Saturday, December 31, 2011

Feliz Año Nuevo de Paraguay!

What better way to usher in the new year than with a blog post?  Haha, well I can think of quite a few better ways, but this will just have to do for this year.  I'm currently in Asuncion for a couple of days with some of my fellow Ag Volunteers, and we're just enjoying each others company, watching the fireworks, and talking/taking crazy pictures of ourselves.  Good times, eh?

I'm typically a New Year's Resolution kind of person.  I make all sorts of promises to myself about what I want to accomplish for the coming year.  Sometimes I meet those goals, but more often than not I come to the realization that those goals were probably not super-realistic... to achieve them would involve a major change in circumstances or behavior.  Well, guess what?   I have that this year!

My goals for 2012 stem almost completely around my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  San Jose Boqueron is full of potential, and I intend to maximize it.  Next week I start the Club de Libros for the kids in the community.  It's important that these kids have the opportunity to not only sharpen their reading skills, but also learn to embrace their imaginations and develop a real sense of creativity.  Amanda started this during her service previous to mine, and I hope to find new ways to make it my own.

From an agricultural point of view, I intend to begin working in the fields with the farmers as soon as this coming week.  Farmers in my area are growing mandio, avati, manduvi, and kumanda.  It's also a huge year for algodon.  There are already quite a few farmers working with cover crops and contour cropping, but I really want to get to know how these systems are working for the farmers, and what ways we can tweak them to continue working towards soil recuperation.

My other projects for the coming year will to work with summer gardening (regarding shade and pest control), and some chicken management.  On top of that, 2012 will bring a *hopefully* mastery of Guarani and Spanish, as well as coming to be part of my community.  Right now I'm still feeling a little out of place, but I'll get there.

Paraguay offers a lot of opportunity for me to grow in my abilities within agriculture, but also with new social dynamics and my ability to teach (especially in the schools).  As I enter the new year, I am really glad that I'm here.  Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is such an opportunity, and I'm looking forward to taking advantage of my opportunity here to not only develop those new skills, but to also work with my community to help them realize their own natural and human resources... that they themselves can make their lives better.

Here's to a new year!  A new year full of challenges, successes, and failures.  Life is too short to wish you were somewhere else or to ignore opportunities.

PS- I'll try to do a video blog for my next post... I've been a little frazzled the last few weeks, so hopefully as things begin to stabilize, I'll have some better posts coming.  ;o)

PSS- I put another doohicky on the sidebar to log all of the books that I'm reading while I'm here.  I have a lot of time to read, haha.  There's also a tab at the top now where you can read my reviews about these books.  I'll put more effort into them later, but I'm still figuring out how I want to do it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 is coming to a close...

Christmas is over, thankfully, and I'm ready to move on with my life.  I let the pressure of the holiday get to me, but I've decided to pick myself up and start charging ahead once again.  No more moping!  It's technically the first and last Christmas I'll ever have to spend away from home ever again, so the recovery should be pretty quick.

Monday I went to La Colmena for a volunteer meeting, and it was great to just get out of site for a bit and refocus.  I met Maggie in Acahay, and we took the bus to La Colmena where we went to a pizza restaurant.  Man, I miss pizza.  We ended up running into a snag on the way back to Acahay (ahem... took the wrong bus, got off in the middle of no where, and had to walk like an hour back to the terminal), but for the most part it went smoothly.

The multiple highs and lows that happen every day as a Peace Corps volunteer can kill a person.  Seriously, you're killing me Smalls.  So yesterday, my program director called the man I wanted to lease the house from.  At this point, I had already met with a construction company in Ybycui for a price estimate on floor and roof tiles, cement, etc.  I was all set!  Then this guy tells my program director he has no interest in renting the property--he just wants to sell it.  My first reaction was true disappointment.  I knew that I had another option, but it was kind of far back in the community.

I decided to go explore that other option anyway, and it turns out the house needs almost no work, it's got a HUGE porch with a great view, and the landlord is going to let me use the shower and TOILET in his house.  Yes, I said toilet.  I'm actually pretty excited about this now, haha.  And the fact that it doesn't need repair means that it will be easier to get all of the previous volunteers things in faster, etc etc.  So yay!  I'm happy about that.  Plus, the landlord is the Professor at the school, so that should help me speed up my language learning, as well as give me opportunities for working in the schools when they're in session.

It's amazing how much you miss these when they're gone
I'm going to Asuncion this weekend to discuss some details, but over all, things are looking up.  I spent like 4 hours de-podding some kumanda (beans) this morning, and will no doubt be at it again this evening.

Thanks to all of you who offered encouragement over the past week or so.  I needed it.  But it's important now that I start to lock in on my experiences here in Paraguay, and not so much of what's happening back in the US.  I really need to start speaking more Guarani!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feliz Navidad!

Felize Navidad everyone!  I'm choosing to ignore that crazy annoying version of that song that's played on the radio incessantly this time of year, which I'm sure you've all heard enough of.  I love Christmas music, but not that one.  But anyways, to the point Bryce!  So many words... all the time!

It's interesting... When I signed up for the Peace Corps, I didn't really think about the title of the organization.  I knew that I wanted travel, help people, and live in a new culture, but I never thought of the impacts of what doing these things might have in terms of conflict, or the lack of it.  My host-father for this week asked me if I had a gun with me, and it was the first time I really put any thought into the fact that I came to Paraguay working for the PEACE Corps... not the Marine Corps, which I definitely explained to him.  "Um, che amba'apohina Cuerpo de PAZndi!" Much laughter ensued.

But what is Peace?  And where does it come from?  Is it even something that can be obtained?  Is it permanent?  I have a lot of questions about words lately.  It's as if learning two other languages has forced me to reconsider the words I've used so often in my own native tongue.  "Wait... Spoon?  We call this a spoon?  That's SO WEIRD.  Weird?  WEIRD?  THAT'S WEIRD."  Hahaha, such is the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Don't even get me started on trying to teach people English.  Gosh, what a disaster.  But anyways... Bryce, you're doing it again.  STOP.

So the word PEACE, as it is professionally and seasonally appropriate, is what I am going to talk about in my post today.  My pastor at my home church in Lansing, Don Denyes, gave a Christmas sermon on December 26th of last year on peace (which I downloaded before I left Michigan.  How handy are MP3 files, eh?).  Let me tell you, there could not have been a better time for me to listen to this sermon than this week--my first official few days as a Peace Corps Volunteer in my community.  It hasn't been easy and I've been working hard to pursue a place of peace in my life ever since I got here.  Paraguayans call it Tranquilo.  I heard this all the time in training... "Tranquilo, Bryce!  Tranquilo!"  Meaning "Relax.  Seriously, dude, chill out."

I think that Pastor Denyes did an excellent job of laying it all out.  So here are my notes from the sermon:

-What is Peace?
    -Peace is not just the absence of conflict.
    -From the prayer mentioned in Numbers 6:
        1. Completeness, wholeness, abundance of life
        2. Traquility of heart (The inside)
        3. Harmony with each other (The outside)
-What Peace did Christ come to bring?:
    -The word "Peace" appears in the Christmas account of Luke only 3 times:
        1. Guide us on the Path of Peace (Luke 1:79, Zachariah's song)
            -Walk in peace for all of our lives, both externally and internally
        2. Peace with God / Divine Peace (Luke 2:14, the Angels to the Shepherds)
            -We must turn from sin and trust in God (John 16:33)
            -Given to those to whom He has given His favor/been justified by faith (Romans 5:1)
        3. Peace in Death (Luke 2:29, Simian's prayer to God)
            -Peace only comes to those who know Christ
            -Jesus defeated death on the cross and the Resurrection
            -We can have peace in facing the last enemy called Death because Christ was victorious over death.

Now, I didn't come all the way to South America to beat Paraguayans over the head with the Bible.  While my faith is an enormous part of my life wherever I am, I fully understand that the US government is not paying me to win converts to Protestant Christianity.  Sharing my faith is something that happens naturally for me within my preestablished relationships, and not something I stand on a corner and scream at the top of my lungs about.  Listening to this sermon forced me to think about how all this fits into my current personal state within my Peace Corps service.

I'm far away from family for Christmas this year, which eats me alive when I think about it.  Even with that minor freak-out incident before dinner on Christmas last year, I love my family and the sometimes-chaos that being in one house with all those people can cause.  ;)  As a fan of Christmas trees, Christmas music, and all of the nonsense at the mall when I'm shopping on Christmas Eve (seriously, the people-watching is hysterical), it's been a challenge for me to deal with the separation anxiety that Paraguay has caused me during this time of year.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO PEPPERMINT MOCHAS?!  I WANT MY PEPPERMINT MOCHA! ahem... I'm over it.  Obviously I'm struggling to find some peace (and some coffee).

But that's just the thing... The peace never left.  I have that personal relationship with Christ that gives me access to His eternal peace.  I have peace in the fact that even if I am alone and isolated for Christmas, I'm never separated from God--and really, He's all that matters.  Sometimes life gets moving too fast (or too slow, in my case), that it's easy to lose touch with reality.  We celebrate Christmas because it gives us something more valuable than anything else in this world: Christ came to give us peace with God in the form of forgiveness of sin.  Peace is temporary without repentence. 

I'm going to remember that this year.  The company of family and friends, the gift giving, coffee cake, and yes--peppermint mochas from Starbucks, are all just cultural traditions that are bonuses to the real message of the holiday.  I can go without those bonuses for this year.  ;)  May you all have peace with each other -- and more importantly -- Peace with God this Christmas season.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What the Watermelon? The Nefarious Sandia

Well folks, the time has arrived for me to start writing about actual work at site.  Well... sort of.  My work right now seems to revolve around sitting in the shade drinking water and terere and trying desperately to decipher what in the world people are saying to me.  I´m hoping... PRAYING... that I will eventually be able to figure out this language that sounds so completely different from what my professors taught me in training.

I´m currently living with a family on the outskirts of the community.  They have two young boys and a baby living with them, all of whom are very vocal and energetic.  I´ll be moving to another family next week, and another the week after that... Basically I move around until I get my own house, which I´m currently pursuing options so that I can get started in my garden and compost pile.

Just a quick fun story--
This family I´m staying with usually goes to bed at 9PM.  Last night, they knocked on my door just after 10PM, and offered me watermelon.  Not just some watermelon--HALF a watermelon.  The parents and kids enjoyed one half, while they expected me to finish off the other... I was kind of in shock.  There´s something about Paraguayan culture you need to understand.  Watermelon here has some kind of mystic property that regulates when and where you can eat it.  You can´t drink terere with watermelon, you have to be careful what you eat after eating watermelon, when you shower, etc etc etc.  It´s a cultural thing I haven´t totally wrapped my head around yet.  So anyways, it was just bizarre to get brought out of my room seemingly late at night to eat half a watermelon right before going to bed.  I just laughed my way through it, haha.  I found this photo on another site and thought it seemed appropriate--
So...end of story.

My internet works well at site!  I´m encouraged by that.  I was able to talk with Mom and Dad for a while yesterday, and chat with some other friends today!  It´s a real blessing that God has given me the ability to contact home, especially as Christmas gets closer on the calendar.

I´ll be sure to post near Christmas... I have a great entry I´m working on that I´m kind of excited about.  Hope things are well at home, and enjoy the snow!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's official -- I'm a PCV!

It's been a very fast 10 weeks, but it still feels like I've been in Paraguay for longer than that.  I'm really excited to go to my site and start working though!  I leave for my site tomorrow morning, and I will get set up with my host family and begin my two years of Peace Corps service.

The Swear-In Ceremony went well.  It was well represented by various Paraguayan and American government officials, and they had good cake.
Some of the Aggies and me.  I'm going to miss these people. :o(
My Host Family, Ignacia and Mica
My language class with our instructor, Diosnel

Before swear-in though, we all had a chance to go to a party where we ate some interesting things.  They had a boiled cow-head, so we all got to partake in brain and tongue and stuff like that.  It's not something that I would go for all the time, but hey--gotta try everything once, right?  We also had blood sausage, which I would not include on my list of my favorite things.  Now that I've tried it, I will be saying "No gracias" from now on.

The last couple of days have been spent walking all over Asuncion, getting used to the bus system, and exploring the malls and markets.  It's been hot here, so I'm pretty exhausted.  Asuncion is an interesting city, and full of helpful resources that I'm sure I'll be utilizing in my site.  I even found storybooks in Spanish for only Gs 15,000 (equivalent to about $3.50)!  Overall, I'm ready to get to work.  I have a lot of exciting projects in development, a lot of (hopefully innovative) ideas, and two years to complete them!

We had a dinner for just out training class tonight, and most people showed up.  It was a good opportunity to say goodbye to some people I won't see for a while.  It's a little strange to know that after being surrounded by 33 other people for the last 10 weeks, out of all of them it's going to be just me at my site.  But that just means I have more room in my life for Paraguayans!  ;o)

¡Suerte G37!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Adventure Begins... Again.

Hello Friends!  I know it´s been a long time since I last updated.  I kept forgetting my camera, and I don´t like to just post text.  But things have definitely been busy!  We just finished training officially today, and we have our Swearing In Ceremony on Friday.  After that, I have 2 days in Asuncion, and then I´m leaving for my site!

I´m basically over my homesickness for now.  I think it´s been replaced by excitement.  I´m encouraged by my language scores (Intermediate-high for Guarani, Intermediate-low for Spanish), though I think they were being generous with the scores.  I spoke with Amanda (The volunteer I´m replacing) yesterday, and it sounds like the people in the community are just as excited as I am, which is great!  I´m really eager to get to site and start building relationships with my new friends and families.

In case you don´t know where San Jose Boqueron is:

View Larger Map

The last couple of weeks have revolved around closing out service, taking tests, and learning random skills that might be useful at site.  We cooked with our language professors (Chipa Guasu!), re-learned how to make good tererè, and made granola.
 It´s also been a great time to just spend with friends and enjoy the last few days that we all have together.  It´s crazy that pretty soon, I ´ll be living far away from all these people.  I´m going to miss them.  But we have phones!  We got phones and signed up for internet service in Asuncion yesterday, so it´s nice to be back in the 21st century! Haha.  I´m not going to post the number here, but I´ll send it in an email to people that I know.

I can receive calls for free, but that doesn´t mean that it won´t cost the caller anything.  I´m not sure what the skype to phone rate is from the US to Paraguay, or what it would cost for you to send texts.  Yes, people, I finally have a cell phone plan with texting.  But it´s probably insanely expensive... But anyways, hopefully we can all catch up soon!

Until then, Adios!

And just as a reminder, my address has changed in the sidebar.  The only difference is that the "PCT" has changed to a "PCT."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Like a chicken with it's head cut off

Happy December, everyone!  In nine days I'll be officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer!  We finished up our last tech session today, and the next few days are going to be centered around preparing to leave for our sites.

I killed my first chicken last night.  Part of our training was that we managed a chicken coop and raised 40-day chickens.  Well, the chickens are ready for eating and each of us got to take one home to our families.  Michelle came over to watch the process because she decided to "hide behind a tree" (her words, not mine) and not watch for her chicken's demise.  My host mother showed me how to tie up the legs, and we hung it from a tree.  Then I took the chicken by the back, put my hand around the neck, pulled, and snapped the head backward.  This method was pretty successful, but not as fast as I'd hoped for.  It took me a couple of tries to finally kill it.  At least I didn't pull a Kristen and actually rip the head off the body.  Sorry if this sounds serial-killerish, but I find that hilarious.  How many people do you know that have literally ripped the head off of something?  Not many.  My host mother and sister gave me the most horrified faces when I asked "Why can't I just chop off the head with a machete?"  Apparently that way is kind of messy.  I'll get to eat it on Saturday.

It's getting HOT here.  Ridiculously hot.  I still have no idea how to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit, but apparently it's been getting up to 110F here during the day.  My room is a total sweat box, and opening the window does nothing.  I've even had hot showers for the last few days... and of course it's on the days when all you really want is a COLD shower. =D  Figures.  It's become very obvious that Christmas is just not going to feel like a Michigan Christmas here.

Maybe it's the heat, or maybe it's the holidays, but I have been battling off some homesickness this last week or so.  I'm sure I'll slap out of it.  With training coming to a close, it's time for me to get mentally prepared to move to my site and do this alone.  When I joined the Peace Corps, I obviously wasn't looking for a resort weekend on the beach.  I knew this would be challenging and mentally exhausting, but ultimately worth it.  I always knew that moving away from friends and family would be difficult, and we've definitely invented our own sort of family structure here, but still it's hard to put aside and let go of everything happening at home. 

God led me to Paraguay for a lot of reasons... things I'm still waiting to discover.  As much of a professional challenge this is, and even through all the personal transformation it will lead to, I can't ignore the spiritual and moral challenges of living away from my usual support system.  It's more difficult than I expected.  Especially as the Christmas season comes around and I begin to leaf through the first chapters of Luke, I just wish that I had someone to discuss them with.  

There's a song by Caedmon's Call that has meant a lot to me for quite a few years now, and it always encourages me when I hear it:

Lead of Love
Looking back at the road so far
The journey's left its share of scars
Mostly from leaving the narrow and straight

Looking back it is clear to me
That a man is more than the sum of his deeds
And how You've made good of this mess I've made
Is a profound mystery

Looking back You know You had to bring me through
All that I was so afraid of
Though I questioned the sky, now I see why
Had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view
Looking back I see the lead of love

Looking back I can finally see (I'd rather have wisdom)
How failures bring humility (than be)
Brings me to my knees (a comfortable fool)
Helps me see my need for Thee

It just goes to show that even when we feel like we're in the dark and things are rough, there's always a bigger picture.  So much of my time here has already been spent focusing purely on the professional aspects of this job, and I'm about to move into the more interpersonal relationships side of things when I move to my site.  It may not be until I get home, that I see the changes I've made within my own life.  One of the major driving factors to me going to South America was to challenge myself personally in a way that I'd never done.  I wanted not only a change of circumstances, but a change in me.

The homesickness that I'm facing... sure it's bending me, but I'm not going to break.  It's amazing how many highs and lows I go through every day.  Such is life I guess.  God has blessed me with a great group of new friends and more different experiences in 2 months than I had in a whole year last year.  I mean... I killed a chicken yesterday! WHAT?!  Haha.  Life here can be rough, but it's all in the attitude.  Guess I need to keep mine in check.  ;)

I'm not a huge fan of how this vid was made... not crazy about random photo montages... at least pick a theme.  ;)  But the song is great! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dia de Gracias

What a great day.  Dia de Gracias will probably go down on my list of top 10 Thanksgiving celebrations ever.  Not since the Philippines have I been away from family on Thanksgiving, and never have I been so far away from so many foods that I didn't even know I missed.  Thanksgiving with the Ambassador in the American Embassy... does it get any better?  Well, possibly the White House, but in Paraguay it doesn't get better. =D

Everyone looked all spiffed up, and I'm sure I really impressed the Ambassador when I got of the bus wearing my anti-motion sickness bands on my wrists.  Gosh, I can be a nerd sometimes.  It didn't take long for some of us to jump right in the pool.  It's the first non-brown body of water that I've seen in 2 months, and it was glorious.  Seriously, what a change after last week at our sites... from the campo to super-chuchi.

Dinner was turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and some amazing pumpkin and pecan bars made by Medical Mary.  There were a few of us that got a little greedy before the meal even started.  I think I must have eaten at least 7 of those things.  Some people even ate two plates of desserts.  And they had coffee!  The ever-elusive beverage that I drank like 40oz a day of in the States... it was amazing.  I think all of us were really grateful to be there with each other.

Of course, all of this gorging didn't come without consequence... Food comas were aplenty.

I even got to watch some of the Lions game on satellite cable!  Sure, it was a horrible game for the Lions, but it was so nice to get to watch some futbol americano instead of soccer for once. Chake, Bryce... Chake (careful in Guarani).

I don't say it enough, but this group of volunteers is a really awesome group of people.  I haven't often been part of a group where everyone is so motivated and positive.  It was really great to just enjoy a good meal with each other, completely free of the recent stresses of site-selection and visits, and have fun together.  I think all of us have come to realize over the last two months how much we have to be thankful for.  Our standards have changed and we've been conditioned to live with less, but (at least in my case) I have a new appreciation for the love and support of an encouraging family and friends that are like brothers and sisters to me.  There's a lot of stuff that goes down in life, and the only consistent things are our relationships with God and with those we love.  Nothing else really matters, does it? 

I've been in a bit of a pressure-cooker for the last couple of weeks.  I've been praying consistently for wisdom, patience, grace, and compassion.  God often teaches us patience by putting us in situations where we have to be patient.  We don't just get a check in the mail for patience and then BAM--just have it.  These qualities have to be developed.  It was great just to be surrounded by 33 new good friends, let loose, and have a good time.

I often wake up in the morning forgetting that I'm here.  I mean--what an opportunity!  I still can't believe it sometimes that I'm living in South America, sometimes bucket-bathing, with all my clothes stained a pale orange color because of the dust in the air.  This is an experience that I don't want to take for granted, and I am so thankful to be here living this adventure!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Future Site Visit - San José Boquerón

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I'm sad that I can't be with my family today, but we're having a get-together with all of the trainees at the Ambassador's house in Asunción, so that should be fun (I'm writing this on Thanksgiving).

The compañia of San José Boquerón is located roughly 10 km from the puebla of Ybycuí, which is about a 2-hour bus ride from Asunción.  Last Friday, I met my contact's 18 year-old son, Luis, during our "Encuentro" at a retreat center and we jumped on the bus and headed to site.  It's a small community of maybe 300 people, but not that many houses.  It's common for people to have 10 to 14 kids. As a follow-up volunteer, I had the benefit of having someone to talk to about things from a Peace Corps perspective, which was huge.

I lived with a family near the school, and they were extremely friendly and hospitable.  I'm grateful for their patience with my broken Guaraní and Spanish, because it was a real wake-up call for me of how little I know.  I'm coming along okay and I'm trying not to get discouraged, but learning two languages at a time is not easy.  I sometimes don't even know which one people are speaking.

The first morning, I went to a weekly book club (club de libros) with Amanda, the current volunteer.  She meets up with kids for an hour each week so they can practice their reading skills and draw.  I plan on continuing the club once I get to site permanently, because it's so important that these kids learn to develop their imaginations and creativity!  Plus, working with the kids is going to be one way that I can continue to integrate into the community and opens up doors in the future for working in the schools.
The second day I was supposed to climb the Cerro, but it rained most of the day.  The third day I was supposed to go to Ybycuí with Amanda, but it rained most of the day.  And on top of that the running water had been out of service for two weeks and the electricity went out for two days... It was difficult for me. Tranquilo, right?  However, I did get to spend some time in the afternoon walking to the fields and getting to know some families.  Most of the lowlands are wetlands, so everything flooded.  The streets turned to rivers and just about everyone stayed inside for the two days.

This town is much different from where my training location is.  The fields are about a half-hour walk from the community, so most of the men are gone all day.  They leave on their ox-carts in the morning and often don't return until late afternoon.  It presents some challenges for me as an ag volunteer because I will have to split my team between the men in the fields and the very active women's comités in town.
The final day, Amanda and I went to Ybycuí and met the DEAG extension agents (the Ministry of Agriculture), she showed me where to shop, the post office and police station, and stuff like that.  We also met a young English teacher that works in one of the schools.  He's 22 and speaks pretty good English, but wants to learn more.  I think we're going to meet often so he can practice his English and I can practice my Spanish and Guaraní.  There's also a KOICA (the South Korean version of the Peace Corps) volunteer that lives in Ybycuí, so that should be fun.  He has another year of service and speaks Spanish really well, so I'm hoping we'll work together a lot.  Maybe I'll even pick up some Korean. (HA!)

Just some notes for the future, the odds are really good that I'll have decent internet access (yay!).  Amanda has it and is able to video skype with her family without too many problems.  This means that I'll be able to chat with all of you occasionally, as well as keep this blog going for my full term of service!  Also, I will be having a change of address soon, so I'll be sure to note when that officially switches over.  If you want to continue to send things to the Peace Corps office, that works fine.  After December 9, the "PCT" will change to a "PCV" though.  And as I mentioned above, Ybycuí has a post office, so I'll post that address later on.  Regarding skype or email, my contact info is on the right sidebar above, and I also have Google voice/video(?).  I Haven't used it yet, but I recently installed it on my computer.

Please continue to pray that I will stay positive.  It's unlikely that I will have a lot of space until I move into my own house in February or March, the electricity and water problems have potential to drive me a little crazy, and working with kids is really intimidating for me.  Especially during the Christmas season I'm going to feel the isolation from my family and friends (I'm feeling it already), so I can't let any homesickness take over. I have about two weeks left of training, and then I'm officially a Peace Corps Volunteer and the adventure really begins!  Thanks to all who write to me and send me things. ;)  It's always nice to get stuff from home.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Areguá and Site Selection Day!

Hello friends!  Things are really picking up the pace here in Paraguay.  Yesterday we all found out where we would be stationed during our two years of service!  But I'll get into that a little bit later.

Yesterday we had our "Viaje Cultural" in Areguá, a town not too far out of Asunción.  They had a lake!  It feels like forever since I've seen any real water bodies.  Being from Michigan, where no one is ever more than an hour and a half away from an enormous lake, water is noticeably lacking.  Areguá is a beautiful area, and we got to spend time climbing around on a rare rock formation, visiting a church and pottery-making store, and some people even went swimming in the lake.  It was a little brown for my taste. ;)

After arriving back at the Training Center in Guarambaré, we had a quick session where we learned some songs in Guaraní and how to dance to Paraguayan music.  Sorry guys, there's no way I'm posting a video of that part, haha.  Rhythm is not my forte, and certainly neither is dancing in general.

But honestly, now on to the good stuff.  The staff brought out a huge map of Paraguay with the 34 locations marked on the map.  Then, they drew one of our ID pictures out of a basket and stuck it on the map where our locations were.  Due to political turmoil in the north, all of the trainees are placed in the southeast portion of the country.  When they called my name, I walked up to the front and received my folder from Gloria (our program director) and went over to see where I would be living and working.  It felt like getting my diploma and then finding out where I was going to go to college all over again.

My location is called San José Boquerón, which is a compañia about 10 km outside of the pueblo of Ybycuí, which is in the Department (state) of Paraguarí.  Ted and I stopped in Ybycuí on the way to our volunteer visits back in October, so I'm fairly familiar with at least what the town looks like.  I'm going to be what Peace Corp refers to as a Follow-Up Volunteer, meaning that there is currently a volunteer stationed at that site until December, and I will be taking her place.  The volunteer that I'm replacing ran one of our training sessions, and she's also from Michigan and went to MSU!  So that means I won't have to describe where I'm from, which takes away like half of the Guaraní that I know, haha.

I'll be meeting my community contact and heading down for a visit starting on Friday, and I'm really pumped about it!  According to the info packet I was given, the volunteer currently working there has spent a lot of time with the womens' comité and with the kids in the school.  I'm hoping to be able to continue her work, while adding some soil recuperation and natural resources conservation tecniques.  This is getting exciting!  I'm just eager to get to the site, see what it looks like, and try to get a feeling where I might get started.

The info says that the farmers in this community plant on the hillsides because the flat ground is mostly wetland.  I'm going to stay away from wetland determinations (I've had enough of those for a LONG time), but it looks like I'll get to do plenty regarding contour farming and maybe some other options.  Any of you NRCSers, please feel free to share some ideas!

Overall, my Peace Corps experience continues to get more and more exciting.  I'm having a great time here with the other trainees, the staff, and the Paraguayans that I've met so far.  My swear-in ceremony is coming up on December 9, and very soon after that I'll be moving to my site.  There's a chance I may have access to internet at my new house (eventually?), but there is also a café in Ybycui, so keeping up the blog shouldn't be a problem.  Hopefully I will continue to have new and exciting experiences to share with all of you on a weekly basis!

I'll be sure to give a solid update after my return from my first week at site, and of course, expect more photos and videos!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Long Field Practice in San Franciscomi

Hello!  Long Field Practice was a blast!  We arrived in San Franciscomi on Tuesday morning and jumped right into the work.  My language class, our instructor, and our technical trainer (Jonathan) drove about three hours south of Guarambare to the department of Caazapa.  We spent four days working with Gabe, the current volunteer in that site.  Gabe is in our sister G, which means that he arrived in Paraguay a year ahead of us, and will be around for our first year of service.  I´m G37, he´s G34.  Because of federal budget issues, things are about to get wonky with the G´s... glad I don´t have to figure that out.

After lunch with our in-town host families, Kristen, Emily, Laura, and I went over to a woman´s house to make glasses out of wine bottles.  We used wire and friction to heat up the bottles, and then plunged them down into ice water, and they just broke.  Then we sanded down the edges.  It´s a pretty cool project, and a great way to recycle.

Day two was a lot of trees and bees.  We did our first wild hive capture, called a trasiego, and it went pretty smoothly.  I had a couple of holes in my gloves so I got stung a couple of times, but it was no biggie.  No need for an epipen here!

The next day we did our charla on balanceados cacero and created a calendaria agricola with the ag comite in town.  It was all in Guarani, and I think it went pretty well.  All of the people who attended were great participators, and it felt great to know that making their own animal feed instead of buying it is something that many of them may conceivably try.

The last day we did some work in the schools, planting trees with the kids and teaching them about liquid fertilizer, which we refer to as abono tea.  Gabe was a great host, and it was great to get another perspective on what the life of a volunteer is like.

On Wednesday we get our site assignments!  Friday, we get to go spent a few days at our sites over the weekend.  Then it´s just a few more weeks and I´m out there on my own!  I´ll be sure to post something later next week after I find out the exciting news!
PS- Please DO NOT send things FedEx or UPS... it´s crazy expensive!  I didn`t know it would be so crazy when I said that before.  I suggest sticking with regular mail, and don´t send anything too pricey.  Thanks!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Che cherera... Braulio?

"Chéveguarã Braulio Iñaña." Meaning "I think Braulio is bad" in Guaraní. All of my professors have said this at least once in my academic life, and it only took five weeks for it to happen here. To clarify, Paraguayans have a hard time with my name, so I was given the name Braulio by my language professor, Diosnel. Bryce comes out sounding like either "Bl...iiiiice" or "Breeeesay" and most people just laugh when I introduce myself, so Braulio it is. When in Paraguay, take on a Paraguayan name.

Guaraní class is a good time. Diosnel is an awesome instructor, my classmates are fun, and in general things happen without too many distractions. It's only on some days where things get a little carried away, and it's possible I may be the reason for some of that. Hence, chéveguarã Braulio Iñaña. haha.

I drew this rabbit on the board because we were talking about parts of the body and were scheduled to work with rabbits (tapiti) during out tech session that afternoon (ka'aru). See, you're all learning Guaraní right along with me! Can I sign somewhere that I'm fulfilling one of the Peace Corps mission goals? "Helping to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans." Check! Mission accomplished. ;)

In case you can't read it in the photo, here's a few useful phrases in Guaraní:

Che rekaka ne = My poop stinks.
Ne katî = Your underarms stink.
Mba'epa. Reykuã porã = What? I smell good.
Ne akãne = You're stupid.

All useful, right?  Haha. Good times with the Guarani.
It's been another big week of tech sessions. Chickens, pigs, rabbits, making thatch roofs... BUSY.
The weeks are flying by these days. Next week is our Long Field Practice, which I talk about a little bit in the video below. I really don't know that much about it yet, other than that I will be gone from Tuesday to Friday next week. And then, WEEK SEVEN! Week seven is exciting because it means interviews with our APCD and then site selection. Let's face it, this entire training period has led up to site selection. I (as well as every other trainee) really want to know where I will be living for the next two years of my life. The waiting is almost over!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vermiculture, Beekeeping, and Homi´s Farm

Well friends, this has been a busy week for the Ag trainees!  Each tech training day has at least one really interesting element.  I’m glad I’m an Ag volunteer and not in Environmental Education!  Sorry EEs, but you know it’s true – Our job is just more fun than yours.

Anyway, Monday started off with four hours of Guaraní classes followed by our tech sessions, which are now taking place at an agricultural high school in Nueva Italia.  We had classes in composting and vermiculture (worm composting).   Let me tell you, I cannot wait to start my worm box.  Seriously!  Worms (cevo’í) are a pretty fascinating subject.  It always helps to have a couple of very enthusiastic volunteers to lead our sessions as well.

Tuesday brought more fun with classes in Paraguayan soils, followed by green manures (abonos verdes) presented by two volunteers that also attended Michigan State!  I even had a class with one of them, which just proves that we live in a very small world.  Our third session that day was on the benefits of crop rotations, which I was pretty familiar with (thank you Dr. Renner and Cropping Systems!  See?  I DID learn something in college!).

Wednesday was boring, so I won’t write too much about it.  It was a combined sector day at the training center which just means classes on personal safety, STDs, botflies (SO GROSS--Google it!), and stuff like that.

Thursday was the best day I’ve had in Paraguay so far.  It was beekeeping day!  There was also a session on tree planting, but let’s be honest—bees (káva) trump trees any day.  We suited up and went out to the hives.  We looked something like astronauts out for a moonwalk, but no one got stung!  It was an incredible feeling walking into the swarm, having bees crawling all over my body.  I’ve been into bugs since my entomology class at MSU (something else I learned in college! Thanks Dr. DiFonzo!).  I really hope that I get to continue beekeeping in my service.  I think it’s something I may keep up once I get back to the States. 

Friday was another chill day at the training center; language, progress interviews, and an exam.  Glad that’s over with.  I’m so done with exams.

The week finished off well.  One of our sector trainers grew up on a farm on the river right outside of Asunción, and gave us the opportunity to explore it.  The family is almost a completely self-sufficient farm, with rabbits, fish, cows, chickens, and pigs.  They grow the food for their animals right on the farm, and also are using vermiculture and an anaerobic digester for gas fuel for cooking and other uses on the farm.  It was a pretty amazing place, and it’s great that they use their operation as an example for education around the community.  I’ll post more pictures on facebook if you want a chance to see more.

So that was my week!  Hopefully yours was just as interesting.  Thanks to all of you who sent me some news and information as to what is happening in the rest of the world.  It’s always good to stay informed!

Ridiculously complicated Guaraní word of the week: oñeñe’ê – Means “they speak” (impersonal)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You're sending me... where?!

“Che ahakuri Rectape.  La sitio michieterei.  Che aikokuri otra voluntariondi héra Jonathan.  Ore oikytikuri takuare’ê ha oñe’êkuri famíliakuerandi.” This was my attempt at summing up my visit to the community of Recta (I know… Insert joke here: _______) in Guaraní for my language class Saturday morning.  Not too bad, but I still have a long way to go!  In English: I went to Recta.  The city was very small.  I lived with another volunteer named Jonathan.  We cut sugar cane and talked with families.

Just as a side note, Guaraní never fails to impress me as a language.  The word for stream is “ysyry.”  Seriously.  It’s pronounced something like uh-suh-ruh.  I’m still working on the y sounds, which are very prevalent in the language.

But anyway, back to Recta.  I traveled with Ted (an Environmental Education trainee) for most of the trip.  We rode from Guarambaré to Tres Bocas, then about two hours by bus to Ybycui where we waited for a couple more hours for a bus and met up with Jonathan, who was returning from Asunción.  The three of us then traveled another hour and a half or so to Isla Naranja where Ted had to get off to meet his volunteer.  Jonathan and I got off the bus in Nuahi Uno a half-hour later, and then walked about an hour to Recta.  What a day, right?  Busy busy.

Jonathan’s house was very small—just one room with a bed and some shelves.  He had a well and latrine behind the house.  We were pretty far out there to say the least!  We made some dinner and just talked about what working there was like for him.  Neither his shower nor his latrine had any walls, so it was definitely an interesting experience just standing in a field to shower and stuff… I’ll probably build some walls wherever I end up.

The second day was a bit rough for me because I totally lost my voice.  One of the families that we visited that day (with 14 kids!) gave us some herbs that we boiled into this tea.  It was supposed to clear my pipes out.  It didn’t really work that well for me, but it tasted good.  Later in the day we went back down to Nuahi Uno for a comité meeting about starting a bank for the area.  I learned a lot about comités and how they function which was good because I’ll probably be working with one or trying to start one once I find out where my site will be.  I’m sure I’ll write more about comités in the future.

By Wednesday I mostly had my voice back, so we went from house to house looking for work and observed some of the massive deforestation that is going on in the area.  There is a lot of slashing and burning going on so that they can farm on the sides of the hills (opportunities for terracing, WASCOBs or contour cropping, eh NRCS?).  Eventually we ended up spending some time cutting takuare’ê (sugar cane) for a little while.  It’s fun to use a machete, but with my affinity for injury I definitely need to watch myself.
On Thursday, I visited a school and then walked two hours to Isla Naranja (the bus didn’t go all the way to Nuahi Uno that day).  I got on the bus with Ted and headed back to Guarambaré.  When I came home to Santo Domingo, I found out I had one of the most rural site visits out of everyone.  It was definitely an adventure!  Now that I know what a site looks like, I have a better idea of what to discuss with my program director regarding what I’m looking for in a site.  I know I won’t get everything I want, but they do try to take preferences into account because volunteers have to there for two years.
Site selection is slated for week seven of training.  I’m excited for it!  This week and next week is a lot of technical training.  On one hand, it’s hard to believe I’ve already been in Paraguay for almost a month, but on the other hand it does feel like it’s been a while.  Thanks for following the blog, and I look forward to talking with you all in the future!

On Saturday afternoon, we got to go to a mall in Asuncion (It’s crazy how basically any mall in the world is the same), and I had my first good cup of coffee since I left the States.  It wasn’t Starbucks (gotta go to Buenos Aires for that) and it was tiny, but it still hit the spot.  Believe it or not, they don’t drink coffee here.  It’s like the one country in South America, haha.  I think it’s because of everyone here just drinks tereré. All they really have here is instant NesCafé.  

Because some of you who have asked, I added my mailing address to the sidebar in the contact info section.  Regular mail takes a while, so especially if you’re sending a package I’d recommend UPS or FedEX.  Ideas of things to send?  Starbucks Via would be greatly, GREATLY appreciated, and single-serving packets of Gatorade powder would be awesome as well.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Psalm 15

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on Your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things
will never be shaken.

I’ve been reading Psalms, Proverbs, I Samuel, and Ephesians while I’m here in Paraguay, and occasionally I come across something that I think to myself “Hey, this would be great to memorize.”  So I’m working on this Psalm right now.  I may touch on it later, but Psalm 16 is also excellent.  The life of David and his struggle against Saul and his flesh is really fascinating, and it’s been way too long since I read through it all. 

David was chosen by God to lead Israel, but then had to spend years of his life in hiding.  Even when he got to rule, he was always making mistakes.  It’s been really refreshing to devote some study to a man who knew how to pour out his heart to God and walk with Him. 

These 27 months in Paraguay are exciting because I’m looking to challenge myself socially, emotionally, professionally, and spiritually.  Moving to another country where everything is brand new is a real opportunity to do some self-evaluation and reflection.  If I’m looking to make some changes in my life, now is the time to do it!  David is such a key example because when he faltered in his decisions, he always came back to God and remained faithful, unlike so many of the people who are used as negative examples in the Old Testament.  I also want to have a whole heart for God.

Thank you to all who have been in prayer for me over the last few weeks.  I’m continually blessed to know how many people love me and are invested not only in this experience in Paraguay, but in my life in general.  As I spend more time here somewhat isolated from the Church, I am constantly reminded that though this world may be a big place, I can still have fellowship through the use of email, facebook, and Skype.  Even though it may not be on a regular basis, please know that it means a lot to me that all of you care so much to contact me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick this week, but I find myself a little bit on the lonely side right now and it’s been scripture and prayer that have kept me grounded.  Please pray that I can continue to be a witness to my fellow trainees as well as my host family and the community I live in.

I’ll post later about my Peace Corps Volunteer site visit in Recta.  It was an adventure!  I stayed with a current volunteer named Jonathan that is working in Ag Extension in a tiny community out in the hills of Paraguay.  I’ll be posting pictures and videos of that experience maybe early next week.

Until then, enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ummm…  yeah.  This presentation was awesome.  Sometimes skits are lame, but sometimes they can be very, very fun (and applicable to real life). We Peace Corps Trainees have a club that was started day one called the SYP club.  I’ll leave those of you who are creative to figure out what that stands for, though please refrain from posting any cuss words in the comments.  ;-)  Thanks.  But anyway, I unfortunately joined that club this week, on the worst possible day for it.

So the morning started out something like this:
The entire group was split into pairs and sent into Asunción on our own for the first time, each with a mission to visit two potentially useful locations for Peace Corp Volunteers.  They call this Tapeapóvo, which means something in Guaraní about a road leading to another road, or something like that.  I rolled out of bed at 4:40AM and was supposed to meet my traveling partner (Laura) at 5:00.  It was raining buckets outside (as it does here… it never just rains -- It POURS) with lots of lighting/thunder.  After getting dressed, I ran out to use the rest room wondering why my blessed Pepto was not working.  Well, there’s a hole in the roof right above the toilet.  So yeah, I had to change my clothes again because I was already soaked.

So Laura and I meet up around 5:15 and walk to the bus stop.  My wonderful family gave me a plastic table cloth to use in addition to my rainjacket.  I looked like a total fool, but it kept my legs mostly dry!  We took our bus to Asuncion and went to Agrofield, which is a gardening and farming equipment/seed/pesticide store.  We did our little interview with a salesman and then went back out into the rain.  We caught our next bus to the Jardín Botánico, which you can hear more about in the video below:

After a third dose of Pepto, I’m pretty sure I’m over my…issue.  However, I may not be back to normal for a few days, which should be interesting… ;-)  Sorry if this is gross, but our group seriously has no shame these days.  We’re all dealing with it so it’s up for discussion pretty much every day. 

I’m not posting every video on my blog, so be sure to check in with my facebook or go to my youtube channel:

Next week is our visit with a current PCV.  Each of us is sent out to spend 4 days one-on-one with a volunteer already serving in our sector.  I’m super-excited about this, and I’m eager to jump into the experience!  Hit me up on the comments, email, or facebook, and I’ll do my best to get in touch later next week after I get back.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 7, 2011

What is that donkey doing in the fishbowl?

One of our staff members used this donkey/fish analogy in our course today.  Honestly, it's pretty accurate.  We can integrate and learn the language and work along side the native Paraguayans, but we'll always be a donkey in the fishbowl.  We look awkward, we don't understand their world yet, and we definitely act a little different.

The training staff here in Guarambare is excellent.  Whether they're teaching us how to make tereré, correcting our Guaraní, or building up our cultural integration skills they really care about our success.  I'm really growing to appreciate the outlook that Peace Corps has on development and how to best go about it. 

Life with my family is going well.  I live with a woman, her uncle, and her daughter.  I also have a little host-nephew named Derlis who is a lot of fun.  They are getting very used to my constant "mba'échapa ojé _________________ Guaranípe" ("How do you say ____________ in Guaraní?") questions. 

It's really interesting how the culture here is set up.  Communities around here are definitely built on family relationships.  I live in a block of about 7 or 8 houses, and all of the families are related in some way or another.  There are 3 other trainees that live in my block: Mario, Mike, and Maggie.  Down the road, there are 5 other Agriculture trainees (Michelle, Chris, Emily, Laura, and Lauralee).  We've kind of taken over this area to some degree... we're the talk of the neighborhood.  Everyone knows what Chris ate for breakfast or how many goals Mario scored in the fútbol game last night.  It's pretty hilarious how fast word gets around.  But they're all used to having volunteers in the area, and so it's nothing new for them.

Speaking of fútbol, it was a blast to get back on the field.  I haven't really played much since college, and it felt great to get some exercise!  It's also a great way to get to know the men in the community.  

I'll bring this to a close for tonight because it's getting long, but I'll leave you with this--someone please use your super-convenient internet to find out what the heck Yingo is all about.  It's a TV show down here.  I've watched it 2 nights in a row with my family, and I have NO IDEA what is going on.  The whole show is really... confusing?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mba´echapa from Paraguay!

I don´t have a ton of time right now, but trust me--a better update is on it´s way!  I´ve been taking pictures like crazy, as well as a video blog update, but I didn´t bring my computer to the cafe today... so I´m kind of out of luck.

Life in Paraguay is going well.  I´m a little intimidated by Guarani as a language, and I wish that my Spanish was better, but I´m coping.  Like I said, I will definitely be submitting a meatier update within the next few days.  Until then, Adios!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Staging and Departure

Well guys, I'm flying out tonight at 11:30PM.  I somehow ended up a group leader, so I have to keep track of 7 other people.  It's all good though... I think that taking on some responsibility has shifted my mind from all of the things that are happening.  Before I know it, I'll be passed out on a plane overnight and hopefully waking up in Buenos Aires.

Staging has been great.  I suppose that this knot in the pit of my stomach will disappear eventually, and much of it will be due to the great people that I am traveling with.  Though we're all different, it's very apparent that we have a lot in common.  The staging was comprised of 35 Peace Corps Trainees, all of whom are part of the Agriculture or Environmental Education sectors.  Today was full of icebreakers and opportunities to get to know each other, as well as discussing our anxieties and aspirations.

Please pray that I will continue to find Christian fellowship as I serve with trainees, volunteers, and native Paraguayans.  I have met one other believer in the group, which is a HUGE answer to prayer.  So keep 'em coming guys!  Have a great week and I definitely am looking forward to future correspondence.

Adios Estados Unidos! Next stop Argentina!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'm in Miami trick...

So many  things in my life come down to LMFAO songs.  There's something seriously wrong with that... :-p

Hello!  I realize it's been a while since I gave an update.  After my final day of work, I moved all of my stuff back to Lansing and then took off for 4 days in Washington with my sister and my niece.  We had a blast, but when I got home it was total crunch-time.  I had two days to pack and get mentally prepared to leave.

I'm currently in my hotel room in Miami awaiting a supposed room mate for the evening.  Registration doesn't start until 6PM, so I have plenty of time to explore/adjust.  It's been an emotional few days for me, and I'm not entirely sure why.  It's not as if I'd never left home before.  But now, instead of just an hour drive, it's a 10 hour plane ride.

Please pray that God will give me peace and flexibility.  I know that it is completely natural to ask questions like "What am I doing?!" or "I'm sure about this, right?"  I need to move forward from that.  There are some awesome people and great experiences to be had in Paraguay, and I need to stop focusing on what I'm leaving behind and embrace the adventure ahead of me.  I'm sure it will be a rough couple of weeks, but I'll find my groove.  Thanks to all of you came to see me/say goodbye before I took off.  It meant a lot.  God, family, and friends are all that is really important in life, and I'm incredibly blessed to be surrounded by so many supportive people.

I have registration tonight, some orientation stuff tomorrow, and then I leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina tomorrow night at 11:30.  Then I will DEFINITELY be off the grid for a few days... probably until Sunday or Monday.  It's going to take a while to get settled, meet my host family, etc.   I look forward to keeping you up to date on what I'm doing and I hope you enjoy reading this blog.  I'm going to do my best to update it on a regular basis.

For those of you who don't have my contact information, I've listed my email and skype screen name on the sidebar.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Three Weeks and Counting

It's almost 2:00 AM and I'm still awake.  Sure, the evening coffee could be keeping me up, but after six years of guzzling the heavenly beverage at all hours of the day I'm not sure it has any effect on me.  I'm still awake because my brain won't shut off.

The last four months have been a complete blur here in Ann Arbor.  After selling most of my possessions, I moved into a house with a friend and planned on enjoying the fun in the sun of a typical Michigan summer.  Well, I did that-- but it felt like it only lasted for a few hours.  Now I'm sitting awake at two in the morning realizing that I have three days left of work as a Soil Conservationist for the USDA, one more week of meeting with my Huron Hills Bible study group, and less than three weeks until I board a plane to Miami.  Life moves so fast, it's almost a crime to find it funny.

It's been an emotional few days for me.  The start of football season and the slow cooling of the air have really made me realize how much I've been blessed during my near 3-year stay in Ann Arbor.  I have some great supportive friends, a job that gave me enough vacation time to travel and see my sisters and nieces, and close enough proximity to my parents that I could still manage a free dinner every once in a while.  But you know what?  God is good.  It took less than a year for me to find Ann Arbor a city I could call my home, and I look forward to the people that I will meet and the adventures I will have while serving the people of Paraguay.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, it's no secret that I have developed a particular affection for the Around the World for Free series on  I've been a Parvati Shallow fan ever since her first season of Survivor in the Cook Islands and it's no doubt that her charisma is what got her in the Survivor Hall of Fame, and is now what is getting her around the world on the goodwill of other people.  But anyway--you people probably don't care so much about that.  The point I'm making is that she spent a significant part of the show up to this point in South America, and I have really been inspired to approach my Peace Corp experience in a similar way.  I want to clear my head of any expectations and close my eyes, open my arms, and just fall into the experience of living and serving in Paraguay.

I know that God has a plan for my life, and I know that this is part of His plan.  I'm just beginning to face the fact that I'm about to step into this whole new chapter of my life, and I can only be excited and optimistic.  As the departure date approaches, I want to make a real effort to post here.  I'm currently developing a partnering website to this page, and have added my photo page back, etc.  I have some work to do still.  Obviously, the success of this blog and the website are dependent on what is available to me upon arrival in South America.  No guarantees!

Until later... =D

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paraguay: Why I'm Going

Uh... hi.  It's been a while, eh? 

I wrote a few months ago that my life would be going through some big changes, and that was no joke.  The last year or so has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me.  I have made some pretty huge decisions regarding my career and future, and though a long process, has been extremely rewarding.

At the end of September I will be boarding a plane and flying to Paraguay, where I will be living for the following 27 months.  I need to be careful what I write here, because in order to write about what I'm doing with the agency I will be working for, there's supposed to be some kind of disclaimer on this blog about what I represent and all that fun stuff.  I don't have that info yet, so I'm not getting too specific.

I am excited about the future though!  I have many challenges ahead of me, including mastering my Spanish and learning Guarani.  This is truly the first time I have proactively pursued something different--something that didn't just fall into my lap.  So much of my life over the past 25 years has been handed to me, and I've had so many choices be made for me just by circumstances.  Really, I've just be walking through open doors.  Which is great!  Don't get me wrong.  It's great that the doors are open.  But there comes a point in a man's life where he has to ask himself: "What do I want out of life?  Where do I want to go, and how do I get there?"  It's only been over the last year and a half or so that I've been asking myself these questions.

Spiritually, God has been working on me for a while; trying to get me to grow up.  His design for our lives is not just to stumble through open doors.  Following God demands intentionality and an element of risk, which I have refused to take up to this point.  My decision to work abroad was not made lightly.  I chose to go after months of prayer and reflection, and after consulting with wise friends and family.  I've had enough of walking through random doors.  I want to identify what I believe is God's will for my life and where I can best serve Him, and go there.  I've done enough wandering.

Working as an Ag Extension agent in Paraguay is not only going to be an adventure, but it will provide me with a whole new set of useful practical and professional skills.  I'm excited to meet new people, learn about different customs, and ultimately grow in patience and understanding of the world we live in.  Ever since my first international experience in Panama, it has been important to me to learn how to see our world with a global perspective.

And lastly, living in the Philippines just ignited a real passion in me for international development.  The opportunity to work with people who can actually benefit from my skills and knowledge is something I take very seriously.  Food and Agriculture is the central foundation for any economy, and if I can help to better the quality of life for anyone, I want to do it.  I got into agriculture to work in development- to give people the chance for a better life.

Please pray for me as I embark on this journey.  I'm older/wiser since I lived in the Philippines, but this is going to be a challenge on a whole new level.  I have a lot of work to do before I even leave, and much to learn about the country and people of Paraguay.  I'm confident that God will use this time in my life to grow me as a person, and I just need to make sure that I am open, humble, and positive so that He can work both in me and through me.

P.S. Due to circumstances, RunBryceRun is on hiatus.  Fitness is still super-important to me, but I doubt I'll be able to maintain two blogs at one.  Obviously even one is pushing it.