Happy Carrulim Day

Today is August 1, an (in)auspicious day in Paraguay.  It’s traditionally the day when Paraguayans drink Carrulim, a homemade concoction of sugar cane, root, and lemon that makes a potent, sour tonic that Paraguayans claim promotes health, happiness, and protection from maladies (in Korean culture, that honor is reserved for kimchi).  It’s an old Guarani belief that manifests itself in a spirit that is passed around a group of native Paraguayans and Guarani aficionados who believe they must drink Carrulim to survive from year to year.  (The Guarani represent the largest indigenous group in Paraguay–the Guarani language and culture are ingrained in the Paraguayan psyche.)  The word “Carrulim” itself is derived from the drink’s three main components.  I have to admit that I did not have a chance to try some Carrulim today, although my Guarani teacher promised to brew some for us to taste tomorrow in class.  ABC Color, one of Asuncion‘s three main daily newspapers, published an article (in Spanish) about Carrilum Day:
Today is also notable in Paraguayan history because of the Ycua Bolanos supermarket fire, a tragedy that left over 400 people dead and 400 injured.  It is single deadliest event in modern Paraguayan history since the 1930’s.  On Sunday, August 1, 2004, while hundreds of shoppers shopped, cashed paychecks, and ate in a large food court, a fire broke out in the large supermarket in Asuncion.  The owner alleged ordered all doors chained shut to prevent looting, preventing the victims from escaping.  Those brought up on charges were acquitted earlier this year, leading to extensive rioting.  The courts initiated a second review and may overturn the previous ruling.
Today also marks the day after the Supreme Court of Justice referred Lino Oviedo‘s case to the Military Court for possible amnesty.  The former general and head of UNACE, a opposition party, was recently absolved of culpability in the assassination of former Vice President Argana and the 1999 student massacre, paving the way for President Duarte and the Military Court to pardon him for his alleged involvement in the 1996 failed coup against former President Wasmosy.  It all adds up to a possible presidential run in 2008.  If Oviedo is pardoned, he would be free to run for president. 
Pass the Carrulim.  I think I need some.

The “Paraguay” Diet

Now that life is starting to settle down here in Virginia, I’ve focused more on getting in shape.  Once upon a time, I thought rather foolishly that I could go on the “Korean” diet and miraculously lose weight.  What’s the “Korean”diet?  Well, I’m not quite sure–I never figured it out.  It’s essentially the contention that most Koreans are in decent shape, despite the fact that Korean food–at least what you buy in the restaurant–is rather fattening, and not a few Koreans smoke, drink, and work too much (read:  sit most of the day at a desk).  I assumed that if I acted Korean, at least in terms of consumption and activity, I too would lose weight.  Au contraire (that’s French, not Korean).  I gained weight.  Someone let me know that Korean physiology lends itself to thinness, and I am of stout Anglo-Scandinavian stock that gravitates towards rotundity and portliness. 

So the “Korean” diet didn’t work.  Now that we are headed to Paraguay, I decided to go on the “Paraguay” diet.  So, what’s that?  Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with the cuisine.  As I understand it, Paraguayan cuisine is rife with red meat (read:  beef) and starch (something called “sopa,” a potato-ish vegetable).  The “Paraguay” diet has more to do with having a significantly heightened level of physical activity.  The January edition of the Foreign Service Journal rated Asunción, Paraguay one of the worst Foreign Service posts because it is so “boring.” (That is obviously an unscientific observation by someone who either doesn’t get out enough or needs to find some new hobbies.)  Frankly, boring is fine with me.  Boredom is preferable to bullets, blackouts, blizzards, and excessive beasties found at some posts worldwide.  It lets me focus on the “Paraguay” diet; that is, fill the down time with physical activity that necessitates the slendering of my body. 

Whereas the “Korean” diet focused on what I eat, the “Paraguay” diet focuses on what I do.  I’ve never found that dieting helps me lose weight, unless I completely cut out eating sugary foods.  My body responds much better to physical activity and beating it into submission by working out until I am sore (like today, when I rode my repaired bicycle back and forth from home to work. 

I’ve already started the “Paraguay” diet by doing sit ups, cycling, and walking as much as possible.  I bought a pedometer to measure my caloric burn rate, but so far, it’s been disappointing.  It’s disheartening killing yourself to burn 300 calories.  I’m hoping that by the time I arrive in Paraguay I will be so far along on my regimen that it will be easy to continue; bad streets, cobblestones, tropical weather, and petty theft be damned!