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!