Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
I apologize for not posting in a long time but I’ve been super busy with all sorts of things. I had my close of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer August 12, 2011. I really really enjoyed my time as a volunteer and will truly miss all of the people in San Salvador and the wonderful volunteers and staff of Peace Corps Paraguay. Thanks again everyone for making my service unforgettable!
On August 22, 2011 David was scheduled to have his K1 Fiancé Visa interview at the US Embassy in Asuncion. I was asked to go along as proof that we are actually a couple. I was so nervous, I don’t know why but I felt sick once we walked into the Embassy and were waiting to be called. The only thoughts going through my mind were.. “This is it; this is the last stop before going home so if anything bad happens now we may not be able to go.” We got up to the window and the visa officer asked how we knew each other, for how long and why we wanted to wait to get married in the USA. He asked about what David thought he’d like to do in the states and how we were going to financially survive. After waiting 40 minutes, paying about $300 and going through a 10 minute interview David’s K1 fiance visa was APPROVED!!!! That was a Monday. We had to wait till Wednesday to pick up the actual visa which was put into his passport. So Monday I called my mom and said “Buy the tickets we’re coming home” and so the tickets were bought for Thursday the 25th at 5am.
We rushed home, called his family and advised them they all better come by Wednesday to say goodbye! His dad came on Tuesday evening and his mom and little sister came on Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night with his brother, dad, mom and sister we shared our last asado, bbq, before going to the USA. It was a very emotional night. There was a lot of crying, hugging and more crying. The taxi picked us up at 3:00am on Thursday the 25th.
We checked 3 very large bags and each had a good size carryon. We flew from Asuncion to Sao Paulo, Brazil where we had a 5 hour layover. We were exhausted at this point and still had a long ways to go. We boarded our Korean Air flight to Los Angeles and flew for 12 hours and finally arrived in LA at 9:00pm. Our next flight wasn’t until 6:00am so we decided to check our bags though to Portland and get a hotel to try and sleep a little so we wouldn’t be so exhausted by the time we got to Portland. We stayed at the Best Western and went back to the airport at 4:30am. That little bit of sleep was much needed and really helped.
We arrived in Portland at 8am on Friday the 26th where we met my parents!!! It was such a good feeling seeing them waiting for us. The first thing we did was visit Mandy, she was about to have a baby, and meet her son who was born right before I left whom I’ve never got to meet. So that was nice to see them. Then we went to a Mexican lunch and drove over the pass to Redmond. While driving over the pass it we got to see all of the Hood to Coast runners and a group of fires that were just starting on the Warm Springs reservation.
Friday, the day we arrived, Patrick sent me a job announcement for a Credit Union in Seattle; it looked like a perfect fit for me. Over the weekend while adjusting to being home I worked on my resume and cover letter. Monday I applied for the job, Tuesday they got back to me, Wednesday I flew up to Seattle, Thursday I had my interview and Friday while driving home to Redmond with Patrick they called to offer me a job. They not only offered me a job I applied for but offered me a job that fit my skill level a little better. They gave me the weekend plus Labor Day to think about it and told me to call back on Tuesday. Tuesday I accepted the job and would be starting the following Tuesday.
I couldn’t start any sooner because I didn’t have my driver’s license and had to wait till Friday September 9th to take my driver’s test in Eugene. So that gave me a week to plan our wedding. My parents and Felecia and I were busy bees. We were busy making and sending invitations, planning the menu, getting a cake and flowers, buying Felecia’s dress, buying David’s suite, meeting with the seamstress to fix my dress and renting linens. Done…in a week. Who needs a year to plan a wedding?
Sunday September 11th I drove up to Seattle and went to Patrick’s house, where I’d be staying until I found my own place. I came up alone because it’s easy to crash in someone’s basement when you’re one person but two people would have been a bit difficult. Plus my dad had tons of work planned for David. We thought we’d be staying at my parent’s house for at least a few months. Everyone had told me it would take a long time to get a job therefore my dad had planned a lot for us to do. So David stayed with them to paint the house and do other various jobs while I moved up to Seattle. I felt terrible, I remember when I first got to Paraguay and it was hard to adjust but I had the Peace Corps support system to make it easier. He’s all by himself and now I had to leave. The good thing about it was he’d be forced to learn English quicker because he wouldn’t have me to translate and speak Spanish with.
So two weeks later here I am working and having fun with my brother and his friends. My brother has said I’ve domesticated him; we eat dinner every night together we go suite shopping, bed shopping, shopping for fabric for my wedding dress and go out to the bars. We’ve really enjoyed our time together. But I finally found a house so next weekend, October 1st, I’m going back down to Redmond to pick up David and when we get back we’ll move into our new home. I can’t wait to settle, and make ourselves a home.
I think Seattle will be a good place for both of us. There is a lot larger support network for immigrants and I’ve found free English classes at a Latino Center and they also offer help finding employment. Plus there is always something going on here, it will be fun. Oh and plus there are 3 other returned peace corps Paraguay volunteers that live here in Seattle. We’ve already gotten together for a dinner that consisted of typical Paraguayan food!
We’ve only been back about 3 weeks and we are well on our way to starting our new lives here in the USA. We still have a LONG road ahead of us with all of the paperwork and the process of getting a green card then citizenship but we can do it. We are so blessed with all of the goodness that has happened to us in the last few months I feel like now it’s my turn to give back. Oh wait I just did that for two years. We deserve all this goodness that is happening to us!
Friday, August 19, 2011
The larger projects/ projects that I enjoyed the most
In the beginning it was about integration, learning the language and analyzing the community to see what they really need/want and adapt my abalities to those situations and try to help. It took awhile, a long while to find these “needs” in which I could actually do something. But while waiting for the right project I made some amazing friends within the community. I was assigned to work in the local savings and loan cooperative where I knew immediately I wouldn’t be spending much of my time. I was eventually inveted to a commuity and cultural center meeting where I fit right in. immediately we started working together on the planning process, making a vision and mission statement, making goals and then made the annual plan of activities. This basically took up all of my time for a god while. On the side I was teaching English, working in school gardens and drinking terere.
As the group became more formalized and the goals and vision of the group and the train station became clearer and larger we decided to apply for a SPA grand and improve the basic fixings such as lighting, bathrooms, bought chairs a printer and a desk and a few more necessities for the library which is located in the train station which serves as the community center.
About 6 months before the end of my service, February, I was asked by the principle for Borja, 2km away, to be the computer teacher for the entire high school. So every Wednesday until I finished I went to Borja and taught kids who had never touched a computer how to use Microsoft office, save documents, make folders and use a typing program. It was very rewarding work.
At the same time that I started teaching computers I took two local girls to a leadership camp in wchi we were assigned homework in the end. The girls were to start a local youth group and do a community project. We formed a group of 11 girls and decided on the name MOCOS ( movimiento de companeros salvadorenos). MOCOS means boogers. The group decided to install trash cans around town. I’m not going into details because it was one of the most stressful projects, but a very good learning experience for everyone. I will say that working with the local mayor was a nightmare. But….in the end trash cans were installed. Then the girls had the opportunity to go to the follow up leadership camp as a reward for all their hard work. Well..no one went. So basically I would have done the project if it weren’t for them and the homework from the first camp then no one went to share their experiences….!
It may seem that I was always working but really there was a LOT of free time. I took a month vacation when my parents and brother came, to Argentina. Hung out and drank terere with my buddies in site. Chase and Kimmy were able to visit after being stuck in brazil with out a Paraguayan visa, yes all Americans need a visa to visit Paraguay. Liz also came for an awesome week. Although it rained almost the entire time, and we had a crazy ciudad del este experience, it meant a lot to me! I was also fortunate to make great friends with in Peace Corps. That allowed me to travel around Paraguay and see how other Peace Corps volunteers live and be a tourist at the same time. And of course I can’t forget about David. My rock. He defiantly helped me understand all of the awkward cultural moments and he was the shoulder in which I cried on when I missed home, had hard days work or just needed a cry. We always have so much fun together and I am excited to continue the journey. I was NEVER board when he was around. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have found my best friend and fiancée while in the Peace Corps.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
service is coming to an end I am starting to make reflections back on my two
years as a Peace Corps volunteer and on my life.
coming to Paraguay I was doing fine, I´d finished college, worked a little in Kenya
with microfinance and was pretty sure I wanted a career in microfinance.
Looking back on that time period and even earlier on in my life I´ve realized
that I´ve just been going with the flow or doing what was expected of me and
didn´t think much about what I was actually doing or actually wanted. Just an
example…In college I got decent grades and managed to do all my work, but the
truth is, I don´t remember much of anything, how I felt, what subjects I really
liked etc. Taking for granted the awesome opportunity my parents gave me.
years, of lots of free time/time to think, I´ve realized how much I´ve really
gown as a person. I can honestly say now I am an experienced leader who wants to
do more with her life, more than just get by and have fun. Paraguay and the
Peace Corps have taught me how to plan and execute projects, write grants,
organize groups, speak Spanish, adapt to a new culture, be a better person and appreciate
all the work that people do within their communities to make it a better place.
I´ve become a lot more patient and flexible which I consider qualities very key
in the success of any project, job, family etc.
trying to put myself on a soap box, I just wanted to write down how I am feeling.
I really do feel Peace Corps has enabled me to develop as a person and find my
true self (and true love) finally.
what the future holds. I do know that I will give 100% in a job hunt in which I
hope to find a good fit for my skill set. Also I will give my all at whatever
job comes my way and hope to be able to contribute in more then what are my responsibilities
are in any give task. I fell as if I could be a success story of the Peace
Corps, maybe I´ll end up being a recruiter…
Thursday, May 5, 2011
There are plenty of twists and turns, jumping in and out of hoops and much more involved in the process of actually getting married. Some say that love doesn’t have borders, but it’s not as easy as that. The United States has its process, for good reasons, and we are going through it right now.
Right now we are waiting to hear from Immigrations. We had filled out about 5 forms, letters were written, photos and a check were sent to start the process. Online it says the California service center takes about 5 months to process this first round of paper work. Our papers were accepted on February 10th so 5 months would be in July. Now we are just waiting, patiently. I finish my service in August to hopefully by then we will have heard something.
Once he’s accepted by immigrations we have to go through the embassy. There is a whole other set of paper work and back round checks to go through there. He will have to get a medical check and go to an interview at the embassy. I hear this process is shorter than immigrations, I hope. Therefore if things go smoothly, cross fingers, we will be home in September or October.
So keep us in you thoughts. We are very excited to get married and start the next stage in our lives, together.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
SPA stands for Small Project
I decided to apply for a SPA grant with the association that works with the community and cultural center that is located in the train station. We had done a needs with a German NGO called, GTZ, and our number one, two and three needs were , bathroom and chairs. I thought to myself, hey we have the opportunity to access some money why not try.
So after three months of filling out the grant paper work we were ready to turn it in. It was quite the process. First.. never written a grant and having to do it in Spanish for the first time was hard. Second..Paraguayans don´t like to do paper work, so it was like pulling teeth for them to come over and help. Third...Once we got the money EVERYONE wanted to be involved and change the entire project for their personal likings. That was really hard for me. Ony about half of the association helped write the grant and do the for the budget on what the project would cost.
Well once we had the money a few issues came up. The people who would be installing the wanted more money for labor, people from the group wanted more lighting here and there, well why not just build a modern bathroom instead of fixing up the latrine? We had the exact amount of money that we asked for. There was no room to budge. I don´t know if it was my fault and that clearly stated in the beginning or if the people understand the concept of a budget and why we needed a list of ALL the materials we would need for the project before hand to be able to make a list of all the costs. But luckily the president is a very smart woman and put the money in the cooperative so not just anyone could go spending money.
Literally two days after we had the money I made it my personal mission to buy the chairs. The train station had about 8 chairs making it hard to have meetings, classes or any other event at the station. Cynthia and I went into and bought 45 beautiful plastic chairs. In the budget we had gotten the price for 50 but after 2 of waiting for the money the prices went up. But we still got 45 chairs.
Next the lighting guy (who upped his labor 300 mil), Julio and I went to to buy all the that would be needed to redo the entire system of the train station. The association wanted to fix the lighting because there was the problem of low tension in the station due to the neighbor being a carpenter and every time he used his machines the lights would turn off and on inside making it impossible to use the computer. Second there were two lights in total out side that worked making it hard to have activities at night. So we made a whole new line of electricity which is now apart from the “house” part of the station where the people live and have their workshop.
We had decided to fix up the old latrine that has 4 stalls instead of building a modern bathroom. That was an essential need whenever there are events held at the train station there was no where to use the bathroom, very . The bathroom was cleaned, floors were fixed, painted inside and out, New doors were put onto every stall and locks .
. Peace Corps Paraguay a of money each year from USAID to give out as grants to volunteers who them for projects within their respective communities. Once all the money has been used the volunteers who want a grant have to wait until the next money arrives.
Also in the budget we put in a printer and
Since bought chairs, installed the lighting and fixed up the bathroom, night meetings have been arranged to be held at the station, had cultural events without having to rent chairs saving and new courses are now being offered. The train station is a beautiful place and a key part of the history of San Salvador. Just a little bit of sweat and hard work paid off. white board which were bought. We left those to be the last things bought due to a rise in cost in a lot of so we wanted to make sure we had enough money.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I’ve officially been in Paraguay for 23 months. Its defiantly been an emotional rollercoaster like they told us it would be in training. But there have, luckily, been more ups than downs. Well that’s besides the point.
This blog entry isn’t about my feelings or any of that. I wanted to take you on a tour of my “crib”. Instead of the tv show about the life of the rich and famous and their houses, cars and excess of unnecessary things, there should be a show about how us peace corps volunteers survive.
The volunteers in Paraguay are very spoiled. Every volunteer has electricity. Thanks to the Itaipu Dam one of the worlds largest hydroelectric dams which is split between Brazil and Paraguay. Almost all volunteers have running water, and if they don’t they have a well. If the volunteer brought a computer they have internet, thanks to Tigo and their internet modem. We all have fans, without a fan you would literally die. If the volunteer has a modern bathroom, which is likely unless they live way far out in the middle of no where, their shower will have a hot water head. Some have coffee pots, tvs, electric heaters, blenders, pressure cookers, comfortable beds, hot water heaters, electric ovens and other fun things.
I don’t know of any volunteers that have a washing machine but now days almost every Paraguayan household has a washing machine. There was once a volunteer I knew that had air conditioner, chuchi, but she finished her service. Other than her I am not aware of volunteers with air. But again these days in Paraguay it is becoming very common to have air conditioner. The poor little fan isn’t enough.
As for the style of the house there are a few basic designs. If you live in the “campo”, you house would most likely be made out of wood planks with a tin roof. The floor may be compacted mud, concrete, brick or tile. Other stiles of house are brick, which is cheaper, with a white wash finish. Then that white wash can be painted one or two of many beautiful colors.
My current house, where I’ve been for a year, is very nice. When I was preparing to come to Paraguay I would have never have guessed I would be living in a house with such great commodities and in such comfort, besides the humidity and bugs. Thanks to the volunteer who lived in San Salvador for 4 months before I came, I have a tv, which as helped improve my Spanish. In my house I have a living room with a big table and six chairs, two bedrooms, each room with a double bed and mattress, a modern bathroom with a hot shower, kitchen fully equipped with shelves, sink, stove and fridge. All of which came with the house, except the comfy mattress I bought. I pay 300 mil a month for rent which is about $75. My electricity bill is usually 30 mil or $7.50 and my water costs 13 mil, $3.25. It doesn’t seem like much, but being a peace corps volunteer I don’t get paid a ton so after rent, electricity and water it takes about a quarter of my monthly allowance. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the only things that really sucks is washing clothes by hand, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it and will be very thankful for the washing machine when I get home.
My back yard is a mini forest filled with pomelo and mango trees. I have one mandarin tree and some other trees without fruit. Right now is pomelo season and I LOVE pomelo juice. I don’t have any animals but it looks like I do since my yard is always full of chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, dogs and the occasional cow that all belong to my neighbors. Sometimes I have the urge to kill them all but then everyone would hate me. Only if I take a neighbor some food will they give me an egg or two. They should really pay me for the food I feed them.
Here are some pics of my beautiful house and all its glory! Enjoy.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
What actually is the job of the mayor?
Can a community actually work together to accomplish a common goal?
What does it take to look at a specific project and the benifits for the community instaed of what the personal benifits are?
These are just a few of the questions that were running through my head after I heard that there was a physical fight down at the municipalidad between members of the city council.
Today I was talking to the secritary about how the council is so divided by the different political parties. She told me that nothing was going to be accomplised in 5 years, none of the peojects will get passed, due to the childlike behavior of grown adults acting as city council members who call themselves politicans.
The same afternoon I met with the mayor´s wife. I am going to teach computer classes at her school. We went to the municipality to print off my lesson plans. When we arrived there were tons of people and I felt awkward and told her I could just come back the next day, I didn´t want to be in the way.
That night is when it all went down. Apparently the council had asked the mayor to make a copy of the budget. He didn´t. So one of the members pulled out 50 mil and told the president of the council to go make copies for the group. He said since the mayor doesn´t have any money to do so he would just pay for the copies, the guy decided to be a smart ass. A guy on the other side of the table, from another political party, didn´t like the way the guy with the money was talking. So he stated to yell, the guy with the money pushed the table. ( oh yeah the room they are in is TINY) They both ran from their sides of the room and met in the middle. Throwing punches, wreastling, meanwhile the secritary is yelling for help out the window which over looks the city plaza. At some point in the midst of it all one guy grabbed the brick holding the door open and hit the other guys face with the brick. One woman apparently ran leaving one of her shoes in the room. Finally the police showed up and the two guys were haulded to Villarrica and the hospital.
Nancy´s husband, Oscar, said it perfectly “these people aren´t politicians, they don´t care about the town, each and every one of them is apart of the council for person reasons.”
That next morning I had to go to the municipality beacuse I had made a request for money to take participants to the business workshop, and it was the day before the workshop I had to get the money. When I arrived the mayor looked like he hadn´t slept at all. Luckily I got the money.
That evening I went to the mayor´s house because I had plans to print off my lesson plans with his wife. She made a funny comment “Good thing we didn´t stick around last night at the municipality for the party.”
Then I stated to ask myself, How does everything I am involved in right now have something or someone to do with the municipality?
What does it take to stop such a vicious cycle of corruption?
Will San Salvador ever grow up?
I am really fed up with corruption. The people are finatics for their political groups. They spend all day talking and stratigizing. Who they will vote for depends on what they get of the deal of voting. It has nothing at all to do with the person or their ideas, just what is in it for them. I know this has been going on FOREVER but I have never had to deal with it, see it, or hear about it all day long. I am tired of saying “you know the guy you are voting for is a narcotrafficer.” Equally they vote becuse that person gives them money.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
After returning from a wonderful and relaxing vacation in Uruguay, a beautiful developed country, I’ve been noticing a few things about Paraguay that I really love and a few things that I really hate.
Paraguay is not a terrible place. Paraguay has been the catalyst to so much change in my life. It has been the place where I have grown so much as a person; I’ve found myself and the love of my life here in Paraguay. My time as a Peace Corps Volunteer has been amazing and flown by, in a short while my time will be done here in Paraguay and will cry when I leave.
I guess it’s time to fill you all in with the love/hate relationship I have with this querido country, Paraguay.
I Love that the yard of my house is currently filled with mandarins, pomelos, oranges and guava fruit.
I Hate how things just don’t work or break easily.
I Love the way of living, tranquilo.
I Hate how so very few people have goals and aspirations. (Save the $ for school instead of buying a new cell phone or moto.)
I Love how every time I am reading or on the computer the people automatically think I am studying.
I Hate having to practically force people to want to work and do something good for their community. (It’s not like they are busy doing other constructive activities, at least here in San Salvador.)
I Love fat. I have a new found love of meat fat. It’s so good. Why did I used to cut it off and throw it away?
I Hate being so far away from home. I feel like this whole time I’ve stayed strong and really tried not thinking about home. But now that the end is getting close and I have other things on my mind, like getting married, I am starting to get anxious. At least I have lots of fun work to keep me busy.
I Love chipa guazu. Muy Rico.
In other news…We, the centro cultural, have receive the grant money for the project in the train station. Today I went with my contact and we bought 45 chairs for the train station to have, permanently. It was an amazing feeling. Today I accomplished my biggest goal, chairs for San Salvador!!! Hooray!!!
It is still CRAZY hot. I have taken to showering about four times a day. I really want a kiddy pool.
Went to another volunteer’s site one day and got a bunch of new movies and TV shows. But its actually kind of dangerous, because now I don’t want to leave my house.
I learned how to make ñanduti, traditional lace work.
Time keeps rolling on. I’m still trekking. But if it doesn’t cool down soon I may melt.At the beach in Punta de Diablo, Uruguay
Friday, January 21, 2011
Here I am, still in Paraguay, and the heat continues rising. It is defiantly hotter than last year, but luckily the house I live in now isn’t an oven like my last house. I am able to sleep past 7 am without waking up sweating.
So I am starting to get back to work after the LONG holiday season. During Christmas and New Years the people really don’t do anything. Their families from out of town usually come to visit, therefore when it comes to working and projects, nothing will get done. Oh and lucky for us San Salvadoreños our fiesta patronal happens to be January 6th but they always have the big party the first Saturday of January. Making the holiday season extra long. This year it happened to fall the 1st of January. Therefore we had a New Year’s party and the next day a huge patron saint party. Then the entire first week of January was filled with festivals, concerts, bull fights, carnival rides and much more. Therefore the second week of January the town was back to normal, silent. And I was really ready to get to work.
The first thing I had on my plate was a Youth Leadership Camp, Ñande Ha'e Tenoderá, we are the future. I took two girls from San Salvador and we went to Tati Yupi the biological reserve that the company Itaipu is in charge of. Itaipu is the huge hydroelectric dam that is on the border of Paraguay and Brazil. The dam supplies almost all of the electricity for all of Paraguay. When they built the dam, obviously the water rose on the other side flooding part of the jungle. The now “lake” and land around has been made into a biological reserve with space to have camps. We were lucky enough to have the privilege to stay at the camp for 4 beautiful days. Filled with activities and talks such as; what is a leader, communication, human rights, civic education, how to plan projects, working in groups, self esteem and much more. We played tons of games, danced, sang and had a blast. The people from Itaipu also donated a tour of the dam at night to see the lights. Some of the kids said that these were the best 4 days of their lives.
In San Salvador there is no Youth Group, and the girls I took have come back home with a lot of energy and really want to form one. The end goal of the camp is to have the kids go back to their communities and do some sort of project. They have six months to plan the project and finish the project, hopefully. Then six months from the first came there will be a reconnect camp to share their experiences of working with their communities. One idea we have is to form a youth group and do a project involving trash. Maybe giving talks to the youth of the community and then doing a project with garbage cans. There is one public garbage can in San Salvador. We have an oil factory here; therefore there are lots of big tin drums which we can hopefully get donated to make garbage cans. So we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.
Some good news…The SPA grant that I wrote along with the Association of the Culture and Community Center, the train station, was approved and the check is waiting for us to get in Asuncion. Included in the project will be the reinstallation of the entire lighting system inside and out. Also we will be equipping the inside of the station to be able to use the computer and other electrical devices. We will buy 50 plastic chairs to be able to hold more courses and events at the station without having to rent chairs, which gets expensive. We will also restore the antique latrines, putting in new floors, painting, doors, and lights. Currently the station doesn’t have bathrooms making it difficult to invite visitors and have courses. Lastly we will buy a printer and will the computer hopefully will be able to start computer classes. We are going to try and finish everything for March 31st which is the founding day of San Salvador and they also do a locomotive festival or a cultural week in the train station in this time. So this project along with the youth group will keep me busy for at least a few months! Then hopefully will finally be able to start the business course for youth that I’ve been wanting to teach for ages!
Meanwhile I am going to Uruguay on a little vacation in February, I need to see the ocean and eat fresh seafood, it’s been way too long in a land locked country. Also…David and I have decided to get married!!