Monday, September 27, 2010

Reggae Fest

This past weekend I went to my first concert in Paraguay. It just so happened to be the 2nd annual Reggae Festival. Last year the Whalers were the headlining show, and I heard so many great stories I decided I would go this year. There wasn’t a lot of advertisement done for the show, but of course the American Peace Corp volunteers are the first to hear about the show and buy tickets. The advertisement that was done was this…

When it comes to racism in Paraguay there is a lot of it, or its not that they are being racist they just aren’t conscious of being racist. For example, David’s skin tone is a little dark and the people call him Morocho instead of his name, Morocho meaning dark skin. When explaining how a person looks the first thing they say is if they are dark or light skin, then if they are fat or skinny. In Peace Corps Paraguay there are African American Volunteers, here in Paraguay they are automatically Brazilian, a famous singer, or in some cases the president of the United States. When my friend Paulette showed me the advertisement for the first time I was shocked. Did they seriously paint a Paraguayans face black? Do only “black” people sing or listen to reggae music? In fact at the concert there was only two groups, one from Jamaica and the other Bolivia, who were from African decent. The other bands were white guys with dreadlocks from Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay.
When entering the concert there was security, like at all shows, who looked in our bags. I had a bottle of water they took, out of Angelic’s bag they took her pen, meanwhile she had a bottle of water, and Joan walked passed with a bottle of water in her hand. I am pretty sure every security guard had this assigned object that they were looking for and didn’t bother with the other stuff.

At the show I was amazed by the turnout, there were tons of people from all different styles of life. The diversity of the youth in Paraguay is astonishing. Living in the campo the youth don’t get to express themselves like they do in the capital of Asuncion. Therefore I have yet to experience this crowd. The people at the concert knew the words to the majority of the songs, danced along to all of the music, and had a great time. Nosotros, the volunteers enjoyed ourselves as well.

The music was very good. A few of the bands had the feel of Ska music mixed with Reggae. My favorite band of the night was called Nonpalidece from Argentina. The other bands were The Skatalites from Jamaica, Notevagustar from Uruguay, Matamba from Boliva, and Ese Ka’a and Ripe Banana Skins from Paraguay.

They also had a Hippie Market; yes above the stands it said “Hippie Market”. Again, racisim..? Anyways there was some very nice jewelry and other handy crafts for sale. My favorite item was the stand with Mobiles, made out of origami cranes and different types of local seeds.
All in all the entire concert was a success. I thoroughly enjoyed myself along with all of the Paraguayans. I learned that the Paraguayans are good clappers, when the band tells them to clap, they clap and continue to clap, unlike some people.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

San Salvador Update

I admit I feel like I've gotten a little lazy with the blog. Its not that I don't want to write, I just don't have time and when I do have free time I choose to do other things like; ride my bike, make ao po'i, play in my garden, or visit my friends. But I feel its time to update you all on what I have been up to, what is occupying my time.

In July I started a school garden with the 8th grade class. Every Thursday and friday I go to their class and either give "charlas" or work in the garden. All of the students know about gardening because their families either have them or have had them in the past. What my goal was to teach about new ways to plant veggies, about the eco system, and about making a compost pile. I started out with a "charla" about basic gardening tips. What plants you should transplant and what ones you should just leave in the raised bed. We talked about companion planting, for example, if you plant basil and tomato together its proven that the tomato will grow faster. We talked about what plants are best for winter and summer and made a list of the vegetables that they wanted to plant. I suggested a few veggies such as broccoli and jalapeƱo to try something new instead of only lettuce and carrots. It took a few weeks to get the garden ready to plant. We had to build a fence, clean the soil it was full of rocks and who knows what, and make the raised beds. Paraguay gets a lot of rain therefore a raised be is necessary. When it was time to plant the seeds the teacher, who only stands on the other side of the fence and never enters, started ordering us around. He always left the room when I gave the "charlas" with the kids, so he didn't know what we had planned. But he had the seeds and told us what to plant and where. I tried telling him that we had discussed companion planting and trying new veggies but he wasn't about to listen. So our garden has a huge raised bed of carrots, half of parsley, half of green onion, some radishes, and some beets. We planted lettuce in a tub in the school that we will transplant when they are big enough. The latest "charla" I gave was about compost piles. It's something I should have done before the garden but we started late in the year and need to get things planted, if we want to see veggies before the school year ends in late November. The people in Paraguay use cow manure, dry, to fertilize their gardens. One of my goals, again, was to teach them a new way to do something, that hopefully when show a better result. So the kids brought more bamboo to build the compost corner, and went around looking for fresh cow poo, grass, branches, and leaves while the others had brought food scraps from home. While we started putting in the different layers of Carbon, Nitrogen and Other nutrients the teacher came over and said “I think that’s sufficient for the entire garden." What he didn't understand because he missed out on the "charla" is that a compost pile will take up to 3 months until there is compost and that every day we should be adding something to the pile. The worms will eat the materials and with the sun and the process of decomposition the materials will get smaller. So that is where I am at now with the school garden. I have “charlas” planned on nutrition and about how all of the “things” in the garden are all apart of the life cycle helping each other grow stronger.

I have also started teaching English again. I started a class for adults on Saturdays, and continued with the same 9 girls that I taught last time. The community wanted me to teach more, but I do not have the time or energy to teach another class. People from both of the schools have come to my house asking me to teach English in the school. I said no.

I also became a member and started working with, The Comision Centro Cultural y Comunitario “La Estacion” San Salvador. It’s basically a community center and/or group of people who are working together to bring life to the train station. We are working with a German non-profit called GTZ. They came in and helped develop an annual plan, mission, vision, and strategy with the group. Everything that we did, I know how to do and could have done it but, being a young American girl with no money to give, not a lot of people listen. So when an older German man with money came to talk they were all ears. With GTZ we made a plan of what we want to do this year with the group and the train station. Every person is responsible for something. For example 2 women started a reading club with kids 6-10 years old, I am teaching English in the station, and we are planning on having a Play later this month. One of the biggest problems in the station is that the lighting system in the station is terrible. The computer turns off and on because the system isn’t strong enough. We want to have movie nights at the station but can’t use the projector, we can’t have night events because they lights will turn on and go off for a few minutes and turn back on. Well with Peace Corps we have the option for a grant called SPA. The money comes from USAID, and up to $5000 is donated for projects that are for development. I thought to myself, “hey, I could get the group together and we could do the paper work and try to get this grant to fix the lighting system in the train station.” This morning in my house I was supposed to have a meeting, but no one showed up. So we’ll see if the grant paper work ever gets done, because I am not doing it alone!

The cooperative is falling apart. I am trying not to get involved, but it’s hard when everyone trusts me and tells me their side of the story. To make things short… There are three employees in the cooperative, the cashier, secretary, and assistant cashier. The secretary is my contact. She is very hard working and smart. I’ve been teaching her more than anyone how to use the computer and she understands best how to use the system. Apparently one day the cashier went to my contacts house to ask for the key to the cooperative to open a little early. She said that she had to call the president first to see if that was ok. The cashier has been working in the cooperative since the day they opened so he feels that he has the right to open the cooperative. He said he was quitting after that. The assistant cashier went to Villarrica to deposit money, came back and it was 12:34 and hadn’t opened yet. The president went to his house and yelled at him saying that people were waiting and that he was late. He was tired of her and quit. Well I don’t know what was said in the meetings but both of them are back there working. Well at least until yesterday. The cashier didn’t go and apparently isn’t going to say anything and never go back. Well it just so happens that the cashier and my contact are both in my English class. Neither of them came plus the others didn’t come. They are causing so much drama that no one wants to be around them. One girl came to my class, the girlfriend of the cashier, and only wanted to know what my contact has told me about what is going on. I do not want to be in the gossip circle so I kept my mouth shut. But from what I can tell, is the problem is big, and is going to blow up sooner or later. Oh and in the meantime we were so close to using the computer system, but I have a feeling its going to take a lot longer.

I took my contact to a workshop that lasted 3 days it was called Community Project development and management. We got a lot of great ideas on how to start and continue with community projects, and want to get started working. But being that my contact is the person that not many people like right now is going to be hard, becasue no one will want to work with her.

David's nephew, Juan David 5 years old, came and stayed with us for a week. We had a blast coloring, playing soccer, riding my bike, and going to the train station. But a week was plenty!

So there is a quick update of the bigger projects that I have been working on. I hope everyone is doing well!!!