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 quinceaños (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!