Saturday, May 19, 2012

Happy 200!

It's hard for me to believe, but this is my 201st post!  I kind of wasted my 200th on that Sweedish guy at the hotel, so I'm going to celebrate it now.

I started this blog back in March of 2007, right as I was beginning to think about studying abroad.  This blog holds the records of many of my adventures... Camping trips, study abroad in the Philippines, trips to California and Washington, life while working for the USDA, and now Peace Corps.  I was looking back at a few posts, and I had to laugh at this one:  Gas at $3.65 and I was having a heart attack... my how the world changes.

As I continued to look through old posts, I had to come back to the title of this blog.  It's not just the world that has changed since 2007, it's myself as well... always in transition.  In a lot of ways, my worldview when I started this thing was pretty limited to mostly life at Michigan State.  These days, I've lived in two countries other than the US, had a full-time job with a salary, gained 5 nieces... life changes so fast!

I received an email from a close friend of mine today, and it was about how rarely life turns out the way that we planned it.  I never thought I would be in the Peace Corps, or that I would be living anywhere close to South America--ever.  I also thought I would have everything figured out.  I had all these plans of a job and living in a big city somewhere.  I also thought that all of my friends would be around me all the time, and no one would ever leave... Now we're all scattered all over the world (literally), and I've come to realize that even though I'd made these plans, I didn't even really know what I wanted out of life in the first place.

I'm turning 26 in a couple of weeks, and I can say that while I love the unpredictability and excitement of not having life turn out how I planned, it sometimes can be a little frustrating.  But gratefully I have one major thing in my life that remains constant-- God.  My friend sent me this verse from Ecclesiastes 11:5- "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things."  God has His plan for my life, and I shouldn't be so concerned about directing it.  So much of making decisions in life is just giving in to the Truth and choosing the options that you know are right. 

I'm very close to my 8-month mark in Paraguay, which is pretty close to being 1/3 of the way through my service.  It's moving insanely fast.  I think it's good that I'm here though.  I've wondered, at times, if my being in Paraguay is somewhat spiritually destructive for me because I don't go to church and I don't have a regular Bible Study group that I fellowship with on a weekly basis.  One things that I'm learning is that God wants me to learn how to sit in the passenger seat for a while.  He wants me to learn how to stop and smell the roses (or in my case, drink terere and enjoy the view).  I'm learning some pretty valuable things here that had I stayed in the day-to-day grind of full-time work I would not be learning.

So, hurray for 200 posts, and let's hope for 200 more!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who is this Mysterious Swiss Dude?

Ever since my G swore in as PCVs in December, there has been a man from Switzerland staying at the hotel we always stay in.  It's become very apparent that he's living at the hotel now, because 5 months later, he's still there every morning eating breakfast in the common room and watching Animal Planet.  He's obsessed with Animal Planet...

So anyways, yesterday I was sitting at my table eating breakfast alone with not much to do so I started to speculate what this guy's story was.  This is what I came up with.

1. He murdered someone in Switzerland, and now he's hiding out in Paraguay because no one knows anything about Paraguay and living is cheap.

2. He's an eco-terrorist, which is why he's always watching Animal Planet... he's looking for ideas.

3. He's stole from one of those super-secure Swiss banks that do what they want regardless of the law.  Either that, or he was an accountant for the Russian Mob and he embezzled from them and he's on the run.

4. He recently got divorced, and his ex-wife is a monster.  Paraguay is a good place to go if you don't want people to follow, hahaha.

My friend Elijah chimed in with these ideas:

5. He's trying to set up an invitro insemination import business using swill bulls to improve Paraguayan milk production, but because he doesn't speak Spanish or Guarani, his sales pitch gets terribly misinterpreted and he's still looking for a backer.

6. He's a watch maker who has fallen on hard times with the cell phone becoming the new global time piece.

Whatever this man's story is, I find him super-interesting.  I don't want to know the truth, though, because if his story turns out to be boring I'd just be really disappointed.  People are a lot more interesting when you make up their dramatic life stories in your own head.  Maybe, if he's still here when we COS in December 2013, I will ask him what his deal is.  But I don't know, I don't want the mystery to be taken away.

In conclusion, I apologize for blowing your cover, man.  While I secretly hope these speculations are true, I don't want anyone hunting you down/bringing you to justice/whatever.  I don't want that on my conscience.

So... not much actual content in this post.  Sorry about that.  I have a Permaculture workshop coming up next week, so hopefully I'll have more relavent subjects to talk about in my next post.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

VAC Meetings, Empanadas, and #dbhp

I amazingly got a few votes for my double-fried, super-oily fried rice empenadas.  Gosh, what a mess.  I really need to invest in an Empanada Press.  I made a total mess of my house last night attempting to make these things...  But the contest was fun.  We also had some apple and cinnamon, southwest, carne, and pizza empanadas for sampling.  As a fan of empanadas, I was definitely a happy dude around lunch time.

After discussing some important business and playing some games, a few of us that were staying the night walked over to a park on top of a hill in Paraguari.  Good times were had.

Anne, Molly, Bridgette, Dave, and I at the top of the cerro in Paraguari
After the walk we went to get pizza then headed back to Molly's apartment to play some games and hang out.  It's always fun to get together with other volunteers (especially from other sectors) and find out what kind of work they're doing in their sites.  Everyone's site is so different!

It was a nice quick break from being in site.  But tomorrow I head back, and I have a lot of work to do!  Water to install, a garden to water (my peas and garlic are popping up!), and some chipa to make this weekend with Na Venancia.  I may be going to Asuncion next week to drop off some library books, get some worms for my worm box, and pick up a cat from my original host-family in Guarambare.  It's time for me to annihilate these rats for good!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Garden Update

The huerta is finally planted!  Now all there is to do with it is water and wait!  I'm very excited to get my hands on some home-grown green onions, peas, carrots, etc.  I really can't wait to have the cilantro so I can make myself some bean burritos!  Oh Chipotle, how I miss you.

In other exciting news, I had an extremely productive meeting with my community contact this morning.  I was able to see that the women are indeed working on their gallineros (chicken coops) which I had previously been concerned about, and was also able to acquire some land for a demo-plot.  Having a place where I can demonstrate new techniques and experiment with cropping systems is a HUGE part of my service here as an extensionist.  I have a lot of projects in the works right now, but cleaning out the demo-plot and planting some abonos verdes may bump to the top of the list.  Because of my new responsibilities as Groundskeeper for the Peace Corps Seed Bank, I need to familiarize myself with all the seeds and methods of planting/cutting for abonos verdes, and my demo-plot is going to be very instrumental with that.

What else have I been up to since returning to site?  Well, admittedly I took a couple of days to myself where I read, played The Sims, etc... I've also been eating tons of mandarinas and talking a lot with my host-brothers.  Those two crack me up!  They ask some really bizarre questions.  Things we've discussed over the last few days: Charlie Sheen, September 11, Jennifer Lopez, why the F word is a bad word (despite it being in all of their music), the differences between crazy and weird... That last one is something I'm still working on with them.  They both think the other is crazy, when really they're both just weird, haha.  And I mean that in a good way.

My next blog post will probably be about our VAC meeting on Wednesday.  We're having an empenada cook-off, so hopefully there will be some creative choices that I can get recipes for.  I'll try to remember my camera.  I've been forgetting it a lot these days.

Also, I just want to give a shout out to my sister, who just had a new baby girl on Friday.  I'm really grateful that things went smoothly, and I'll be looking forward to meeting her when I go home for Christmas!