Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I´m getting worms...

Ok, so what is vermiculture?  In Spanish, it´s referred to lombricultura and in Guaraní we talk about cevo´i, but that doesn´t help you... It´s worm farming!

These are the worm bins from Homi´s family farm in Asunción from when we visited during training.  Mine will not be this big or this fancy.
I would say that when I was with the USDA-NRCS in Ann Arbor, I was working with some cutting-edge farmers and many new concepts in agriculture.  Many of the farmers that I was working with were in their mid-20s and straight off the Student Organic Farm at MSU (of which fellow Paraguay PCV Mason Bradbury is also an alumni); I don´t know why I never heard of worm farming before coming to Paraguay!  Probably because we didn´t cost share it, haha. ;-)  Actually, it´s typically something that´s used on a very small scale, so I guess it doesn´t surprise me that I never came across it.  But it seems like I would have stumbled upon it while searching for cricket farming after I learned that cricket poop is sometimes used in organic farming for fertilizer.

Anyways, I haven´t created my worm box yet... I´ll write more about it after I start.  Part of the upcoming chicken project is talking about worm composting and using the worms as a potential protein source for chicken feed.  Remember balanceado casero?  Dried up worms can be ground up in a molina and created into worm flour. This flour can then be mixed in with ground corn, eggshells, and soybeans or kumanda yvyra´i to complete the chicken feed.

When I mentioned this concept to my community contact, she didn´t seem too convinced, so I´ve got some work ahead of me if I want people to consider using this method of composting.  I need to get my own worm box done as an example... Guess I´ll just add that to the list of things I gotta do soon, haha.  So much to do!  I need to install water, builda shower, built a fence, double-dig my garden and create tablóns, and figure out how to start a worm box.  Busy = Happy, though!

EDIT -- So this is random, but I just stumbled on an exit essay that was posted online from my experience in the Philippines.  I wonder how long it´s been up there?  You can read it here.  Feels like a long time ago, and I´ve officially been in Paraguay for longer than I was in the Philippines... woah.  haha.  Some of you newer readers may have noticed that this blog started way back in 2007 with that international experience.  Life takes you so many places!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rats and Cats

Well friends, I have rats.  Awesome.  A few nights ago we had a really windy day followed by a rainstorm that knocked out the power for a day and a half.  Usually I have a fan running to cover up the nocturnal sounds of the campo... but not that night.  And it was a good thing, too, because I'm not sure I would have known where to look for the varmint who was eating through my boxes of juice and spreading my trash all over the floor at night.

Turns out they live in the ceiling.  During a nap the other day I caught a glimpse of at least 2 of them running down the center-beam at the peak of my roof.  I awkwardly went up to my landlord's house and told my host-brothers about it... then chaos ensued.  It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in Paraguay so far, and I wished I could have caught it on video.  The all grabbed long sticks and started poking at it, calling the dog down all at the same time.  The rats took off for a pile of brush near my house, and the dog just dove in.  One of the rats got up a tree and the guys just started chucking things at the trees... it was crazy!

The dog ended up killing the one in the brush pile, but the other one got away, and has returned to mess with my mind.  I can hear the stupid thing, but can't see it.  Looks like it's about time to invest in some rat traps and a cat... I wanted a dog, but cats are lower maintenance and better for rodents, I think.  So that's that.  I never thought I would own a cat.  I might name it something like Ivai or Feo (Ugly).  Not a fan of the felines...  But as long as it gets the job done I'll tolerate it.

In other news, we finally had some rain.  It rained for about a day and a half, so that was refreshing.  It cooled things down and wiped out the dust for a little while.  Other volunteers say it's terrible, but I'm really looking forward to winter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another week of firsts

Things that happened to me for the first time ever this week:

1) I visited a foreign Emergency Room -- Even with all of my affinity for accidents and injuries, I never visited a hospital in the Philippines other than the university's health center for my required medical check-up.  I was walking with some friends in Paraguari and not really watching where I was going, and slammed right into a metal cage that was covering an air conditioner.  It knocked me right off my feet.  It wasn't my first time getting stitches... not even the first time getting stitches in my head (the third, actually haha).  But I ended up with three stitches and directions to see the PC Medical Office when I arrived in Asuncion.

2) I swam in the Embassy pool -- I gotta get there more often.  I was so nice to just float in the shade and escape the heat for a bit.  I think I'll be heading back there frequently.

3) I spent 2 days in Asuncion by myself -- I was supposed to have a meeting with the Alianza para el Desarollo de Pequenos Proyectos (Alliance for the Development of Small Projects) this morning regarding the chicken project I inherited from my previous volunteer, but my community contact in San Jose called to cancel last night.  So I ended up staying an extra two days in the city by myself.  Not that I'm complaining... I love my friends here but sometimes it's nice to be able to do what you want when you'er R&R-ing.  No mas lomitos!  haha.

4) I navigated the bus system without Elijah telling me where to go -- I depend on Elijah for a lot of things.  He and Lydia are my information source on organic farming and composting, he's a connoisseur of terere and knows about remedios, and most importantly he's the only one in our little crew that pays attention to where we're going in Asuncion.  I don't know if it's because we're in the southern hemisphere down here, but I can never figure out what direction I'm facing and I am basically useless for navigation... And usually I'm talking instead of paying attention.  But I managed to get myself around last night, and was all prepared to arrive in San Lorenzo at the ADPP office this morning.  I'm learning! 

5) I had bacon in Paraguay -- Last night I decided to see what all the fuss was about regarding Bolsi.  But let me tell you, I was so pleasantly surprised when I found out that my American Classic Hamburguesa came with bacon.  The burger was a bit over done (meat puck?), but it was still amazing due to the bacon.  I miss bacon.

I'm sure there are other things.  But for right now, it's back to site.  It feels like forever since I've been in my house or terere-ed.  The contrast of life here is so amazing between the campo and the city.  I leave my site where most people don't have modern bathrooms and have thatch roofs, I walk two hours to a bus stop and get off in a bustling city with a McDonalds, huge malls, and the fast-paced lifestyle that we're all used to in the states.  It's a crazy adjustment, and it's exhausting.  I am always tired when I get here, and I'm always tired when I get home. 

Anyways, it's back to site for me in a few minutes.  I have to get going on my garden and fencing, as well as start working through my Community Needs Assessment paperwork.  Lots of stuff coming up, and it's going to keep me busy, which is great!  I'll probably have another post up on Friday because I have to go back to Ybycui to get my stitches removed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Videos Videos Videos!

I have a few more of these to upload, but they take forever in Paraguay... so just three for now.

I give a quick run down of the torturous chickens that I live with, some Guarani, as well as some information on tereré and why it's so great.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oviedo, Cleto Romero, and Whatever Mario's Site is Called

There are too many Spanish city names to remember.  In Paraguay, you have departamentos, which are like the equivalent of a state in the United States.  These are places that sound very similar to one still learning Spanish, like Caazapa, Caaguazu, Cordillera, etc.  I live in Paraguari.  Within these departamentos, you have cities, like Ybycui or Carapegua or Yagueron or Guarambare, and then there are companias around those cities, like San Jose Boqueron or... see?  I always forget other people's sites because I can never remember companias.  Ybycui has something like 43 companias around it, and I am the only volunteer... Hoping for another one to land in the area sometime while I'm here.

Anyways, way off the point.  I went to my friend Mario's site to celebrate my other friend Elijah's birthday last week.  Some of us Ags met up in Oviedo and spent the night at a hotel before taking the bus into Mario's site the day after.  When we get together, we always have a good time.  It's pretty much a guarantee with this group of people.
The "radioactive surge pool."  Why the water was so green, I have no idea.

Kristen tried to learn some accordion... kind of complicated.
The dude in the yellow hat was from Argentina and spoke a little English.  He and his Chilean friend were street performers who decided to crash our table for a bit.  It was a good time!

February is a busy month for me.  Last week was the visit to Mario's, this week I have two meetings in Paraguari (Paraguari is the capitol city of Paraguari the departamento... confusing) on Thursday.  One is about SNP certification, which I know nothing about, and the other is going to introduce me to some politicians who may be useful later in my service.  Then Friday I have committee meetings at the Peace Corps Office in Asuncion... Lots going on.  Amanda's chicken project was also approved last week, so now I have a project to work on!  A project I don't know that much about... Hopefully my Spanish kicks into high gear!

I hope all is well at home, and thanks to all of you who sent me a message about my previous post.  Things are going much better now... Peace Corps is so full of highs and lows every day.  It's a good thing God gave us a brain to think with, and not our feelings!

ps, my house is on google maps!


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Monday, February 6, 2012

Tough Week

Well friends, last week was a rough week in Paraguay.  I wish that I could check in and be Mr. Sunshine all the time, but that's not real life at all.  To start it  off, I began the week with a severe case of PMS (Peace corps Moping and Sulking... creative, eh? I should win a prize).  If I were in the States earlier last week, I'd have been eagerly be packing my things and flying to Washington for an annual ski trip at Mt. Baker, enjoying three days on the slopes with my sister, her husband, and some of their friends that I've come to know over the past few years.  The only skiing in Paraguay is the slightly unbalanced slide after stepping into a fresh cow pie on a downward incline.  I take it where I can get it people and trust me--it doesn't compare to the Daytona run down to chair 8.  Not even close.  I mean, what I would give to just feel cold... a chill in the air... ANYTHING.
My first "skiing" experience in Paraguay... I've had numerous sense then.
Following that I ended up spending two days in bed due to a skull-crushing headache and fever that didn't seem to respond to ibprophen or Tylenol.  I confess I had a weak hypochondriac moment where I thought I might have Dengue Fever.  All I could do was flash back to the two times I read John Grisham's The Testament, where the protagonist spends I don't know how many days passed out in a South American hospital somewhere near the Pantanal... Yikes.  Of course it was just a headache probably amplified by the ridiculous Paraguayan summer heat.  This place is insane.

And to complete the circle of complaining for this post (sorry guys), there seemed to be an exponentially multiplying number of chickens, ducks, guineas, and cows wandering around my house and all over my porch.  Complain if you want to, PETA peeps, but I will preach death for all farm animals everywhere for the rest of my life. 

So needless to say, I had a few mental breakdowns last week.  Moments where I am two or three thoughts away from packing it all up and heading back to my nice normal life in Ann Arbor.  Oh Ann Arbor, I've been thinking a lot about you.  I want to order a Jets Pizza and watch old episodes of CSI: Miami on A&E.  I want to go read Harry Potter at my table in the Main St. Starbucks.  I want to meet up with my friends at Jolly Pumpkin or Side Tracks and spend the whole night quoting 30 Rock, even though Rachel has no idea what I'm talking about.  I want to go for a run down along the Huron River in Gallup Park... This week was the first week that I realized how much I really missed not just winter or Michigan, but life in Ann Arbor specifically.  Which is honestly is strange because I never realized I loved Ann Arbor as much as I do.  Guess it's one of those cases where you do don't know what you have until it's gone.  Those of you not from Ann Arbor are probably bored to death by all this, but if you haven't been--you should.  It's a great place to be.  [/commercialPUREMICHIGANTIMALLENBUYAMERICANCARSGREATLAKES]
Oh Jets... I'm going to eat nothing but this after I get home.

Glasses on or off? He can't decide. WHY IS EVERYTHING ORANGE?


I could totally go for a burger and fries after 11PM, right?  Who wouldn't?
Gallup Park.  When I'm here I'm usually in a very good mood or a very, very bad mood.  Depends how the run is going.  ;o)
My favorite hangout and reading spot.  Venti black coffee please?

So anyways, how did this last end?  Emotionally.  Sometimes no matter how much I want to leave Paraguay, I know that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be for the next two years.  If I chose to leave it all, I would regret it forever.  Paraguay is teaching me so much about myself and what I want out of life.  I'm learning things on so many levels--this experience covers it all: Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Professional, Physical... I'm growing (or shrinking) in all of these areas.  I can't terminate this experience prematurely just because there are things here that get under my skin or because I miss home.  Home will still be home when I get there in less than 2 years (of course unless something awful happens and the US ceases to exist... then I'm not sure if it matters if I'm here or not, haha).

God is working in my heart daily revealing things about Himself and myself.  It's amazing how isolation can bring out our best and worst sides at the same time.  Shoulder-Angels are real, people.  I have a lot to learn, and I just have to keep at it.  I'm trying to journal days/weeks like this so that I have it on record of how I dealt with it last time. 

So, to those of you who I have been frantically texting, first I apologize for being clingy, and second I'M FINE.  We're all going to have days like this.  And for those of you reading this and finding out about this for the first time--settle down... it's all good (Mom, I'm fine).  February is going to be a busy month.  I'm going to visit my friend Mario at his site for his birthday on Wednesday up near Oviedo, and then the following week I'm going to visit John and Rosemary and ordering a hammock from their neighbor who custom-makes them, and then we have committee meetings in Asuncion that weekend.  So I'm pretty much booked until the end of the month with work in site and travel out of it.  Happy February, readers!  It's a Leap Year!

Friday, February 3, 2012

I would like to buy a hamburger...

Ugh, no kidding.  One that preferably came from Grizzly Peak.  I gotta stop doing this to myself...

I consider myself a big fan of Steve Martin.  He is, after all, responsible for classics like The Three Amigos, Father of the Bride, and The Jerk, and also gave us the great "I miscounted the men!" line from 30 Rock.  However, not every movie made by a funny guy can be great.  Hence The Pink Panther.  How they ever made a sequel to this horrendous remake of the Peter Sellers versions from the 60s, I will never understand.  This movie is awful.  Made even more awful by the presence of Beyonce, who should stick to singing and pretending to have babies (what is happening in the United States?! Seriously.).

Why am I writing all of this.  Obviously I´m a little out of it.  Here´s a clip of this awful movie... the ONLY good part of this movie.



This is an incredibly accurate picture of how life has been for me in the last few weeks with my landlord´s family.  Sometimes I´m playing the role of the teacher, trying to get correct pronunciations for words like "Milk" or "Horse" (I´m sure you can imagine where that one usually ends up, haha).  Sometimes I´m playing the part of the student, trying desperately to correctly say words like "Ypycarai" or "Sapu`apu`a," which I´m positive that I´m even spelling wrong.

Either way, I guess it´s always good for a laugh, and finding ways to laugh is key to survival out here in the campo.