April 5, 2009

Dinner and a Show

Some of the girls nextdoor in the Children's Home have used their Paraguayan ingenuity to work around "the law," but we're reaping the benefits, to be sure! To understand, I'll have to give you a little background to our situation. The younger children were in the habit of sticking their faces against our screen doors or window screens and calling out/singing to us or just "staring" for long periods of time, and the house parents set up a family rule to nip this habit. Granted, we just adore having them pop in and out and coming over for chats or hugs or cookies or drawing time, but we understand what the house parents are trying to teach the children. And it helps us get some school work done without an audience at times.

Now, out of respect for our privacy, they only come in after having been invited, and then only if they have express permission from the house parents. Well, the younger ones still come in and out, and hang out at the screens, but we don't say anything about that because there's no harm done. Admittedly, we ARE a curious bunch to look at. We've gotten used to it enough to no longer feel like we're animals on display at the zoo. It's actually kinda cute to see them plastered to the screen (sometimes licking it--I know, that's gross) or watch them trying to hide from us and still peek in to see what we're doing.

The older kids are extremely diligent about the "family rule," though, and they NEVER enter without their house parents' permission. They are clever, however, and often think up excuses to come over, like volunteering to do housework or needing a splinter removed, or wanting some help on a school assignment. The other day, Camille and the two oldest girls (15 and 13) worked out a plan for some playtime inside under the guise of housework. They asked if they could experiment in the kitchen. Are you serious?! Absolutely!!! Girls of even very young ages here are pros in the kitchen, so we're not talking about making play doh or throwing together a mud pie here. I knew when they said "experiment," it meant we'd have a wonderful meal that night, Paraguayan-style. I also knew it was a chance for Camille to be with her pals and learn some local "tricks of the trade," and for us to get to chat with them about life in general.

The wonderful thing about when REAL Paraguayans cook is that they can look at a basically empty pantry and come out with a feast. These girls are no exception. I was already lamenting what I'd be pulling together to make a meal, and feeling like I needed to make a grocery run. They see a few basic staples, though, and know just what to do.

Of course, before long, the other children noticed these two girls were missing. They kept coming to the door to remind them (as kids do) that they're not supposed to be inside without permission. But those two plus Camille just giggled and mixed and chattered and danced and baked and whispered and cooked for quite a while. And we all enjoyed a wonderful homemade pizza and chipa guazu.

Catching on to this, I had a "volunteer" to braid my hair around dinner time the next night. I'd been asking for corn-rows for a while anyway, so I accepted, thinking the timing was a little suspect. It wasn't long before she was joined by a second girl (these two are the next down in age from the first chefs) and they offered to cook dinner for us since I'd been having my hair done and "probably wouldn't have time to get a meal together." What's a girl to do? WHY, OF COURSE YOU CAN! So these two giggled and shared and sauteed and sang and stirred and diced and talked for quite a while. And we all enjoyed steak and rice and salsa.

And I was just saying that Ken gets the lucky break because his greatest outreach tools have been soccer and fishing. I guess I can't complain either, about getting to spend time with these young girls AND having a good meal to boot, can I? I can't wait to see who catches on to this dinner ploy and drops by tomorrow around that time!


  1. How fun--especially for the girls! Have these visiting girls expressed any desire to learn how to cook any "American" food? Are your girls learning Guarani from them or do they speak Spanish to you folks? Well, have a nice week!

  2. Nah, they aren't interested in our food, but I think it's because I'm a poor representative of American cooking. The kids here prefer to speak Spanish with mine, since Camille and Caroline can understand them that way. I think they tire of "teaching" the Guarani. I prod them into helping me practice sometimes, though, and often I find out words I thought were new Spanish words for me are actually Guarani...


Wanna leave a comment? Be nice, please, and if you can't, at least leave your email address...