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 Harmey2002@yahoo.com.

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.