Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. That is the sound of December and January here in Paraguay. Summer is here and with a vengeance. What goes plunk plunk plunk you ask? That is the sound of mangoes hitting the ground in the backyard every 3.7 seconds. Mangoes are in season, as are a variety of other fruits.
While you are listening to Jingle Bells and snuggling on the couch to the soft crackling sound of a nice fire, we sometimes feel like we are living inside the fireplace. Many of us here have the lofty goal of keeping it below 100*F inside the house. While you sip hot coffee in the morning, we chug water from a garden hose attempting to stay hydrated. But apart from the heat, summer is a really fun time in Paraguay. Mostly because of the fruits that are in season.
You know that Christmas is coming when you start seeing watermelons and pineapples sold on the streets. Maybe you don’t think of those things being Christmassy, but think about it. What could possibly be more like Christmas than a bright red and green watermelon? Our family enjoys shopping at a market where all the fruit comes in before it gets distributed to grocery stores. Besides being better prices than the store, we are amazed with the quantity of food there is at this market. The watermelons in particular are fun to see. They stack them up in these giant pyramids that make the pyramids of Giza look like termite mounds (…slight exaggeration…)
If you like pineapples, then you would love Paraguay. Paraguay has their own variety of pineapple that is much smaller than the pineapples that we are used to from Hawaii. But the pineapples here are much sweeter, juicier, and you don’t need to cut out the core. At the market we like to pick up a crate of 24 pineapples. Today that cost us $7.
Beyond watermelons and pineapples, there are also apples in season, peaches, bananas, grapes, plums, oranges, and Brazilian mangoes. Back home you kind of have to limit your fruit intake just because buying fruit gets pricey fast. But here, it’s one of the cheapest things we can eat. When we buy a bag of 100 oranges for $10, we tell the kids to eat as many as they want and as often as they want.
As missionaries, we aren’t just learning how to live here. We are studying the culture. Sometimes people assume that means we study all the dark spiritual beliefs that exist in the country and how to effectively share truth in that situation. While that is part of it, there is a simpler side to studying culture as well. It’s called material culture. Material culture is what the name implies. It’s the side of the culture that is tangible. This culture information is equally important for us to know.
Where does the people’s food come from? What kinds of food do the people eat? How do they prepare certain foods? How does the food get from the farm to the roadside stands? What is the network of relationships that make that possible? If someone wanted to open up a roadside fruit stand, how would he go about it? These things are equally important if we are truly going to become people who can operate “normally” in this society.
So, even a shopping trip to the market can be a learning experience. Our little Jonas is eating solids now, so Jen sent me to the market to buy apples in bulk so she could make some applesauce for him. I went and talked to a guy who had a box of 125 apples. The price was amazing. I was half surprised he let me buy a box from him, because he told me that he mainly did business with grocery stores, not individuals. But buying a box from him allowed me to be able to ask a bunch of questions. Where did these apples come from? How often do you receive shipments? How long have you been in this business? How many boxes of apples do you sell on average a week? The answer to the last question shocked me. To fully appreciate his answer, you need to picture the scene. This guy is just one store in a “strip mall” of probably 30 other guys selling the exact same apples as him. There are a lot of people who get apples and sell them in bulk. Turns out this guy sold 1,500 boxes of 125 apples on average per week. Then remember that there are probably 30 other stores in this one spot doing the same amount of business. That is a lot of apples.
We try to take advantage of normal routine activities to always be learning new things about the culture. Slowly but surely we are growing in our understanding of this country that we now call home. Pray for us we continue to press ahead in our national language and culture study.