Sunday, September 08, 2013

8 Week Recap

I just checked the calendar. I've already been here 8 is that possible? In some ways I feel like I just got here and everything is new and foreign. In other ways it seems I've been here much longer! I've never been on a vacation this long, so I guess I'm starting to feel like I really live here...

I wonder if people at home still think I'm on a 2-year vacation. No, I really do work here. Even if my daily stresses are not the same as yours, teaching 22 10-year olds is still a LOT of work!

In the past 8 weeks, I have found my new comfort zone. I've started to learn my way around the neighborhood. In the past 8 weeks I have made great friends; friends I imagine visiting if they take another international job, or who I hope will visit me back in Colorado. Friends who will become my travel buddies. I have started thinking of Asuncion as "home." I have gotten to know 22 10- and 11-year olds, and their parents. I have gotten lost. I have been uncomfortable. I have had a lot of help. I have learned the sounds of my neighborhood, and I know which nights to wear earplugs (Thursday and Saturday). I've learned how to take the bus. I've felt stupid (a lot). And I've been grateful for kindness and patience. I've worked late, and I've slept a lot. I've watched. You have to watch, otherwise you wouldn't know how to get through a grocery shopping trip. I've learned some history, a little bit of Spanish, and a tiny bit of Guarani. I've gotten better and understanding giant numbers in Spanish, and mentally (or using my cell phone app) calculating the US $ value.  I have asked a LOT of questions.

All in all it has been a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad I decided to come here. I'm optimistic about what the next two years will bring!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Progressive Dinner Birthday Party

I'm starting to get birthday was over 2 weeks ago. Oh well better late than never!

All of us "newbies" have spent a LOT of time together! Especially during our first two weeks here while we were all house-hunting: we all lived in the hotel, we went to work together, took cabs together, and ate our meals and explored the neighborhood and went shopping and went out for drinks after work together. Turns out, we all like each other pretty well too! So once we all started getting our own places, the promises to invite one another over for dinner began. One of the fellow newbies, Mark, asked if any of us had heard of a progressive dinner party before. I hadn't, but it sounded like a fun concept: go from house to house and have a different course, and drinks, at each house. Since we all live within walking distance of each other, we decided to do it. The fact that 4 of us had birthdays on the same weekend helped solidify it.

Originally, we were going to go for 7 houses in one night. A few illnesses and a few people not done ordering furniture for hosting purposes suggested we split the night up. Some quick re-planning happened and we were ready to go!

Stop one: Erica and Dave got the evening started with a great salad bar. Mindy brought her own homemade Skittle-flavored vodka for the birthday girls. And nothing goes with salad like jello shots, right? Off to a super start!

Stop two: Then we were off to Janelle's funky house, passed down from the last art teacher to the current one. On the menu was sangria and some finger food like bruschetta. Yum! We also got in a group photo. Yes, we needed to use the "find a window" strategy I've used with success with elementary kids get the idea.

Stop three was my house! Originally, as stop 4 of 7, I was going to do some sort of side dish. However, with the new plan, I needed to come up with something a bit more substantial! On the morning of the party, I decided to see if I could recreate a peanut chicken dish I'd made before with great results. I don't have a grill, I couldn't find coconut milk or lemons, but I made do and it turned out quite tasty, if I do say so myself. It was gobbled up quickly (there were a lot of us!). I co-opted one of the non-hosts to bring rice, and we served beer and wine to wash it down. I was so busy cooking and hosting, that for once I didn't take a picture of what I cooked. Can you believe it? But I did put the recipe on my food blog.

With her back to the camera, Ali is giving me the best birthday present of all....washing the dishes!!!

Stop four: Finally, it was time for dessert! Next we trekked (okay, fine, we took a bus. Actually, two buses because the first one was too full to hold us all) over to Kristi and Matt's place. Kristi made this great cake. I stole the picture off her facebook page, because, let's face it, by this time I forgot to take pictures! But it was super delicious and I'm impressed she was able to buy the ingredients, and follow the instructions in Spanish! Things like that can be tricky!
All in all it was a super fun night. Last weekend we had the remaining 3 houses and feasted again! Now that we've all seen each other's places, I think we'll start doing a monthly potcluck-what fun! I was a little worried that celebrating my birthday away from all my familiar people and places would be lonely, but it was anything but!