Wednesday, April 30, 2008

APRIL 2008

My kids walking to school


Jeff and I went to Maria Auxiliadora to take blood pressures and listen to the hearts of 30 7th and 8th graders so they could participate in PE. My observations:

When we arrived the 7th and 8th graders were outside raking up fallen leaves, hoeing weeds the lawn, taking a machete to bushes and laying rocks around trees. Paraguayans are such hard workers. You’d be hard pressed to find a group of young kids doing this kind of work in the states (community service assigned by a judge doesn’t count).

The PE teacher wasn’t there yet so we sat outside between the pre-school and first grade classroom. The entire 30 minutes we were there, no teacher stood p to teach. In fact, the preschool teacher spent the entire time in the first grade room gabbing. The first grade teacher was on the phone, out of the room, and talking to other teachers. The kids in both classes were staying in their seats but talking amongst themselves. It never ceases to amaze me when I walk past my kid’s school that the teachers are always outside gabbing with each other. I was asked to take pictures of Ginny’s class. One sunny day I walk her to school with my camera in hand. As I lead the kids under a tree to take their individual pictures four other teachers leave their classrooms and come to see what is going on (including Pearla, Joshua’s teacher). I glance at my watch. After I take the pictures, the teachers and I talk for awhile and I am offered terere. 45 minutes have passed when I decide to leave. That means that Pearla’s class of 30 pre-schoolers was 45 minutes without a teacher in the room!

The 7th and 8th graders were asked to fill out a form before we did their physicals. The form had “tough” questions on it such as name, date of birth, and today’s date. The kids had so much trouble filling them out. They had to be walked through it step by step by step and even then they were so confused and put things in the wrong spot. Some of the kids didn’t even know their birth date. The teacher reminded them to check their cedulas (i.d’s) to find their b-day.

Each kid had to pay 500gs for the photocopying of the physical form. Each time Ryan has exams in school he has to bring money to cover the paper and photocopying.


The McKissick family has set a new record this week for the number of piques (burrowing flee) found in a 12 day period. The total was…..29. Lots of needles, tears, and band-aids. As a result we have heavily sprayed our yard and dipped our dog’s feet in gasoline to kill their piques.

Ryan – eight on his toes

Joshua – two big ones on the top of his foot, two on his toe, three on his finger

Jeff – three under toe nails, one on bridge of foot

Amy – two under toe nail, one on bridge of foot

Tyler – one on finger, one on toe

Micah – one on toe, two on finger

Ginny – two on toes

Ginny with a pique on her elbow

Paraguayan Supper

Tonight was the first time Jeff and I had Paraguayans over for dinner. I tried to make the meal and atmosphere more Paraguayan and less American. Here’s what it looked like:

  1. In the morning we killed one of our ducks. It was the first for Jeff and me and luckily our house help was willing to show us how. Actually Jeff did the killing and most of the plucking. Jeff chopped off the head and legs and Nilsa helped me gut it and get it ready for the oven. The whole event took about 3 hours. My friend Ceserina just had baby number 6. She told me that she kills a chicken everyday for their noon meal. I cannot imagine doing that everyday!

  1. In the afternoon I squeezed about 40 oranges. We had been given several sacks full by neighbors and patients. Paraguayans often offer fruit juice when you go to visit them. They like their juice very sweet and therefore put in a lot of sugar. Citrus season is just beginning and already we have had a plethora of oranges, lemons, and tangerines given to us. I am sure that this year will be no different than the last; by the time the season was over we didn’t want to see another orange! Paraguayans don’t drink anything with their meals. They will drink afterwards. This was the case with our guests. Each one refused a drink when offered. Many people here have frequent headaches, dizzy spells, and weakness. People here are dehydrated all the time. They admit to only drinking water with their terere (terere is a dieretic). Summers here are hot and people work hard and walk long distances, yet they don’t consume liquid.

  1. Paraguayans eat mandioca with every meal (with the exception of breakfast) so of course I had to serve it. Mandioca is a root, longer and wider than a potato. It is tougher than a potato and the inside is stringy instead of soft. It doesn’t have much taste. I like mine with salt. Ryan will only eat his with ketchup. There is no shortage of the stuff. Most Paraguayan men grow it in their field and bring bags and bags home. They also feed it to their animals. Our neighbor gave me a sack with the biggest mandioca I have ever seen. I spend a good hour peeling and cutting it.

  1. At 4:30 I put the duck in and at 6:00 I boiled the mandioca. I also made rice and a dessert of fruit. Paraguayans would never eat fruit with the main meal. They don’t mix sweet and salty tastes (meat being salty and the fruit sweet). They believe that you would get sick and could die from eating these things together. There are also many things such as mango, milk, and spicy foods that you cannot eat or drink before drinking terere. When they see us Americans doing it they say it is because we are foreigners that we don’t get sick or that we are use to it so if doesn’t affect us.

  1. I swept the front and side porch and made sure the house looked nice from the outside. Paraguayans like things to look nice. They say “pura pinta” which means picture perfect. It is important that the outside looks nice even if the inside doesn’t (hmmmm, is there a spiritual lesson here?). For example, it is more important for school reports to look nice (nice cover page, multicolored headlines, ect) than the actual content (this was told to me by a Paraguayan student!). You can really see this in Asuncion. The “look” is everything – flashy clothes, shoes, hair and jewelry. When I would go to the mall in jeans and a t-shirt I would always feel so underdressed.

  1. Paraguayans always use a table cloth. Although we never do, I had one just for this occasion. And actually Florentina brought me a table cloth as a gift. Our family uses plastic plates because of the kids handling them but this night I got out my clear blue glass plates which are typical here (usually seen in brown) and my 8 not matching glass cups.

  1. Late afternoon I changed my clothes. Paraguayans taken a shower around 4:00 and change clothes. I have been told that people who don’t change their clothes all day are either lazy or very poor. Also, Paraguayans dress up a little bit when they leave the house. Once when I went to picked girls up unexpectedly for a movie night all 7 girls said they had to change first. The “new” outfit wasn’t any nicer or cleaner than the first.

  1. Paraguayans would prefer to eat around 9:00 but we asked our guests to come at 7:00. I was surprised when they showed up at 6:30. We fed the kids earlier and gave them instructions to come out and visit for a while before starting a movie. Paraguayans would have included their kids but for us it was easier this way. Paraguayans are so good with children and very excusing of bad behavior (which isn’t always a good thing). Greetings are very important here so I made sure the kids knew to shake everyone’s hand and greet them individually. They made me proud!

  1. We ate outside where we eat all our meals. It is very Paraguayan to eat outside. The weather was beautiful. The duck was delicious. The teenaged daughter washed all the dishes even though I told her not to do them and that I could do them in the morning (I didn’t want her to see all the things in my kitchen). It is in their nature to help. I am very impressed by their initiative and helpfulness.

  1. At 9:30 when all was eaten and good-byes were said I felt pretty good about the evening. I picked up the rest of the things and put the table cloth aside to be washed (Paraguayans use the table cloth for a napkin).

Albert the duck just before death

Burning the hairs off the duck



If I lived her 30 years I would still not understand completely the political situation here and how it has affected the country and the Paraguayan people. The Paraguayan government is known throughout the world for being very corrupt. The Colorado party has ruled for 60 plus years. The way I understand it, if you vote for the “right” party certain favors will come your way (jobs). For example, our district is known for being very Colorado (I guess like some US states as known for being Republican). ALL the teachers in this area have to vote for the Colorado party r they loose their job! We asked our house help if this way true (she is currently studying to get her teachers certificate) and she said confirmed it saying that she too was threatened – if she didn’t vote Colorado in the election, she would have no job when she finished. The nurses at the health center also must vote for the Colorado party or fear loosing their jobs. The director of the health center has his job due to politics – how else can someone with just a 6th grade education have such a high job! One family that we have spend a couple nights with before the elections were scared of what will happened to their own jobs if Colorado didn’t win. The wife works as a janitor in the health out post but only because her husband agreed to be a key person in our community promoting the Colorado party (there are about 5 of these men who act kind of like spies for the party). They have two daughters who work jobs in another town “because the family votes Colorado). Voting isn’t secretive here like it is in the states either. After voting you give your paper to men sitting at a long table. They look at it and do as they wish.

Last week the elections took place and the Colorado party did not win. The new president, Lugo, will take office in August. We are in for change although I am not sure how much or what kind.

Here’s a blog entry for a fellow missionary serving in Paraguay:

There's a new hope in the air after last weekend's elections. Many could hardly believe that the reign of the Colorado Party was finally over. The atmosphere at work on Monday was reminiscent of the 1997 defeat of the Conservative Party by Labour in the general elections. Everyone was smiling and no-one talked about anything else. Newspapers are calling the 20th April 2008 the second most important date in recent history (after the 3rd of February 1989, when the dictator Stroessner died). It is the first time ever that power has passed from one party to another without bloodshed. According to one commentator, Lugo's win has brought back the desire to live in this country where so many have known nothing but disappointment, broken promises and corruption for so long. Many Paraguayans who have gone abroad in search of work are now considering returning because of this change. No-one knows just what Lugo will do once he takes control of the country, but people obviously have faith in him; he inspires confidence in a way the Colorados had not done for a long time.

Leftist ex-bishop ends 61-year conservative rule in Paraguay

AFPBy Laurence Thomann AFP - Monday, April 21 08:38 am

ASUNCION, (AFP) - A leftist ex-bishop Monday celebrated his historic electoral triumph in Paraguay's presidential election after defeating the ruling party candidate and ending 61 years of conservative rule.

Fernando Lugo was declared the winner by the Electoral Tribunal with nearly 41 percent of the vote compared to almost 31 percent for Blanca Ovelar of the ruling Colorado Party, crushing her dream of becoming the South American country's first woman president.

"Today we can dream of a different country," Lugo, 56, told reporters late Sunday. "Paraguay will simply not be remembered for its corruption and poverty, but for its honesty."

Ovelar, whose party has been in power since 1947, conceded defeat before the final results were released.

"I recognize the triumph of Fernando Lugo," she said. "We acknowledge with dignity that the results of the presidential contest are at this point irreversible."

Another candidate, Lino Oviedo, 64, a retired army chief who helped stage a coup that ended the 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989), trailed far behind in third place with 22 percent of the vote.

Lugo earlier addressed jubilant supporters of his leftist Patriotic Alliance for Change coalition at his campaign headquarters, saying the election showed that "the little people can also win."

"You are responsible for the happiness of the majority of the Paraguayan people today," he said as supporters chanted his name.

"This is the Paraguay I dream about, with many colors, many faces, the Paraguay of everyone," said Lugo, who was suspended from his religious order by the Vatican in late 2006 for his entry into politics.

His supporters began celebrating their anticipated victory setting off fireworks even before polls closed.

The Colorado Party has been in power for 61 years, including Stroessner's rule. Paraguay chose its first democratically elected president in 1993.

There is no runoff vote in Paraguay. Outgoing President Nicanor Duarte constitutionally could not seek re-election after serving a five-year term.

Turnout was a high 65 percent among Paraguay's 2.9 elegible voters, said Electoral Tribunal vice president Juan Manuel Morales, who announced the final results of the elections when 92 percent of precincts had reported.

Lugo's Patriotic Alliance for Change coalition earlier had feared fraud would mar Sunday's vote, but as 70 observers from the Organization of American States monitored ballot stations, electoral court chief Rafael Dendia said voting went smoothly.

Transparency International, an organization monitoring for voter fraud, reported some cases of corruption.

"We've seen voting cards being bought and money going around in some polling booths," one of the group's observers, Pilar Callizo, told Channel 4.

"We also saw Colorado Party teams inside and outside some polling stations creating an atmosphere of intimidation," she added.

Lugo's opponents have said he is in line with leftwing presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

But Lugo, while championing the rights of the poor, says he is more centrist as he seeks to overhaul a country with a per-capita income of just 1,900 dollars.

While Paraguay's formal economy relies on agriculture, corruption is pervasive.

Duarte made little headway in stamping out graft, which also sullied his own administration. Paraguay is a prime source of contraband electronics and cigarettes, most smuggled into neighboring Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia.

After election results were announced, Duarte vowed to help Lugo make a smooth and peaceful transition.

"Today we suffered an electoral defeat," Duarte told his Colorado Party, but added: "I want to stress that for the first time in Paraguay's political history, there will be a party-to-party transition without bloodshed, coup d'etat, without violence."



Saturday we had a mobile clinic. Jeff saw about 25 patients and I helped with the labs. I am thankful that our children enjoy playing outside because they have no trouble entertaining themselves during the clinic days. They climb trees, collect bugs, play soccer and have races. At this last clinic spot, there was a big pile of dirt which was irresistible for the kids. They jumped in it, slid down, rolled it in, buried their arms, and pretended to be sandman. Once I astonished to see Joshua (who is most prone to dirtiness) buried to his neck in the dirt I said, “Why are you getting so dirty?” His answer was simple, “You said we could take a bath when we got home.”

At 4:00 we arrived home and I, being the keep of the house, had my agenda:

1. Bath kids

2. Start laundry

3. Do dishes.

4. Bath myself.

Only it didn’t work out that way because we had no water! I brushed the kids off out side as much as I could but they were still dirty. The laundry baskets were overflowing but they too had to wait. My kitchen was a mess. We had a family of 5 stay with us the night before and we had put off doing the dinner and breakfast dishes. My sink and counters were piled with dirt dishes. For me, it is hard to do anything else if my kitchen isn’t in order. It kind of stresses me out. However, I was very optimistic that the water would come back on shortly. Afterall, we go without water all the time but only a couple hours at a time.

Bedtime for the kids came and still no water. My bed time came and still no water. I raced to the sink first thing Sunday morning and still no water. By now almost all the 2 liter bottles that I keep for an emergency water supply were used up. Monday, since there was still no water, I went to our neighbors to ask if they’d heard anything on the radio. She looked at her watched and said, “Right now it will come on but only for a little while.” I raced in the house and put water in every container I could. I filled sinks and buckets, I turned on the shower in hopes to get wet (by now I was so over due for a bath) but water never came out. Finally Tuesday morning the water returned.

Here’s the spiritual application: during those days with no water I kept thinking, “If I only had known, I would have filled up buckets ahead of time and been ready.” How many people when Christ comes will say the same thing? “I wish I would have known. I would have made my life ready. I would have prepared for his coming.” On Monday I had that opportunity. I knew it was on but going off soon. I rushed and I prepared. I did the dishes and watered the animals all in a short amount of time. We do know that Christ will come although we do not know when. We need to live our lives like those 15 minutes when the water was on. We need to do all we can to get ready for his coming. Part of our responsibility is to tell others about his return.

Bath time!


To celebrate Jeff’s 32nd birthday we went to our team mates house for dinner. The Stout family also joined us.

Jeff's birthday dinner

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