All creatures: great, small, ugly, mangy and beautiful

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Maria Gloria runs the Santa Maria hotel, an income generation project for the pueblo. This week, we had a storm, and as me and other friends from the pueblo posted photos on Facebook of hail the size of golf balls, she quipped: “maybe God is trying to give us the ice-bucket challenge.”

Between that, and chickens randomly marching in and out of the kitchen, and the circus folk apparently patrolling the streets to buy cats and dogs to feed to their huge tiger, it’s been an unusual week.

Animals are part of the narrative here. Today, there were three different animals on the grill: pig, beef and chicken. Meanwhile, one of the hens has been eating the baby chicks, so Demetria has decided to punish it. “It’s annoying. I’m going to kill it and we’ll eat it tomorrow.”, she said, as she delicately wrapped a bandaid around a little chick’s leg and kissed its head.

This week, we have had a sick dog Keke who needed an operation to remove a tumour the size of a small football. The operation was 150,000mil guaranies which is about $30-40 Australian dollars. Unfortunately, the vet seemed to do a $30-40 job, and the poor little bag of fleas was crying all night after her op. She is sleeping now, but we go to sleep at night nervous that we might find her dead the next morning. Then, the surgery started coming unstitched. The vet returned today after promising for three days that he was “on his way” “enseguida” (next thing). The dog is a bit worse for ware, and we are watching her closely. Continue reading

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How you can help with just $10

d57622ec-f44b-42cd-a68c-5a69cd67af45For three months, I have been working in Asuncion as a volunteer, and have had the privilege of listening to the stories of people who have been displaced by the floods.
Now, although I am living in Santa Maria in Missions, I have regular contact with the people there and their needs.
Paraguayans are extremely resilient, and have managed to find ways of making the best of an extraordinarily difficult situation. My aim is to do something small to make life a little easier for them, by adding some colour, hope, prayer and practical assistance to these barrios where they live.
We have started a small project called Planting-smiles.org where we are trying to make the temporary housing where they live a place of hope, and we have started by painting a large mural on three walls in Barrio San Miguel. We hope to continue this work, but, more importantly, respond in some way to the very basic human needs of sanitation, food and living costs.
Many of you have asked me for information about how you can donate a small amount to help in Paraguay’s floods. A little goes a long way, so I have developed a site which will accept donations that will go directly to projects on the ground, and to organisations that are directing funds appropriately. The organisation “Tapery” Paraguay is a partnership of Ignatian organisations which has been working in banados Norte and Sur, where the majority of misplaced people come from.

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Santa Maria de Fe in words and photos

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I’ve never lived in the countryside. I’ve always lived in cities, whether it be Canberra, Sydney, Phnom Penh, Managua or Asuncion, I’m a city slicker. It’s hard to describe the enormous change, and sense of relief I feel at this time in my life to be living in Santa Maria de Fe (Saint Mary of Faith), Misiones (missions) in rural Paraguay. Santa Maria is a small pueblo of what was once the hub of Jesuit missionary activity in South America during the 16th and 17th century. I am here as a volunteer English and piano teacher (piano lessons are just starting) working for an Institute founded by Margaret Hebblethwaite, a British Theologian and writer who has lived in Paraguay since 2000.

The pueblo runs at a gentle pace, and yet I’m not short of things to do. It’s a place where I can soak up beauty, rest, write, sing. The other day, I simply spent half an hour catching through the lens of my camera butterflies dancing from flower to flower. This morning, it was raindrops glistening on petals after yesterday’s rain storm.

The pueblo is poor, but it is a different type of poverty to the urban slums of Asuncion. The people walk with dignity, with less pressure to live the fast-paced urban life.

This is a place with no supermarket, just family run dispensaries which stock the necessities. The place has no resident parish priest, Fr Oscar SJ instead comes in each Sunday to say mass. There is no hospital, just a small health centre. There are no restaurants, but rather a couple of places where you can buy pizza, or icecream. There is a gym which costs 50mil guaranies a month to attend. Basically, 10 bucks! There is one hotel, again founded by Margaret as an income-generating project for the community. It is built in typical baroque mission style, with white adobe walls, terracotta tiles and the bedspreads and curtains are made of lace, crochet and wool in the traditional style of the people.

In the town plaza live a family of monkeys who I have yet to see on this visit. But, and old photo of them is included below 😉

Basic Ecclesial Communities are strong here, and my “mother” here Demetria is one of the lead animators of these groups. Twice this week she has quoted to me from the bible: “Through our baptism, we are priest, prophet and king”, and she takes her role seriously, attending whatever formation or retreat opportunity is on offer.

I live now in a house with three dogs, a cat, chickens, (which are being fattened up, but in the meantime, they have a happy life) and ducks. We have recently acquired 10 ducklings and Demetria is quite in love with them.