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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- The detergent that I, and everyone else uses is illegal in almost all of the countries in the Americas
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- **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.