Monday, August 31, 2009

Back in Paraguay

I returned to Pguay with the dark pink lazpacho trees blooming. Spring seems to have already arrived here, and I love it!

After being gone for awhile, I notice the distinct smells of my town: smoky, like there's always a bonfire, sugar carmelizing for cocido /burnt sugar with burnt yerba mate with hot water. Also asado, or steak; some flower that smells like jasmine but I think it actually something else. The few times I have been walking around since my return I smell it, then look for the jasmine but don't see it.

This past weekend was our fiesta patronal for BA's patron saint, St. Rose of Lima. Her feast day is Aug. 30, so on that day the town decorates the streets where her statue will process with streamers, flags and paper flowers. Everyone and their mother comes out to process after the high mass at three pm. For nine days before the 30th, there is mass every night either in the basilica in the center of town or in chapels throughout town. Different schools are responsible for singing in the liturgy or presenting something special for the mass. There are also music festivals, a torin / like a bull fight but there's just rough play with the bulls rather than killing. In the torin there are three guys that dress up like clowns and they tell jokes in Guarani. I went last year but didn't understand a thing they were saying. There were THREE torins on three different nights this year for the fiesta patronal. I didn't go because I am still recovering from my trip. There was also a jineteada, which is basically a horse show. People ride their horses around a full tilt to show off. I'm not a huge fan / I've been to two others before, so I took the opportunity to organize my house and rest. Saturday night there was a huge dance party at the main soccer field. There were hundreds of people there; I went and left at 2:30 am whereas most people stayed until 6 am. I'm still really tired! Just today I finished unpacking my bags. Now I have more clothes than I know what to do with!

It was so nice to see my family while I was at home. After spending time with you I miss you even more now!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good to be back...

It's nice to be back in a familiar place where I have experienced so much and to see my family. I have been tired and on the run since I arrived, or at least it seems that way. In spite of there being no time difference, the 13 hour trip sure takes it out of you!

I have been waking up at 6 am after going to bed about 10:30, but I am still tired when I wake up! I didn't take a nap today. I'm missing my occasional siestas! Call me lazy!

The lawns here are so manicured and everything is so controlled, bridled and manipulated. Most fertilize their lawns, so there are no "jujos", or weeks (some of which can be remedies to put in terere!)

I know that I will adjust to being in the States after awhile, but being here feels less real. It feels distant...I feel the same way I felt being here that I did before I left for Paraguay. OK, but not joyful or happy or content. I can say that I was happy in Paraguay. Why does happiness have to be so complicated? Why do I have to think about whether or not I will be happy in the future? Why can't I be happy RIGHT NOW? I have never felt like I've truly been living like I was there. Is it wrong? Should I stop? How do I know if I'm doing it right? The more I live and the more people I talk to about how to be happy, I don't think there is any way to know if I'm making the "right" decisions. I just live, and whatever decision I make, I live with the consequences.

I went to Vaquero's today and had to stop myself from not mixing Guarani with Spanish. Christie and I took the guampa into the restaurant with us; I had to explain to them what it was, ha ha.

Monday, July 20, 2009


After visiting other volunteers for a few days, I am exhausted! I am so happy to be back in my little house! More to come tomorrow.

Only about two more weeks until AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL!!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What it means to be poor

Qué significa ser pobre? Un Padre económicamente acomodado, queriendo que su hijo supiera lo que es ser pobre, lo llevó para que pasara un par de días en el monte con una familia campesina.
Pasaron tres días y dos noches en su vivienda del campo. En el carro, retornando a la ciudad, el padre preguntó a su hijo —¿Qué te pareció la experiencia?...

What does it mean to be poor?A father, well-off economically, wanting that his son see what it is to be poor, took him to pass a couple of days in a rural area with a peasant family. They passed three days and two nights in the family's home. In the car on the way back to their home in the city, the father asked his son, "How was your experience?"

Buena, contestó el hijo con la miradapuesta a la distancia.—Y... ¿qué aprendiste?, insistió elpadre...El hijo contestó:• Que nosotros tenemos un perro yellos tienen cuatro. • Nosotros tenemosuna piscina con agua estancada quellega a la mitad del jardín... y ellostienen un río sin fin, de aguacristalina, donde hay pececitos, berroy otras bellezas. • Que nosotrosimportamos linternas del Orientepara alumbrar nuestro jardín...mientras que ellos se alumbran conlas estrellas y la luna. •

"Good," answered the son, looking out in the distance.
"And what did you learn?" the father insisted.
The son answered, "That we have one dog, while they have four. We have one pool with standing water that extends to the middle of our garden. They have a never-ending river, with crystal clear water, where there are little fish and other pretty things. We want Chinese lanterns to light our garden, while they light theirs with the moon and stars.

Nuestro patio llega hasta la cerca...y el de ellos llegaal horizonte. • Que nosotros compramos nuestracomida;...ellos, siembran y cosechan la de ellos. •Nosotros oímos CD's... Ellos escuchan una perpetuasinfonía de bimbines, chuíos, pericos, ranas, saposcocorrones y otros animalitos....todo esto a vecesdominado por la sonora saloma de un vecino quetrabaja su monte.

"Our patio reaches the sidewalk, theirs reaches the horizon. We buy our food, they plant and harvest theirs. We listen to CDs, they listen to the perpetual symphony of frogs, crickets, toads and other little animals...all of this at times dominated by the sound of a neighbor working his land."

• Nosotros cocinamos en estufa eléctrica...Ellos,todo lo que comen tiene ese glorioso sabor delfogón de leña. •Para protegernos nosotros vivimos rodeados porun muro, con alarmas.... Ellos viven con suspuertas abiertas, protegidos por la amistad de susvecinos. •

"We cook with an electric stove...Everything they eat has the glorious flavor of campfire wood. To protect ourselves we build walls with alarms. They live with their doors open, protected by the friendship of their neighbors."

Nosotros vivimos 'conectados' alcelular, a la computadora, altelevisor...Ellos, en cambio, están'conectados' a la vida, al cielo, alsol, al agua, al verde del monte, alos animales, a sus siembras, a sufamilia.

"We live 'connected' to cell phones, computers and TVs...They, on the other hand, are 'connected' to life, to the sky, the sun, water, to the green countryside, to animals, to their crops, to their family."

El padre quedó impactado por la profundidad de suhijo...y entonces el hijo terminó:

The father was shocked by the depth of his son's response...and then his son finished:

—Gracias papá, por haberme enseñadolos pobres que somos!Cada día estamos mas pobres de espíritu yde apreciación por la naturaleza que sonlas grandes obras de nuestro creador. Nospreocupamos por TENER, TENER,TENER Y MAS TENER en vez depreocuparnos por SER.

"Thanks Dad, for having shown me how poor we are! Everyday we are poorer in spirit we can appreciate more the nature that is the great work of our Creator. We preoccupy ourselves about HAVING, HAVING, HAVING and HAVING MORE instead of focusing on BEING."

Monday, June 29, 2009


June 28, 2009

A warm front came in today. Strong, warm winds from the north that made you put a jacket on but then take it off. I took a long walk, stopped at a friend’s house on the way back, then laid out on a wall on the side of my porch to admire the Milky Way. I didn’t see any shooting stars tonight, but I picked out the Little Dipper, or Ursa Minor, and what I believe is the Southern Cross. No mosquitoes were biting me, and the wind blew threw the mango, grapefruit and palm trees as the crickets sounded. Todo tranquilo. Now I’m listening to CD of Guaranias by candlelight and fluorescent light. They are all slow ballads with Paraguayan harp, and are sang in Guarani or in Spanish, or in Spanish with Guarani words and vice versa. The feeling I get from listening to it is similar to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. My radio is officially broken, so I rely completely on my computer for entertainment now. I don’t miss having a TV most of the time because the only thing that’s on is soap operas and the news. However, it would have been nice to learn more about the overthrow of power in Honduras. If I hadn’t been at my friend’s house this evening I wouldn’t have learned until days later.

Tomorrow I’ll be sending out an email to family and friends to raise some funds for Ahecha Paraguay, a Peace Corps project that teaches kids how to take photographs. The thing is that the national exhibit is happening now and many kids whose photos are in the exhibit can’t come to see their own work because they can’t afford hotel, travel and food expenses. In order for our young artists to revel in the glory of their work and to spend some time in their own nation’s capital (some have never been there, or if they have, very few times), we need your support. No contribution is too small, especially because we are talking in Guarani currency! Please, make your contributions before July 24th. Thank you!!!

Also, my muni’s library is in the process of receiving more books from the Spanish Embassy, but even after that receipt, they won’t have that many. The current collection is outdated and the volumes are few. I daresay that most people in my town don’t know that there’s a library at all. For those that do know of it, they don’t utilize the materials. The school library at the local Catholic school is heads and shoulders better than the municipal library. It should be the reverse. Consequently, if you have any contacts for obtaining books in Spanish, please let me know! My email address is

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tengo o-fri (frío!) - I'm cold!

Mariscal Estigarribia statue, he was an important general in the Chaco War (I think!)
The next photo is the municipality in my site

This type of yellow flower grows wild in my yard!

Dogs in front of the regional hospital. Lovely. One can only be seen here if they have IPS (Institute of Social Provision) insurance.

Regional Hospital

Water pump in front of the Junta de Saneamiento, the water council that is responsible for maintaining three different wells that supply water to the majority of my town.

Tortilla! Think funnel cakes, más o menos

Me making tortillas. See how I've already lost my little bit of summer tan? Boo.

June 23, 2009

So what have I been up to lately, you ask? Last week I practiced for the Father’s Day music and dance fest in the nearest high school. I sang with two boys that are in the nearest colegio (high school) and Humberto. We were going to sing three songs but in the end we only did “Tu cárcel” by Marco Antonio Solis (also done by Enanitos verdes) and “Twist and shout” by the Beatles. During the week I practiced with one of the guitarists, and we watched Guns ‘n Roses video clips each time before we started to practice. Jorgito and his family expected me to know all of the words, but Guns ‘n Roses were a bit before my time. They asked me to translate “Welcome to the Jungle”, “November Rain”, “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Don’t Cry”, ha ha. Paraguayans’ taste in music never ceases to surprise me. I have more than a few friends that love the Cranberries; one of them that works in the muni had “Zombie” as his ring tone, and somehow I earned the same nickname. Others tell me how much they love Metallica and Avril Lavigne.

I enjoyed singing with other people and being with people who play guitar made me want to play, too! Then I remember how I tried to learn how to play guitar in college and how difficult tuning was. Nevertheless I still contemplate buying a guitar in Luque. It would be way cheaper for me to take lessons here and I actually have the time to devote to it, so why not? When else in my life will I have the time that I have now?

It has been raining the past two days, with some strong winds and thunder. Yesterday afternoon after my English class and visiting the high school where I sang in the festival, I went to one of my former neighbor’s house so that she could teach me to sew. I have yet to attempt on my actual clothes. It’s about time to learn how to do the things I should have learned in a home ec class, right? Today after lunch I made carrot cake, it turned out so yummy! I substituted vanilla yogurt for the cream cheese in the icing because there is no cream cheese in my site.

Luckily it is not terribly cold in my house now (knock on wood). Last week I saw some people carrying tied kindling on their backs, most likely for cooking, not for a heating stove.

Tomorrow I’ll be going to a high school to show a movie about the environment with a civil servant from the federal Environmental Office and a civil servant from the muni. Afterwards I’ll interview different neighborhood commissions to see if the officers are still the same and to see if they are still functioning. Most commissions begin with high motivation, but it eventually peters out until they no longer meet.

I am so ready to go home!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

View of the eastern half of Paraguay from Villa Hayes
State (departmental) government building in Villa Hayes

Río Paraguay again, looking south towards Asunción

Peace in the Chaco Day parade in Villa Hayes. Police in formation

Band of musicians from the police academy with the drum major

Paraguay flag

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Inspiring article from Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Again, I the photos ended up showing up at the beginning of the blog entry instead of at the end like I wanted. Anywho, this is Sasha, Mateo's brother visiting from the States and Paulette at our 1 Year in Pgy fiesta

Rebecca and Jesús at the same fiesta

Me singing Hotel California at a Mother's Day Festival

Flowers in my yard.

This message is from Kathy Rulon, the Peace Corps Chief of Staff in Washington. It is an interesting message about Peace Corps from the president of Rwanda.
Since the publication of President Paul Kagame’s piece about Peace Corps/Rwanda on HuffingtonPost I have heard from a few of you about how meaningful the essay is to your work. As many of you know, we returned to Rwanda after a 15 year suspension -- the first trainee class of 32 was sworn in on April 15th in Kigali.

Posted: June 9, 2009 04:51 PM

A Different Discussion About Aid

By President Paul Kagame
President of the Republic of Rwanda

The United States of America has just sent a small number of its sons and daughters as Peace Corps volunteers to serve as teachers and advisors in Rwanda. They have arrived to assist, and we appreciate that. We are aware that this comes against the backdrop of increasingly scarce resources, of budget discussions and campaign promises, and of tradeoffs between defense and domestic priorities like health care and infrastructure investments. All that said, I believe we need to have a different discussion concerning the potential for bilateral aid.

The Peace Corps have returned to our country after 15 years. They were evacuated in 1994 just a short time before Rwanda collapsed into a genocide that killed over one million people in three months. Things have improved a lot in recent years. There is peace and stability throughout the nation. We have a progressive constitution that is consensus-driven, provides for power sharing, embraces diversity, and promotes the participation of women, who now represent the majority in our parliament. Our economy grew by more than 11% last year, even as the world entered a recession. We have chosen high-end segments of the coffee and tea markets in which to compete, and attract the most demanding world travelers to our tourism experiences. This has enabled us to increase wages by over 20% each year over the last eight years -- sustained by, among other things, investment in education, health and ICT.

We view the return of the Peace Corps as a significant event in Rwanda's recovery. These young men and women represent what is good about America; I have met former volunteers who have run major aid programs here, invested in our businesses, and I even count them among my friends and close advisors.

Peace Corps volunteers are well educated, optimistic, and keen to assist us as we continue to rebuild, but one must also recognize that we have much to offer them as well.
We will, for instance, show them our system of community justice, called Gacaca, where we integrated our need for nationwide reconciliation with our ancient tradition of clemency, and where violators are allowed to reassume their lives by proclaiming their crimes to their neighbors, and asking for forgiveness. We will present to them Rwanda's unique form of absolution, where the individuals who once exacted such harm on their neighbors and ran across national borders to hide from justice are being invited back to resume their farms and homes to live peacefully with those same families.

We will show your sons and daughters our civic tradition of Umuganda, where one day a month, citizens, including myself, congregate in the fields to weed, clean our streets, and build homes for the needy. We will teach your children to prepare and enjoy our foods and speak our language. We will invite them to our weddings and funerals, and out into the communities to observe our traditions. We will teach them that in Africa, family is a broad and all-encompassing concept, and that an entire generation treats the next as its own children.

And we will have discussions in the restaurants, and debates in our staff rooms and classrooms where we will learn from one another: What is the nature of prosperity? Is it subsoil assets, location and sunshine, or is it based on human initiative, the productivity of our firms, the foresight of our entrepreneurs? What is a cohesive society, and how can we strengthen it?
How can we improve tolerance and build a common vision between people who perceive differences in one another, increase civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and self-esteem? How does a nation recognize and develop the leaders of future generations? What is the relationship between humans and the earth? And how are we to meet our needs while revering the earth as the womb of humankind? These are the questions of our time.

While some consider development mostly in terms of infusion of capital, budgets and head counts, we in Rwanda place equal importance to relationships between peoples who have a passion to learn from one another, preparing the next generation of teachers, administrators and CEOs to see the exchange of values and ideas as the way to build the competencies of our people, and to create a prosperous nation.

We will do this because we see that the only investment with the possibility of infinite returns is in our children, and because after a couple of years in Rwanda, working and learning with our people, these Peace Corps volunteers will be our sons and daughters, too.

In spite of me not being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda, much of what President Kagame says, such as "these Peace Corps volunteers will be our sons and daughters, too" rings true for me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The last photos are from part two of a trash workshop that I did weeks ago, on May 23rd, a day with lots of thunder, a bit of lightning and lots of rain. Consequently I had only four attendees in spite of inviting around 30. If you could only see my super nice handmade invitation!

Lucas, the volunteer who lives closest to me and is a member of the group that most recently swore in as volunteers, came to help me conduct the workshop. We reviewed the consequences of burning inorganic materials in one’s trash pile, what plants need from the soil to live, different ways that trash is disposed in Paraguay (throwing in any old place, burning, burying) and the advantages and disadvantages of each disposal technique. We also learned how to make a compost pile and at the end we made recycled paper.

In the long run I think that if I want to implement a recycling and/or trash management program, I need to do so in the high schools. All of the high schools in my town except one start at 5 pm and go until 9:50 pm! Not the best schedule in the world, but if I really want to do it, then I guess I’ll be working at night as well.

The first photos are from one of my English student’s quinceañera last Saturday. Quinceañeras here in Paraguay are enormous events. I don’t know how much her family spent on the party, but from the deejay to the band, cake, the entire cow that was slaughtered, her dress, the beer and soda, they easily spent 5 million Guaranies, equivalently equal to $1,000. Considering that the minimum wage in Paraguay is approximately 1,300,000 Guaranies per month, that is a colossal sum for just a quince años. It’s such a big event that it nearly matches or surpasses a wedding.

I was accompanied by the only two uniformed guys present at the quinceañera, hehe. These first photos were them at about 3 am, mind you.
This rose is from my front patio!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A taste of what Peace Corps Paraguay is really like

I think that you'll like this, have a peek:

Jesús Rosario, from Puerto Rico, and Pooja are both in my group of volunteers. I took Guaraní with Jesús during training.

So what's Paraguay really like?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Che ro'yhina! (I'm cold!)

2 junio 2009

The temperature at 6 pm was 12 degrees C and I was cold! That’s only about 51 degrees F! What a baby I am, ha ha. If it were 50 degrees after the winter in Ohio I would be breaking out the shorts and going for a run outside.

Today was sunny, but with the cold southern wind blowing enough to merit a warm fleece and layers. Fortunately Mario, the head of the environmental department, told me that two gentlemen from PAS-PY (Proyecto de Aguas Subterráneas – Paraguay- Paraguayan Subterranean Water Project) were coming to continue their study of the fresh water in my town this morning. One of the men is Paraguayan but his mother is German and the other man is a German geophysicist. The latter is retired and is in Paraguay for one week to continue the fresh water study that his other German colleagues started. He is here through a German technical assistance program (BGR) that works in cooperation with the Environmental Department of the Paraguayan government. He speaks Spanish, English and obviously German. It was so cool to hear him speaking to Norman in German, to me in English, and amongst the three of us Spanish. Then, when Mario was around, Norman and I threw in some Guarani, ha ha.

I went with him and the Paraguayan gentleman, Norman, to a rural area of my site to see how to measure basalt deposits. The German gentleman, we’ll call him Johann, showed me how his electromagnetic apparatus works to measure the basalt. If there is a lot of basalt present, then there is no fresh water present. Sometimes there was “noise” in the readings: if a bus passed us, or if we walked past a building with a zinc roof, it interfered with the reading. The apparatus connected with eight satellites, but the satellites did not know that it connected with them. It also had GPS (relation to equator and Greenwich). Every ten meters Johann stopped to take a reading. On the screen it made curves. The curve lowered when there was metal present with high magnetism and rose when there was less magnetic material. I hope that I remember that correctly. It was all clear to me at the time that Johann was explaining it to me.

As we walked down the road, he asked me if I was still studying to receive a degree. He asked me why I didn’t consider pursue further study regarding what we were doing in that moment: water or something of that nature. I told him that I figured that in order to pursue study in any environmental field would require more chemistry and biology than I have in background. He told me that that was not true necessarily and really encouraged me to pursue the field if I was interested in it. Johann has traveled to every country in South America except Venezuela and French Guyana doing water studies. He has also been to Thailand. Other colleagues of his even went to Namibia in Africa. He recommended that I speak to his colleague Jorge of PAS-PY regarding further education and job opportunities with water management and/or waste management. In addition, he said that the experience I’m having here is very unique and could be a possible thesis topic if I end up getting my masters. He asked me if I was getting my masters as though he couldn’t believe that I wasn’t thinking about getting it. And I realized that he is totally right: being here in Paraguay surrounded by a lower proportion of people who have higher education can make you lower your personal standards! I feel adequate with just with a bachelor’s degree. I can’t explain to you how fantastic it was for him to give me some advice and contacts about the field of work and study. I may be 25, but I too have always wanted a mentor to tell me what it’s like to work in certain fields and to encourage me to keep studying and working.

During the course of the measurement I saw one of the three quarries in my town. It was so quiet there, with only the wind and the far-off sound of water trickling into the quarry. In the distance we could see the wetland that led to the river that we hope to make a nature preserve. I saw monarch butterflies and yellow birds. The owner of the quarry told us that people leave their unwanted dogs there; so there were five different emaciated dogs running around. Not long ago the dogs killed a baby leopard that entered from the forest that borders the quarry. The stupid mutt dogs killed the beautiful, endangered leopard, those rascals! Grrrr. The owner showed us the photo on his cell phone. As we were exiting the quarry property, he gestured to the baby leopard’s hide hanging from the edge of his thin zinc roof. So Paraguayan ha ha. Johann mentioned that as he was measuring around the quarry he saw two pairs of new paw prints, so most likely there are more leopards! Yay. Out of all of the animals in this world my favorites are primates, manatees, turtles and leopards.


Problemas y plata no tenemos.” – A certain Mrs. González.

“We don’t have any problems or money.” LoL

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bruised on the left knee on the Trans-Chaco Highway

I couldn’t do any yoga after my run today because of the bruise I have from falling off the Loma Grandense in a mad rush to catch the Chaqueña on the way back to my site from Villa Florida on Sunday. I fell hard and without control, my green norteamericana backpack and messenger bag not helping me to brace my fall.

Finally the sun was out today, so everyone in my town had the opportunity to wash all of their clothes. I joined in, but only to a certain extent because I was short on time and clothes line to dry the clean articles. The rest of my clothing I took to my surrogate family’s house, thinking that I would have enough time before my first day of my new English class to wash and hang a few loads. Since the señora already had a load in her machine I had to wait, and before I knew it, the hour for class had arrived. She made me leave my three loads there for her to wash. Bless her heart, if it weren’t for women like here I don’t know what I would do in this country. I rely on her more now that I live alone.

I enjoy teaching—when the kids are good! Today I had four seven year olds, three girls and one boy, all from the same second grade class. Their parents want me to teach them English and to reinforce the lessons of their school’s English teacher, who apparently doesn’t teach and doesn’t know English that well. I found various mistakes in her corrections in the students’ notes. It would be better to have more students, to maximize my time and to reach more kids. We’ll hope that I can make it happen.

Speaking of English, I have so many requests to teach people that I could easily fill my days in site just teaching English. People don’t ask me to do anything else besides that. The sad part is that it’s the topic I know best and that I could actually consider myself a professional in, especially considering that I majored in Spanish. But I’m a municipal services development volunteer, not a English as a Second Language volunteer.

It was in the 50s today and I was cold! I’m so used to the Paraguayan heat now that the smallest chill can get to me! Also the houses don’t have insulation nor central heating, so when it’s bitter cold, one has to walk around with multiple layers and sleep in one’s thermal sleeping bag like I do.

I was stupid and returned from Villa Florida early (where the one year in Paraguay party was for the volunteers in my group). I feel like I’m not as close to other volunteers as I should be, but I know that if I spent a lot more time with them either physically with them or just talking to them on the phone, I would feel that I wasn’t “immersing” myself enough with Paraguayans. It’s a constant battle trying to stay connected but at the same time enjoy the tranquilo-ness of the natives. How can I be just one or the other?

Sundays I always feel lonely in my house. Now that it’s winter it gets dark a bit after five, and it is a bit lonely. I try to keep busy so that the knowledge that I am so alone doesn’t get to me. I have a neighbor next door but it’s not the same as before and I don’t know as many people as I did in my first neighborhood. When I was in high school and college I relished alone time, but now I don’t like to be alone much. I prefer to be drinking mate and terere with others and cooking and sharing meals with others. Looking back, I believe that the main reason why I didn’t like high school much was because that I was mostly alone all the time, if not physically, then mentally. For example, at BWHS classmates and teammates always surrounded me, but I didn’t have the luxury of time to spend with them, or maybe I just didn’t want to spend time with them. Thank God for college, more Seattle, and even more Peace Corps, for making me realize how paramount human relationships are, and how they are the basis for happiness and satisfaction in this life. I am so happy here because people know how to relax here and enjoy life no matter what. I have learned the meaning of the saying, “The greatest gift that you can give someone is your time.” I have become quite talented at living in the moment, bringing me a lightness of heart. But what will I do when I go back to the REAL world? Aaaahhh! Ha ha.

So, the Cavs are doing pretty well I hear? CLEVELAND ROCKS, don’t u forget it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

It's still raining

Gosh, if I didn't know any better I'd think that I was in Seattle! Rain, rain and more rain. I would imagine that the drought that I mentioned before is officially over. It just doesn't feel like Paraguay without strong UVB ray content sun glaring down on me. 

Clothes that I washed two days ago are still not dry because the only place free of cold air and moisture is behind my refrigerator. The Peace Corps Volunteer tactic to dry clothes is to put them there. I doubt that I would have ever learned that cool trick unless I were a Peace Corps Volunteer. 

Last night I slept in wool socks and a wool vest. I later removed the socks because I got hot, but I had to sleep in near fetal position to stay warm through the night. I set my alarm for six-thirty with the hopes of going for a run, but the thought of running in wet, cold drizzle and having no heat or place to dry off adequately afterwards made me stay inside. 

This is my last day of Internet in my house, unfortunately. Thanks to Tessa for making my short lived accessible connection possible. 

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Photos, top from bottom:
Mother's Day in the Police Academy: May 12

Sunset, around May 3

Rainbow after the rain, May 3

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surfing the Internet by candlelight

This is the sixth consecutive day of clouds, rain, or the possibility of rain. Thanks to Tessa I have temporary wireless Internet :), albeit rather slow here. 

I recently made Paraguayan style tortillas with potato slices. We put ketchup on top and had some wine mixed with Simba soda. Simba is Guarana flavored, yummy! The tortillas are more or less like funnel cakes, but salty, not sweet. Sometimes when I see someone making tortillas or I'm making them with someone I'm reminded of making funnel cakes with the powdered sugar on top with my sister Amy as a kid. 

Tomorrow I will be getting up early and possibly catching the 6:40 am bus to go to a high school. I want to publicize a scholarship for students who have outstanding grades, community service and can demonstrate financial need. I will be going to my tokaya- a girl who is also named Karen. Tonight I went to another high school to publicize the scholarship. Even though the applications won't be available until November and won't be turned in until the beginning of December, it's important to alert the kids now to keep studying and to do more community service or to keep doing the service they are doing. 

Next week I'll be starting another English class; a lot of people have been asking me to. I feel like a jerk not accepting more requests for one-on-one tutoring, but I don't want to devote all my time to being an English teacher. The difficult part to swallow is that I know I'm better at teaching English than I am at doing anything else here. Since I have studied other foreign languages and I studied Spanish for so long I can explain it better than I think an average Joe off the street could. 

Tomorrow I complete ONE YEAR in Paraguay! It seems that I should stop, look around, scream, pray, yell, party, call all of the other volunteers in my G and go on a retreat all at once. I'm glad I have a year left, because that means I have more time to do work. On the other hand, in one year I'm sure that I will transform even more than I already have. It will interesting to go home in two months, because then the ways I have changed will be more evident to me than they are now. 

My sister G (aka, the other municipal services development group that is like our little sister) just arrived today, just like we did around a year ago. I will be meeting them next Thursday when I help with a training session in Guarambare about the organization of the municipality--what are the responsibilities of the mayor, secretary general and council members. 

My house is coming together more and more all the time: yesterday an unfinished wood table, 120 cm x 76 cm if I recall correctly. It's perfect for working; the other tables I had that my friend lent me are way too small; there is no room to spread out. 

I posted more photos on my Facebook tonight; you can see more there. XO XO

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I have a fridge!

May 18, 2009

This whole month of May is Patria Month; Paraguay’s Independence Day was last Thursday and also on Friday. It’s two days because the revolution began late on May 14th and continued until early in the morning on the 15th. The 15th is also Mother’s Day. I ate lunch with Cristina and her family that day. We had asado (grilled ribs, but with lots more fat than in the States), pork, chinchulín (cow intestines—I tried it and it was not good; suprise!) rice salad, potato salad (not like you’re thinking of), sopa paraguaya (like cornbread but more oil, egg and butter/animal fat). After eating we drank regular Coca-Cola sweetened with sugar cane rather than high fructose corn syrup. I attest that the Coke here is much better than in the States. It is custom to drink after eating rather than before. I explain to some Paraguayans that in the States the first thing the server gives you in a restaurant is your drink. Here, on the contrary, you will rarely see people drinking soda pop before eating.

This past Saturday was cold!!! I took a bus from my site to two other towns in Asuncion for two birthday parties with my friend who is in the police academy. The first party was his friend from high school and the second was for a friend of his from the academy. I think that it probably hit the low 50s if my nerves registered the temperature correctly. I even used my gloves!

On Sunday we had our area volunteer meeting in a town close to Lake Ypacarai. We had guacamole, rotisserie chicken, vegetarian quesadillas, Bloody Marys, lasagna and I brought ice cream as well. I was super full afterwards! I met the new volunteers and learned where their sites are. We also discussed having excursions in different parts of the Central Department of Paraguay (Asuncion area) with youth from our sites. We are thinking about going to the Mythological Museum. I will have to do an entire blog entry on Paraguayan myths; there are more than you would think!

Today I got my fridge, finally! Now I won’t have to get ice from my next-door neighbor. It’s not until you don’t have a fridge that you realize how much use it is! Currently I have ham, cheese, eggs, orange soda, and three containers of milk. Doesn't sound like I eat very healthy, does it? I have bananas and oranges out on my table, don't worry.

Today I went to the Junta de Saneamiento (Sanitation Council, aka the organization the runs the water wells and provides water to the majority of people in my town) one block away from my house. I spoke with the lead administrator with whom I was very impressed: she was not into small talk, or evading questions; she was serious and straightforward. For one of the first times in awhile I spoke with someone who answered my questions directly and gave me her full attention. It’s something that is much easier to find in the States. Rather than talking about where I live, where I used to live, how long I’ve been here and whether or not I like terere, she was upfront. I know that I’ve been here a long time when I’m surprised by an outright answer to my question. People here beat around the bush too much rather than just saying what they want much of the time, or maybe it’s just me trying to be too nice. For instance, if I go to wash my clothes at my friend’s house, I feel that it’s necessary to shoot the breeze with them for longer than I ever would in the same situation in the States. I don’t want to look like I’m using them simply to do my laundry, even if that isn’t the case.

I just finished watching Stranger Than Fiction. I recommend it. The day after I watched it I was still analyzing it.

I am on the verge of getting a wireless Internet modem for my computer. It will come out to be about $40 a month. I have decided that it will be very worth it.

Some random facts about Paraguay that I noted a month ago at a state-wide youth conference:
66% of youth older than 15 and younger than 29 do not attend any formal educational institution.

82% of elderly people 65 years and older have no retirement plan.

1% of property owners own 77% of all land available.

40% of cultivators that have between one and five hectares own only 1% of the land in Paraguay.

Paraguayan emigration towards Europe, particularly Spain has grown fast in the past two years.

Paraguayans in Europe and the United States send 700,000,000 USD in remittances each year, making possible the survival of 10-15% of Paraguayan families.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Running on a dirt road, dodging cows, prickly cactus

This afternoon I went running along the Trans-Chaco and ran with Humberto's little brothers and one of their neighbors along a dirt road out to a river where there are some really cool birds. Along the way we saw a huge herd of cows, a dog carcass and a really cool cactus with red fruit. Hugo passed through the wire fence to get some of the fruit for us to eat. He had to be careful though because there are soft little spines that are almost transparent, although you sure can feel them when they prick you! I took one from him and it definitely left spines in my fingers that I felt even as I was washing my hair in the shower.
After our run we drank terere underneath the Santa Rita vine in their front yard. It was already dark at that point. I let Hugo listen to my iPod; first he listened to "The Way I Are" by Timbaland, then "Mi Dulce Niña" by Kumbia Kings and the last, his choice, was "La Fuga" by Daddy Yankee. Even though he's only nine years old he knows all of the words! It's pretty impressive.
I get scared sometimes that I have adjusted too much to being here! It is frightening to think that I am really comfortable here, but at the same time really nice.
I have been feeling guilty for not doing more work lately, but it's hard to stop and go between working on my house and trying to create work for myself. Just watering my plants, washing my clothes, going to the hardware store to buy random things like a paint brush or lime to paint my walls, a sponge and dishwashing detergent for my dishes, takes up a boat load of time. Before I know it's lunch time and I just hope that someone will invite me to eat lunch. Luckily my friend's family is really good to me; even though he's not around they invite me to eat lunch. Today we had wild chicken that's only out in the Chaco with rice, cabbage salad, bread and grapefruit juice from grapefruits on the tree in their yard.
I tested my old stove today to see if it worked; turns out that only one of the burners lights. I still don't have a fridge so I have to go next door and get ice and put my yogurt and random items in there. So I'm not completely independent yet. Also, my neighbors can walk into my yard at any time because there's a gate in the fence separating our yards. It doesn't bother me much because they help me clean my yard a bit and they will hopefully help me plant things in the future. However, what with the little time that I have now, I doubt that I will be able to!
The weather is getting cooler--80s during the day and 70s at night. Not too shabby. The downside is that there has been a drought lately, which has been affecting a lot of crops. Luckily there is still plenty of food and there are no water warnings. Word on the street is that it will rain tomorrow. I've heard that before.
What is the deal with the porcine flu? I feel uninformed and it's frustrating! I just got a message from Peace Corps saying that there are no cases reported yet in Paraguay but that we should remain informed and let them know of any news.

These photos go from most recent to least recent. One of these days I will learn that I have to upload the photos in reverse order so they come out right chronologically. The two girls in front are from the newest group of volunteers, the three guys in the back are Paraguayans that we invited to a Peace Corps triple threat birthday party.
More of the same. Alberto, Humberto, I don't remember and Rebecca
Youth Congress in my town this past Saturday, April 25th in the Paraguayan military base. These were the cheerleaders to get us fired up. I did a little bit of dancin' with my friend Carlos. They made me nostalgic for TBDBITL.
Viceminister of Youth (of the Paraguayan government) who organized and led the event to form a group of volunteers in my department (aka state)
"Welcome! to the Departmental Congress- Change Makers(?)" Not sure how to translate impulsores but it's a cognate so you should understand.
Waiting in line at the registration table. It was all free.

In Service Training in Asuncion for the Municipal Services Development sector. April 1-3
March 30- Marzo Paraguayo to commemorate the injured and killed in a protest in Asuncion regardingthe assassination of vice president Argaña and corruption in the government in 1999. 10 year anniversary. I could be wrong on some of that information--my memory is a bit rusty. The youth in my site did a commemoration of the 1999 events. This is me with another Karen!

The road that my house is on. Shade from the mango trees.
Municipal Water Council Meeting, April 27, 2009.Everyone was following along as the head of the muni's environmental department read the statute, which states, among other things, that at least at the beginning the mayor must be the president of the council. The mayor is a nice guy but is busy with too many tasks, therefore the work of the Water Council to obtain official recognizance from the national government remains delayed. They have not started really working yet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trash clouds, new house, English class closing ceremony

I was so impressed by the huge smoke clouds from burning trash and sugar cane fields that I took a photo of it.

More smoke

My new house! This is the window in my bedroom.
My front door.

My back yard. It looks like there are no nieghbors around, but there are. Next door to me is a señora named Ursulina who watches out for me. She is Cristina's friend :)