Saturday, September 29, 2012

1 year down...

Well friends, it's been a year and a lot has changed.
One year ago, welcoming G37 to the Training Center in Guarmbare
I started out as this chubby nerd from the midwest, and now I'm a scruffy and slightly malnourished nerd living in the campo.  I've learned a lot, done a lot of new things, and I still have a whole year ahead of me!

My parents and me with my community contact and her grandson
I just thought I would do a quick rundown of some major things I've learned in my first year as a PCV in Paraguay.

1.  I consistently underestimate myself.  Peace Corps work is HARD.  Looking back at all that I had to do to get where I am now, it's hard for me to believe all that has happened.  I'm not usually a person who sticks things through for very long.  This whole concept of selling all my stuff and leaving my friends and family behind to move to the middle of no where to a place that I don't speak the language and have no idea how the culture works sounds insane.  But I've done it, and it's made me far more confident and assertive (Not sure I needed to learn to be more assertive...), and even though my language abilities are far from fluent, I can get by.  Integration is a challenge, but I'm making strides every day in the right direction.

2.  I am NOT in control.  While I was living and working in Ann Arbor, I was so independent.  I did basically what I wanted when I wanted, I ate whatever, yadda yadda yadda.  I wasn't really accountable to anyone, and other than having to go to work every day and making sure my bills were paid, I pretty much had it together.  Obviously, God wanted to teach me a lesson about this, so He sent me to Peace Corps.  I have zero control over what happens to me here.  I can't eat whatever I want, I can't jump in a car and go wherever I want, etc.  Even a lot of my work is dictated not by me, but by the people in the community that I work with.  I'll admit, it's in my nature to be a high-strung, tight-fisted, opinionated control freak.  I like to be the boss and call the shots.  I would say that my greatest challenge of being here so far is learning how to let loose and go with the flow.

One of the things I'm hoping to pull from this experience is to be a more balanced person.  I'm a man of extremes.  When I'm up, I'm really up, and when I'm down, I'm really down.  Something I'm experiencing here is learning to ride the waves in life instead of trying to steer every single part of things according to my preferences.  It's okay to plan ahead and be cautious, but sometimes you just have to throw yourself into stuff and let God pull you in the right direction.

3.  God often gives you the unexpected.  Coming to Paraguay, I thought I would find a community of other Christians waiting for me, and that everything would be perfect.  Instead, God put me in a mostly non-religious community, pretty isolated from other volunteers, and not a lot of fellowship.  This has been a really challenge for me, because I believe that as believers, we're supposed to be surrounded by other believers and participate in worship and fellowship together.  Well, I've gone one year without it, and while it's been challenging, it's also been a good time for me to reflect on my own beliefs and how God is active in my life without any outside influences.  That said, I'm hoping that God brings me some fellowship in this 2nd year.  It's a tough world out there, and I could really use some spiritual support.

SO, I've learned a lot more than this, and I'm sure in future posts there will be more ongoing discussion about how working in Paraguay is changing me.  I need to get the videos from my parents' visit edited so that I can finally post that blog.  I have a lot of interesting stories to share. ;-)  Other than that, I'd like to give a shout out to G40 and welcome them to Paraguay!  The new group of Ag and Environment volunteers arrived yesterday!  I'm now a veteran, and it's sorta weird.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where have you been?!

Hey friends!  I am NOT dead!  I've just been in the middle of a perfect storm of circumstances that made blogging difficult:

1. It's Big Brother season.  I love it... not as much as Survivor, that would be impossible, but as a substitution for Survivor when Survivor isn't on.  Problem: it's on three times a week.  This is no issue in the US when I just set my DVR and watch things whenever I want.  But because it airs in real time  (not pre-taped, like many of my other reality shows), I've needed to concentrate more on using my online time to cosechar episodes.  Pathetic.  I know... Does rooting for fellow-Spartan and Michigander Dan make up for it?  Probably not, but oh well.  Sometimes a guy just needs to laugh at another guy wearing a spiritard.  There's no explanation that makes sense...

2. Alphabet Soup.  Sometimes I forget Peace Corps is a government agency.  Last week, I had to deal with IST, VRF, CNA, and PTIP (In-Service Training, Volunteer Report Form, Community Needs Assessment, and Plan de Trabajo I-something P-Something... I don't even know).  I was busy, alright?  Haha.  I thought I'd left the days of USDA, NRCS, EQIP, WHIP, CSP, CStp, FFRP, OMG SRSLY behind me.  Guess not.

3. Hammock Time.  I finally got my hands on a hammock, so when I'm not running around doing these other things, I'm laying in my hammock listening to music, reading horrible novels, and sleeping.  And eating tons of grilled cheese sandwiches.  Ayala, I love you. Never lose your cheese selection!

So what's new with me?  Project-wise, I'm still figuring out how to manage this chicken coops project.  I don't want to think about it right now, so I'm not going to write more about it.  It does a pretty good job of breaking my brain when I think about it.  I've also started a charla series on Natural Resources Management, the first of which is soil:

A charla is basically just an informal gathering where I get to talk in broken Jópara about agricultural things.  Peace Corps Volunteers love them some Charla paper!


Other than that, I spent Monday finally getting my demo-plot officially cleared and plowed.  I bought some sweet corn and watermelon seeds at AgroField in Asuncion, and I also have some crotalaria and kumanda yvyra'i abonos verdes seeds to plant within the next couple of weeks.  I've been composting like a beast and working a lot in my garden.  I'm actually growing things for once now, haha.

What I'm really excited about though is happening today.  My parents are flying in!  I'm SO excited for them to come and take part in my life here!  I'm really looking forward to watching them react to things, and also point out differences.  I've been here almost a full year now, and I've forgotten how things are in the US.  I expect it to be pretty hilarious. ;-)  We'll be spending a few days in Asuncion, hopefully getting to Aregua before the strawberry festival is over, crossing the border to Argentina to see Iguazu Falls, and heading down to Encarnacion to see some Jesuit Reductions.  I'm looking forward to going on a vacation and checking out of my PCVness for a bit.  I love being a volunteer, but to get to be an American traveling abroad just for a few days is going to be SO REFRESHING!

They're also going to come to my site for a couple of days, and I'm going to show them how to live in the campo.  Maybe do some laundry by hand in a palangana, maybe plant some stuff in my demo plot, eat some campo food... I can't wait!