Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Less than 6 months, and counting....

Drum roll please.........
Here it is! After almost a year of nothing, your lazy blogger hostess finally feels compelled enough to entertain all zero of you followers with today's non-groundbreaking post. =)

Okay, sarcasm aside- I guess what I really want to say is that, up until this point, I haven't had the motivation nor desire to publicize much. To give a VERY brief recap of the last 7 months:

*Trips (of the friend, family, and FUN sorts) to Peru (January, 2011), Argentina (March), as well as several interesting hotspots within country (Salto Cristal, Encarnacion and the Jesuit Ruins, the campo-aka another volunteer's site- for quite the Paraguayan Passover seder experience!!)
*Work related project news: Started a gardening/environmental education class with a new school, here in Alberdi, this year. Working with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders to satisfy the Paraguayan educational demands to teach kids about "traditional" home gardening. I like to call it: "The opportunity for Jen to shove as much ecology/environmental education into kids' brains" project. =) Topics have ranged from the food chain to composting- with a wonderful sprinkling of hands on gardening with the kids, right there in school! Hope the little plantitas can withstand the upcoming winter freeze!!
In addition to this, there's the one ever-morphing community project that I've mentioned in previous blogs- the one intended for the community entrance. Well, there's really no way to do justice to what a process- time and energy wise- this has been. But I'm proud to say that this experience was, and will continue to be, quite the learning curve for me and my community counterparts. The project is exactly where it needs to be, for now.......
* Other exciting Paraguayan events: the Bicentennario- Paraguay's 200th birthday celebrated by flying reds, blues, and whites in every nook and cranny of the country. Here in Alberdi, a big parade and many other school festivities were held in commemoration of the date. Classic Paraguayan moment: rain on the scheduled date (May 14th) of the festivities/parades. But, the show DID go on.......only a few days later no mas. =) Also, I'm happy to say that all chipa filled Easters, Christmas, San Juan's, and all other important Paraguayan holidays were well spent, in site. I really, really need to visit my old host Guarambare family....but more on that topic later.

For those who've kindly read this post thusfar: you've surely noted that it's full of "blogger snark" (thank you StuffExpatAidWorkersLike.com) What a perfect way to describe how it feels to be here, right now, 3/4 of the way done (or, to be precise, 22 months into service). But, to be clear- the bumpy road has not necessary been an impossible one, nor even a terrible one for that matter. I have been fortunate to live fairly comfortably, for Paraguayan standards, and have had the continual opportunity to meet and work with various people. I know I have put my heart and soul into the majority of what has been done here, and for that I am also my own biggest judge and critic. Sometimes, I wish there was a way to telepathically communicate all that I've seen and experienced here- it would speak volumes more than words ever could. Egotistical snark aside- this truly has, and continues to be, quite the didactic journey. I think I prefer it this way. Because, let's face it, that's life. The best we can hope for is the continual chance to take whichever path we prefer. Many don't even get that luxury.

The old refrain "You Reap What You Sow" doesn't quite fit for this line of work- not when your mentality needs to be that of "never-ending sowing," rather than "Wait.....how come I still haven't reaped anything I've sown over these past two years yet.....!?"

To all my beloved friends and family back home, I wanna take this opportunity to thank you- from the bottom of my heart- for your continual support. I couldn't be more grateful. You all have helped me keep sane throughout this entire journey. =) I wish each and everyone of your the best in your own personal endeavors. I can't wait to see you in less than six months.....and counting down!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air

This post is dedicated to changes in perspective.

I realize that being here has made me much more introspective. Call it selfish, loony, enlightened, too much time on my hands....whatever. I choose to call it: a breath of fresh air. A much, much needed breath of fresh air. In this blog, I hope to accurately articulate what I mean, and wish to share it with all those that have ventured and can relate to it. =)

I don't want to sound like an airy idealist, but isn't it interesting, how easy it is to get caught up in our lives (yes, you can roll your eyes)? So many of life's "givens" occur, most of the time, unacknowleged. Whether we are aware of it or not, there are people living all over the world who do the same thing as everyone else, everyday. We wake up, eat, engage in our daily activities, then sleep again. This routine is a given. But, that's not all. Everyone lives in a different environment, and is born with a unique personality. These differences, I believe, are what make up the "details in the fabric" (thank you, Jason Mraz) of our lives; complicating it, and becoming that which we focus on primarily. Who wants to waste time, analyzing the "givens?" I guess it's a matter of opinion between that of differences, and those of similarities. Even though we all do the same things, everyday, everyone's "reality" is uniquely subjective. Being "realistic" is just another way of saying "be aware of where you are, right now, in your life." Essentially, there is no one way to live. Where you are, in your life, is exactly all that....is.

I have spent copious amounts of time- such an interesting way we measure our lives- doing some personal and, sometimes, uncomfortable analysis. My life here, in Paraguay, has inevitably changed my perspective on reality: that which is mine, and mine alone. I have spent much time here judging, complaining, erring, self-victimizing....all of which have caused me some of the most unpleasant moments I can ever remember. These are inevitable truths about my personality that I have realized and have come to accept, as my own. I realize that feeling low is okay and, often, an important chance to change my perspective. I can't help but compare my reality in Paraguay, and all the idiosyncracies that entail, to what I came from, back in the US. It's natural to compare, judge, and ultimately be frustrated by what doesn't correlate. My first year here has been absolutely filled with these moments of frustration. Things like work ethic, political ethic, educational values, open-mindedness, cultural norms, all have shown me how much my upbringing in a different country, with a very different "reality," has shaped me into who I am today. We all have unique histories like this- we all understand what it feels like to encounter something or someone different and.....clash. This clash often is annoying, deemed unnecessary and stupid, or just plain ignored. All of these feelings I've felt, individually or collectively, during my time here. But, my time here has taught me this: these unique histories, which are completely warranted in their own right, shape our perspectives on life. No one history is more "right" than the other, obviously. Therefore, there is no one "better" perspective on life- just differences amongst them.

All idealistic ramblings must be supplemented with concrete evidence. To do so, I'd like to share a moment I had the other day, with a 17 year old girl, while I was helping her with English homework. (Teaching English- by the way- has been such an enlightening experience. Learning how to teach a language is a fulfilling and humbling opportunity. But, more on this at another time...) Unlike other moments I've had with other students, doing the same exact thing, this experience left an impression on me. Whether it was because I'm feeling particularly open these days, or not (who knows?), I noticed that the five hours I spent there were easy, quick, and....enjoyable. So often I do things, even if just to leave my house, out of obligation. Not this time. Even though these five hours were spent reiterating answers to questions that I can recite in my sleep by now- where am I from? what am I doing here? do I have a boyfriend? do I miss my family? how can you be a woman and live so far away from your family? what is Peace Corps?- I found myself answering them all with the same energy as if it were my first time. Something in me changed- she helped me realize that many of my answers were, to her, brand new and very, very different from her reality. Answering these types of questions, time and time again, easily turns into rote memorization and regurgitation. Not this time. Something about her way of being- her firm grip of who she is, where she's from, and how she sees her world- touched me. Her ability to answer directly, confidently and truthfully, impressed me. Of course, it's not because her answers were particularly striking- she is, after all, a 17 year old girl who talks about normal 17 year old girl things. It was the ease of how she told me about herself, and the way she made me feel at ease, being there with her, talking about myself as well. This easy exchange showed me something fascinating- being self aware is key to true human interactions. Take away all that we build ourselves up to be- and we are just people, in the end, having a conversation. Despite our differences.

So much changed has happened within the past year of my life, reminding me of how time is only this: a uniquely perceived measurement of our lives. Time passes quickly and slowly. Sometimes even cyclically. =) But one thing remains true to me: time is a finite. Our lives, and how we choose to live them, all encounter the same obstacle here on earth: finiteness. I know I'm sounding morbid, but upon realizing this, I am opening myself to a new perspective. I choose to become more aware of my time and how I choose to spend it. I realize that I have many wants and needs, as much as the next person. Deciding to satisfy your true wants and needs takes self-awareness.... and courage. How you choose to satisfy them is what fills in the fun and interesting details.

Life has so many simple truths. We, as people, have unique lives filled with so many unique details. I encourage all to take a moment, or two, to just sit with yourself and think. Of course, time is not always permitting. That's okay, just try to be aware of that. I encourage you to strive for open-mindedness. It's scary, I know, and often easier said than done. Change often is associated with uncomfortable instability. That's okay, too. We are who we are, for various reasons. Yet, I have to ask myself and anyone else this question: What do we gain, or lose, from changing our perspective? Is it worth the gamble, or- better yet- is it really a gamble!? Life's finite amount of time, for all of us here, now, can be lived out in so many different ways. I encourage you to be aware, analyze, prioritize, challenge, and-perhaps- change yourself, if you deem it necessary. It is, in my opinion, the best gift anyone can give to themself- a breath of fresh air, if you will- that re-energizes us to live our life to the fullest.

Like I said, easier said than done- I know =). Good luck, and go travel!! Thank you for taking the "time" to read this.

Monday, August 30, 2010

May, June, July, August...September???

Winter has come and, sadly, slowly is leaving. Why do I say sadly? Because this delicate California flower flourishes far better in the cool than the heat!!! (Which we volunteers can all feel coming on soon...)

A quick overview of the few highlights over the past 4 months....
*Started a new project (with the help of Lindsey, a 3rd year PCV extender) which entitled "El Mejoramiento de la Entrada de Nuestra Ciudad" (Improving the Entrance to Our City). This idea was an elaboration of the Environmental Project created by students in my school last year. The kids, along with a few key profesores, came up with a few models depicting a cleaner, healthier entrance to our city (Alberdi)- which this year has taken root and blossomed into an actual-possible- community based project! This was the perfect opportunity for me and Lindsey (who happens to be a volunteer of all trades!) to whip out the PACA tools! Yay! (Paticipatory Analysis for Community Action) We hope, with Lindsey's environmental architecture and tree skills, to make a project for the improvement of our town's entrance- based off of the wants/interests/needs of the people who live in that zone. The hope, in using PACA tools, is that the people will take more interest, ownership, and hopefully some pride in helping enable and maintain a big project like this. People seemed to really take to the idea that our town's entrance is dirty, lacking trees, unmaintained, and lacking illumination. There are many obstacles we have already had to face in starting: a lack of participation, some lack of human and financial resources, clay hard soil that makes tree growing difficult, flooding, etc. But, I hope that this project doesn't loose all steam because it's a didactic and novel way of identifying, analyzing and enacting on community needs. No more waiting for the government/the municipalidad to get stuff going!! The process is complicated and will not be completed in my lifetime here, but the hope is that the locals take enough interest in this project to keep it going til its completed! A trash-free entrance would be sooooo nice!
* My "G" had another reconnect in a very interesting location! The place was located in Cerrito (in the Chaco) and was an agriculture/micro-enterprise high school! The kids and the philosophy of this place is revolutionary in Paraguay! The concept was started by Fundacion Paraguaya as a way to "fight poverty." That said, the students and the school are self sufficient and self sustaining! The kids are taught about both business/markets and about agricultural production. In order to receive a diploma, the students present and entire project plan for some sort of agricultural production (ranging from livestock, pesiculture, lombriculture, apiculture, to agriculture!) that has a viable market and plan!! How incredible! The volunteers were asked to bring a person from their community to join. Mine ended up bailing on me, but the experience of going and learning amazing theories like "Biointensive Farming" and "Natural Reforestation" completely made up for the loss! It's the most academic stimulation that I've had in, like, a long while! =)
*Winter hits in late June as the teachers begin what ends up being a month long break from school!! First, they were on strike- asking for the Ministry of Education to fulfill its promise to raise salaries- which blended into three weeks of "Winter break". The third week was tacked on because of the cold- a freezing 3 degrees Celsius with rain! But, I cannot complain because I was not here during the harshest temperatures! =)
*VISITING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!!!! Di and Matt decided to tie the not, officially, in Times Square, NYC on July 17, 2010. To say the least, this was the most emotion vacation I've ever been on for a variety of factors! Coming to NY after being in Paraguay for 10 months was quite the trip! I mean, all roads are paved, illuminated, and FULL OF CARS! You can buy a cup of coffee on ANY corner! I remember coming to NYC and not enjoying it as a kid- but this time I was taken aback by the beauty, chaos, and yes-cleanliness!- of the city! I spent a whirlwind of a week with Di + company (all my wonderful and much missed Berkeley chicas!) and met up with my family to spend some much needed quality time together with Grandma and the "other" NY Cohens! I then flew back to spend an even faster week in Southern CA with the family and friends at San Clemente Beach and South Pas! Upon my 20 hour journey back I reflected upon all that I experienced in the two weeks and can express just how very very grateful I am to everyone and everything we have, back home.
*After recovering from the mini "depression" of my return I got swept up in a gust of activities such as: Project Design and Management workshop (which was awesome, all you volunteers who may consider going!), English classes, recycling and bario charlas, the 80th Anniversary celebratory events of the Founding of Alberdi, and....helping another volunteer EE JoseLuis with his Youth Leadership Camp in Aregua. No time to mope over silly things like homesickness and Mary being gone too!

As I sit here writing and drinking mate on possibly one of the last few weather permitting days I'll have in awhile, I reflect upon the strange and yet wonderful conversation I had with someone today. This person received an invitation to be a Peace Corps Environmental Volunteer, in Paraguay. How ironic. I talked to her for almost 2 hours about everything that is my service, my experience, my time here thusfar. I can't help but feel like I may have unfairly biased her opinion with being open and candid about everything I felt. This "job" is, at the very minimum, a constant challenge. The amount of ups and downs I experience could make up a thousand theme park roller coasters. There are many luxuries that I would love to have again from back home. I miss my friends and family, a lot, every day. I don't know if this community project will ever get past level one, or if these people will remember why I spent two years of my life here. But, every time a random student smiles and yells "Yenni" at me, every time I am asked to help plan an event instead of being a "guest" at one, every time I learn that random cool places, like UNICEF, actually exist and provide tons of free information to Paraguayans- I chuck it back into the memory bank and back to that 100% commitment I made to myself, now a year ago, to be a Peace Corps Environmental Volunteer in Paraguay.
P.S. Check out new photos I FINALLY uploaded on Facebook under my Paraguay album! =)

Friday, April 16, 2010

A new routine...

As always, new things are happening here all the time. Let's see...

  • Have moved into my very own house, which I share with the other PC volunteer here in Alberdi!! (Check for uploaded pics soon!) It's a pretty sweet deal- two rooms, a "modern" bathroom, and a living/kitchen/everything else room! All for the amount of $30 USD a month! (I know you're all jealous! hehe).
  • School has begun! I work primarily in the Escuela Basica, where they have grades K through 8th. My school is super guapa! The Directora is very environmentally and community minded- which is a huge blessing for me and my future work here! I have started my work by giving a series of "trash" talks to all grades- 1st through 6th! I also plan on helping out with projects for EARTH DAY (April 22nd!) which include: starting a tree nursery, talking about soil erosion, making crafts out of recycled bottles, etc. The Vice- Directora here is also very active and wants to start doing a "limpieza" (clean up) campaign in the surrounding barrios (or local neighborhoods). In addition, we have begun planning a tree planting project, which will be implemented towards the entrance of our town, where there is often much trash. We hope that with this project we will spark community awareness and interest in keeping the town clean and healthy.
  • English classes through the Cooperative continue with full force! We have already taught some of the basics like: greetings, personal questions, the ABC's, numbers (up to 100), and some words for objects like ball, shoe, etc. I actually am really enjoying these classes, because the kids seem to really be interested in learning! Teaching English is a whole job in itself! I am very lucky that I have a teacher here who knows how to speak English well and has experience teaching. She gets most of the credit for putting together the activities and lessons for the class. I also taught them how to sing "Twinkle twinkle little star" and they learned "Happy birthday" as well. I hope that my relationship with the kids continues to grow. I see that they are less shy and more willing to talk to me, the weird Norte Americana, with the strange English accent!
  • My "G" just finished what is called the "In Service Training Language Reconnect." Everyone from my group met up again in Guarambare, where we all trained, and did a 2.5 day intensive language review/brush up! I am SO grateful for the help! I had a really great language teacher, who helped us SO much with the finer points of Spanish and Guarani. As we spend more time in the country, our language skills inevitably are improving- and it's amazing to actually see the difference between when we last were in training and now, after 4 months in site! We also got some more information on other project ideas/resources to bring back to site like: Gender and Development, working with Youth, health, HIV/SIDAS, working with women's groups, using tools to develop community projects, etc. It was also nice to see everyone again! It was kind of weird being back in Guarambare with everyone back- although it wasn't the first time for me. I stayed, by coincidence, with my host mom Sole, my brother Genry at my host grandma's house! Many things have changed for them- but I plan on coming back to see them as often as possible!
Some other exciting news in my life include: starting a garden (yes, this actually will happen!). I planted some squash, basil, and a tree called Yvyra Ro in seedbeds about a week ago. Although only the squash has started to sprout, I will not be discouraged! =) I hope to borrow a shovel from the neighbors and get started on building my tablon (raised seedbed) sometime in the next week or so. Also, I now am mobile! (aka I have a bike!) When my APCD came to do my site presentation, they brought the rest of my stuff as well as a bike! One of my favorite things to do is just ride around on my bike! I have already gone on a few long bike rides and came across.....get ready for this.....MONKEYS! Yes, ladies and gents, there are monkeys here in my site! What I didn't realize was that all along the river, which borders Alberdi, there is stretch of beautiful and untouched subtropical forests! In these forest lie a species of monkey, which as far as I could tell, include: a black larger male, a brown smaller female, and a light colored baby. Sadly, the pictures I took don't really do justice to this, but I am still blown away by the fact that there are monkeys! I hope to go on another long ride to check out other parts of this forest to see what other marvels are out there. Another new plan is: visit FORMOSA (the Argentinian city right across the river- see my profile pic!!) I recently got the OK to cross and check it out!! I can't wait! I've been told it's like entering a whole other world- one with paved streets, lots of buildings and cars! I will update once I make the cross!
Winter is slowly starting to creep up around the corner. I can't believe it's FINALLY happening! Technically, it's "fall time", which means that I no longer have to take 2+ showers a day, and do not use the fans anymore! Winters, like summers, usually consist of extreme temperatures- with lots of humidity! So even if it not very cold temperature wise, the humidity makes it THAT much colder! The weather suddenly changed for the colder right around the same time you all back in the US hit spring time! Paraguay recently switched its time, after much discrepancy, so that we are back one hour (which means there's a 3 hour gap between me and California)in accordance to daylights savings. So, as I write this post around 6:45pm my time, it is already pitch dark! Crazy! So long to the late evening strolls to watch the sun set around 8:oopm, which is one of my favorite things to do here in Paraguay.
As I slowly settle into my new routine, I'm starting to feel more and more at home here. The first few months in site are, inevitably, the hardest they say. So much has to do with having to adapt to a new area, new people, new way of life all over again after training. But, like the great Randy Pausch said in my new favorite book The Last Lecture, "Experience is what we get when we didn't get what we wanted." Although I had a very different idea of what my future site would be like, I am happy and can't wait to continue developing projects that I am passionate about. To all those who are/may be thinking about doing Peace Corps- my biggest words of advice are: just hold on and make it through the first few months!
Of course, I miss everyone back home infinitely so. Thank you so much to those who have kept in touch with me, despite terrible internet and no phone reception! You are all my inspiration.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wow...overdue update!

Big changes have happened- namely...I am now, officially, a volunteer!!! Life has been a constant motion of change! Here are some of the highlights of what I've done!

Dec 7-8: Did a 12 hour, overnight, "pilgrimage" to the sacred basilica of the patron virgin of Caacupe. This annual pilgrimage is done every year by Paraguayans from every corner of the country by any mode of transportation available- by foot, car, bus, cargo truck, etc. Those who are able to complete the journey to the basilica- built by the sacred place where the Virgin, herself, was said to show her presence- are supposedly granted one wish for their miraculous efforts. My spiritual journey was done, by foot, from Guarambare and included a series shortcuts through fields, highways, unlit and unpaved streets. I was accompanied by the whole group of hard core Agforesters, led by a very amiable host Paraguayan guide. We finally merged on the main ruta to be joined by MASSES of people- all ages, shapes, and colors =)- trying to push their way through the hoards, trying as best as possible not to step on everyone elses´beach sandaled foot! We stopped a few times to fill up on chipa or to rest our weary bodies, and finally made it to the basilia (amazingly without getting split up!) at around 6 or 7 in the morning. We made it (barely) to the main plaza and basically either passed out, shopped, or searched for something to eat for a few hours before catching a bus with any available seats back home. It was incredible- both physically and mentally- finishing the trip. Don´t know if I´ll do it again- in all honesty- but at least I can say I did it. =)

Dec 11: Officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer! The ceremony took place at the US Embassy (located in downtown AsunciĆ³n) and lasted only about an hour, followed by a brief reception (check out Facebook to see the pics).

Dec 15: After a few short days of R & R in Asuncion, we all said our goodbyes to one another and set out to start our 2 year commitment in site! (I traveled, for the first time, by bus. Wow. The trip took 6 hours: two breakdowns, a flat tire, and packed with people inclusive. Thank you dirt roads!)

Dec 25: Merry Christmas!! (First Christmas spent away from family =/)

New Years!: Spent New Years week alone, in site, with the flu =(. On New Year´s Eve, I graciously joined my friend (first one I made at site!) and her family for asado at her house. We watched the celebrations worldwide on her family´s TV (yes, I´m in a spoiled site with TVs!). Her house is located right next to the Alberdi ¨beach,¨ which looks across the Rio Paraguay to Formosa, where they shot off a very nice fireworks display. The night was very pretty and tranquilo, and the water quite warm!

Jan 15: One month anniversary in site!

Feb 7-8: On a visit to Asuncion to get the H1N1 vaccine, I was able to check out a couple of really pretty places located in the district of Central! I went canoeing on the Rio Paraguay with some very friendly people who do national and internation marathon style races in events such as: rafting, biking, running, trekking, and swimming. They also took me on a short hike in Tobati, a protected national park, where we saw a cave with BATS in it!!! They drove me on a mini sight seeing day trip to places like San Bernadino (a popular lake resort-like vacation spot) and Aregua (where we had a BEAUTIFUL view of miles of land up by the church). Overall, it was SO nice to get out and see some beautiful scenery- (even though it made me miss home and all of the beautiful northern CA forests!!)

I have now been in site for about 2 months now, and in country for 5. Life is completely, utterly different- a constant change and challenge every second. Things I have to look forward to include: starting work in the escuela basica (doing some EE themed projects), teaching an English class through the local Cooperativa, trying to get in contact with World Wide schools, finding my own house!!, and trying to set up a reasonable life routine. Most of my days here are spent meeting people, drinking terere, and making myself busy checking out different places in my site. The summer break has been niiiiiiicccccceeeeee and hot/humid, destined to cool down sometime in March or April.

I miss you all beyond my ability to fully articulate. Thank you to all your amazing love and support (especially during the holidays and my birthday!). I try not to think to much about home- but would love, love any news/updates whenever possible! Enjoy the Winter Olympic (that I am unable to enjoy watching here) games!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Okay- it´s been a good two months since I´ve been here, in Paraguay, so here it goes... FIRST UPDATE!

I have been living in the town of Guarambare with a host family of three (my host mom, a host dad, and my three year old brother!!!) We will be staying here in Guarambare until we have our official swearing in (on Dec. 11), after which we become REAL Peace Corps volunteers!!! So much has happened so far...as you can see in the pictures I´ve uploaded so far...consisting of visits to other cities such as Caacupe (where you can see the famous Basilica of the patron saint), Tapytengua Guazu, Yhu, Asuncion (the capital), etc. There are about 13 people in my sector of Environmental Education. Each of the trips consisted of some technical training and staying with a family whilst visiting. Sometimes we visit the local PCV (Peace Corps volunteer) and watch or help with them some sort of activity , and other times we just are visiting a school or a national park (Sero Kavaju!!!) to learn about aspects of my sector (Environmental Education, or EE). Most training days go from 7:45am until 5pm (and until noon on Saturadays) and consists of both language training and technical training. Each sector trains in their own respective area of Guarambare, and once a week all 42 trainees come together to train in the big training center in the centro. Once we become official volunteers, we all will be scattered around the country serving in our own respective communities for the duration of 2 years, regardless of our sector (our trainig group consists of four sectors: beekeeping, crop extension, agroforestry, and EE).

Learning the language has definitely been one of the most challenging (yet rewarding) parts of training. There are two native languages here in Paraguay: Guarani (the local native language, also the name of the national currency and the name of the indigenous Paraguay tribe) and Castellano (aka Spanish). I started learning Guarani from the start and have learned about as much as a kindergardener (aka enough to get the most MINIMAL needs met, etc). The majority of people here speak a mix of the two languages, also known as jopara. My spanish isn´t much to brag about either, so I hope that I can continue improving my speaking abilities (both in spanish and Guarani).

Culturally speaking, I´ve learned A LOT about the dos and DONT´S here in Paraguay. The food was one of the biggest complaints amongst the trainings at the beginning (think FRIED meats and carbs) as well as the chivivi (aka diahrrea) issues that ensue. Yet, I am learning to love certain things like chipa (a bagel, essentially, made of cornmeal and cheese and lard), sopa Paraguaya, and- get this- DRINKABLE YOGURT!!! (one of the best treats on the blistering hot and HUMID typical day) Its approaching summertime here, and this means there´s a WHOLE lot of drinking terere (a cold drink consisting of yerba, some medicinal herbs, and ice cold water sipped out of a metal bombilla straw thingy and guampa) WHEREVER you may be- in the car, working, outside talking to neighbors, etc. It´s as essential to Paraguayan culture as coffee is to a college student. =) I have already been to a few Paraguayan parties, for birthdays or quinceaƱos (a religious birthday celebration done on a girls´15th birthday consisting of a big catholic mass and followed by a wedding-esque party reception) which usually include asado (grilled meat), cervesa (for men especially), Paraguayan music (yay harps!!), and sometimes DANCING (amazing stories involved here which I will gladly discuss in person!) Overall, I have encountered some of the most generous and hospitable people here amongst my stay in different areas. I mean, how many times in the US do you meet a perfect stranger and are instantly offered a meal, a place to stay, great conversation, AND a promised future visit all at the same time!? Of course, I have encountered many frustrations that clash with my previous independent US lifestyle (think living back home with a PROTECTIVE family at 23 years old!), but I am slowly learning to handle these with grace =). Hahaha.

The most exciting update has been finding out my future site!!! Starting Dec. 15, I am the official PCV of Alberdi- a tiny city of 7,000 right on the frontera of Argentina in western Paraguay!!! I am only about 2-3 hours away from the capital (although it would be a LOT shorter of a ride if the road was paved!!!) I literally can see Formosa, a supposedly chuchi Argentinian urban city, right across the Rio Paraguay. The funny thing is- I hate fish!! The Rio is famous for its fishing and for the tiny beach where people go to spend hot summer days (remember- Paraguay is a LANDLOCKED country!!!) The centro here is VERY bustling with tons of shops where you can get essentially ANYTHING you need! How lucky am I!? I already have started meeting some of the local officials and people and places I will be working with once I am sworn in. I will have much, MUCH more to talk about, so I´ll save some more details for later!!!

Well, that´s all I got for now! I do have internet here (yay!) so please PLEASE continue sending me emails and updates! I wish that I could be there with you all, especially as we near Thanksgiving, Christmas, my BIRTHDAY!!, and the New Year. But, know that I truly am missing each of you very much and that you are in my thoughts often!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


In case you are interested in learning more about what life will be like down in Paraguay...

and from the Peace Corps website: