Sorry it has taken me so long to update you all in my adventures. Training ended the 13th of August and we had our swearing in on the 14th of August at the embassy in Asuncion.
The date that we need to be in our sites was the 17th so we had four days of free time in Asuncion. The night of the 14th we; Mary, Carrie, Mike, Brad, and Carlos, went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, that was FANTASTIC. We basically ate the weight of our bodies, a bit uncomfortable but totally worth it. After that we met up with a bunch of other volunteers at an art gallery/ bar. After that we went dancing, and it was basically the Peace Corps show. No one else was on the dance floor but Peace Corps volunteers. There were a lot of other volunteers in town because a group swore out the day we swore in and also there was an Ahendu concert the next night. The 15th we walked around Asuncion, shopped, drank coffee, ate good food, and hung out in the hotel, and that night went to the Ahendu concert were I met a lot of other volunteers. On the 16th a Sunday, Mary and I went back to Paso de Oro for a despidido. Mary and I were in charge of buying the asado. So when we were on our way to Paso de Oro we stopped at the Super 6 a large grocery store. We knew what kind of meat, but not how much, so we told the butcher we needed asado for 8 people. He gave us 76 mil worth of meat, probably 10 kilos. And then we bought chorizo also, so we spent 100 mil on meat.
David met us at the despidido at Mary’s house, and came back with us to Asuncion for 2 days. It was really sad saying goodbye to my family, Mary’s family and even more difficult saying goodbye to David. But exciting at the same time, because I am finally starting what I came here to do.
Day 1: I got a ride from the director of my sector because she was coming up to Concepcion anyways. So I didn’t have to ride on a bus for 7 hrs, instead in a chuchi car for 5 hrs. I was able to bring my bike with me also, which is really exciting, because most of the community lives about 3 km away from where I am staying for the first month. My host family was in the process of building me a room when I arrived. I told them I needed a lock and door, which they didn’t have in the house so they built me my own room, super awesome. (Although the lock still hasn’t been put on, I have my own bed/space) The first night, well morning at about 5 am I heard the rats rummaging around the house, so I will be sleeping with my ear plugs from now on!
Day 2: I studied some Guarani in the morning, and then rode my bike out to Calle 11 where I played soccer with some kids and ate lunch with Don Ramon and his family. He is very proud of his milk, and every time I’ve gone there I drink milk. So I had some milk, and bananas. Then they insisted that I take a nap. I am still not that comfortable with everyone, so it was still a little weird to take a nap in their bed, so I insisted I was ok to ride my bike, that I wouldn’t die, and left. About 5 minutes after I returned to my house, the director stopped by to chat, and see how things were going, because she was passing by on her way back to Asuncion. Later that afternoon I busted out the jump ropes to play with my host sisters. Its crazy, every girl in the states knows how to jump rope. But it’s totally foreign to my host sisters. It is hilarious watching them try, and now that one of them has learned we’ve made it our nightly exercise and also have competitions to see who can jump the most times. That night there was a meeting with the group of jovenes to talk about fundraising activities.
Day 3: Went to Horqueta with Serafin, my host dad and also president of the coop, to meet up with George, the ex mayor who is also an agricultural engineer, and go to Concepcion with him. He drove us in his car, and we went to the local government office, where we met with the governor of Concepcion. The coop had made a pedido, request, for a motor for a machine that helps with the local black bean they grow here, 5 more computers, and something else. Serafin, and George told me that me being there made a political statement, even though I am not political its good to have a rubia around, they told me. The meeting went really well, and the governor seemed impressed with everything, and said he is going to come out and visit the coop this next week. George and I talked on the drive back, and he is going to work with the coop as well. He is very excited to help, and thinks that the coop has a lot of potential and has many ideas. Along with some other people, he told me that the coop is lacking the capacity of administration. There really isn’t anyone in the coop with a business background therefore they don’t know how to go to the next step of business. They all know how to produce their products with a high quality but lack the experience with exporting, and working in a business setting. Which is perfect for me, because I can help, but where do I begin, there is sooo much to be done. And its not my job to come in a change things, I need to find the people who have the passion to learn business techniques and teach them. It’s hard to explain because, there is so much going on right now at the coop it is hard for me to understand as well.
Day 4: Went to the school in the morning to watch my host sister, Sandra, dance in the style of traditional Paraguaya. The 21st of August is Dia de Folklore, so the school had a little show, to expo different things Paraguayan.
Day 5 (sat): The group of jovenes met early in the morning to clean the outside area of the coop. The jovenes have a workshop there as well for grinding up corn to make flour, and also an area to make wooden crates for the pina, and bananas. So we mowed the lawn, picked up trash, and drank terere. Shortly after I had the pleasure of watching my host family castrate their pig. That afternoon I rode my bike out to Calle 11 to hang out with the girls who work at the almacen out there. When I returned home, Serafin insisted that we drink wine, because it had been a productive day. The group of jovenes were over having another meeting, so they drank too. He bought some kind of wine with a girl in a thong on the plastic bottle, and was 18% alcohol. Tasted like gasoline. After 5 drinks I felt buzzed, pretty sure it might have been mixed with cana.
Day 6 (sun): At 9am the coop had a meeting with a larger coop called CREDICOOP, they are a larger coop that gives loans to smaller coops, who are their members. CREDICOOP has about 50 members. After about 3 hrs of showing the people around the chacras, and talking CREDICOOP decided to give my coop a G 56 million loan. I think that is about $10,000. A lot of responsibility the coop has now. Interestingly enough the people from CREDICOOP talked to me about the coop and how there were a lot of opportunities. They told me that the one thing they defiantly need is a place to sell the products that the members either produce or make. The coop knows this, and wants this as well. So I am excited to work with them in actualizing their, sueno. Danielle the volunteer who lives near by, came over after and we chated for a bit, ate lunch and then she left. Sandra and I then walked to Calle 11 to play some soccer. We played for about an hour, and it kicked my ass. Again when I came home Serafin said we need to drink wine and celebrate the successful day. But his wife wasn’t going to have any of that. She told me we needed to finish our mate first then I could go drink wine with him. But that didn’t happen I was exhausted by the time we were done drinking mate, I went to bed.
So I really havn’t had a bunch of free time so far, the thing that they told me I would have plenty of in my first 6 months. Monday (today) is the first day I had time to take my computer out and write this blog. I have been showering about every 3rd day. It’s been rainy and not too hot, therefore I haven’t had the drive to shower, cause I haven’t smelt too bad. It’s quite the task to shower. First I start a fire (if I can), then I boil some water, then I go outside and bucket bath. I actually like bucket bathing because it uses less water. The other day while showering I heard all these kids laughing, and I looked over the wall, yes I am a little taller then the shower walls so I can see what is going on outside if I stand up straight, I try and duck though so people don’t see me. Anyways they were laughing because two cows had gotten loose and Serafin was chasing them around the yard, and basically around the shower. Only in Paraguay.
Also I havn’t mentioned too much about the food, well that’s because I’ve eaten the same thing for practically every meal. I have been eating tortilla, which is fried pancake batter sometimes with cheese or green onion, mandioca, and lettuce. I am sooo tired of eating tortillas. Oh but the other night they mixed it up and made the tortillas with mandioca flour instead of regular flour. Tasted a bit different, and I appreciated the mix. I would cook for myself, but there are only two “burners” places to put pots or pans over the fire. So if I were to cook at the same time, my stuff would be in the way. Therefore I can wait another 3 months till I start cooking on my own.
I’ve found the place where I am going to live for the 2nd month. It’s a house on the ruta as well, so there is running water, and there is a single room, with a lock and a door. The family is very nice, one of the daughters is my age, she goes to school in Horqueta, so she is only home on the weekends, and another one of the daughters is best friends with my host sister now. The mom already told me, that we’ll be speaking nothing but Guarani when I move in. I have been trying to practice every morning, I need to make flash cards and try a little harder.
My phone number is (595) is the country code 0982 528 298. If you’d like to call that would be cool! I think my mom said it was something like 20 cents a minute to call from Skype. Miss you all so much, and I will try to update more often now. I have to go to Horqueta to use internet, until I buy the chip that is in a pen drive, that will allow me to have wireless. I think I’ll wait till I have my own place to buy this pen drive though.
I ate 5 pomellos yesterday and they were fantastic! addicted
Wow. One week left until I become a “real” volunteer. I can’t believe that 3 months has passed by so quickly. Honestly I don’t want to leave Paso de Oro. I have an awesome relationship with my host parents, have become great friends with the other aspiring volunteers, and have a potential novio who is an amazing person. Defiantly didn’t come here looking for this but what does a girl do?!?!
Anyways…much has happened. Finally I know where I will be spending my two years as a Peace Corp Volunteer. A little place called, 25 de Abril. Yes the 25th of April is the name of the place where I’ll be living. I say place, because it’s really just that, a place on the road. 25 de Abril is in the district of Concepcion about 6 hours from the capital, Asuncion. I am the furthest from the capital in my group of 18. I am also the one of two who is “campo” or very, very, extremely rural. I went to visit for a week, and returned for training for 2 more.
During training we went through an interview process, talking about our skills, past work, preferences, and what not. Everywhere in Paraguay has electricity so that was a given but there are still places with out running water. I spent my volunteer visit in a place with a well, and it was fine, but I requested a place with running water, in reality not asking for much because most everywhere has that too. I guess I’ve just been spoiled and everything has exceeded my expectations so far with Paraguay. I have a modern bathroom right now, flushing toilet, and a warm shower. And I’ve seen a lot of these places all around Paraguay, it’s becoming more and more common.
Well be is as it is, I get sent to the place where there is running water in one part, and not the other where the majority of the people live. And in the part where there is running water, it’s outside the house. So I will be using a latrine for a toilet and a bucket for a bath. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, because I am totally stoked on my projects, but I am the only one in my group. I know peace corps isn’t all about these things, but when I’ve been spoiled with them for 3 months and am not stoked to shit in a hole. Some of the other volunteers are going to be working I totally modern cities, with all of the amenities. Not going to lie I am a little jealous of their toilets.
Anyways…For the first month I am going to live with my counterpart, Serafin, and his family. They have 6 kids, 2 of which live a home right now. My new side kick is his daughter, Sandra, who is 14. They have 3 bedrooms in their house and enough beds, but no doors in any of the rooms. I need a door and a lock, not to be too picky but security is nice, for my computer and a bit of privacy. So they currently are building walls on the patio with a door and a lock for me. During the first month I’ll be looking for a place to stay for 2 more months, preferably 2 other families. The rule of Peace Corps is that I stay with families for 3 months, to integrate in the community. I have a feeling it’s going to be hard to find a place to stay for the 2 remaining months. I am not lying when I say; every family has 6-15 kids living in the same house. There for if I am to move in for a month, I’ll be putting 4 kids out of a room. Beucase I need my own room.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the fact, that all of the people are super nice. The first night I arrived at about 8:30 and there was about 15 people waiting outside the cooperative where I’ll be working. We ate empanadas, sopa paraguaya and drank some wine and coke, in the office/ my room for the week. Apparently that night about 11:30 Don Faustino called my director and told her how happy the community was that I have come to work with them. The cooperative is called Integral and has about 50 members. They have 20 hectares of land to produce sandia (watermelon), pineapple, and bananas together. Also every member has their own land that they cultivate also, poroto negro, cana de azucar, etc. The cooperative also runs 2 shops (almacens) where they sell the basic necessities, food, some clothes, gas, and other things. Tambien every women member has a garden with a device that provides shade, and a chicken coupe to insure that the chickens are receiving the proper nutrition instead of just having their chickens running around scavenging for food.
The cooperative would like me to work on the following projects: teach the group of young kids how to use computers (they have one computer for the administration stuff, but want another one), teach the administration more complex programs on the computer ( programs they want to buy), help raise funds to build a mini casa/shop on the road to sell the products that the women grow in the gardens, and the food they make, a place where the kids can work together, also help obtain money for the irrigation system that is going to cost 50 thousand dollars, along with maybe working in the schools, and getting to know the entire community. Most everything involves money. I spent a lot of the week trying to explain we need to prioritize, I am not a bank, and I will help where I am able.
During training they tell you the first 6 months you won’t be doing much. Don’t believe that is going to happen for me. I am really excited to get to know the community, and understand more about how the cooperative works. The cooperative has so many great ideas, and know how to work together, and run a business. I really don’t want to let them down, they seem to have very very high expectations of me.
The total distance from the main cooperative/one of the almacens is, and the rest of the community and the other almacen is about 5 km. Therefore I need a mode of transportation. I can’t ride on a moto its illegal in the Peace Corps, I didn’t have a bike during my visit, and 5 km is a long way to walk. Entonces, I took the carro, a horse drawn buggy, carriage sort of thing that the farmers use to haul their products. I am seriously contemplating buying a horse.
Friday the 14th is the day of swearing in, in Asuncion. We are going early in the morning and staying until Tuesday the 18th, the day I am moving to 25 de Abril. 4 days in Asuncion, soaking in the last of modern life. I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to start my work, I am ready to be tested.
I was supposed to go use the internet yesterday, sunday, but it was pooring down rain and the bueses were very infrequent therefore mary and I spent the day at david´s house with his mom and brothers eating and dancing.
I have so much going on in my brain, I probably missed something important. I can’t wait to update and share about my new life in the campo!