Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tapytangua Guazu

Hola! I am so sorry that I have not posted in such a long time. I have just finished my first three weeks in my site, Tapytangua Guazu. It is named after a small river that goes through the edge of the community. It is just what I had hoped for--a rural agricultural community in which I'll be able to work with the school and with local farmer's organizations (hopefully!). It is about 7-9k from the nearest town of Acahay. There is an old bus that runs in the morning and drops people off within 30 min. walking distance from my house.

The community is nestled between hills, and is fairly flat with a lot of grasslands. The people here practice small-scale agriculture, growing mainly corn, cotton, and mandioca (their staple food), and raise livestock. I've been helping my host mom bring home the cows in the evenings.I live with the family of Don Simon Moriningo, an 80-year old man who still wakes up in the morning to work in his fields and even rides a horse now and again. I also live with two of his adult daughters, one of their spouses, and for now their 8 year-old son. During the school year he lives with his aunt in the town of Paraguari. We have electricity but no running water. However, we are lucky to have a deep well as there is a drought right now and a lot of people are without close water sources. The biggest project in the community is to get potable water, and it looks like I might be helping with that in the future.

I am a first time volunteer in my site which means that part of my job throughout the next two years will be to make strong connections with community contacts and establish what Peace Corps is and does. All the new volunteers though spend the first few months just walking around, meeting people, and drinking lots of terere. Sometimes it gets a little slow or it seems like I'm not working, but spending time with people and working on language skills is so necessary. In the houses I visit I am trying to do a small community survey/census to better understand people's needs and interests for future projects. Most people are very open and friendly and love to have someone over for a visita.

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season! I will send some hot Paraguayan air your way!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One month!

It´s been over a month since I arrived in Paraguay. Sometimes it seems like more and sometimes like less. My language is definitely better. I can now speak in simple Guarani sentences, but it´s definitely much easier to switch back to Spanish. Making my self stick to Guarani is probably the biggest challenge.

I´m getting more excited about being an Env. Ed. volunteer. At first it was a little hard to hear about what the crop extensionits are doing, but as a young woman in Paraguay I think I can do the most good through Env. Ed. We also get to do a little bit of everything else! For example, this week I am presenting on different agroforestry systems with the Agroforestry technical trainer. Yesterday we had a presentation about health and nutrition and how to use the school garden as a teaching tool. Plus, we get to learn songs and do arts and crafts like making glasses from wine bottles. I now know the song ¨Going on a Bear hunt¨in Guarani. The first line is, ¨Jaha Jaguata. Jahecha heta mba´e.¨

Here is some interesting Paraguayan cultural information...
A couple weeks ago we had a session about ¨Dating Paraguay Style¨ in which we learned all of the norms that go along with dating and relationships. First of all, there are designated ¨dating days¨which are Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. If a man visits you on those days then he is interested in dating you. If you allow him to come over then you are returing his interest. If a man visits you on the other days of the week that could indicate that you are ¨la otra¨or the other woman. Also, it´s okay to be indirect and stand peolple up in Paraguay. So I could tell someone, yeah, I´ll come over, and then just not show up. Also, there is an unspoken rule that if you make a prior agreement with someone and then leave your window open, that person may come through your window at night. This is for the less ¨serious¨relationships. So, I guess I´ll just have to brave the heat and make sure I keep my window closed!

There is definitely a lot more I could write about what I´ve been learning/doing, but I thought that might be of interest! I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween! We are going to try and celebrate as well and make lanterns out of pineapples.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Adios Chancho!

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4.30 and headed over to Kevin´s house, a fellow env. ed. volunteer who lives just down the street. He had told me earlier in the week that his family was planning on slaughtering their chancho (pig). I thought that it would be an experience to watch, and it definitely was. His host dad works nights, so he was still sleeping when we got there. While we were waiting we helped cut vegetables to put in the morcela (blood sausage) that they would make that afternoon. There was a huge mass of cow intestine lining already strung up to dry. His family served us mate (hot tea) and coffee to help us get ready.

Around six his dad and a neighbor brought the pig out and strung it up by it´s feet. They then hosed it down. I had a reeeallly hard time watching the actual deed because the pig was crying. Once they cut its throat they bled it into a bucket so they could use the blood to make the morcela. After the pig was completely dead they layed it on a table and began taking off all of the hair. They did this by pouring boiling water on the skin and then using only a spoon to scrape off the hair. I tried to do it, but it was really hard. Kevin has some pictures of this, so I will try to steal them from him when he posts them. We had to go to class after that, so I didn´t get to see more of the process which was good and bad.

During lunch Kevin got to help make a bunch of the sausage. His family invited me over for dinner to eat some of the chancho. A couple other volunteers and I went, but it was definitely hard to eat. I couldn´t do the blood sausage, but I ate a bit of chincharron (fried and pig fat) and sausage. I think I´ve already eaten the blood sausage with my fam but didn´t know what it was. I liked being ignorant. So, that was my first real experience with seeing a pig killed! I don´t know if I will ever be ready to do it myself though.

This weekend I am going about an hour and a half away to spend the weekend with a current env. ed. volunteer. It will be nice to see the job in action! I hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


It´s been a week since I arrived in Paraguay, and I can´t believe how much I´ve already learned. One of the coolest things about Paraguay is the drink, Terere. It is the cold version of yerba mate. To make/drink terere you need an equipo (team) which includes a large thermos or pitcher, yerba mate (tea), a cup (guampa) with a special straw (bombilla) and a pestal/morter for mashing medicinal herbs (yuyos). All the tea (yerba mate) is in the cup which you continuously fill with water that comes from a pitcher with all the medicinal herbs in it. Each person takes a sip, refills it, and then passes it to the next. It is tradition for the youngest person to serve the terere. It´s really cool because every terere is slightly different depending on which yuyos (medicinal herbs) you put in it. When I am at my future site I definitely want to have a yuyo garden.

This weekend we get to start building a vegetable garden at a house near our study center. It will be the first hands-on activity we do for technical training. So far, it´s mostly been language classes and informational sessions, so I am definitely excited to start getting my hands dirty!

Friday, September 26, 2008

I´m here!

Mbaèichapa! (Hello in Guarani)
I arrived in Asuncion yesterday morning. There, Peace Corps training staff met us in the airport, carted us off to Guarambare (the training site 45 min. outside of the capital), and then soon deposited us with our new host families.

All of the Environmental Education volunteers live in the same community that is walking distance from the training center. I have a host mom, dad, and two little sisters ages 3 and 9 who are both very curious. I have already met both of the grandmothers also. One was very concerned if I like to go to fiestas because the last volunteer didn´t which seemed to worry her a lot. The family I live with is fairly middle class with a lot of the conveniences. I have an airconditioning unit and a stereo system in my bedroom...very different than I expected! Sadly, I do not have any animals at my house besides three dogs. However, one girl lives with a menagerie including ostriches, turtles, and a monkey, so I will probably visit her sometimes.

I still don´t have a lot of details about the Env. Ed. projects, but hopefully that will become more clear on Monday. I am going to start my language training in Guarani because I passed the intermediate Spanish test. So far, all I know how to say is ¨My name is...¨, ¨hello¨ and Che aspirante Cuerpo Pazpegua (I am a Peace Corps trainee). Some of the sounds are really difficult to say, but the grammar is definitely easier than English or Spanish.

I will try to upload some pictures of where I live soon. I love and miss everyone!