site was off from Wednesday to Sunday for Semana Santa festivities. Last year, T and I were in a bit of an existential funk, so our Easter enjoyment was pretty much limited to chocolate. This year, with a regular internet connection (albeit a slow one) and beautiful weather, we were feeling more adventurous!

Let’s just start with the obvious–a lot of this week focuses on going to Mass. Not being particularly religious, T and I did not partake in that. (Instead, we made it through all two seasons of “Dead Like Me.” Sacrilegious?) So, what I can report on is what happens outside of the church.

We didn’t see or hear of anything interesting happening Maundy Thursday, but on Good Friday at dusk there was a HUGE procession for Via Crucis, or the Way of the Cross. I’m not entirely certain if this is the same thing as the Stations of the Cross or not–can any Catholic readers clarify this for me?  Essentially, the procession starts at the church door with a crowd full of candles (and a truck with a very large loudspeaker blaring prayers).  The assembled crowd parts to let through the priests, followed by some of the more important men in the village carrying the statue of Jesus. They walk around town and pray as they go.

IMG_0412We went to Posadas on Saturday to grab some necessities, since store hours are a little unpredictable on holidays (or, honestly, all the time). We thought we were being smart by going on a holiday when everyone would be busy with family. We were incredibly wrong. Apparently we did the Argentinian equivalent of going shopping the day before Thanksgiving. We spent an hour in the checkout line–bless you, iPhone and your Kindle app.

IMG_0414You can see the Prioridad line above for pregnant ladies, families with children under 2 years old, and senior citizens. They can, and will, throw you out of that line if you do not apply to one of those groups.

Sunday was a slow day, with our only real marking of the holiday with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate bunny. Normally, Argentinians eat giant chocolate Easter eggs. They are ornately decorated and can be as tall as two feet high. (Our butcher has one, but they make fun of us for taking tourist photos, so I didn’t grab a photo.) We settled for the bunny instead of the mass produced Bon o Bon eggs.

IMG_0415 IMG_0416 IMG_0418I clearly like chocolate far too much for my own good, as evidenced by so. many. chocolate pictures on my phone.

Sunday ended with a bit of a surprise. There are a LOT of stray/random dogs in Argentina. A lot of them belong to people–they just let their dogs wander around the neighborhood in packs, and trust they will come home for dinner. Others are legitimately strays. It’s often difficult to tell the difference, since there’s a lot of instances of abandoned pets as people move.

A dog showed up at our gate, looked at us expectantly, and then circled the block only to sit in front of our gate again. We opened the gate up, and she spent the next few hours at our feet watching tv outside. That night, we went on our evening walk (about 3.5 miles!), and she miraculously followed us the entire way. I caught her still snoozing on our porch at midnight, but by morning she was gone and we haven’t seen her since.

IMG_0419Mooch was incredibly jealous of and displeased by our guest. I don’t blame him–the dog ate some of his food.

 

Also, I have to apologize for the low photo quality on this post. All of these are from my iPhone–I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me. Whoops!