May 29, 2008
Greetings from Paraguay! I am writing this from my very own room in my host family’s home here in Guarambare. I am not too far away from my other fellow municipal services volunteers, but the rural economic development volunteers are outside of Guarambare to get a better feel for the realities of living with a family in a more rural area.
Today our group of 18 arrived in Asuncion, Paraguay after our long 9 hour flight from Miami to Buenos Aires, Paraguay. The flight was not as long as I expected it to feel, but wrapping my mind around 4,000 miles was a bit interesting. I forget how the world is larger around its center, so it takes longer to fly to places that appear close on a map.
It was definitely chilly while we waited for the porters to load our absurd amount of luggage in Paraguayan minds into diesel trucks. Welcome to winter in the summer hemisphere. If I make it to my birthday here next year, it will be my first birthday ever celebrated in summer!
Our first lunch in Paraguay was banana bread, some tomato lettuce and cream cheese sandwiches, oranges, apples and small little bananas that I daresay are not bananas at all but rather plantains. The Cuerpo de Paz CHP (Peace Corps Center for Human Potential) has stone paths connecting different shelters in the side and back yard, about four shelters in all that have straw on top and plastic covers on the side to block out the rain, or, as today, the cold air. It was hot and humid yesterday, then rained, which nearly always brings cold weather, according to one of the locals who I spoke with at the CHP house, where our training will take place for the next three months.
At about 3 pm today our host mothers showed up at the training center to meet us. RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) warned me that this face to face volunteers in one line facing the hosts in the other would be one of my most awkward experiences. I did not feel that it was such. I expected it to come and perhaps I was too exhausted to get embarrassed.
My host mother’s name is Laura and she has a small peluqueria (hair dressing shop) added on to her house. She also sells sweets and other items in her hair salon. It consists of only one sink for washing hair and one chair for cutting and styling.
Well, I officially made my host family worry about me today: I was supposed to be at home for lunch and then was tardy reaching home until about 5:30 because I went to send e-mails after training and also because my nearest Peace Corps trainee neighbor Jesus and I dropped Liam (another PCT – Peace Corps trainee) off at his house. We met his “brother” Antonio. Liam has the nicest house of anyone I heard describe theirs during training, although most of muni volunteers have nice homes by Paraguayan standards. He says he has an internet connection in his house, but he doesn’t know the password. While there we saw there bua (owl) which is actually an illegal animal to have, ha ha. It was pretty neat to see one so close. It was white with black spots. Antonio said that he gives it rats and meat to eat. He also used to have a monkey, but since monkeys are hunters, it killed one of his dogs. Incredible. The best part is that his brother has (or had?) a toucan! hahha ha. As we left Liam´s house, Jesus askes if he could have a aguava fruit that grew in a tree. Antonio conceded, so he climbed the tree and picked us each one.
The yards of those in Guarambare are pretty large, consisting of three or four guard dogs and some parakeets. My parakeet says, “Mamá, mama.’’ I believe that´s b-c my host mom has her mother next door, and frequently comes through the side gate to hear her saying, ¨¡Mamá, mamá!
The food I had for dinner tonight was wonderful, as it was for lunch. I had rice cooked with milk and maneca. Manecas look like white lima beans. I also had more sopa Paraguay, that looks like cornbread but tastes more like a salty omelet. It contains egg, milk, onion, salt and flour. I had sopa Paraguay for my first dinner last night, and then for my second I had a small pizza with tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes. They are so red here; it is not often that you see some so red in the US.
I am so glad that I have a sleeping bag here because it is so cold. It feels like JVC Seattle Cherry Abbey in the winter when our heat didn´t work! Nothing new, right? Just wait until it´s 105 degrees and humid. They say that people actually shower 5x a day then! I wonder, how do you get anything done then? I guess you don´t, you just sit around and drink terere, which is an herbal tea that Paraguayans drink constantly it seems. I won a box of it during a Jeopardy game show to learn more about getting along in Paraguay today at training.
I´m about to fall asleep as we speak. All is well here so far, I am sorry I cannot communicate more often!