I live with a family here in Asunción. That family consists of Fatima, the most well-known biologist in Paraguay (and likely South America,) who is a resident of WWF, and her 87-year old mother.
Fatima pretty much works all the time and is rarely around the home, but for Sunday Family Lunch, and occasionally for a short period of time in the evenings. This means that her mother, let’s call her Abuela to make things easier, is home alone most of the time. Oh wait, except that I am home with her.
Abuela started to leave her impressions on me from early on. She is 87. She loves to travel and most recently returned home from a trip to Israel. She has a very active social calendar, meeting friends at Confiterias (bakeries), going to church, and sitting outside on the front sidewalk with all her friends in the neighborhood, (usually about 4-5 other women from the olden days.) She exercises multiple times a week, taking half hour walks around the neighborhood, usually with her friends and neighbors. And every Saturday morning she cooks a huge meal for her family, myself included.
This is not a woman who is “old” or frail in any way. She still has the same zip I would imagine she had 10 years ago. Only maybe a little more set in her ways than she might have previously been.
Living with Abuela has been a true learning experience, partially in learning how to cook with a gas oven and stove, but primarily in patience. I am beginning to understand what it means to live with other people, as for three years I had my very own studio apartment in NYC. And I am learning what it means to hold back annoyance and frustration.
Abuela does not like when someone cooks “too much” as it wastes gas, which was recently in short supply in Paraguay, (you can read about that here), uses two different lights within the kitchen at the same time, doesn’t unplug the washing machine after using it, accidentally leaves their air conditioning unit on when out at a play, and lastly, when she doesn’t trust that you will know how to properly lock up the house when going out for a while.
Yes, living in this house has taught me many things. I am grateful to have my own casita (little house), but I must admit that entering the Abuela zone at mealtimes is an experience all it’s own, where I will likely hear about the wrong-doings of the day over a cup of yogurt, or a hot stove.