Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What IS this place?

Happy 2014!  It's hard to believe that 2013 has come and gone, and alone with it so has my Peace Corps Service.  I've officially been back in the United States for three weeks now!  Life is good, but never void of challenges.

My Christmas was excellent!  It was low-key, but that was probably good for this year.  America is crazy!  Especially around Christmas.  My aunt came up from Texas and we just had a small family Christmas with turkey and lots of pinochle.  I even got to go cross-country skiing up in Grayling, which I haven't done for like 10 years!

Mom and Dad out on the trail at Heartwick Pines in Grayling, Michigan

I've really enjoyed the cold weather, seeing that it's literally 100F cooler here than it was when I left Asuncion.  The winter weather has definitely taken it's toll on Michigan though.  Many people still don't have power, and it's been over a week.  My family shockingly did not lose power--even with me, the most cursed person in the world when it comes to power outages, living in the house!  So even though it caused a lot of frustration for people around us, we were really able to enjoy the beauty that Ice Storm 2013 provided for us.

Winter Wonderland

Me with my parents
All in all, December has been a great month!  Tonight I will be spending New Years Eve with some old friends that I've known for over 20 years!  I'm very excited.  But I will never forget my 1st new years eve away from home, when the G37 Ag crew took over the Zaphir and watched fireworks from the fire escape on the 11th floor.  Remember that guys?  That was good times! :D  Remember when we looked like this, guys?
New Years Eve 2011 - Photo by Lauralee (as usual)
So if you made it down this far, there's also a video!  Haha.  It's about my first month home as a returned Peace Corps volunteer.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Well friends, as crazy as it seems this adventure has come to it's end.  I'm leaving Paraguay tomorrow and returning to the great state of Michigan tomorrow afternoon!  While I am sad to leave Paraguay and the people of San Jose Boqueron behind, as well as my fellow PCVs, I'm very excited to move on to what's next for me.

I don't have a lot of time to write a good final blog here, so I'll wait until I get home to do that.  Back home... where it's not 115F outside and I won't feel like I'm gonna pass out.

Until then, thanks for following me on this adventure, and check back frequently to see what other exciting things I have to say!  Haha.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Applying to Peace Corps: The Process

Here is Part 2 of my videos on the Peace Corps application process.  I've heard from some PCVs that it operates a little different now, so please understand that this is 100% based off of my own application, and that you may have a very different experience.

I'm in Asuncion this weekend for my G's despedida.  It's basically the last time we'll all be together before people start boarding planes back to the United States.  Three have already left, and many many more will be leaving next week.  There will only be a few of us that will be in Paraguay for the actual Close of Service Ceremony on December 6th.

I don't judge anyone for leaving early.  Everyone has their reasons.  Some people are going home to spend time with family before the holidays, some are taking some time to travel around South America before going back home for Christmas.  I just know that if I were to leave early, I would always know that I left before my time was up.  I committed myself to 27 months -- I'm completing 27 months.  It's always been important to me to finish something after it's started.

It's sad to watch everyone leave though.  It's definitely bittersweet.  I consider G37 to be my family in away.  These people have shared a shocking, beautiful, sometimes horrifying and challenging 2 years with me.  We've had our ups and downs.  We've fought with each other, traveled with each other, picked pique out of each other's feet... These people are not just normal friends to me.

I'll write more later.  They're not gone yet!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Applying to Peace Corps: Preparation

I've been receiving some questions about the process of applying to Peace Corps, so here is part 1 of a 2-part video.  I'll be uploading part 2 another day because I've had some problems with uploading to YouTube today for some reason.

Signing up to do Peace Corps is a big commitment.  It takes dedication and a lot of time, but in the end, is totally worth it!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fin de Octubre

Woah.  It's really starting to hit me that my time in Paraguay is running out.  My friends back home have started contacting me about events happening in the next couple of months. Things that I may actually be able to attend.  That hasn't happened in over two years!

Life in the campo has been pretty tranquilo, but whenever I leave, it's just insane.  For the entire month, I have been at home for three or four days, then hopping on a bus to go to somewhere else, than going back home for a few days... it's been a crazy month of medical appointments, meeting new volunteers, helping out with training-- just a lot of stuff going on.  I've barely had time to draft up my final reports and develop a new resume.

But most of that stuff is done now, and November is on it's way.  I don't know 100% how I feel about it yet.  About half of my training group is leaving early for one reason or another. We're having our "G" despedida in Asuncion the second week of November, and almost immediately following, they're going to be getting on their planes and heading out.  It's going to be a little sad, I think, when our Close of Service Ceremony is only attended by like 10 people, haha.  Oh well.  It's getting to the point where we have to cut some ties and try to shed the co-dependency that we've built over the last two years and prepare ourselves for the ambitious, fast-paced life in the United States.

I know I promised some videos... I have a couple done that just need to be uploaded.  Maybe once I find a decent internet connection.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Hey guys!  I decided that it would be smart to put all of the "Remembering My Peace Corps Service" episodes in one spot, so if you look at the tabs along the top of the page, there is a new tab for the series (or click this link here).  All of the videos will be posted there from now on.  Sometimes I feel like this site gets too cluttered.

I decided to start filming on a regular basis because as my service comes to a close, I have a lot of balls in the air and I really want to have visual documentation of where I lived and what I was doing.  Plus, it's fun and I really enjoy it as a hobby.

The next few weeks for me are really starting to pick up speed.  This weekend I have a VAC meeting in Paraguari, then next week I have a mixer where I will meet the trainee that I've been corresponding with over the last few weeks, then after that I am going to be doing a training for the new group of agriculture volunteers on how to build a bamboo fence, use a machete safely, etc.  With my luck I'll probably chop a toe off during my session, haha. 

I'm really starting to weigh the options on some major life decisions.  When I got here, I knew that I had two full years to think about what I want to do when I get back to the United States, and now I have about two months... it's all starting to get real. 

From now on, blogs may be coming more often in video form.  I feel like people are probably more likely to watch a 3-4 minute video than read a novel that I post here, but we'll see.

Friday, September 13, 2013

August - A month of Spanish

I love giving presentations.  I honestly enjoy getting up in front of a crowd, telling a couple of jokes, sharing what I know, and fielding questions.  I really love it--In English.  Spanish and Guarani are an entirely different story.  I'm going to put this on record here, but I will never-- never ever EVER-- be afraid to speak to anyone in English ever again.

August was one of those months where something is happening every week.  It was probably as close to life in the fast-paced United States as it gets here.  It all started at the beginning of the month with a charla (the spanish word for a talk) on Curvas de Nivel, or contour cropping systems.  Lucky for me I had 2 friends, Elijah and Maggie, who were very willing helpers and came to help with language and organizing.  I won't bore you with too many details of the content of the charla.
Using the A-Frame in my demoplot. -Photo by Elijah Massey

Digging the infiltration trenches. -Photo by Maggie Flinn

 It went fairly well, and I got the lines delineated in my demo plot and later planted it to beans and kumanda yvy'rai (a green manure).  I will be going back in a week or so to plant some sunflowers in the rows in order to demonstrate a possible companion planting combo.

A little later that month, I went up to an ag school in the Chaco'i to help out with G40's In-Service Training.  G40 is the group of ag and environment volunteers that came in a year after my group.  For this training, all participants are asked to bring a Paraguayan counterpart, so yet again, the presentation was in Spanish.  This time it was two 45 minute presentations on seed-saving.  Because of my experience as President of the Seed Bank in the Peace Corps Office, I  could have done an hour and half in English on this topic, no problem.  But alas, that just simply wasn't the case.  I was blessed to have Melanie, the Ag PCV coordinator there to help answer questions.

Finally, at the end of the month, I gave an hour-long charla to my women's committee about using green manures and their benefits.

My Spanish has definitely improved over the 2 year period that I have lived here, but I'm still not big on improvising.  I like to stick to a script.  All in all, it was a good experience and I'm glad to have done it!  Sharing my knowledge of agriculture is a major reason of why I joined the Peace Corps, and I'm happy to be finishing out my service strong.

This is a video demonstration on how to calibrate an A-Frame for a curvas de nivel project.  Later on I will post an instructional video explaining how to use the A-Frame in the field.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Beginning of The End

Wow guys.  It's September of 2013.  Two years ago at this time I was completely consumed with selling all of my stuff and packing my life away into the one shelf that my dad lets me use in their basement.  Now, having just completed my COS (Close Of Service) Conference in Ypycarai, I have only three months left of this adventure.

I know it's been a long time since I wrote anything here, but that provides me with the opportunity to approach my writing from a new perspective.  Over the next few weeks, expect regular updates regarding what closing out of Peace Corps service looks like, what I've been up to over the last five or six months, and some introspective thoughts on what I have learned from this rollercoaster of an experience in Paraguay.

I know there's not a whole lot of content in this specific entry, and I apologize for that, but alas I have to catch a bus.  As usual.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Ok, so I've beyond dropped the ball on this blog.  But since I only have a few months left of my service here in Paraguay, I want to make more of an effort to post more often.  So... Sometime in the next week or so, expect a real post.  I PROMISE.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Community Bathrooms vs. Holes in the Ground

So, as it turns out that posting only like once every three months on a blog is NOT the best way to build an online following.  Hmm.... Haha.  When every post says "I really need to update this thing more often..." you know there's a problem. 

The last few days I have been on vacation from Peace Corps.  I flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina and spent three days wandering around neighborhoods like Palermo and Recoleta, and now I'm in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

I'm staying at a hostel, which is a stretch for me.  Typically I like to have my own sleeping space and not share a bathroom.  I kind of think that other people are gross and community-anything is not my favorite, haha.  BUT, I'm on this trip for 11 days and unfortunately due to my career choice to be a volunteer, the cash isn't exactly flowing into my bank account.  So... $16/night?  Can't afford to turn that down.  And who am I to say that sharing a bathroom with other people is gross?  I don't even have a bathroom in the campo.  Is a shared bathroom more or less sanitary than a hole in the ground?  Haha, that's actually a legitimate question.

I have a lot planned for the few days I'm down here, so I'll try to update as often as I can.  I find it's more fun to blog when I'm doing something other than hoeing a field every day.  Today I just kind of wandered around town finding where things are.  I had an amazing bacon cheeseburger for dinner, so I'll DEFINITELY be returning to that place before I leave here.  Tomorrow I'm doing a boat tour of the Beagle Channel, and the following days I'm hoping to hit the National Park that is down here, as well as the glacier.  I return to Buenos Aires on Thursday and I'll be there for a couple more days.  I'm on a mission to find Wendy's!  Yes.  I went all the way to Buenos Aires to find Wendy's.  I am a true American.  haha.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Worst Dog Owner in the World

Owning a dog always seems like such a great idea.  Especially for those of us who are isolated out in the middle of no where, aliens in a community that can barely understand us.  It's the whole idea of having someone around to love and be loved by.  All this was running through my head about 4 months ago when a friend mentioned that her neighbor's dog had just had puppies.  I jumped at the chance to claim one of them, thinking that if I was going to get a dog, now would be the time to do it.

When I was younger, my family had two dogs.  I remember it being a mostly positive experience.  Neither of them really ever learned how to heel, they barked a lot, and our house got robbed while we were out walking them once, but in general I remember learning to be more responsible and when I think back on it, I enjoyed the experience.

Enter Cobie.  This cute, big-eared dog that was graciously brought to me by my friend.  The first day, it was kind of fun having her nip at my heels and climb all over me.  I built her a dog house out of bamboo and tried to get her adjusted to living on my porch.

Obviously, I didn't put enough thought into what owning a dog means.  Dogs need to be fed, they need attention... As my sister so correctly stated, having a dog is like having a baby.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not what you might call "cuddly" and I don't necessarily have the warmest personality...  This whole thing was destined to fail.

Needless to say I was not prepared to handle all the whining and constant need to for attention.  She had effectively trapped me in my own house during the evenings.  I was afraid to go outside, and that I would wake her up and it would start the process all over again.  I couldn't leave without her following me everywhere, so going to town to buy food was going to be a challenge...

If I was planning on taking her back to the US, or if it was my first year of service, I think I would have kept her.  The reality of it all is, I have nine more months of service, and one month of that is vacation days that I have saved up for this year.  I have committed to running this half-marathon in Rio, so I need to start training. Plus I just have general work in my demo-plots and garden, meetings to run, and the possibility of a pig in the near future (NOT a pet!  I'm going to kill it and eat it!).

So! Things I've learned from this experience:
1.  I'm definitely not a pet person.  When I was living in Ann Arbor, I seriously thought about getting a dog.  That's never going to happen now.
2.  I'm more focused on work.  This experience has clarified what I want to do for my final year in service, and has made it a reality that I don't have a lot of time left.
3.  I tend to be a bit selfish with my time.... but honestly a person who doesn't want to make time for pets shouldn't have pets, so I don't feel so bad about it.

To close out the story, I ended up giving the dog to a family in my community.  In one of the most awkward and abrupt conversations I've ever had, and just like that (8 days) I'm back to being dog-less.  Two girls from my book club showed up at my house while I was working in my demo plot and saw the dog.

"Is this your dog?  She's pretty." 
"Yeah, she's very energetic."
"I want her."
"Do you want her?  Because I want her."
"OK.  I guess that's possible.  What do you want to name her?"
"I don't know."
"When do you want her?  Tomorrow?"
"No, I have to go to the fields tomorrow."
And just like that, she picked her up and carried her away.  

So thus concludes the very short-lived pet-owning experience.  Never again, haha.  I've made myself a promise that I will never again own an animal that I do not intend to kill and roast over a fire at a party.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reasons why I havent updated...

1. Nothin new to say regarding the demo plot or garden.  Its business as usual.

2. I havent been anywhere different or interesting.  I did fall on a cactus up on the cerro, which fulfilled a desire I never knew I had to re-enact a Wile Coyote scene.
3. I had a medical check-up... OH THIS IS INTERESTING.  So I went to the dentist, and I will be the first to admit I am not always excellent at brusing my teeth.  I like to eat late at night and the water spicket is far away.  Theres a lot of bugs between my bed and the spicket, and Im not a fan.  So I was concerned about the dentist visit, as I have never had a cavity and would like to continue that streak.  No cavities!  But I did have to hear some weird stories about former patients of the dentist.  Apparently "Doctor/Patient Confidentiality" isnt a thing in Paraguay.  Out of all the stories he could have told me, he brings up this guy who was fat because he had a mental problem where he was "afraid to deficate." Oh the things you cannot unhear...

4. I havent cooked anything new, or bought any new foods.

5. I havent met up with any of the new PCVs in Ybycui.  Our schedules are all pretty different, so... Still kind of a loner.  But thats ok, Im more motivated to blog when I dont have anyone to talk to.  Because what this blog needs is more updates like this one where you get no beneficial information about my service.

Ok, so I AM working toward getting some interesting stuff going.  I am going to build a pig pen, Im getting a dog, Im going to be preparing for a half marathon.... So there WILL BE interesting stuff here.  Just not right now.  So enjoy this random meme and I will get back to you with something interesting.  Someday.  Somehow.   Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Back to Reality...

Coming back from vacation for Americans is usually a relief.  Usually, at least with my family, you've cleaned the house before you left so that when you get home, you can quickly put all your suitcase items in their pre-designated places, throw the laundry in the wash, and spend the rest of the day relaxing.  Well, it's no surprise that things are completely opposite in Paraguay.

That rats have been busy, friends.  It doesn't appear that they ate anything this time though.  They just like to run around and poop everywhere apparently.  Figures.  Almost one night out of site and everything had a half-inch layer of dust on it.  Also, my demo-plot is a jungle:

That crotalaria gets tall pretty fast

Also, the frogs and the spiders... I'm pretty sure there are more spiders in there now than there were before I moved in, when my landlord was just using the house for bean storage.  They're EVERYWHERE, and in EVERYTHING.  My shoes, my dresser, my cup that I use when I brush my teeth.  WAKALA.  It's so gross.  I hate spiders, but we do have an arrangement.  The ones that live on the walls can live, but the second they land on the floor, they're dead.  Violation of this contract results in severe punishment, usually involving a shoe or one of my sandals, with no dignity as I scrape it off on the side of my porch floor.  Learn the lesson Spiders-- I'm not messin' around.
This one gets to live.  They rarely leave the walls.

This one got to die.  I don't like the hairy ones.
I had a wonderful time in the States.  It was fun to see my family and friends, I enjoyed 2.5 weeks of cold, snowy weather, and drank every cup of coffee I could get my hands on.  I seriously went to starbucks at least 12 times.  Amazeballs.

I'm going to try to do a better job in 2013 of keeping this blog updated.  I love to write, and so even if I don't have anything going on, I should be at least submitting something a couple of times a week.  New goal! I have a my yearly medical check-up in Asuncion next week, so I've going to be traveling for a bit longer.  I have some exciting new developments coming up though, so be sure to check back!