Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Birthday party, Youth Congress

January 26, 2009

The birthday party here at my house last week was a success. I invited about 70 people, and consequently rented 70 extra chairs of which we probably only used 10. We had loads of leftover food (empanadas with ground beef, ham and cheese and corn, little hamburgers, sopa paraguaya (think corn bread with more oil and eggs), milanesitas (little fried pieces of flattened beef), mandioca balls (pureéd mandioca with cheese and then fried) and pizza. There was also leftovers from two different cakes: one with vanilla with caramel and vanilla ice cream in the middle with white icing and another chocolate with banana split and caramel ice cream in the middle with chocolate ice cream. Sooooo goood.

I invited everyone from the municipality but only one of my friends from there came. She is one of my better friends in site so I knew she’d be there. In spite of at least six people in the muni telling me that they’d be at my party, no one showed up. It’s frustrating because I spent so much more money with the expectation of more people. I got over it once the party got started though because there were more than enough people that showed up, and I already felt over extended trying to make sure people had food and drinks. Surprisingly about five people brought gifts. I got two pairs of earrings, a bracelet, a tank top, a water bottle and hair ties.

Most of the people who showed up live in my neighborhood. In the end the people who were there are those who I’ve spent the most time with since I arrived in site and who really mean the most to me, so it didn’t matter that most people I invited didn’t show up. As early as 7 am people were calling the local radio station to dedicate songs to me and to wish me a happy birthday. Most everyone in my town knew that it was my birthday, ha ha. While I was running around town trying to tie up loose ends before the party, Cristina told me who sent me saludos (greetings) on the radio.

I was so stressed out leading up to the party, which started at 7 pm. I had to look for something to wear, which I found in a señora’s house that lives around the corner from me. I bought a white skirt and a blue tank top. Then my friend told me that I had to get shoes to match, so we went to mercería that sells a little bit of everything for white sandals and blue earrings. After that purchase I had 5 mil guaranies to my name. Aka I was totally soguey (so-WHEY). In Guarani that means broke, ha ha! I knew that I would be up late, so I also had to make sure that my English class lesson for the following day was ready. I also had to work a bit on my trash management workshop. I hope to do it next week.

My intention was to take a nap during siesta, which unfortunately didn’t happen because I had to get my nails repainted to match my outfit. My friend painted my nails for free, thank God. I owe her big time. Not only that but I realized that I didn’t have any speakers to connect to my computer to play my totally groovy playlist that I compiled. I spent two hours calling everyone that I knew to see if they had computer speakers. I finally found some but they didn’t work in the end. So we used Cristina’s CD player and played the bootleg/contraband CD with almost naked girls on the front that they sell on the street for 5 mil with over 100 songs on them. There wasn’t much music in English, but considering that only two of my guests spoke English, it didn’t matter much.

The first guest who showed up was not actually invited, but she said she “heard” about my party and figured that she would come. The funniest part was that she brought six of her family members with her who were also not invited, ha ha, complete with kids under the age of 8 who became restless after about 20 minutes.

My friend Julio came with his guitar around 9 with his guitar to sing me happy birthday in Guarani and Spanish and also other traditional Guarani songs. The party lasted until 4 am, although the last four hours there were only four of us singing, playing guitar and dancing.

On Saturday I went to a Youth Congress in a rural area of my town that lasted all day. It was conducted outside, like the majority of community meetings here in Paraguay. I don’t know where Paraguayans would be without their patios, aka their front/back yards. There were around 100 youth from all different parts of my site to get to know one another better and to discuss the problems and needs of the youth, possible solutions and how to implement the solutions.

Some of the problems mentioned were lack of access to education (specifically university level education or technical school classes), health (reproductive health, etc) and sanitation, security, environmental contamination, social assistance for the poor, government corruption, alcoholism, immigration to other countries, ethics/morality, blaming others for problems rather than working on a personal level to resolve problems.

It was inspiring to be in the presence of youth who want to move forward to change their community. I already knew a good number of the youth there but I also met many more. Several are planning to go to university and study, but some aren’t sure how to do it because there is a lack of money to go all the way to Asuncion for certain areas of study. Luckily there is now a law school here in my site, but in order to study other careers people have to go to Villa Hayes or Asuncion. For those who have to go to Asuncion, it can end up being too expensive to pay the bus fare and for food everyday.

The lack of access to internships in order to qualify for future jobs was also mentioned. I believe that another volunteer not far from me organized a career fair where there were various employers with whom the students could talk. However I don’t know if she took it a step further to arrange a shadowing day for students to see what it’s really like to be a welder, a motorcycle mechanic, a doctor, nurse or lawyer; or, even better, to set up long-term internships so that the youth can obtain real life experience. Most jobs require work experience, and therefore people cannot access them.

This week I am going up to San Pedro to help a fellow volunteer with her youth camp. We will be working with a third volunteer. I will be there for science day. I think we’re doing activities to demonstrate density. We’ll be using soap, oil and water(?). I was never a super scientist so I’m not sure. I’ll probably hear a lot more Guarani up there.

Aside from that I’m planning my trash workshop and my two English classes for this week. Long term I’m trying to get 20 computers with Windows xp and Office in Spanish for a school in my neighborhood where a guy from the National Service of Professional Promotion comes to teach two groups of students computer classes. There are computers there now but they are so old that they can’t run many programs on them.

On Friday I’m headed to Asuncion to celebrate my birthday with two other volunteers from my G who have January bdays. There will be a crazy amount of volunteers in Asuncion because there are meetings for the different Peace Corps Committees such as HIV/AIDS, GAD (Gender Awareness and Development), CoCuMu (Compartiendo Cultural Mundial or Sharing World Culture: they have a photography project with Pgyan youth, concerts, etc), Seed Bank (you take out seeds to use in your site for trees or food, then you have to return more than 100% of the seeds that you took out in return), Teaching English committee and the Technical Committee (they are writing a manual about teaching computer classes). I think there are others but I can’t think of what they are at the moment.

Some people are staying in Asuncion until Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl. All I have to say is that I hope the Steelers lose!!!

Next two photos: Photo 1: My neighbors Cynthia, Gustavo and Lisandra
Photo 2: Ale, Rene, Beverly, Rodrigo, Gustavo

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