Sunday, July 13, 2008

A long day at the karate tourney

The day began with some old-fashioned gritty clothes washing. I scrubbed my socks so hard today that I got blisters on my hands in two places. Hopefully come August I will find someone to either wash most of my clothes or a family I´m close to that has a washing machine. My host mom Ismelda usually takes my pants and shirts to someone in town to wash or she washes them herself in the washing machine in the kitchen. Either way, my clothes are always stiff when they dry and sometimes hardly smell clean at all. I think I already talked about this...and about how much I miss fabric softener...

I had written this whole entry out on my laptop before coming here, only to find that it didn´t save on my flash drive somehow.

After washing my clothes and hanging them out in the backyard to dry, I went to my sister Addie´s karate tournament at 10:15 am. At the ripe hour of 11:30, the show finally got on the road with another hour of Paraguayan dancing and karate masters showing their skills: breaking boards, doing things one shouldn´t try at home, etc. At about 12, the tournament FINALLY started, and I didn´t get to leave until 5:30 pm. In all of that time I had to think, I realized 2 things:

1) Paraguayans have an astounding patience level for doing what seems to be absolutely nothing. No one looked restless like I was feeling. I suppose it´s because many of the spectators were family members of the participants, that were between the ages of 5 and 18. My sister got a medal for her participation in the first event called " formula" which lasts about 3 min. The kids kick, move their hands and make hissing and "HI-YAH" sounds in front of three judges who give them a score on a scale of 1-10. In reality it´s 1-7 because hardly anyone gets above a 7. The second event, at about 5 pm, was fighting with one other participant. They wear headgear and footgear for protection. My sister got third place in that, but would have gotten second if the other girl had played fair and not kicked her the second they stopped shaking hands.

2) My host family is not all that curious about me or about the "how" or "why" of anything. The "what" interests them more because that is how they have been conditioned, according to Fernando, who is going to place all of us PC trainees at the end of this month in some place in Paraguay. This drives me crazy because I´m a curious person, and they either don´t understand me when I ask why something happens/ed or just get irked with me for asking so many questions. It´s soooo annoying because a lot of the things they do seem to be illogical. For example: why does my host mom feel the need to say the same phrase three times? If I don´t take my towel off of the line in the yard the SECOND she says to, she keeps repeating it until I say, "OK OK OK OK" or I take it off right then. I just hope that my next host mom isn´t as much of a flibbertigibbet as she is. The funniest thing she´s done lately is saying, "Che Ohiogua" which means, "I´m from Ohio"; always followed by a chuckle. Next thing I´ll have to teach her is O-H-I-O, ha ha.


My friend Liam is talking on Skype on his laptop here in the ciber...which means there is WIRELESS here!! Why did I not know this before?!


I will update my blog with the logical and well-written version of what I wrote above sometime next week. I am getting bone tired and, so staying on track and mentioning the details is getting more difficult.

This week I am going to Santa Rosa in southern Paraguay for our long field practice. I´ll be playing some basketball with the Pgyans and facilitating some activities with them. Three others will be accompanying me as well as one of our language teachers from CHP. Our PC host is a Peace corps volunteer from Chicago. We won´t be staying at his place, even though his house is a former hotel. Instead, we´ll all be staying with host families--that´s right, ANOTHER host family! We are all getting so used to awkward situations that a situation isn´t normal unless we are unclear of what´s going on and occasionally miscontrue others or we make Guarani or Spanish faux paus (sp?).

Buenas noches from this Paraguayan, 80 degree, winter night.

PS - I tried to upload photos but after 20 minutes they weren´t showing up in the uploader. Game over for today. Come back later!

PPS- Thanks for your comments!

PPSS- I will try to send mail, but it is pretty expensive! Email or comments here are definitely cheaper.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The training party is ending early

Since there have been economic cuts in Peace Corps as a result of the slow economy, some staff at CHP have lost their jobs, and today we found out that we will be swearing in on August 6 instead of August 14. Therefore we will be going to visit our future sites early and will be leaving for our future sites early as well!

This week we had our second interview with Fernando, Chris and Carola, who will determine our fates for the next two years. I requested access to internet, transportation, and some good dirt roads for running. I also requested to work with trash and environmental management, CODENI (instances of child abuse are reported here) and or with the Woman´s Secretary that helps with domestic violence. That does not mean that I will work with any of those issues, because municipalities ask for help for man other necessities as well.

The first half of this week has been tough, with extra people around the house. My brother Jesus has two friends from his school visiting and my dad´s sister and brother-in-law came to visit from Pilar (in the south). They just left this morning. I really enjoyed talking with my aunt because of her patience with me and genuine interest in where I come from and desire to practice the English she is learning in her adult continuing education class. It´s great to hear her trying to pronounce, "Good morning" and "thank you." She understands the difficulty of learning another language, and therefore I feel she is more patient with my Guarani and Spanish shortcomings.

I am also ready for my the cigarette butts on the bathroom and kitchen floor to disappear, which will stop accumulating when my host dad goes back to work. I wish I could break through the intimidation I feel around him to just strike up a conversation, but the solemn and borderline angry expression in his face makes approaching a difficult task.

There are other foreign nationals here in Guarambare: two weeks ago my friend Shola found a Korean volunteer who works in a health clinic as a nurse. There are also two Mormons from the States and some Polish Franciscans, at least one of which has been here 18 years!

This morning we had an alternative morning at my friend Jesus-s house, whose mom heads up a women-s group to raise money for single mothers who cannot afford operations for their children. We learned how to make laundry detergent and expectorant as fundraisers for groups with whom we will work once we are in our sites. The expectorant we made will all-natural ingredients that we cut up and mixed ourselves: sarsparilla, red tree bark , mint and many others that I don´t know how to say in English.

I have been really thirsty lately, I just can-t seem to drink enough water! It has been warm here during the day. I can definitely get used to the Paraguayan winters.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thanks for the comments!

It´s nice to know that there are people out there actually reading my blog and waiting for the next entry! It gives me more motivation to write.

Today was our (Peace Corps trainees) third Dia de Practica. Courtney and I went to a lower income part of Guarambare called San Miguel to talk with people and learn more about their living situation. First we went to an asentamiento, which is a land that usually one person buys from the government or from a landowner for usually cheap, and then sells or apparently sometimes gives, several lots on the land to lower-income populations. They therefore become squatters on this land that they are given or that they buy with the central Parguayan government promise that the Ministry of Housing will build a house for free on their property. One family has been waiting a year for their house to be built and another family two years. Unfortunately for those with next to nothing, they have to build houses out of bamboo, sticks and plastic bags. Others are lucky enough to have brick.

The Dias de Practica are so frustrating because we are supposed to present a talk or facilitate some sort of awareness building about a need that the community we assess has. Courtney and I first learned about cobblestoning a dirt road, which we could not facilitate or help with b-c the leader of the project only asked us for money, and the second dia de practica we went to the city hall to learn about their department of culture. We hoped to help plan a festival for the beginning of August, but there is still not enough funding for the project.

It is hard to build sufficient relationships with people so that they feel comfortable with us coming to them to present new information or to somehow facilitate a session. We will keep sludging through and I will try to follow Courtney´s lead on enthusiasm. In exchange, I´ll translate into Spanish questions she has and supply her with John Legend tunes she left in the States.

The reason for the dias del practica is to prepare us for what our first few months in site will be like: we will be wandering around town probably looking for and asking about the needs the community has and where we can be of assistance. Unstructured and frustrating, but if you can do it, it says a lot about your initiative, patience and flexibility. When everyone else throws their hands up in the air helplessly, you keep moving forward with the awareness to address issues objectively and sensitively. Easier said than done.

Much love, and for those that sent letters, it made my WEEK! The photos are hanging prominently in my room and I am super proud of how good-looking my family is.