Chapter 1HEIDI PART I
I watched Ricardo playing with the dogs out in the yard. I was struck by how out of shape he was getting and it worried me a great deal. My son was only eight, and like my other three children, he had become overweight.
Don't get me wrong, I am not overcritical with my children, but I do worry for their health.
Let me introduce myself, I am Raul, and my wife Paula and I live in the rural countryside of Paraguay in South America. Like many ranchers in the Chaco region, we primarily raise cattle for income and food. We have a happy life here, and are definitely considered in the upper income class that has allowed to lead a very modern life, especially by Paraguayan standards.
We have acres of land, a beautiful house, servants and a wonderful family. We have always been able to afford most anything we want. We have four beautiful children: Larisa (sixteen years), Angela (twelve years), Marcela (ten years), and little Ricardo (eight years).
For the children, it is a quiet, peaceful life. They all enjoyed it, except for Larisa, who was getting to the age where she desires more social contact with her friends. A short distance away is a town where she can shop for clothes, etc. but her favorite thing is to make the long trip to the city of Asuncion where she can shop and hang out with her friends and feel not so much like a country girl.
Let's see...back to the story. As I mentioned, I had become worried about Ricardo, and all our children, for that matter. We are proud of being able to provide a good life for them, but they have it a little too good. They have satellite TV, video games, movies, all the things we hear the children have in America. They also have all the food they want.
We live on a cattle ranch, so meat and dairy products make up a big portion of our meals. We have servants to prepare the food and they do an excellent job, making anything from a hearty BBQ feast to a delicate flan for dessert.
Like modern children, they also have a hunger for store-bought junk food like pies, candy, cookies, cupcakes, and potato chips. These things are sometimes hard to get here in Paraguay, but as I said, we are lucky enough to be able to keep our pantries stocked.
Needless to say, our kids have all gotten a little lazy and chubby. They are not obese, at least not yet, with Larisa at 155, Angela at 160, Marcela at 140, and Ricardo at 135. My wife and I may live a modern lifestyle, but we are no nutritionists. We have tried to tell the servants not to make or give the children too many snacks between meals, but they are very traditional and have a hard time refusing a hungry child. They know of the endless supply of food we have and can't see the logic in moderation.
As it happened, I was reading an American newspaper that we acquire through the mail. I saw an article about a program that was being run by a student exchange organization in the U.S. called AFS. What caught my eye was the headline, "STUDENTS HELP KEEP THE WORLD IN SHAPE."
As I read on, it described a new program that would send an American student abroad to teach families in other countries about good nutrition and exercise. I read of the increase in worldwide obesity that had triggered the start of such a program. I showed the article to my wife, and we immediately thought it would be a great way to help our children shed the extra weight. We decided to call AFS the next day.
"You sound like the perfect family," said the women on the other end of the line. "We want to give our exchange personal a chance to absorb the culture of another country as well help the family they are visiting. You sound like a family that can more than provide for an extra person."
I told her that it sounded good to us as well and said to go ahead and find a candidate. My wife and I breathed a sigh of relief and felt contented in the fact that we were on our way to helping improve the health of our young ones.
A few weeks later, an official looking envelope arrived from the AFS. "Meet your new TRAINER," said the letter inside. Included was a biography and picture of "Heidi Garrity."
My wife and I looked through the biography, "Let's see, Minneapolis, MN...22 years old...has a 2-year degree, taking a break from college...speaks English only...interests: working out, dancing, singing....will stay as for as short as six months, or as long as two years."
Then I got to her picture. "Whoa," I said under my breath.
"Don't get too excited!" my wife scolded me. “She's less than half your age, you dirty old man.”
I do have to say between you and me she was, without a doubt, very attractive. Milky skin with dark black hair and beautiful face. She reminded me a bit of the American movie star, Catherine Zeta Jones.
Indeed, she was a beautiful girl in person, too, I thought, as she stepped off the plane. Our family greeted her warmly as we walked to our car. She wore fairly tight black pants, and a tight tee shirt. She was about five-six, dark hair and eyes, moderate-sized breasts, shapely and lean (not really athletic or toned though, which I though was odd, but not at all fat either). I would have guessed her to be about 125-130 pounds.
As we made the long drive back home, we talked and tried to get to know our new guest. My wife and I had studied English in school, but were a bit rusty, but soon got along just fine. The children seemed to be in awe of Heidi from the start. I think it had to do with her being American and of course, her beauty.
"Oh, look at these chubby bellies!" she said, grabbing at Angela's fat rolls. "We'll do something about this!" she said crossly.
Right away, I noticed she had a sharp tongue and always said what she meant. She seemed a bit of a control freak, too. I guessed she had to use that personality to gain respect from the children, as she would be in effect "bossing them" around while working them back into shape. This aggressive technique was fine by us, how else could she break their lazy habits?
"This is a beautiful country," she told us as we drove the last hour or so.
"I haven't even seen your house yet and already I feel like home!"
We told her she was welcomed to stay with us for as long as she wanted, for it was in our interest to keep the children active and in shape for as long as possible.
"Let's plan on a year for now," she said. "I bet I will get very homesick if I think about spending more time than that!"
We told her that would be fine and we would take it as we went.
"What a paradise!" she said as she strolled around our ranch.
We had a truly wonderful yard and grounds. We then headed inside our large house.
As we all walked into the entryway, the 4 servants stood in a line awaiting us.
15 chapters, created 13 years , updated 53 years
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