Monday, April 30, 2012

Still out of site...

I miss my site.  I really really miss my site.  I was talking with my friend Emily tonight about how I just want to go home.  Which is weird, because it's only been recently that I've started to refer to my house in SJB as home.  Michigan will always been my HOME home.  I lived there for twenty-five years, and I will forever be a Michigander that listens to Kid Rock, drinks bottles of pop, and occasionally drops the accidental Canadian accent on words like "sorry."  Oh Tim Hortons, what I would do for a box of TimBits right now...

But yes, for the time being Paraguay has become home.  I've built a network of friends that have become a surrogate family for me while I'm here.  I have some younger siblings, some older siblings, and sometimes a mom and a dad... though I do seem to be the grandpa of the group a lot of the time, haha.  Someone needs to be the responsible old crotchety one every once in a while.  I also have a great house with an awesome view and a job that keeps me busy.

So yes, I miss home, and if everything goes according to plan I should get to go home tomorrow.  It's been a long couple of weeks out of site.  Last week was a jam-packed training session full of medical and security reminders, tours of research institutes and universities, and powerpoints of permaculture gardening and composting.  Lots of stuff going on, eh?

I did get a couple of days off to see my friend Laura's site in Ybu near San Bernardino.  It was so beautiful!  She has a pretty clear view of Lake Ypacarai from her house.  It's amazing how different sites are from volunteer to volunteer.  The people, culture, and location all have strong influences on the work that we do in our communities.


Now I'm back in Asuncion, and I should be in bed because it's going to be an early morning run to the office so that I can get to the Training Center for these LPIs.  Fun stuff!  Apparently tomorrow is the Paraguayan Labor Day, so there seems to be some confusion as to whether or not the buses will be running tomorrow or not.  Hopefully they will!  I'd really like to sleep in my own bed tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ahendu, Reconnect, and other nonsense

Woah.  It´s been so weird being out of site for this long.  It´s been almost a week since I´ve slept in my bed, terere-ed on my porch, or made french fries for dinner.  I actually miss my house, haha.

I arrived in Asuncion on Thursday afternoon.  Friday morning we had a meeting for the Seed Bank, and I volunteered to be the Groundskeeper.  Basically I´ll be in charge of maintaining the Seed Bank log and cleaning up the seed storage area, as well as run the meetings for the next year.  I´m excited because I have been looking for a way to further involve myself during my Peace Corps service.  I´ll be working with a few friends who are also part of the committee, and it will give me a few extra responsibilities which is great!  Can´t be afraid to tackle new things!

Saturday evening we had Ahendu, which is basically a big music event that hosts performances from Paraguayans, PCVs, and other volunteer groups in Paraguay.  It happens every time a new group of volunteers swears into service.  It was fun to just hang out and talk with everyone from my G, as well as other volunteers that I´ve met over the last 5 months that I´ve been in site.

I have to say, at first I didn´t think I was going to make any super-good friends while I was here.  I just kind of expected to be isolated in my own little corner of Paraguay and that I wouldn´t have much of a social life.  That is not what happened though.  I think there´s something about sharing these kinds of experiences and challenges that brings people together.  There are quite a few people that I spend time with on a regular basis, and it´s great that our conversations don´t just revolve around what is happening at our sites.  We talk religion, politics, about our friends and families... I´m incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive (albeit completely insane) group of people that make me laugh a ton.

This week has been all about reconnect.  I´m staying with my original host family, and it´s been really fun to catch up with them and practice my language.  I´m getting better I think... it´s hard to gauge.  The people in Inmaculada speak much more clearly than the people in San Jose.  We´re covering a lot of topics during the training, from seed-saving to green manures to grant writing.  It´s all good stuff.

Time is going fast, though, and like I said I miss my house.  I´ll be ready to go back to SJB when the time comes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What does my routine as a PCV look like?

Me in my ridiculous straw hat working with my community contact, Na Merarda, in her garden
Obviously every Peace Corps Volunteer has their own unique experience.  It's why I so often see the #liveyourownservice tag on things.  I think in some ways, not comparing out day-to-day life is what keeps us from getting crushed under the pressure of measuring up to the super-guapo, or realizing that you're at the bottom of the Impressive PCV Meter.  It's all about claiming that you're a balanced person living the best way you can in a very area-specific situation, hahaha.

So here is my routine on days when I don't go to town, which in no way reflects the routine of any other PCV in Paraguay.

7:30 Wake up to chickens usually pooping on my porch right behind my bed.  Plywood does not insulate sound.
8:00 Coffee and cinnamon oatmeal, devotions (2 Kings and Psalms, currently)
9:00 Some days laundry, some days go search for internet
10:00 Occasionally search for terere among the community. On laundry days, still doin' laundry.
11:00 Get fidgety and decide if I'm going to build something/work in the garden. Still doin' laundry on laundry days.
12:00 Decide I don't have the materials I need to build or that it's too close to lunch to start working anywhere.  Start cooking/making peanut butter and jelly.
12:30ish Eat, read, listen to Survivor podcasts
1:00 Do dishes, clean up house, put some clothes away, etc.
2:00 Terere time! Sometimes read, sometimes listen to music or a podcast. Sweat.
3:00 Again, get fidgety and decide if I'm going to build something/work in the garden.  Maybe go for a family visit, sometimes go to internet if I didn't in the morning.  A lot of times I read through manuals or mentally plan charlas that I will do at comite meetings when I can actually speak in Guarani.
3:10 Decide I don't have the materials I need to build or that It's too late to start working anywhere. Text/talk on the phone with other PCVs.  A lot of times I sit and talk with my host-brothers and drink more terere/eat manderin oranges that grow on the tree next to my house.
4:00 Refill water bottles and go see Nora to fill back up on eggs.  I never have enough eggs!
5:00 Shower time! Get water to do dishes with after dinner.
6:00 Decide what I want for dinner and maybe read or play some Angry Birds. It gets dark out early now... what else am I supposed to do?
7:00 Cook (aka make a total mess of my house), eat, do dishes, clean up.
8:00 TV time!
8:30 Coffee
9:00 Popcorn!
10:00 Decide what I'm doing tomorrow, clean up dishes from snacks.
10:30ish Go to bed.

This is obviously for ho-hum days.  If I have scheduled work, comite meetings, or things like that I definitely don't spend as much time reading or listening to music.  But yeah, life for me in a lot of ways is pretty tranquilo.  Once the garden gets going, I'll have weeding and watering on my TTD lists, and getting rabbits will change things for sure in the future.  I also manage my compost pile pretty frequently.

Next weekend I'm heading into Asuncion, because G38 (the newest group of volunteers to come to Paraguay... Health sector, I think?) is swearing in and the volunteers have a big party with live music called Ahendu ("I listen" in Guarani).  Things tend to get a bit crazy, so I'll stay for a little bit, but I'm not staying out all night like some people in my G did when we swore in.  After the party, my G has our reconnect training in Guarambare for the week, and we'll get to live with our original host families!  I'm excited to see them.

I'm doing well.  God has really been working in my heart and helping me to let go of things at home that I have no control over, and to just give into the experience here.  I think I'm realizing with time that after this, I will be able to endure a lot more when I get back to the United States, and that gives me a lot of confidence.  I never doubted for a second that God wanted me here and even when I was thinking of going home, I knew that I couldn't unless He sent me.

There are lots of things for me to learn here still (besides the languages... that's a whole other blog post, haha), and I'm excited about the possibilities.  One of the most important things that I'm learning right now is that I'm not in control at all... which is like the most traumatic thing for a control freak such as myself to learn.  Life is short, but there's a lot of different ways it can go.  Every day we're faced with choices.  Some are important, some are not.  But the important thing is that I surrender what I want to God and just follow the Spirit, doing what I know is right.

I'll write more on this stuff later.  I have to buy all the materials to install my running water and shower near my house (looks like today is a guapo day! yay!), and I only have two hours before the truck leaves me with 120 meters of plastic tubing... that can't happen.  I'm not walking 6 miles with all that.  I'm sure I'll get a few more posts in over the next week or so, and definitely next week!  Enjoy the weekend, friends!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Building a huerta

My updates are getting too few and far between for my liking.  Over the past few weeks, my life has been completely dominated by this stupid fence project, and I am SOOOO glad it's over.  Building the fence led to a lot of dirt and sweat, which then led to a lot of laundry, which takes like a full day to do... So fence + laundry + Semana Santa = no time to write, and nothing interesting to write about.

But now the fence is done, I'm mostly caught up on my laundry, and Easter is over so... Here I am!


Fence building can be fun.  It's also frustrating depending on your level of expertise with wire work.  I'm awful.  Like for real--I need a class.  I have no idea how to tie things off.  Basically you have to saw your bamboo to a predetermined size.  For my fence, I chose roughly 54 inches.  After sawing to length, the bamboo needs to be quartered by using a machete and a hammer.  Luckily, I didn't chop off any limbs or toes.  After that, they need to be wired to a support that has already been attached to the corner posts... My fingers are all sliced up because of the stupid wire, haha.


A schematic of how I laid out my garden.  Each square is 1 square foot.
Now I'm double-digging seedbeds.  It's not so bad if the sun is hidden behind the clouds, but it has been HUMID.  I've done two, and I have three more to finish.  I bought seeds for carrots, green onions, red onions, green pepper, swiss chard, cilantro, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, etc.  I'm looking forward to diversifying my diet a bit more.  I've been eating a lot of rice, vegetable soup, and eggs.  I'm hoping to buy a cooler today while I'm in town so that I can start buying meat.

The next couple of weeks I will be diving into my community needs assessment.  I'll be interviewing community members and drafting up a report.  It should keep me busy until my "Re-Connect" training at the end of April.  All of G37 will be heading back to the training center in Guarambare for a refresher training in language and some other things.  It will be so much fun to see everyone!!

Easter here was surprisingly uneventful.  Lots of Chipa, lots of family came to my community, but in general not that different from a normal day in San Jose Boqueron.  Hope all is well at home!  I'll try to upload a more personal blog soon.