Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trip to Itaipu

Asuncion, across the river lies the Chaco, where I live
Asuncion from the top of the Hotel Excelsior where I attended an UNESCO/Itaipu conference about Education and Water


Our teeny tiny Christmas tree in my house.
Senior photo, anyone?
Cristina, the señora with whom I live

Monday Falls. (Pronounced Mon-da-uh (guttural)). It means the Neighborhood Waterfall in Guarani.


Puma, aka mountain cougar?

Close to the dam there is a zoo of animals indigenous to the Itaipu / Alto Parana region. Here is a monkey. He moved so fast I couldn't get a good photo of him.

Hi Brazil.

Me in the rain. Unfortunately the day we (me and an 8th grade class from my town) went to Itaipu, the dam was closed. Usually it is much more impressive because there would be massive amounts of water flowing behind me. You wouldn't see hardly any concrete. Just water.

That green land on the other side is Brazil

Itaipu dam, the largest dam in the world, at least until Three Gorges Dam in China is finished. It generates more electricity than any other dam in the world. It has 16 turbines.
Two of my neighbors

Tajy tree across the street from the municipality

Friday, December 5, 2008

Water Council, Thanksgiving fest report

Me sweating as a model a straw hat in the indigenous community in my town. This hat is handmade and only costs approximately 2 USD.
Me with my host grandparents in Guarambare. They are so cute.

This is me in the river in Piribebuy where I was visiting another volunteer.

This is Erik and I in his site after painting a world map in an elementary school. I painted Africa, much of South Eastern Asia, and Japan. Looks pretty good, right?

This next photo is of a road near the end of town in BB.

December 5, 2008

Since the initial assembly to elect the members of the Water Council for my town of BB, I haven’t heard any more news about meetings or advancements being made in terms of monitoring water quality and assuring that the fresh water that we have isn’t being contaminated or depleted.

The mayor was elected as the president of the Water Council, but it is difficult for him to manage because he has such a demanding schedule. Therefore things happen even more slowly than they normally do. Today some staff from the Environmental Ministry of the federal government came to hand out the official resolution of recognition of BB’s Water Council. The rough draft of the Statute of the Water Council was also distributed and read, outlining its responsibilities and abilities. One of the city council members from the municipality suggested that we form small work teams for each neighborhood in our town to go from house to house to interview each family about from where their water comes, and to explain the importance of keeping sources of contamination away from water wells. Eventually, the goal is to place meters in each water well to measure how much water is being pumped and at what rate, to prevent it from drying up. I am not sure how the drying up happens; to me it seems that as long as there is rain, there will be the possibility of fresh water from the wells. Obviously it is possible for the fresh water to run out temporarily, but as soon as it rains again and the water filters through the ground, there will be more fresh water in the well.

This past week has been divine in terms of weather. It has felt more like an Ohio fall than a Paraguayan summer; thank heavens. The week before the heat was terrible. I could hardly sleep at night because my room was so hot. Unfortunately I only have one ceiling fan. I am on the verge of buying a floor fan to put right by my bed so I can survive the heat.

My G, aka my group that I came to Paraguay with me way back in May, is about to finish our first four months of service. That means PTIP reports—Plan de Trabajo y Informe de Progreso (Work Plan and Progress Report) as well as the Volunteer Report to fill out for turning into Peace Corps. The PTIP is for Peace Corps Paraguay and the Volunteer Report is for Peace Corps Washington DC, the latter certainly related to funding and putting together hard statistics about what Peace Corps is doing with the money Congress gives it every year. If I remember correctly, our country director said our annual budget is around 330 million USD.

I would like to shout out to all of you that have sent me letters and packages. The new music in particular is greatly appreciated J. Now I can rock out to the latest United States pop music. My current favorites are “4 Minutes” featuring Madonna and Justin Timberlake, and “American Boy” featuring Estele and Kanye West. I don’t care if the lyrics are a bit cheesy; I can appreciate them and the beats are catchy.

Speaking of music, it seems a bit ironic that I was listening to The Drifters’ “White Christmas” as I contemplate the idea of roasting here on December 25th, without any possibility of reprieve. Lucky for me, I have been invited to spend Christmas on the beaches of Montevideo. Afterwards we are taking a boat to Buenos Aires for New Years.
I will let you know what’s good.

I am getting pretty tan these days, although I can’t beat the younger Karen from Wesleyan Woods pool days. The opportunity to hang out by the pool over Thanksgiving with other Peace Corps Volunteers definitely helped my tan.

Thanksgiving was a great time, complete with eleven pumpkin pies, two types of stuffing and a talent show in which I sang for the first time by myself in front of a group of people. Thanks to my friend Matt, who accompanied me on the guitar, I did a pretty good job with Jason Mraz’s “Absolutely Zero.” I messed up the lyrics a wee bit, but there is a lot of repeating with only a one or two word difference in each verse, not to mention that the song is almost six minutes long. It was a bit nerve wracking but I think it’s good to get up in front of people every once in awhile. The Saturday after Thanksgiving I went to the Jesuit Reduction Ruins not far from out hotel in the department of Itapúa in southern Paraguay. These Jesuit Ruins are the least visited UNESCO site in the world according to another PCV. They certainly deserve to be on the list; they are impressive. One of these days when my pen drive isn’t full of Trojans and viruses I will upload the photos here. My Catholic and Jesuit background made the excursion there more fascinating than it may have been for others. The ruins date from 1606, when the Paraguayan governor asked the Spanish king to send some Jesuits to Paraguay to “reduce” (therefore reducción or reduction) the indigenous people to one localized area. There was a quarry, from where all of the building materials for the school, church, bell tower and rooms for the Jesuits and the indigenous people came. We saw two jail cells, where indigenous people could choose to stay instead of being whipped as punishment for getting drunk or having relations with more than one woman. Our tour guide said that the indigenous people hated being alone and isolated so much that they always chose the lashes over solitary confinement. In the school, the Jesuits taught Guarani and Spanish. It seemed to have been a rather idyllic setting in some ways: all of their food came from the fields surrounding the settlement and there seems to have been a vibrant social life. I was surprised that the Jesuits did not come for their own mission but rather because the Paraguayan governor asked them.

Now I am going to head to my favorite cyber café to make copies of invitation of an upcoming meeting of all of the neighborhood commissions in town. I have surely attended my share of meetings, as have key members of neighborhood commissions; hopefully we will start working for something more concrete soon.

December 4, 2008

I’m doing what I said I wouldn’t as a Peace Corps Volunteer: teaching English. It’s not my project, nor do I want it to become a huge time consumer, but I really like it so far. It has structured my schedule significantly in just this first week. We only have class Tuesday and Thursday. I had 17 people say they were interested coming, or their parents told me they were interested. The first day of class only six people showed up, but today there were 10. Yay! I gave my first homework assignment today, too. It is empowering to share my knowledge with others and I love that I have to present what is in my head in an orderly fashion so that others can understand. It makes me fine-tune my knowledge and learn more details about what I already know so that I am better prepared for questions.

The first class I could only fill 40 minutes, but today I went for an entire hour! It went pretty fast. The students are between 13 and 17 years old, and I already knew the majority of them before the class started. There are mostly girls; today there were four boys and six girls. All of them want to learn and improve, which makes it more fun to teach and motivates me to develop better activities that will help them learn more.

After the English class, I went to the muni to do I knew not what. Right now there is a lot of deliberating about next year’s budget, which is good; for the first time it seems there was more research done to develop a budget that will legitimately cover the expenses of the muni. Unfortunately there is not enough income from the taxpayers to cover the projected expenses.

Monday, November 24, 2008

In-service training in Guarambare etc.

November 24, 2008

As of today I am no longer living out of my suitcase. I bought a wardrobe today from a local furniture shop; made out of a nice smelling wood. It has a mirror on the outside, which I am using to put my photos up. It is nice not to have to dig so much through my suitcases anymore.

I just returned from the indigenous community looking for a straw hat for another volunteer friend of mine. They cost only about 10 mil Guaranies, which converts to about 2 USD. I bought myself a necklace made out of seeds for only 8 mil Gs. The woman who runs the artisan shop, Ermina, speaks Guarani, another indigenous language called Qom (Kom), and some Spanish. It was nice to have to practice my Guarani because she didn’t understand Spanish that well. The problem with practicing Guarani is that most people speak Spanish as well, so if I am expressing myself slowly, my conversation partner reverts to Spanish to facilitate communication.

It is a steamy 92 degrees today, which makes today the hottest November 24th that I have ever experienced.

From last Wednesday until this past Saturday I was in Guarambaré, where my training group spent our first ten weeks in Paraguay, for our first in-service training. I stayed with the same host family, and in spite of my host dad saying that my Guarani is zero, I feel like I have progressed. Not as much as I had hoped, but progress nonetheless. The training consisted mostly of Guarani classes, but we also had a visit from our country director, Michael Eschelmann (an Athens, Ohio native). He asked us what our first three months in site were like and gave us an update on the interview process for our new Assistant Peace Corps Director for our sector, Rural Economic Development (my sector, Municipal Services Development, is included in this larger category).

The second afternoon our volunteer coordinator, who is going back to the States after three years in Paraguay (two as a volunteer and one as volunteer coordinator for our sector), showed us how to fill out progress forms so that Peace Corps Paraguay can report back to Washington DC about our activities. We have to state what age groups we work with, what gender and about what topics. The third afternoon of training we had a round robin session regarding civic education, environmental education, working with NGOs and also AIDS education. I missed the NGO and AIDS sessions but I got really good info from the environmental education session. There was a whole template for giving a workshop with youth about trash management. I am hoping to find some young people in my community to help give it along with another urban youth volunteer in Asuncion. Current volunteers gave all of the sessions.

I am proud to say that I was in the most advanced Guarani class with four other people, one other from municipal services development and the other three from rural economic development (they work with cooperatives). It was nice to be in class with people who knew more Guarani than I did because they challenged and motivated me. I have a lot of new grammar in my notebook and a nice handout of phrases such as, “Nde tavy ne akame,” which means, “You’re crazy in the head.”

After the last day of our reconnect aka in-service training, Laara, Julie and I went to Asuncion to buy our bus tickets for Christmas in Montevideo, Uruguay at the bus terminal. The trip will be 20 hours, not 28 as I expected. The bus is double-decker and we will be sitting in the front. I am looking forward to being on the beach and seeing another country. They uruguayos talk more like Argentineans, so it will be harder to understand them after being here in Paraguay for so long.

This week the majority of Peace Corps volunteers are celebrating Thanksgiving in Encarnacion, on the border of Paraguay and Argentina. We will have a traditional feast and there will be a talent show. I leave Friday morning early. I am bummed to have to leave my site again, because it’s not helping me to integrate more, but I am looking forward to seeing another city.

Hope everyone is doing well! Glad to see the Bucks beat Michigan! Woot!

A house in my town
Me hydrating with the people in the Chaco

A really cute kid. Adorable

The flooded area from when I helped to hand out food with the local government employees, now two weeks ago.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My first visit farther out in the Chaco!

Deputy in Paraguayan government, Enri Mineur. Us at a police station farther out in the Chaco but still in the district of BB, my town

A grandmother and two of her grandchildren in a flooded district. I went with the mayor of my town as well as others from the local government to hand out bread, noodles, meat, water, fruit juice, and other items to 35 odd families there

Chaco landscape

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hopefully I can put a video in the next entry!

November 14, 2008

The flies are out in full force now that each day we are getting closer and closer to the first day of summer. If Cristina or I leave any food out, we have to cover it; otherwise it will be covered with 20 flies in five seconds.

It gets so old introducing myself and telling people what I’m doing here in Paraguay, or rather what I should be or wish I were doing in Paraguay. I have introduced and attempted to explain myself, but people don’t seem to grasp what it is that I’m doing. The most difficult part about this whole Peace Corps thing is that there is so much time spent waiting for others to take responsibility, to fill you in on what’s happening and to clear up misconceptions and misunderstandings. Therefore I get jaded and discouraged because I feel like I’m not working and I’m not getting anywhere. It is impossible to quantify Peace Corps work until a year or more after a volunteer is in his/her site, by my calculations. It takes so long to gain trust from people and to understand the insane mix of Guarani and Spanish that isn’t completely Guarani nor is it completely Spanish. It leaves us students of Spanish and/or Guarani wondering why we bother to study any type of grammar constructs when most people here throw it all out the window.

I arrived in BB three months and five days ago. Some days I speak better Spanish and can remember more Guarani words than others, and other days everyone sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. You could turn on a white noise sound machine and Spanish/Guarani would sound the same to me. I now feel that I will never be able to listen to Spanish and understand it passively (without any effort or focus) as I can with English. It’s amusing to speak English after days of thinking mostly in Spanish and Guarani because the English words don’t come as easily. For that reason it’s easier to speak to other volunteers than people from back home simply because if I can’t remember an English word, I can just say the Spanish or Guarani and they will understand.

I was in Asuncion this week and met some of the G-22 group that is getting ready to close their service. I met one girl who is from Cincinnati and whose sister teaches in Mt. Airy. Like I have said before, there is not a lack of Ohioans in the mix here. There has been an increase in the number of Ohioans participating in Peace Corps in the last few years.

On Wednesday I was somehow not informed of the anniversary of President Rutherford B. Hayes awarding of the present-day Paraguayan department of Presidente Hayes to Paraguay instead of Argentina after the Triple Alliance War. As in the case of various international conflicts, a third party is often asked to intervene in the post-war settlements as a mediator. That someone was President Rutherford B. Hayes, born in front of my grade school, thank you very much. Eight United States Congress members were present there as well as the United States ambassador to Paraguay, not to mention the mayor of my town and my community contact, the secretary general of the municipality that is hosting me as a volunteer. I am quite bummed that I was not informed since I have some pretty close ties to good ‘ole President Hayes. Unfortunately, it’s only an illustration of how I have to take responsibility for what is happening in my town because it is rare that people just up and tell me.

Yesterday I had the adventure of finding the Encomienda Internacional Postal: aka a huge, partially wooded, dilapidated, rave-appropriate and scary warehouse on the edge of the city center of Asuncion. Loads of traffic passes by, but it’s creepy nonetheless. Besides, right behind it are sketchy government projects with mounds of trash and consequently flies and a most unpleasant odor. There are about four streets that all come together around this warehouse where I had to go pick up my package, and I was wandering around for about half an hour (after getting on the wrong bus and finally finding the right one) before I found the building. The most annoying part is that I passed right by that very warehouse without knowing on my initial entry into Asuncion that morning. Long story short, I had to pay 10,000 Guaranies ($2.50) to retrieve my package. Then I realized that I would have to carry it all over Asuncion as I still had to go to the ATM to get my money. So the postage lady offered me a transparent plastic postal bag to put all of my stuff in. My Nature Valley granola bars, contact solution, tampons and clothing (thanks, Mom!) for the world to see, ha ha. On days like that I wish I had a car so bad. When I get down I just have to remember that at least I’m not a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania or some super duper remote, hot, dusty place where I have to shower with a bucket and gather my own water.

Lately I’ve been walking around with crooked glasses and my nerdy clip on sunglasses on top of them. I tried to get them bent back into shape while in Asuncion, but the optometrist people told me that if they bend it anymore “back into place” they’re going to break my glasses. Of course they are my newer pair that I just got last year. I suppose this is where the one free pair of Peace Corps glasses comes in? Too bad they don’t cover laser eye surgery. If I could sit on Santa’s knee this year, I would ask him for laser eye surgery most definitely. I keep intending to investigate it in the internet café one of these days.

Last night I met a very mentally and emotionally mature girl of 14 years. She lives only two houses down from mine and that was the first time that I met her. She is very honest, direct and is interested in my presence here. I am excited to have met her because I think that she will be not only a friend but also a great starter for a youth group and a great helper for other projects I plan as I move forward here.

So, a summary of what I’ve been doing “work” wise:

I attended another neighborhood committee meeting last Saturday close to the indigenous community in our town. The purpose of the committee is to promote production projects to create more income. The committee members raise chickens to roast and then sell. Their request to the municipality for Itaipu royalties money was successful, and whenever the royalties money comes (next March, hypothetically), they will buy more chickens and have a huge freezer to preserve more chickens. Pretty cool.
The committee president invited me to her committee meeting on Saturday but I won’t be able to because the mayor invited me to go with some senators farther out in our state to hand out food and clothing to people who are experiencing a flood. Ironically they were in the throes of a drought but now have the opposite challenge. I am excited to see more of the Chaco! Yay.

I also visited my neighbor who ran for mayor in the 2005 elections. All elected officials hold office for five years, by the way. He is very active with youth in the community and has created the Center for Promotion of Young Protagonists (Leaders sounds better than Protagonists, but that’s the literal translation). He is a good community organizer…did I already talk about him? I believe that I did. Anywho, he gave me some leads on how I can begin working with youth as I smeared the blood of swatted mosquitoes on my leg in his infested electronics workshop. There is an Italian NGO that is leading leadership seminars the next three Saturdays about 200 meters from my house. Unfortunately I won’t be able to go tomorrow for the aforementioned reason.

However, he did give me the idea of starting a youth commission of volunteers to assist the neighborhood commissions with their fundraisers.
For example, if a neighborhood commission wants to have a raffle to raise money to build a school classroom, the youth can volunteer to go door to door to ask for donations etc.

Yesterday in the Peace Corps Office I handed in solicitation to participate in the Ahecha (“I see” in Guarani) Paraguay photography project for Paraguayan youths. I will hopefully be teaching four photography classes between January 10 and February 24th with five youths. I will develop selected photos and then put together a photography exhibit for my town. Later on I will exchange the BB youths’ photos with photos from other kids in another volunteer’s site. Next summer there will be a large exhibit in Asuncion of the best photographs. This past summer this year’s Ahecha (ah-hay-SHA) photos were on display at the United States Embassy’s 4th of July fiesta. It is a cool project because kids outside of Asuncion and other large cities have hardly any access to arts or cultural programs. Ahecha is a way for them to experiment with the art of photography at no charge to them.

Today there was a meeting in a rural school for seven neighborhood commissions whose focus is increasing their agricultural production. Some also have cows, horses, chickens, etc. There were some engineers and employees of our state’s capital’s agricultural credit bureau to give micro-credit to the commissions for them to expand. One of their main concerns is commercializing their products. There is no central market for their goods. I missed parts of the seminar because I was coordinating with the head of the municipal environmental department and consultants from the ORDAZUR project. ORDAZUR was the main reason that I attended the meeting. The latter stands for Ordering of the Urban Zone. Aka setting up a zoning structure for the future of BB. It is important to organize the industrial zones versus the residential and urban zones in relation to natural resources such as fresh water. It is a difficult project to explain but it will not be difficult to understand in the future as BB’s population keeps growing: for instance, when a school wants to expand into the same area that the cattle rancher wants to expand. If there is not some sort of zoning code, BB will be a veritable mess in no time. I am super interested in working with the environmental department in the muni, so I am on board for organizing the meetings to tell the neighborhood commissions and the industries in town about ORDAZUR. Unfortunately it’s just uber hard to explain especially to Paraguayans, most of who have no concept of zoning as Americans do.

If all goes as planned, I will be moving into my own place at the beginning of December. I have to look for a bed and refrigerator. I am trying to get some American friends to help me with the bed, and I already have found a nice wardrobe, table and nightstand almost across the street from my new apartment. The place is on the second floor, with a balcony, little kitchen, two bedrooms, bathroom and living room. I’ll be living behind and on the property of a friend of Cristina, the señora I’m currently living with. I am having second thoughts of moving, though, because of the expenses of buying all of the furniture, cooking all of my own meals, cleaning everything myself, etc. However, what I try to tell myself is that I’ll have more space to do my own work and space to host other volunteers when they come visit. I could wait until later to move, but I’m afraid that if I wait until I’m chomping at the bit to move out of my present situation, that same apartment will not be available. And it doesn’t appear that there are very many available places in BB. I also would feel bad backing out of my oral promise to the department owner that I am interested in the place and will move in at the beginning of December. But then again, I haven’t signed any contract, right?

I think that I set the record for longest written blog discourse in one sitting.

October 25, 2008

It had been trying to rain here for the past three days until it finally rained tonight for about 20 minutes. I could have stood in the rain the duration of the shower because it was so boiling hot today.

This morning I arose at 6 am to be in Villa Hayes by 8 am for the First Popular Congress of the Low Chaco in the Center for Ex-Combatants of the Chaco War. The chairs for all of the guests arrived at about 8:20, and the governor, mayor of my town, leaders of the Without Roof and Without Land movements (Sin Techo and Sin Tierra, respectively) arrived at about 9 am. At about 9:15 I assume the meeting began.

I was already a bit irritable on the way to Villa Hayes because the bus was wall to wall people, I felt dizzy because of my lingering cold or sinus infection (not sure which), then I had to walk all sweaty to the Excombatientes only to find out that all of the neighborhood commissions in my town came in a chartered bus for free an hour after I arrived. Lack of communication and information, I’d say.

In spite of my lack of attention span during the meeting that lasted until about noon, it was a promising event. There were a huge number of people, about 300, I’d say. The majority was there to voice their concerns about not having a home to live in or land to cultivate. At times the leader of the Sin Techos or Sin Tierra movements became so loud, booming and forceful in his speech that I got a bit annoyed. When someone gives a speech in a stern, strident tone, I get the impression that the voice is unwilling to reason with new information or other points of view. I can’t imagine the vociferous man retracting anything he says or admitting an error if he ever expressed one.

The heat and my lingering sickness made the meeting a bit of a waste for me because I couldn’t understand what was being said 96% of the time. It was so frustrating because it was an important meeting; about how to get financial support from the departmental government in Villa Hayes, but I couldn’t force myself to focus. I felt guilty when a great leader from my community approached me to explain the importance of the meeting and to ask me what I was interested in doing in BB. I usually start out vague and non-committal, simply because I don’t want to make promises that I can’t make. It’s true that I have interests in possible areas of work but I haven’t fine tuned the specifics yet. However, this leader of one of the most active neighborhood commissions and also head of the Department of Culture in the Departmental Government, invited me to his neighborhood commission meeting and was active building a school in his community about 20 years back: it goes to show that he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. The problem with many of the commissions in BB is that they don’t last more than two years. Did I already say that in another entry?

There was a toad in my room last night. I saw him again tonight. After returning from the cyber, he had disappeared. However I did see a small mound of excrement on the floor near the window. I asked my señora if toads poop like that; “I don’t know,” she responded. If it wasn’t that toad it must have been my idiot dog Lupi. She is blind in her right eye because a rat bit it, ha ha. I must be mean because I somehow find it funny. I think you just have to see my dog and know here personality to find it humorous that a rat got the best of her.

I still don’t know how I’m going to adjust to this heat. According to the Internet it was only 36 degrees Celsius today, but it sure felt like 104 with the humidity. If you include that factor, I suppose that it was. As I watched people enduring the heat and walking down the street, I got irked that I was not coping with the intense sun. The heat makes me crazy! But as soon as it subsides, I forget what it feels like, and how desperate it makes me for ANY relief--- a pool, ice, a refrigerator, ANY cold beverage, ANTYHING to distract me from the calor.

Wish me luck sleep in this nasty humidity tonight.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Update from the ciber

Photos from my trip to the local indigenous community when the German deputy visited two weeks ago: Above is the home of one family, to the left: men digging the hole for the water well. They would soon hit rock and have to move this excavating apparatus to another place, where they would hit rock again.
BELOW: The mayor of my town talking through the German deputy's German-Spanish interpreter about the water study and importance of the water well for the indigenous community. In the background is an active member of the indigenous community (in red) and the cacique (chief) of the indigenous community.

October 21, 2008

I saw a frog in the street tonight as I sat with my two señoras in front of our house. Its presence is the harbinger of rain tomorrow. I don’t know how the frogs can sense that rain is coming. After it starts raining, we usually see huge toads in our kitchen or in the street. Although rain enters our kitchen and leaks through the roof in some places, I welcome it because it has been in the 90s yesterday and today. On hot days such as these it’s so nice to have some ice cream or some fruit juice. Tonight we had watermelon and a mix of watermelon and pineapple juice that I bought at the depsensa (aka Mom and Pop convenience store). We threw it into a blender with some sugar, added some ice, and voilá. The cooking practice continues: last night I made soy empanadas; or rather, I went to the despensa across the street to buy some green pepper to add to the empanadas while the other señora who lives with me cooked the vegetables and soy. Nevertheless, I saw her technique and I will be able to do it by myself the next time! She used two tomatoes, two onions, soy (obviously), black pepper, oregano, basil and garlic. After that mix is cooked, I had to wait for it to cool. Then you put it in the store-bought empanada discs, fold it like a taco and close it, assuring there are no holes where the mixture within can escape. We cooked our empanadas in the oven rather than frying them in sunflower oil like most do. They are much better for you if they are baked rather than fried. One must beat one egg and then spread a bit on top of the closed empanadas to make sure that they get hard in the oven, I suppose. Currently I am fighting a nasty cold. Kleenex surrounds me here on my bed while I listen to Julieta Venegas. The Paraguayan diagnosis of my ailment is that it’s too hot and there is too much dust, which makes my throat hurt. They suggested that I go to the health center, but I only started feeling under the weather on Sunday. If it continues, then I’ll go. But I don’t feel any different from when I have had colds in the past. It’s just a matter of riding out the stuffy nose, congestion and lack of energy. I hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a sinus infection, because then I will probably have to go to the doctor and get a prescription. I am thinking more about moving out these days because I don’t like using my señora’s pots, pans, refrigerator, and her general kitchen space. The downside is that living by myself requires that I do more cleaning and that I spend more money to buy my own appliances like a fridge, microwave, etc. I know volunteers who have lived without a fridge, but in the middle of a Paraguayan summer, I must have a freezer for ice! New volunteers who are following up another Peace Corps volunteer are more likely to live in the former PCV house already equipped with necessities. That is not the case in my town since I am a first time volunteer here in the urban area (about three years ago there was another Peace Corps volunteer in a rural part of my town). Yesterday and this weekend were boring and depressing. Two years started to feel like an incredibly long time. I started to consider if it’s worth it to fly back to the States for Christmas…or stay here and go somewhere like the beach in Uruguay or Argentina. At this moment I am thinking Uruguay; a friend of mine has family there and invited me to spend Christmas there. Tomorrow, however, you may find me checking flights to the States. I am disappointed to be missing my favorite season of the year, with the colors of all of the leaves changing, the brisk air, the clear blue skies, the high school and OSU marching bands, football games and cross country meets.
October 18, 2008

Today I hear that some city council members reported the mayor of my town to the National Control Office (Contraloría) because he is allegedly misusing royalties funds from Itaipu and Yacyreta dams. Every municipality in Paraguay receives some royalties money to support community projects.

The part that is most difficult regarding this report is that the guy (Robert) who reported it ran for mayor in the 2005 elections, the most recent election year. He is my next-door neighbor, and I visited him this past week to learn more about the community work that he has been doing. He rode around on his bike for two years interviewing everyone in BB (that's code ;)), my town. He knows what parts of town flood when it rains, where bridges are needed, the phone numbers of all residents; the specific needs of each barrio.
He has at least 10 pages of detailed maps of the whole municipality to appropriately plan his work with neighborhood commissions, youth groups, etc. He has helped put on painting and theatre workshops and has recently started giving talks in school regarding leadership. At the conclusion of said workshop, the students wrote their suggestions for future talks. From these suggestions, Robert is formulating 35 more talks regarding sexuality, politics, pride, drug addiction and professional skills such as how to write a resume. I was so excited to meet him because I felt that I had found a community contact that could be my door into effective, meaningful work. He inspired me to work more with youth as well.

Nevertheless, what with these city council members’ accusation of the mayor, I don’t know if I can or if I want to work with Robert anymore. People in BB will start associating me with him and will assume that I am a member of his political party. There are people who don’t like Robert and say that he doesn’t do anything for BB (whereas it seems to me that he apparently does). I still haven’t found a good community contact with whom to begin my work. There are many people who say, “We’re going to work together,” or, “Anything you need, let me know,” as though they really have the time and energy to dedicate to helping me form and carry out a project. Then when I text so and so, they are consistently busy, don’t respond, or their responses are shallow and don’t answer me directly. It is hard to find someone genuine with whom I can work, who has the best interests of Acevalenses (people who live in BB at heart, doesn’t think I’m a spy and is a good listener?

I don’t know what sources of information to believe anymore. I doubt the ability to know the truth about anything going on in this town; or in Paraguay, for that matter. Now I understand why development work is so difficult: it’s unbelievably, inextricably political. It’s a game of lies and power grabbing. It’s no wonder that people are apathetic and jaded about progress here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More photos from the soccer game

From top to bottom: Estadio (stadium) Defensores del Chaco

Mateo and Eric. Both are in the Rural Economic Development Sector. Notice the Ohio State jersey?

That's me in the red hat. Eric took this photo in the stadium

We were sitting near a huge base drum that led cheers during the game and also next to a guy with a Jim Morrisson flag (the lead singer of the Doors...what is his name again?). People here are crazy for old school US rock like Queen and Aerosmith. What the Doors have to do with the Paraguay v. Peru soccer game, I have no clue.

Craziness, and great advertising for Claro, a phone company like Verizon.