Sunday, June 29, 2008


Sunday being our only day we have free of CHP training, it´s my only day I have time to reflect on the fact that I´m in Paraguay and not in Ohio still. It´s still a shock to my system when I think that I´ll be here for two whole years which won´t begin until August 16th. The other lovely factor is that none of us know where we will be after we are sworn in at the US Embassy in Asuncion on August 14th. I am surprised and proud of how well our group deals with this uncertainty and the uncertainty of how the next two years of our lives will go. The flexibility PC staff stresses during the application process in the States and training is only preparation for he constant flexiblity vols must have to live two years in a foreign country.

The first few weeks here I felt that the culture was not that different and it would not be that difficult for me to communicate. During week three or four, the smallest differences or idiosyncracies have begun to wear on me. Paraguayans do not enunciate their words like Colombians or Mexicans; they don´t open their mouths enough for the full vowels to come out, so my brain and my ears are exhausted from straining and trying to understand what should be easy after studying Spanish for eight years. The Guarani has influenced the Spanish spoken here and vice versa, so when I expect people to speak Guarani they throw in some Spanish words, and my brain becomes a tangled mess. At that point I like to go in my room and listen to some English music to let my mind relax for awhile.

As a summary for those of you who may be tuning in recently or who I haven´t told much about the what, where, when and why of me and Peace Corps, I´ll explain in a nutshell:

Who? Me

What? Peace Corps Paraguay, group G27 (27th Peace Corps group in Pgy), municipal services development

When? May 29th-Aug 12: training at CHP, contracted by Peace Corps to teach us how to speak the languages here, how to adjust culturally, not be robbed or assaulted, maintain our personal health and how to be good professionals technically within our field or work.

Aug. 16, 2008- Aug. 16, 2010: service at a yet to be determined site somewhere in Paraguay, probably in the eastern part (east of the Rio (river) Paraguay).

Why? I have been wanting to cement my Spanish skills for years now through a long term immersion such as Peace Corps offers. I didn´t want to do PC for a long time because volunteers seemed to live so far from the support of counterparts, volunteers and/or other USCs (US citizens). Without a spiritual and community component such as Rostro de Cristo has, I didn´t know how PC vols sustained their motivation. I still applied for PC b/c I met so many RPCVs (returned PC volunteers) who had only good things to say. Furthermore, I figured that if so many people could live two years abroad, then so could I.

After working in Seattle with immigrants for a year, I still had the travel lust and wonder lust to learn more about how another part of the world lives, works and functions. I wanted to understand what it is like to live in a developing country and to be a facilitator to teach a man to fish so that he can fish for a lifetime. In short, that is the philosophy of PC: to be teachers and assisters; to teach people to BE more so that when we volunteers leave Paraguay there is sustainability in our solutions; we don´t create dependability. Being a facilitator is in many ways more difficult than just doing for Paraguayans what they don´t yet do, because if I want something done quickly and effectively, I´ll do it myself. That mentality doesn´t work so well in PC projects, so the going is slow. Just like the cows crossing the main road in my town now as I look out the cyber cafe doorway.

I apologize to those who didn´t know I was leaving until I was gone, but I didn´t find out until the beginning of April that I was leaving for Paraguay at the end of May. Events developed quickly and I myself didn´t believe I was going to Paraguay until I was actually here. Therefore I didn´t want to tell eveyone I was coming for fear that I would change my mind and then appear like I couldn´t make up my mind or follow through on my decisions. I´ve been known to waffle!

I nearly declined the invitation to be a PCV in Pgy because I had been waiting so long to hear from PC and had adjusted to being back in the comfort of my family circle in Ohio. Uprooting myself again after I had already done so to leave Seattle and return to Ohio was not appealing. What motivated me to stick with my instincts and deeper desire was the remembrance of why I returned to Ohio from Seattle in the first place: to apply for a program like PC and not go broke trying to live and work in Seattle at the same time.

Today I feel very far away from home and wish I could snap my fingers to be transported back just for today. I´m tired of the gristly meat; whole milk, eggs, lard and corn meal combination that I had for lunch today. On the bright side last week my Pgy mum made vegetable soup and beans and rice instead of meat. I hope that it continues and I will continue to exaggerate my positive responses to vegetables.

Even though I slept for a long time Friday and Saturday nights, I am still fatigued. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight and will be ready to rock and roll tomorrow.

This week we will have a Fourth of July Party at the US Embassy. There is a volleyball game with the Pgyan employees, US Marines, PC volunteers and other embassy staff. It´s a cookout and should be a good time, but not too good since it starts at 11 and ends at 2 pm. Word on the street aka palabra in the calle is that we will have a mini 4th of July fiesta on Saturday. For all of us awesome people from the land of the free and the home of the brave, we deserve more than a 3 hour party in the middle of the day! Happy Independence Day; I am alread sad I don´t get fireworks and the Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra to make me feel patriotic.


  1. Hey Karen!
    Thanks so much for putting your life online for us to read!
    I'm sorry I haven't sent you a letter yet, but I will soon!
    Take care friend,

  2. Hi Karen,

    Just wanted to let you know that I've been reading your blog. You write really well. It is interesting to hear about life where you are.

    Keep up the good work!


  3. "You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You
    shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak
    your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face
    of God and live."

    hey darlin'! i wanted to share with you this quote that i feel might be helpful and comforting for you. i heard this at mass today and it made me think of you! i wanted to catch up on your life here and i'm so glad you added a great and honest reflection about your experiences and your wanderings. i miss you more than words can express and i miss having you only 2 hours away, but i know there is a reason behind everything and every move we take. it may be hard and sometimes you may not see that silver lining, just don't stop looking for it. it will be there even if its only in the form of the vegetable soup. jkeep that in mind :)

    know that i'm thinking and praying for you all the time. i hope one day soon i'll get to see your smiley face :) summer 2009 is a definite!

    lots of love and joy,
    Karen :)

  4. Karen- thanks for the updates! i hope that you are feeling better today! we miss you and hope your "happy" days outnumber the others! hold your head up- and remember we are all here for you!! love you tons, lins (and rick and caitlyn!!!)