Monthly Archives: May 2010

Further thoughts on language

Whoa, it’s been 4 months since I left home and tomorrow, 4 months since I got here. Sorta hard to believe. My arrival seems lost in the mists of history. But there has been enough changes and growth that in the last quarter that really makes it seem like I’ve been here that long. Language is still a work in progress but it resembles more like a comprehended language. Oh sure, the verbs still fly thick and fast and I hain’t got all the Spanish as well as the cultural idioms. But it’s coming. Language no longer seems like a barrier. Rather, it seems like a shocking fence. I know enough that if I’m not careful, I get stung. 

And once one realizes a couple of the Spanish oddities, it becomes easier. Example, the word “hain’t” in the above paragraph. A person studying English will never come across that word in a textbook. I say never; I really don’t know. I’ve never studied English. I thank God that it’s one of my mother tongues because to learn such a complex and rule violating language would be muy dificil, very difficult. And I can’t recollect reading a rule that said “Attention please: Hain’t is not a word. Never! The only reason I know that the word is incorrect English is I recognize it to be a slang expression. Where I learned that…I don’t know. Probably from my teachers. (the thought is running through my head, Why can’t it be correct English? Who said that it is incorrect? And why should I follow his/their suggestion(s)? Sounds like some people’s arguments against God. But I digress to my original questions). And could it also be that pride is what prompts me to speak the best English I know how? The same pride that doesn’t want to make a fool out of myself by exposing my ignorance of Spanish?

Another example, students of Spanish may have come across the ‘dropping/ed S’ problem where sometimes the ending “S” of a word is merely hinted at. Well, there are times when one wonders “What S?”. It’s nonexistent. Mark and I were in Belleza once and, in the course of visiting one of the men in church while he and his men were loading sesame seeds for another company, I asked a Paraguayan how long he had worked with that particular company. “Ma die ano” was his response. Now, if I would have been unaware of the “Lost S” problem, the answer would have befoozled me. I could have assumed the man was talking Guarini. But, adding a “S” to all three of those words creates the sentence, “mas diez anos”, more than 10 years. Okay, there’s a “z” in there but it makes a “S” sound. I won’t even try to imagine how some of our Spanish sounds to others but at least those we interact the most with, hired clinic help, the staff at Mercantil, and some of the gas stations in town, understand where we as beginning Spanish speakers are coming from and understand us. And as helpful as they try to be, I can never be sure that the word they give me when I lack a particular word or phrase is the one that I actually want. And it’s a pain to carry around 5lbs of study helps when one quickly runs to town in the spirit of shopping. But so goes. The best way to learn is jump off the deep end. The ensuing struggle only ensures future strength.

Now, for this post’s pictures. Ain’t it a great feeling to complete a job or a project? The past month, 5 weeks, we’ve been working at removing a big old stump near the entrance to the clinic. I say we, it was mainly Joby, although I helped when I wasn’t busy with other projects elsewhere. But the fact remains that on Tuesday the last of it was ejected from Madre Tierra. Whew!

Here’s how it looked a week ago. Just a stubborn ole piece of wood.

Finally, it’s out and the fill in process can begin. The pic doesn’t really do justice to it but that hole is big enough to lay 4 people in and cover them up.

Again, it’s hard to see the size of this stump in this pic but that’s a big chunk of wood right there.

And for now, that’s all.


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Daffy Supper

So, every Thursday night is staff night, meaning nothing to my readers but for us as staff, it’s a regular occurrence. Usually supper is something more than reheated leftovers. If one of us maintenance men is wearing our chef hat, supper might be burnt offerings. Afterwards, various games are played or the Songs of Faith and Praise are put to good use. Occasionally, we may have some friends over. Staff night can take any of these forms. Last night, it took the form of Daffy Supper. This is where you bring a table setting, some form of a plate, a form of utensils, something to drink out of and a dessert bowl, and you also wear a wacky outfit. When you arrive at supper, you pull a number. The table settings, having been brought before supper, are all set out and numbered. Whatever number you pull, is where you sit. Or, that is how we did it last night. Earlier in the day, Joby and I had perused some stores, purchasing the occasional item or two. All in all, a interesting night. Supper was comprised of noodles, peas, jello and, fortunately for some, sopa, a Paraguayan dish. I say fortunately, as some didn’t have the best of luck traversing the 2 feet from table to mouth, not when you have a 2 foot fork or a 2 liter pop cap or soup ladle to eat noodles with. And now, for pictures.

This happened to be my plate for the night. Doesn’t look bad and it could have been worse. I could have gotten my own table setting. It’s in the next pic.

You can barely see it but sandwiched between that wooden spoon, which didn’t exist the day before yesterday, and that utility knife, with a clean blade!, is a 4 inch fork, which also didn’t exist on Wednesday. The dessert bowl to the left of the milk jug top/plate is actually the rubber part of a toilet bowl plunger. And the glass is a baby bottle. Like I said, Joby and I went a  little extreme.

Joby. Quite frankly, I think he looked like a convict that was dressed by a color blind jailer. You can’t see it in the picture but he’s also wearing orange flops.

The group, posing in a wacky manner that fits the evening.

And so ends this Daffy Supper post. Please, don’t think we look like this all the time. Neither, think of us as diving off the deep end. Rather, it was just plain ole fun. A pyschologist might call this “a normal response to excessive amounts of stress”.

Now, I have a stump to pull out. Later


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Week of May 10

The days have begun to blur into my personal Paraguayan history. This past week, another staff member departed to pick up her life in the States. Shortly after she left, someone commented that we had enough staff depart for awhile. This came from someone who has been in here a half year longer then I’ve been. I understand the sentiment; this person spent time with those who just recently left. But pardon me, the newest kid on the block, to speak my mind a little. I say, allow ’em to go. I say this kindly and just directly, I’ll give my reason for saying so. But those that have left, have been here a minimum of 2 years. They deserve to go back if they so choose. If they have served their 2 years to the best of their ability, then I fault them not in the least for wanting to continue life “up north”. Now, why do I think so detachedly when it comes to those leaving, at least in the outset of my term? Frankly this, in the subconscious part of their brain, those that have been here longer than I have constantly refer to their Paraguayan chapter of their lives. Events that have happened, people that have been here or have visited, etcetera. Here again, I fault them not. That’s completely normal. But, it’s exasperating, especially to those who are just fitting in and who still struggle with language. So I say, allow them to go home if they want to. Bring on the new staff. Let’s create a joint history. Our history. And in the process, gradually allow the “long-termers” to leave. The danger is that we will be like those we will replace. But there’s a difference. It’s us that have fit in. It’s us that have a history.

But enough with the ramblings. On to the weekly recap. As always, this week I wore a number of different hats. Throughout the week, I wore my painting hat, my chauffeur’s hat and my remodel hat. And I even got a free hat!

Monday and Tuesday were busy with travels to and from the airport. On Monday, Charlene came back from the States. She had left on Sunday the week before to attend her grandmother’s funeral. Sharon and Mary Strubhar went along to pick her up. Surprisingly, her flight was directly on time at 1615. It is not at all surprising if the flights are a little bit late and to have a flight come in on time is a blessing. Anyone who flies knows that.

On Tuesday, Rosene left after being here almost 2 ½ years. The trips to the airport to see someone leave are usually bigger than the trips to pick someone up. Accordingly, there were about a dozen of us that went. No problems in checking in and no problems in travel. Even though I began this post with a semi-rant against those that have been here, I will say that there is a hole in staff functions when someone leaves.

Wednesday or more specifically, Wednesday night provided the biggest laugh so far in my 4 months here. After working the majority of the day on replacing the south side rake board on the clinic (the weather side), we all dutifully went to church. After the service, the staff was hanging out in the pavilion when Mr. Mutt came around. He was a little fella. If he would have been white instead of brown and would have had a floppy ear, he could have passed for Drover out of the Hank the Cowdog books. Sasha, the clinic’s German Shepherd, is usually not given to the expected guard-dog viciousness. Not expecting her to do anything more than chase Mr. Mutt away from the clinic, I sicced her on him. Bad move. Apparently if the opposing dog is significantly smaller than her, she does have guard-dog viciousness. In a flash, she had him on the floor and, fearing that we would have bloodshed, I gave Sasha the boot. This episode frightened Mr. Mutt and he took refuge among the various legs of those seated on the swing. Hauling him out, I chased him off the property and returned to drink tea. Here he comes again. Repeating this process twice more, he came back both times. While wracking my brain in trying to find a solution, Joby came around. After briefing him on the situation, he and I disappeared in the shop for 5 minutes. When we came out, we had Mr. Mutt, 2 2liter bottles filled with some dog feed and ½ inch nuts and about 3 feet of string. I’ve heard of this method but have never seen it in action. The results were, in terms of hilarity, nearly side-splitting. Near the entrance of the clinic, we tied both bottles to the tail of Mr. Mutt and sent him on his way. His first second of flight was done in low gear. When the noise of the dog feed rattling in the bottles reached his ears, he put it into high gear. Racing across the cattle guard embedded in the clinic lane, both bottles launched 2-3 feet into the air. In a apparent effort to get away from the noise, he did a 360 in the parking lot before streaking down the lane and across Prima Lina. Here, we temporarily lost the train of events. But we had done what we had wanted to do. Get rid of the dog in a harmless way. The buckets of laughter, by which we were subsequently drenched, were a huge side bonus. Later, we found out that the dog ran straight through the open door of our neighbor’s house and got himself tangled among the legs of the chairs and table. They weren’t mad at us but they immediately knew who was responsible. They themselves had gotten rid of Mr. Mutt by sending him over to the clinic. Unbeknownst to us, we had sent him back via express mail. One would think that Mr. Mutt would have learned his lesson but the next night, I saw him again. Hmm, time to drink more Coke.

Thursday can be summed up in one sentence. I wore my painters hat most of the day.

On Friday, 6 of us guys went to the Ag show in Santa Rita, about a hour and a half away. It was an opportunity to take a day off and so I took it. Hey, why not? Even though we the clinic aren’t in the Ag business, it was still an interesting day. But the day was dimmed by my camera taking a early death in the early afternoon. I could have made up for it on Saturday but I didn’t take the opportunity to do so. Saturday was a Paraguayan holiday and the clinic had the day off. The girls wanted to go to the Ag show too, so Joby, Caleb and I went for the second straight day. Randall and Brendan Eichorn went along as well.

After coming back to stromboli and a hot shower, I did more Spanish studying. At times, I wonder if I’m actually learning anything. But if I have the time and the material, which won’t be available when the new staff members come, why shouldn’t I study. What I really need to do is head out and speak and learn. But being inherently human, I procrastinate….and procrastinate…..and procrastinate. What I won’t procrastinate on is posting this post.

If it’s convenient, drop me a line.

Looking out into a busy world (from Isaiah’s perspective).

Paint samples in the ongoing campaign to restore the dredges of this room. In Paraguay, the paint can be wa-oo and your not guaranteed to get the color that you ask for. So you mix your own. And believe me, the mixed paint can be wa-oo in color too. Personal experience talking.

Make mine green! Why does pyschology play such a role in our beliefs and thoughts? Never mind the fact that other equipment can do the job, when one bleeds green, nothing runs like a Deere.  

Unfortuanately, this Case 8320 stole the spotlight. An impressive rig, no doubt, but see the last phrase from the picture directly above this one.

Okay, all for now…..I think.


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Grr, I thought I had posted some pix last time I posted and my dashboard tells me that I did. But the main site isn’t showing for some reason. I’m trying again.


Remember that rope lighting that I mentioned was gifted to us? Finally, here’s a pic of how it looks. Neato, is it not?


And here’s how the pavilion looks under normal lighting. Kind of harsh and cold when compared to the “ropes”. We still have these lights. The rope lighting is only supplememtal.

Now, I must be off to work. Adios

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(no, the title is not about a gripe, as pronounced in the English language. Rather, it’s a Spanish word pronounced grii-peh)

In travels to other lands, I’ve often heard tell of local maladies that inflict the residents but seemingly don’t touch foreigners. Whether the fault lies in local superstitions that lead the believer to sickness or whether the illness exists in actuality could be debated. I, for one, have argued that one’s mindset can play a large part in determining one’s health. For example, near the end of the day, you begin to feel tight and fatigued, if you think that you might be getting sick, chances are that the next morning you’ll be sick. That’s been my premise. And it still is. But you can feel sick, think healthy, happy, positive thoughts and still end up sick.

Last Friday night, I went to bed feeling a little beat out. Nothing unusual after a day of work followed by playing volleyball in the evening. But even then, the fatigue I that I felt seemed to be deeper than just the ordinary fatigue. The next 4 days were some of the most physically miserable in my recent memory. The only 2 symptoms that I didn’t have were sore throat and nasal congestion. I didn’t see my food swimming in a bucket in front of me but there were times that my stomach threatened to betray me. Other than that, you name it, I had it. Aches. A chronic desire for sleep. Fitful sleeping. Fatigue. A touch of fever. Chills. That drugged, woozy feeling that often comes when one has the flu. Queasiness. Worst of all, was my head, which felt tighter than a steel drum. The bad part was I wasn’t sick enough to take a day off and stay in bed. I’d get up in the morning and feel horrible for the first hour or so and then find some health somewhere to work most of the day. Come evening, I’d feel like do nothing else except playing hide and sleep with my mattress. In fact, that’s the only remedy that I found. Wednesday, after consuming 5 pills of unnamed substances the night before, I awoke and distinctly felt…’purer’. Ah, health, your’e a welcomed friend. And following another night, this one being pill-free, I think I’m finally hale and hearty. 

Talking to the locals about it, they just smile knowingly. You receive no sympathy from them because they know what it’s like. They’ve been there. I still believe that one’s thoughts play a significant part in my overall health. But sometime the inevitable happens and you just get sick.

That’s all for now,


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The Weekly Recap

Monday ?: I forget the date. Nothing really happened. In fact, nothing of note did happen. I was in Ohio but didn’t contribute much to life and living. But that’s okay, we all deserve those days from time to time, not?

Wednesday 27: I left yesterday. In the morning, Mom and I went to get some items for the people at the clinic. It happened that we got too much. Nothing much happened except for packing and getting ready to leave. At about 3, we left for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. When I went to check in, my only check-in bag was 13 pounds overweight. They weren’t busy, fortunately, and we quickly did some re-arranging and managed to get the weight down to a acceptable level. Other than that, nothing really of note. My flights all arrived at their destinations a little early, which is always a good thing. I’ve caught up on my sleep, for now. Maybe I’ll try to surf a little.

….nope, surfing doesn’t work.

Thursday 29: Today, Joby and I worked on sanding the rest of Charlene’s room. It’s currently being remodeled. In the afternoon, when it was dry, I mowed. In the evening, for staff night, we went to Alff, the churrasqueria in Camp 9. Carrie’s parents had sent money down to go out on her birthday so we did. Good food….again.

High speed is nice. Belleza’s modem got hit by lightning and Maynard got a wireless jump drive for them to use. But first, we have to make sure it works, right? So some of us staff surfed this afternoon. Surprisingly, I only had one email. Good night.

Friday 30: Last day in April. I’ve been here over 3 months and it’s feeling more and more comfortable. Today, I kept sanding and actually finished with the trim. Also did a runover of the D-20 with Joby. He’s going to Belleza with Mary and Carrie. Then I made sure the mower ran where it was supposed to and with some guidance, finished mowing, for this week that is.
In the evening, the youth cut some youth for a older lady in the colony.
Today was Diosnel’s last day working for the clinic. There’s a plethora of reasons involved but the bottom line is that we were running out of work for him.

Saturday, May 1: Today was a ‘feriado‘ or a holiday. It was the Paraguayan equivalent of Labor Day. So what choice did we have but to observe it. The native workers were all invited but only the ladies came over. Freddy and Diosenel they had other doings and didn’t show up. Maynard did the asado while I watched. Actually, I read one of Grampa’s books and studied some Spanish. I don’t know what the afternoon activities were because right after lunch, I went to bed and slept for about 3 ½ hours. I was feeling a little sick and after getting up and eating 2 mandarinos at supper time, I still didn’t feel a whole lot better. So, early in the evening, I went to play hide and go sleep with my mattress. Botheration, I only won once or twice. She beat the rest of the night.

Sunday 2: This morning, I felt slightly better. Have a touch of a headache and my stomach feels slightly treacherous. But I think I’ll make it. Yesterday Maynard informed me that Charlene is flying back to the States today so because of that, I won’t be in church this morning. But I’ll make up for it by having devotions in the evening.
So devotions…went. I had a translator so it really wasn’t that bad. The rest of the evening was hymn sing.
On the way home, something really cool happened. Walking back from church, I breathed a short prayer that God would protect me as a I walked back. I was only about a quarter of the way down the path when I heard a tinkling. I had to laugh because it was Sasha’s collar. And normally, she doesn’t come that far down the path. But tonight she did. For the rest of my walk, she was never out of earshot. Wow! I didn’t expect that protection but it was nice.


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