Tobacco Leaves and Sugar Analogies: Service Picking Up Pace

“I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do when I had the chance” -Unknown

Itapúa, Paraguay

Good grief it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to post on here. My service is picking up and getting busier, which means I no longer get to spend every day lounging in my hammock, pretending to study Guaraní, when in actuality I was going through two novels a week. Just because I’m starting to get more involved doesn’t mean it’s been fun and I have a lot to report, so although I don’t like doing recap blogs, I can’t stick to a single topic and I’ll have to give a lengthy summary of important events in the last few weeks.

First, my Yerba Mate project is picking up steam. Every family I visit tells me that they want to be involved and receive plants. Thousands of plants, actually. Luckily, one of my contacts, Karai Vazquez, has a mature yerba plantation and has taken me under his wing to demonstrate how to harvest and prepare yerba seeds for replanting. As well, the reforestation organization, A Todo Pulmón (For Every Lung), who donates the yerba plants to volunteers, sent representatives to Chara’s site to look at the previous volunteer’s yerba project and I was invited to come along and learn what I could. We saw many plantations, with both good results and bad, but it was definitely a learning experience.

Now let’s move away from technical bullshit and into the hilarity that my life seems to find around every corner.

On that nice visit with relatively important representatives from A Todo Pulmón, Chara took us to the house of an elderly gentleman named Karai Hildo, who happened to be shredding tobacco leaves, which he would later dry for chewing tobacco. To demonstrate the final product, Hildo took a rope of black tobacco out of his pocket and offered a bite to the group. Before I go any further, let me explain that this is pure tobacco. Straight up. Elliot, the PC representative at ATP took a chunk because he used to chew it in his site when he was a volunteer. Most of us said no thank you, but Chara, with a swagger to prove that we were in her site and that she was going to show us what she was made of, took a chunk and stuck it in her lip like a seasoned dipper. She spit once, twice, and then gave me a strange look. She said “Okay that’s enough,” spit it out, and asked for water. Everyone laughed and carried on with the conversation, but I kept watching Chara as her eyes started getting wider, she swayed a little bit, and had to fan herself. Next thing I know, she’s telling me she wants to throw up and she feels high. We continued on with the tour, but Karai Hildo’s wife had to sit with her and give her water while she came off her high. Unfortunately, Paraguayans and Chance are tale-telling people, so naturally her whole community knows. And makes fun of her.

After the visits, Chara and I set out for Encarnación for our first VAC meeting and for Carnaval celebrations. A VAC is simply a group of volunteers all in the same region, so we regularly meet with all of the volunteers in Itapúa to come up with potential group projects or answer and discuss provided questions from the administration. Not exciting, but we do have a good group of volunteers in our region and we’re known for our work hard, play hard philosophy. After the meeting, there was a bit of frisbee on the beach and then we headed back to Emily’s apartment (The Community Economic Development volunteer in Encarn). So many volunteers were in the city for Carnaval and all of them were having some pre-parade non-alcoholic beverages at the apartment. Now, let’s refresh my memory that it’s been a while since I was in college. I forgot this and had one too many non-alcoholic beverages and had a slight sugar-high before dinner. More non-alcoholic beverages at dinner and again at the parades in our VIP box and the next thing you know I’m all hopped up on sugar from those non-alcoholic beverages and I’m taking selfies with random women, thinking they were Carnaval dancers. Sugar does weird things to the mind. But overall it was a good night, the parades were flashy, spray foam was everywhere, and nobody can say that volunteers can’t have fun.
The next day, my head hurt from all that sugar, so Chara, Hannah, and I decided to stay at our friend Ruchi’s house in Trinidad for another day to decompress and have a nice Asado with a couple other friends. Nothing takes care of sugar headaches like a bunch of grilled sausage and steak.

Since returning home from Carnaval, my home life took a turn when my mom brought a cardboard box with both kittens in it, telling me that their mom abandoned them and now they’re mine. So as of yesterday, I’m the proud papa of Mac and Mani, who keep me on my toes and pee on my suitcases. But I don’t care because they’re so damn cute.

A language note: the word for cute in Guaraní, Yuty, also means salty.

So that’s up to now and February and March look even busier moving forward. I’ll have lots to report, and I’ll try to stay up to date!



Drying tobacco at Karai Hildo's

Drying tobacco at Karai Hildo’s

A Carnaval float

A Carnaval float

These women ARE Carnaval dancers

These women ARE Carnaval dancers (Well minus Chara and Hannah)

These women are NOT Carnaval dancers

These women are NOT Carnaval dancers

Snuggling with my little nuggets, Mac is the black and white one, Mani is orange

Snuggling with my little nuggets, Mac is the black and white one, Mani is orange


2 thoughts on “Tobacco Leaves and Sugar Analogies: Service Picking Up Pace

  1. Chance, enjoyed this blog. I’d never heard of dying the tobacco, maybe the die made your friend sick? How many people attend this carnival? It looked like a lot! Sounds like you are doing well. The fresh seeds have just come to the stores, so I will send you a box soon. Take care, Beth Kaser


  2. Chance, glad you are having fun. You didn’t tell us how your garden is progressing. Also, will you be able to grow things year round? Berit has just learned about photoperiodism and plant tropisms from her awesome science teacher so we looked on a globe to see if you will be affected by changing light wave lengths. Love you!


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