Thursday, August 31, 2017

Paraguay Day 2 and 3

Here's a little tour of our fancy shmancy hotel.

I know you're all jealous of those pillows. And do you like how we pushed those beds together? Classy.
Check out those flower tiles on the wall. Darin had his first experience with a bidet and he thought it was "fresh and cleansing." 
The greatest thing about this hotel was the fitness center situation. We specifically chose this hotel because it had a fitness center and I really wanted to be able to work out while we were gone. Work out I did not. Mostly because I was sick the entire time, but also because...
Kind of a depressing room. And I couldn't even get the treadmill to work....soooo there was no working out. Or lap swimming for Darin. Ha! 
My favorite favorite part of Asuncion was the food. We had such amazing food while we were down there, and it was so cheap which made me love it even more.

Lido Bar was recommended to us by one of Darin's PhD friends from Paraguay. They gave us some amazing recommendations and this was easily my favorite, and the only place we ate at twice. We went there for lunch Monday morning after Darin went to his first interview. I had been planning to tag along, but decided I needed more sleep in the end.  

Their Ham & Cheese Empanadas were divine. 

 The Milanesa (basically chicken fried steak) was huge and delicious. They made fresh juice for us right in front of us. Oh so good. Looking at these pictures is making me hungry...

 We went to Lido Bar not only because of the recommendation we received, but also because it was across the street from the Panteon de Heroes, which is a very old, beautiful building that contains the remains of some of Paraguay's great heroes. We were so sad to see that it was under construction and that we couldn't go in!

That put a slight cramp in our plans for the day, so we just ended up wandering around the plaza next to the building. Tuesday was a holiday and there were already a lot of festivities going on, one being all these little shops set up around the entire plaza.

Mate cups for days.


Engraving names in mate cups.

After walking around the plaza we went back to the hotel and took it easy the rest of the evening, as in, Darin worked on a paper that was the due the next day and I tried to edit.

The next day, Tuesday, was a holiday so Darin was not able to set up any interviews. They were celebrating the foundation of Asuncion. In the morning, while we were in the hotel--Darin trying to get that paper done--we heard music from outside and ran down to see this parade going by. That was really cool.

 We later left to walk around and see all the celebrations. We visited this church, took some super touristy pictures of these helmet looking phone booths that were everywhere, and ate (more) empanadas from El Bolsi.

 Later that evening our friends came by and grabbed us again to show us more of the city. Have I mentioned they are the best? We told them they didn't need to spend their holiday showing us around but they kept saying they wanted to...we owe them big.

They first took us to Cerro Lambare (Lambare Hill). It is a famous hill there that overlooks the city and has some statues of famous Paraguayans, including this statue of Chief Lambare, leader of a Guarani tribe.

 They later tried to take us to actually go inside of Palacio de los Lopez--government building--but it is currently closed due to a protest going on. There was an entire block close to the building full of farmers that live out in the country that have parked themselves there with little tarp coverings as a shelter demanding that their debt be written off, or something of that nature, not sure if I fully understood that conversation, actually, I'm sure I didn't. So that was a second bummer for us having something be closed that we had hoped to see.

We were, however, able to go into the little museum across from it and got another nice view of the building from there.
 We were there when they turned on the spiffy lights. And can we just talk about all the phone wires for a second? They are crazy down there! 

Afterwards they took us to one of their big malls. After my experience working in poorer areas of Argentina, it was so interesting to see more of the wealthy lifestyle in Paraguay. The mall was so big. It had a supermarket inside it, as well as a HUGE inflatable slide that went from the second floor down to the first. We stopped at a little orchestra performance outside of the mall for a few minutes--there were performances all over the city in celebration for the holiday. 

After the mall, around 8:00 p.m. they took us to a churrasqueria (steakhouse) where we met up with some of their family to celebrate. We were so surprised when we got there because the restaurant was empty. Darin and I both wondered if the place was very good since there were so few people there. We were just ignorant. Dinner really doesn't get going until 9 or 10 p.m. down there. Our friends just ate early because they know that's what we do and 8 was the earliest we could go and still have meat be ready. So thoughtful. Needless to say, the place was hopping by the time we left.

I apparently didn't take any pictures. Probably because I was so focused on socializing with our friend's family without looking like a fool. (Why is small talk in a second language so hard? Probably easier than the government talk Darin was trying to have with Alia's brother). I was also stuffing my face with all the meat I could. Pictures were the last thing on my mind. It was buffet style, so we could just walk over to the grill and ask to try all the different cuts of meat we wanted, which we most definitely did. 

It ended up being a very nice holiday for us. Loved spending it with out sweet friends who showed us how it's done.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Flights and Paraguay Day 1

Our trip! 

We drove down to PA on Friday afternoon, after Darin presented his final project for his intensive language class that he took during the summer. We got the kids all settled and then took off around 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning. We drove two hours to my friend Megan's house near BWI where we left our car and were off to the airport!

Let me just say, while flying, in general is not very comfortable, it is a dream to fly without kids. It feels oh so luxurious. (Although I definitely had moments where I wished I could see the kids faces as we got on the plane). I got to read, we watched the Office, we tried to sleep. Not bad. We got the Emergency Exit seats on 2 of our 3 flights which was really great for our legs, but kind of annoying for our heads/necks since the seats didn't go back at all. 

We flew to Miami first and got in around 3 p.m. We left there at 5 p.m. and got to Panama around 10 p.m. and then left there at about 11 p.m. and landed in Asuncion around 4 a.m. 

We got empanadas on our flight to Panama which I was obviously stoked about. They were definitely the worst empanadas we had the entire trip, but we didn't know that at the time and I was just so excited about them that it didn't matter.

On our flight to Paraguay we were given this really yummy (for airplane food) chicken with mashed potatoes. 

We were clearly exhausted from our partial night's sleep when we got in to Asuncion and ready to hit the sack. We exchanged a bit of cash we brought and got hosed a bit by the exchange rate they gave us. These dudes, totally taking advantage of us Americans at 4 in the morning--full on laughing at us behind the glass window while we tried to stumble through the process. That was embarrassing.  

We took a taxi to our hotel which was about 20 minutes away from the airport. It was hard to see much because it was so dark and rainy. We got to the hotel and my heart sank a little when we got inside. Not what I had been hoping for from a 4 star hotel, but then that was my fault for having set expectations. It was old and smelled musty. The pillows were paper thin. I feel so snobbish for feeling the way I did about our hotel, but I gotta be honest, I was disappointed. 

Thankfully we were so tired (and I was feeling really sick by this point--had to stop in the Panama airport and buy some cough drops. I think I went through like, 4 rolls of toilet paper in the week we were there to blow my nose. Oh man oh man oh man), so we fell right to sleep around 5:15 a.m. 

I had trouble going back to sleep after I woke up around 9:30, so I went down to get some breakfast and grabbed a yogurt and bread for Darin as well. He woke up a little later so that we could try and make it to the last hour of church. 

There was a church just a 15 minute walk away from our hotel (the one great thing about our hotel! The location!) The web-site said that they had sacrament meeting last, which was perfect for  us since there was no way we were going to make 9 a.m. church. However, we got there at 11 just to find out that that very day they had switched their schedule to have sacrament meeting last. So, we went to RS and EQ instead, which was still nice. It was a super tiny branch, there were 5 of us in RS. They were all older ladies and they were so sweet and cracking me up because they all had big coats on and were freaking out because I was wearing short sleeves (it was around 65 degrees--which for them really is cold, clearly). 

 View from the second story of the church.
 It was fun to walk around the city with it being so quiet. So different from what we would see during the week. People don't really seem to go anywhere on Sundays, especially Sunday mornings. Everything was closed and it was just so quiet!

It was hard to find a building without graffiti on it. 

Stray dogs! Bringing me straight back to my mission. 

We went back to the hotel to rest some more. Darin tried to set up some interviews and I tried to do some editing--I was already so behind by this point from not working much on Friday or Saturday while we prepped for the trip and traveled. Unfortunately, the internet at our hotel was pretty awful, so it took me sooooo long to get through stuff and I never actually caught up until we got home from the trip. That was stressful. And frustrating because I had planned to zoom through my work so that I could just relax and read and enjoy some me time (or at least rest so that I could feel better), but most of the time I was just ssslllooowwwllllyyy working and quickly complaining. I might not have been the most pleasant to be around at certain points of the trip.

With that said, the evening of our first day in Paraguay was lovely. Our sweet friends Alia and David came by to pick us up around 4 p.m. They took us to their apartment and fed us a yummy spaghetti/sausage dinner. We got to try Chipa Guasu which is a traditional corn/cheese bread that they eat down there.

The view from the balcony of their 8th floor apartment was beautiful:

They then took us down to the Costanera (little boardwalk by the river front). We walked around down there and saw the Palacio de los Lopez (Palace of the Lopez??). It is where the president of Paraguay has his office.
The lights on the outside were an interesting touch.
 It was just amazing to see Alia again. We only just met last semester while her husband finished up law school at Cornell, but I can't help but feel like Heavenly Father gave us this friendship for a reason.

We walked around outside and watched the sun set. They said that most days the boardwalk and beach is packed with people, but because it was only in the 60s that day (which was the coldest it got while we were in Asuncion), not many people were out.
Before dropping us off they took us to a mall to buy a chip for my cell phone so that we could add 3G to use GPS and Whatsapp to contact them. Are they not just the greatest friends? They really are. We would have been lost without them.

On the way back to the hotel we drove past the temple. We had planned to do a session during the week, but of course I forgot my recommend. Classic Brillante. I always have my diaper bag, even when I don't have my wallet, so of course that's where I left it. It was still fun to see, right there in the middle of the city.

It was hard to see all the people in the streets begging for money--especially the kids. Coming up to the cars offering to wash your windows or sell you a small treat. Even when we were at the palace, a boy was there to "help us park," which basically meant he  pointed to where we should park, but David told us that you will regret not paying them something when you come back to your car and see what they have done to it, so it's better just to give them something. 

It was a long exhausting first day with lots of ups and downs. I was really just so thankful for our good friends this first day. They were just what I needed to help me feel welcomed and loved in their country. They are the best.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Anna Visits Ithaca

We just got home from Paraguay yesterday. I had big plans to blog our adventures daily while down there, but then I got a cold right before we left and our internet was awful and I could barely get through any of my work let alone think about blogging. So, hopefully I can get some updates up here soon, but first wanted to throw these pics up from the week before our trip when Anna was here in Ithaca with us. She was so sweet to watch the kids for us while we went down to PA for a National Parks concert and then stuck around until we left. We loved having so much time with her!

We had a picnic dinner at the Thursday night Farmer's Market with homemade ice cream afterwards.

The little beggar working her magic.
Leans in a little closer.
Success! I mean, how can you say no to her?

At the Science Center checking out the snakes. Anna is fearless.

We went to Flat Rock one evening after Darin got home. The kids enjoyed looking for Crawfish with Anna.
There is a certain spot in the river with a great flow and Shae loved "sliding" down it over and over and over again.
Daddy was at the end to stop him.

We went to Taughanock beach one morning for play group. Belen sat with all these summer camp kids for so long watching them bury this boy and then was fascinated when he pushed himself up and out of the sand.
Sunday afternoon stroll at Treman State Park down to see Lucifer Falls.

I couldn't decide which one of these pictures I liked the best, so I'm just posting all of them. I'm the only one that looks exactly the same in all of them.

So glad these kids are back in my life. While a break was definitely nice, I missed them like crazy.

She could not stop climbing all the rocks.

We love you Anna! Thanks for chilling with us for so long!