By Lou Margulies
My husband and I had heard of the illness, “Habititus,” and we have come down with this malady, hard. For those as yet unenlightened, once you participate in a life-changing Habit for Humanity trip, you succumb to this life-altering disease. Its reoccurring and annual onset esulted in our second HH trip … to Paraguay last month.
Due to my husband’s career as a cameraman in the movie industry, we have visited unique locations and have had access to places not well-traveled.
Although we do extend ourselves as ambassadors on the foreign sets, the most effective manner to experience traditions and learn of other cultures is to work side by side with the “locals.” Picking up the mortar trowel or digging a foundation in knee high water certainly breaks the ice! Although communication between two languages is frequently of the hand gestures and pointing variety, there is no mistaking the love being extended and demonstrated on the work site.
An equally important way to demonstrate Paraguayan camaraderie is to communally share terere, a tea. A bit hard to get over the one silver-plated cup and one straw phenomenon but apparently the sincere desire to share with your neighbor eliminates the possibility of exchanging germs!
Paraguay is truly a land of “the haves and have not’s,” … not much in between. We have seen beautiful and palatial homes, primarily built from cattle or soy bean money and of course shacks that defy our Americanized standards of living. On site we are building four houses, each at varying construction phases. One family of eight is hoping for a brighter future for their children and believes that education is the key to independence from poverty. The mother of this family has communicated her astonishment that our “gringo” women are working so hard; an illustration for her daughters that they can break the cultural norm of marrying young and only raising children.
We continue to be astonished that without the aid of power tools or sophisticated building materials, and using the resources immediately available, we and our families are able to build a home without the aid of Home Depot! With only two build days under our “construction belt” thus far, more life lessons will unfold … for both we, the builders, and homeowners alike!
It is gratifying to know our house building efforts will last a lifetime. I have a life principal, one of being an “Impact Player.” I believe this to be beautifully exemplified by those who participate with Habitat for Humanity.
Lou and Marc Margulies own the Laundry Annex, Aloha Sudz and the Mammoth Lakes Laundromat in Mammoth.