Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Winter!!!!

It’s cold!!!! I can’t believe I am so cold in Paraguay, but it has been raining for several days and is less than 40 degrees.  My room is made of wooden slats that don’t entirely block out the wind and the hallway and kitchen are completely open to the elements. My shower is also outdoors and the water is freezing cold. 
Other then the fact that winter is here in Paraguay, things are crazy as ever.  On days when all I feel like doing is sitting next to the fire, I have to teach reading intervention classes, teach English classes, and doing private interventions for students as per request from teachers and parents.  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More goings on in Blas Garay (the place I live)

Birthday wishes/ site presentation
Happy Birthday to me. Yes that’s right, this week I turned 23 (well last week since I am a little late posting this blog)! Que vieja! It was my first birthday in Paraguay. And it was amazing!!! My site presentation was the same day and a representative from the Peace Corps came.  My host family mad Milanessa (a dish sort of like fried chicken) and salad. We ate with the representative from Peace Corps and then went to the school for the presentation. I had no idea what to expect. My  The school surprised me by putting on a beautiful show and making me several cards and a show.  Every artistic number in the show had something to do with chipa, one of my favorite foods and everyone told me how glad they were that I was here.  
My family here is more my family than any other host family I have ever had.  My host dad told me that he thinks of me as his daughter.  He gave me a ‘Padrino’ or a godfather, even though I told him I already had godparents.  
The people in my site make me feel soo special.  
However, one thing that I don’t like is when people stare at me which, unfortunately, happens all the time.  I go running and people stare at me, I go to the school, and people stare at me, in fact at the moment there are 4 people with their heads sticking through my window staring at me. Take a picture, it will last longer
Festival de San Juan (aka a pyromaniac’s dream)
Last night I went to the San Juan festival. There was lot of food and loud music. We made empanadas like fondu and chipa on sticks like marshmallows which is not the traditional way of making either dish. They also sold soapa (kind of like corn bread) along with drinks.  The party started kind of like of a middle school dance with guys and girls standing apart from one another and no one dancing. Eventually two couples started dancing it quickly became apparent that it is inappropriate for guys to dance without girls and vice versa. I danced with some guy that I have seen a couple of times at the high school. When standing next to this guy, I come up to the base of his neck. Once we started dancing everyone stared at us which made me wonder if there was some unwritten rule that I was missing about who you are allowed to dance with and how long you are supposed to dance with them.  Once I got over the awkwardness of the situation in which we were dancing, It was kind of fun.
You’re probably wondering at this point I called it a pyromaniac’s dream.  After the dancing started, someone lit a scarecrow on fire. Sometimes, apparently they put frogs or other ‘surprises’ inside.  Then the kids started a soccer game that  was very normal except that the soccer ball was on fire.  
  Other stuff that happened this week:
  1. I taught a model lesson for both first and second grades and I will continue to teach classes in those grades once a week
  2. I started working as a reading interventionist in third grade and fourth grades
  3. I am teaching the preschool/kindergarden teacher to use music in her classes.
  4. I started teaching an English class for kids. I really didn’t want to teach English classes but after one of the kids begged me to do it and set up the English classes herself, I figured I’d do it. It ended up being really fun and I can’t wait to keep doing it. 
  5. I ate cow’s feet for lunch. They are DISGUSTING!!!!! They are full of tendons, ligaments and cartilage.  You are supposed to eat everything except the bone itself
  6. One of the best drinks I’ve ever had is jugo de miel (juice made from the honey of sugar cane). It’s very refreshing. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bin Laden and furry fish sticks

I’m sure your wondering what on earth furry fish sticks and Bin Laden have to do with one another.  The answer is that they have both been part of my week.  In the United States, I’m sure, everyone has heard that Osama Bin Laden died. The news got to me about a week ago. Trying to make conversation with my host dad, I mentioned it at lunch.... here is the exact transcription of what happened:
Jose-host dad
Jose Luis-host brother
Selva-host mom
Sam (sitting at table with Jose): So, today at school, Professor Gustavo told me that Osama Bin Laden was killed
Selva (in the kitchen): who is Osama Bin Laden?
Jose Luis (listening from the bedroom): He was a good man
Sam & Jose burst out laughing
Now for the furry fish sticks story....yesterday, I told Selva that I would help her make lunch. So she pulls out something that looked like a carpet from the refrigerator. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of asking what it was, “cow stomach (mundungo).”  As we were cleaning the stomach, Selva reaches over and pulls something out of the piece of stomach I was cleaning. She said it was undigested food. After we cleaned and cooked the stomach, it was time to eat. The cow stomach had the exact flavor and texture of furry microwave fish sticks.  And, I raved about how good it was because I didn’t want to be rude. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's been a long time since I've written so here's a super long Blog

Swearing in:
I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer (no more of this trainee nonsense).  Our swearing in to Peace Corps service took place on a rainy Friday morning at 8am (which means had to leave Guarambare at 5). The swearing in ceremony takes place in the US Embassy. The embassy is beautiful and I wish I could have taken photos of the outside of the embassy, but at the risk of getting arrested, I didn’t take any. The swearing in ceremony was really nice. I got to meet the US ambassador, and got to see an international health agreement being signed. Then, after a quick brindis with cake and bocaditas, we headed to the Peace Corps office to get cell phones, internet modems, bank cards and attend meetings.  
After  the business side of things was taken care of, the fun begins.  Everyone (including most Peace Corps Volunteers) stays in Asuncion for the weekend.  It was nice to talk/ drink with other PCVs. That night,I went to ahendu (the word ahendu means listen in Guarani, but  the event is a concert put on by Peace Corps.) On saturday we my friends and I took the time to do a bit of shopping and attend the volunteer fair.That night, I went to the education dinner. The dinner took place at a Mexicanish restaurant. The food wasn’t great, but the margaritas were.  Then, being a 22 and an American in Paraguay, I went, with friends to the Brit pub. The Brit pub sells beer in three liter tanks to a table (and it isn’t Brahma!) After a fun weekend, I went to site on Monday. 
Semana Santa:
It takes me about two hours to get to site from Asuncion. I traveled with Liena and Travis, whose sites are closeish to mine. I got to site just in time for Semana Santa. Semana Santa is the week that leads up to Easter and it is a really big deal here.   There is no school and on Wednesday, all we do is make Chipa and Sopa Paraguaya.  Both foods are like cheesy, geasy con bread, they are delicious, until you learn how to make them. Once I learned how to make them, I am slightly digusted, but not enough to stop eating them. On Thursday, you are not allowed to do any sort of work and on Friday, your not allowed to eat meat and we all get up early to take bathes before the sun comes up. Apparently the water is blessed.  On Easter, Sunday and Monday, everyone slaps each other on the back and says Feliz Pasqua (Happy Easter). 
Possible future work in site
Once the school week started, I started observing classes and hanging out with people to get to know them.  I am starting to get an idea of what I might be doing.  I think I am going to work on promoting literacy in the classroom by using differentiated materials, diagnostic testing, and teaching letter sounds rather than syllables.  I am also thinking about doing a side health project because my community could really use it. I’ve been talking to a few people and I think that might end up being a physical education/healthy habits project in the school.  
Funny/cute things that happened to me this week:
  1. My community figures that if I fall in love with a paraguayan, I’ll stay here longer. Thus, I’ve been introduced to every “eligible” bachelor in the community. When I ran into some of the in the high school and elementary school classes, I put my foot down.  I told one of the women in the community that if she wanted to set me up, the guy has to be at least 20. So the other night, my host mom rushes into my room, tells me to put on cute clothes and do my hair. It turns out she wanted to introduce me to her brother. He is kind of cute, but he is studying at the military academy in Asuncion. Another of the times this happened, I met a 27 year old. He immeadiatly said he was too old for me, until he found out I was 22, not 15.
  2. I met this guy named Antonio, the first thing he said to me was that he was single (which is not true, I know his wife) and I’m single... Antonio is at least 50, and looks more like a bigger boned version of my Dad.  
  3. I had a zit and the entire community knew about it. I now have a painful, puss filled bug bite and my entire community knows about it. I went to play futbol (soccer) at the cancha (soccer field) and my entire community knows about it. 
  4. I sprained or twisted my ankle and it’s very swollen. I also have 7+ painful infrected bug bites. My community came up with several explanations ranging from the fact that I am eating to many fried foods to that I am not used to the humidity and that’s why my ankle is swelling up.I also got several recommendations for cures, including that I should let a dog sleep on my legs
  5. Last night, it rained and my roof leaks, so my host grandmother invited me to sleep with her, not wanting to be rude, I accepted the offer. The 5 year old that usually sleeps with her refused to move so all three of us slept together. At some point during the night, the other two kids came into the bed to sleep with us as well. 
  6. The detergent that I, and everyone else uses is illegal in almost all of the countries in the Americas 
  7. I can’t convince my host Dad that not all people in the United States are Jewish and that Judiaism and Christianity are not the same. I’m sorry but the fact that Jews don’t believe is Jesus is a major difference.
  8. I didn’t have internet access for a while because my computer runs on a new software that isn’t compatable with my modem. I was really upset about it, and I’ll admit I broke down and cried. My host mom and grandma saw me, unfortunately, but they hugged me and told me that if I started crying, they were going to cry too.  Some of the kids that I hang out with a lot (Mariella, Sole, Carolina) wouldn’t let me wallow alone...they made me go dance and play futbol with them instead. Surprisingly, when I wasn’t thinking about home, I felt better. 
Call to arms:
Please keep in touch with me in whatever way you can, it really helps me do my job. 
If you email me, I’ll send you my phone number and a website you can use to send me free texts. I will also send you my physical address and, if you write me a letter, I’ll write you one back.  
Pregnant woman, English classes, A cat
For the past week, I’ve pretty busy. I’ve been organizing projects, working at the school, hanging out with people around the community, preparing for the bicentenario (the 200 year aniversery of paraguay’s independence) and caring for my new kitten.  
I’ve started working on two projects.  Generally, PCVs don’t start working this early, but both ideas were brought to me and I am just providing the technical skills for both.   The first project is on computer skills. I was kind of surprised that such a poor community wanted their kids to have computer skills, but it turns out that you can’t get any sort of job, except for manual labor, unless you can manejar una computadora (have basic computer skills).  In order to teach the kids basic computer skills, a bunch of the parents are raising money to buy a computer. My second project is helping a university student with his English. He is studying computer science and a lot of the matireal they use is in English. I am going to give him classes.  I am also planing on starting a project with the teachers in the school, but I want to wait until the scheducal goes back to normal. 
The school schedual has been sooooo messed up for the past two weeks because of the bicentenario.  The school day is normally two groups. the morning group gose from 7-11 with 20 minutes fro recess and the afternoon group goes from 12-4 with 20 minutes fro recess. However, we have been practing for a parade that celebrates the bicentenario.  Everyfay, we practiced marching for an hour and some of the teachers trained a group of girls to be chiloreras (baton twirlers). I marched in the parade with the professors. Based on the amount we practed, I assumed the parade was a huge thing. The parade was about 200 feet long. Eye roll.
Oh and exciting news, I got a cat. Well, actually, it was given to my host sister, but it decided it was my cat. The cat’s name is Tomas Miguel Ceniza. My host dad named him. At first his name was just Miguel  because he was born in a community called San Miguel. My friend Liena’s host mom gave it to my host sister. I caried it back to Calle 1-80 (where we live) for her, but tried to give it back to her, but it kept coming back to me.  My host dad is also responsible for the Tomas part. One evening, he was drinking some beer with friends and offered the cat some. The cat must have been thirsty cause it drank it. Thus, it was given the name tomas (sounds like tomar which means to drink). It’s last name is Ceniza which means ash because it’s fur looks like ash. I call him Michi’i as a nickname. It means little kitten in Guarani
Additions to the list of weird Paraguayan beliefs:
  1. If a pregnant woman drinks beer, she will have a blonde baby, if she drinks wine she will have a dark haired baby, but if a pregnant woman drinks a lot, she will have a black baby.  
  2. **only appplies to one person** A friend of mine told me that his truck was used in both Vietnam and world war 2. I seriously doubt ither is true because the jeep was made in 1969. The guy said that when the US. Army finished with it, they gave it as a gift to Paraguay.  

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I am embarking on a two year camping trip!

I finally got to visit my site. I love it and I can’t wait to go back there. Everything in the community is VERY campo, so the ambiente (atmosphere) is very tranquillo and the stars are beautiful. 
I had such a wonderful time in my community and I don’t really know how to express to you the atmosphere. I guess the  best way would be to start at the beginning. My contact is a very guapa dicrectora (principal) of a school that has been asking for a volunteer since 2007. After we met she took me to  her house for the weekend. She lives in Blas Garay, but not in my community. While I was with her, I met the principal and vice principal of the local head school, and she took me met a Kansan who is married to a Paraguay and they live in the community next to mine.  For those of you who know my family, the Kansan kind of reminds me of my Uncle Keith.   The Kansan’s name is Randy and he told me that it was his responsibility to look after any American in the area.
On Monday morning, I finally went to my community.  The school had a bievenidos celebration for me (a welcome party). It was very cute. The kids at the school did two traditional Paraguayan dances and the teachers and parents gave very nice welcome speeches (first in Guarani and then in Spanish so that I could understand). The hilarious part was that they found a giant picture of Jennifer Aniston and labeled it Samantha.  They kept telling me how much we look alike (which we don’t), but it was a major ego boost.
After the bienvenidos I went to my host family’s house.  They are SUPER nice and I love them already. My host dad is the community’s Plan Paraguay representative and my host mom runs the cantina at the school. I also have three siblings and a grandmother. Their house is surrounded by fruit trees!  And they grow mandioca on their property too. They have several pigs, chickens, roosters, some cows, 2 dogs (tigre and leon) 5 cats (3 of witch are 15 days old) The house itself is made of wood with a metal roof . There is a kitchen in another building in the back (with a fire and no stove). Although they have running water, there are no sinks (only a spigot in the back yard) and no toilets (I’ll be using a latrine for the next two years).  
I am also very close to a Lieana (a rural health volunteer from my training group). We plan to do a lot of projects together because  both of our sites could use health and education volunteers. 
There is tons more that I’d love to tell you about my community, but at the risk of writing too much, I’ll post the rest later. If you want to know can talk to my Mom and Dad as I am going to force them to listen to a minute by minute account of what happened 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I’ve finally perfected my guacamole recipe!

The secret to good guacamole is....Opps can’t tell you, it’s a secret:)  But in reality, how much do any of you really care about how to create a perfect bowl of Guacamole.  
The reason I really started writing this is that I found out that I will be spending the next two years in barrio Calle 1-80 in Blas A Garay in Caaguazu.  I don’t know much about it but I am going to visit it this weekend (so check facebook fo photos on Thursday). What I do know is that it is 4km off the ruta and there is no direct transportaion to get there, there is 120 families (about 700 people), and it’s a very poor/needy community. However, I also know that my community has a strong sense of community, they are very organized, my community contact is very guapa and I’m the first volunteer they have ever had. 

I’ll tell you more next Thursday, wish me luck!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Running, Reading, and other strange things I do in Paraguay

I’ve started running everyday just before it gets dark. Running is weird in Paraguay! During my first run in Paraguay, a bunch of the students in the class that I teach started running behind me. One of them asked who was chasing me. In Paraguay, the only reason to run is because someone is chasing you. 
I am also reading a lot. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours relaxing. No one reads in Paraguay, and it’s an ideal way to mark yourself out as a foreigner, as if it wasn’t already obvious. Books are very expensive in Paraguay and hard to find outside of big cities so I am reading whatever happens to show up at the training center.  I’ve read some very good books including The 19th Wife and Tears of a Giraffe, but on the other hand I’ve also read some not so good books. The one I just finished reading is called The Whole’s so bad but it’s weirdly very hard to put down.  I am almost envious of the trainees who have Kindles, Nooks, and Ipads cause they can download good books. Oh well, I will have access to the volunteer library in 3 weeks and it is much better stocked.