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.