Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Birthday Party

A birthday party

Let me start out by saying that yesterday got up to 100 degrees F, today the high was 53. oooohhhh myyyyy gooooodness! In a country that has open buildings and no heat that is COLD! I spent most of the day shivering and being unprepared for the cold. It just reminds me why I like the heat so much more!

Yesterday I went with the fam to their nephew’s 1st birthday party. They’re our neighbors so it wasn’t a far walk. I was interested to see what a birthday party would be like here, at least a one year old birthday. So here I’ve noticed they like to sit around and talk, or sit around a talk and drink terere (more on that in a later blog). The birthday party was no exception. When we arrived there was a whole buncha chairs and benches in a wide circle in the front of the house. The yard is just red dirt with some big trees shading most of it. In the front of the circle was a table with a cake on it and all sorts of sweets lined up. Next to the table was a box that people were putting Louise’s presents in. Everyone was sitting, even the kids, and talking with the people around them. A few chickens would run in and out the chairs and the dogs would try to lay in the middle of the big circle, but someone would hit them and chase them out (there’s a lot of dog hitting and animal chasing goin on round here). The Loui’s mother then passed around hot milk chocolate that was pretty good just had a different taste then I’m used to, and then some pieces of torta (dessert or little piece of cake). Then passed around more. And more. And again. Now I’ve told them many times I’m not eating a lot here because I don’t want to get fat so they know! Thankfully they’re not trying to feed me a lot (there’s not a lot of nutrients in what is consumed here, lots of white bread). We sat and ate for about an hour and a half and talked, some kids were running around a bit more and not just sitting. No one was really mingling and walking around only my host sister taking pictures and people helping serve food. Oh did I mention the whole time little kids songs were blasting from inside the house? It was mostly women and kids there, some men were playing cards away from the party though. My host dad stayed at the house to listen to the football match on the radio. Finally it was time for the piñata, or what we could call a piñata. There were two big balloons with what looked like some of the red dust from the ground inside, I had no idea what was going to come out of it that the kids were so excited about and I was told they hit it with a knife! So it seemed as if many small children in close proximity to one another were going to be wielding knives to open balloons full of red dust. I had to watch. Fortunately it wasn’t carnage that followed but a woman who came over with a steak knife. All the little girls ran over and stood under one balloon and the woman popped it with the knife, out came confetti and those things you blow at birthday parties that look like unwinding tongues. They were really excited about this and scrambled all over to grab a dusty lizard tongues and put it in their mouth. Next was the boys turn. After the cake and candy from the front table was passed out, cake to all and candy and chips to the kids as well as balloons. Then they all left. And that was that. A birthday party.
After we left we did some more sitting and chatting, then ended up going back to the party house to sit and talk some more. They were teaching me to count in Gurani and the colors. And that was my Sunday!

I found out today I’m starting off in the Spanish review class. There’s another Spanish class for people who need more practice and the rest have started learning Guarani. At first I was a little upset I wasn’t in the Guarani class yet but I’m ok with in now. I know I do need to practice speaking more since I didn’t really in Mexico, I also wish I had more time with the Rosetta Stone! That helped me review so much! But it doesn’t matter, I’m gonna be the best Spanish/Guarani speaker eeeevvveeeerrrr. But first, bedtime.

Got done with some training aaalll about Diarreah! and our health care. It´s really good healthcare. going from no health care to the best health care we´ll ever get is awesome. 221 ppl to 2 doctors! awesome!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Couple of Days: Getting Oriented!


Mba’e la porte!

I’v arrived safe and sound in Guarambare, the training town an hour away from Asunsion. The plane ride to Brazil was uneventful other than my tv screen not working and me not being able to fall asleep, but that’s no big surprise. After we arrived in Asunsion, Paraguay from Brazil we got our bags and loaded it into a big van, then we all got into a different van depending on what group we were in. Only one person had lost a bag which is pretty good for a group that’s 42 people with 84 bags! Don’t worry she got hers the next day. The weather was beeaauuutiful, clear sky and around 80 degrees! During our ride to the training center in Guarambure, Richard (the environmental ed trainer) told us that 3 people die a day in motorcycle accidents! And then we saw one! Well not happen but the aftermath. Way to drive the point home!

Anyway once at the training center we had our interview for our family. They asked us how we felt about living with animals, any special diet, living with small children and whatnot. Also we had our photo ID pictures taken, yes, a picture that will haunt us for the rest of our time here since they took it after being on 2 planes with no sleep and bad hair. So it was important to have a nice change of clothes in our carry on’s and makeup (which I did not have). We had some more briefings then went to our respective areas to meet our new fam! Our group is the biggest with 13 people and our personal EE training center is very pretty and big. There’s a pool and a small soccer field and kitchen and patio for classes outside and it’s all fenced in. Driving up there were horses and cows milling about grazing and walking around, all very tranquil. Our families were inside on the patio ready to meet us as we pulled up, and when we got out we hid behind the van out of awkwardness. Finally someone walked around (prob Richard our trainer) and we all very timidly followed and stood in a group in front of all our new families. One by one our name was called out and everyone watched as that person said their saludos or kissed cheeks and stood by the their fam. My name was called second to last, waiting till the end almost felt like being the last kid picked in gym class, but really it just went by alphabetical order. My name was called and I met my host mom who took my bag (which was probably 459872435 lbs) and I took my other one and we walked across this field to my new house! Thankfully Ricardo (Richard) took my bags in his van to my house because they were 436347356754687 lbs each. (actually they were 90 lbs in total and I didn’t have to pay extra! Bonus!)

That all feels like so long ago but it was only 2 nights ago! I’m not on my third night and I’m so happy I have the family I have! It’s only mi madre y mi padre and their 20 year old daughter who helps me with my homework and everything else! And of course there’s the chickens and the 2 dogs and the cow and the cat and Jamie the parrot mi novio. The weather has been beautiful! It’s spring now so there’s not to many mosquitoes which is good because we didn’t get our nets yet. Also the we got our med kits the second day so I didn’t have repelente till then. But it’s all good because I actually don’t have one bite! Only a bee sting. That I got on purpose. For fun. Well, partly for fun partly to see if I was allergic. It was required that the beekeepers, crop extentioners and agroforestry people get stung but we had the choice. I hope to work with bees for one of the training sessions so I decided to get one too. Apparently it’s easy to set up a hive here and cheap and it’s something we can do as a side project if we’re rural enough. Back to my house…. I have a room all to myself with 2 beds and a dresser, high ceiling, 2 chairs, a desk, a night table and a picture of a drunk chimpanzee in soccer clothes with 2 bottles of wine leaning on a goalpost that that says “ no hay rivales” (there are no rivales) which is good because he helps me sleep. The house is small but the yard is big and the bathroom is outside! It’s not as bad as it sounds though because it’s like a regular bathroom with running water, a sink and toilet and heated showerhead, just outside. I’ve noticed for food they eat a lot of white bread, white bread sticks, white rice, mandioca ( a root tuber kinda like a potato) soda, and they load everything up with sugar or salt. Like the salad I had today. Lettuce, tomato and a cup of salt, not the healthiest food in this culture so I must be very conscious to … not get fat :p and people don’t really work out here so…

I have electricity and I’m glad I have my laptop because I’m able to type out this blog here in my bed, save it to my little travel stick thing, walk 15 mins toward the center of town and use the internet café quickly. The road near the town center is paved, then getting more into our area it turns into bricks and red dust, and for my road it’s a total red dust dirt road. Pretty cool. You can find lots of things on it like animal bones and flattened frogs (when I see that I know I’m close to my house). There are dogs and chickens wandering about everywhere as well.

I’m pretty sure I’ll start learning Guarani Monday but I’m so glad I knew a little before I came, one step ahead of the game! Tomorrow my family has been invited to our neighbor’s son’s first birthday party. He’s their nephew and we went there tonight actually. It’s a very tranquilo lifestyle here, it’s the weekend so there was a lot of sitting around and talking, during the day, after dinner, tonight. We talked about how expensive it is to live in the US and how the lifestyle is different and how everyone has stress up there but not here. My host dad couldn’t believe when I told him how much it costs to have a child in a hospital in the US, apparently it’s free here unless you need a c-section. The weather tonight was beautiful and on the way back to the house he showed me the different trees in the backyard like lime trees and orange trees and had me smell and chew the leaves to taste the different flavors. There was also pinapple plants growing… it’s like living in my very own real life Farmville!!!

I’ve only been here for the three days and each night it’s getting hotter. The first night was chilly and I needed to bust out the blanket I brought for the plane plus the sheets and blankets my host mom gave me, last night I wasn’t cold and right now I’m pretty warm. And all night the dogs battle it out with the roosters to see who can make the most noise, fortunately it’s not right outside my house so it doesn’t bother me but it’s different to hear! So, roosters do not crow only when the sun comes up, it’s all the time. Myth busted!

The people here are very nice and friendly and love to teach you Guarani. This town is used to Americans though since they’re always here 4 times a year training, so I don’t know what it will be like more in the interior. I’m the 4th person my host family has hosted so they know the deal which is nice. In Paraguay if you go into your bedroom with a boy even if he’s a friend it’s automatically assumed that certain things are going on in there and between you two. The other night Dan my Jersey comrade was walking me home (since they want the girls to not walk around alone in the beginning) and my host mom invited him into the house and showed him my room and told us we could go in there if we wanted. This was interesting because it means she knows what to expect from the American culture. But we steered clear of the room situation because we knew they would see it as something else, but they knew American’s were different and wanted to be culturally sensitive to us! We both were trying to be respectful to each others cultures at the same time! We went over to Jamie instead to get out of the house before the neighbors could come to any conclusions!

Water. They pretty much get us drinking the water here right away to get used to it. It’s actually not that dirty of water here it’s just there’s different microbes in it than we’re used to that we need to adapt our bodies too. So far I’m handling it well :p

This is getting way long so I’m going to, plus I have to stop myself from writing a mix of Spanish and English since my brain is thinking more and more in Spanish.. so far I’m very happy with everything! This is a great place and It’s so cool to be in a country that doesn’t really have tourists. We get to live and see the real lives of it’s people and they’re happy we’re here getting to know them.

**factoid: Paraguay grows the plant that makes Stevia**

The field I walk through to get to the training center
My bed
dresser, other bed and chimpanzee
Me armed with my new monies and Spanish dictionary
Drivin out of Asuncion

The great EE training group G31

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Staging 1st Night in the MIA

ah Miami, injecting that latin vibe into us so much so that no one tried to even speak in spanish. But in makes for a good atmosphere.
Plane ride number one went smoothly, I had the whole row to myself so I was able to lay down my sleep deprived, still recovering from my night of procrastination packing body. At Atlanta I deplaned, got a smoothie and headed to the next gate and who was there but Caleb! I knew he was a with the Peace Corps because he was holding the big blue folder full of paperwork we had to fill out. So I had a travel buddy for the next flight and he even ended up sitting in the row in front of me.
side one bag was 49 lbs and the framed backpack was 37. I paid (well mom did) a $50 fee which I will be reimbursed tomorrow for.

When the plane landed we got our luggage and out of the woodwork who looked like us (well, tired looking with a trail of luggage following behind) and we all congealed into one big luggage mass waiting on the curb for the shuttle.

The hotel is very nice, complete with gym, pool,sauna, and jacuzzi..but no rooms for us. They weren't ready yet, ten more minutes we were told. 2 hours later after meeting many of the people in my group and checking in with the Peace Corp staff (receiving my government passport, letter for loan deferment and $220 in spending cash) we were finally starting to get into our rooms. Little by little groups of people are leaving the lobby and pile of bags dwindles. Which means I can finally go have dinner! Across the street was a cafe called Latina Cafe which reminded me of being back in Mexico. Similar dishes, similar settings, similar cats wandering around, it was good! We fit alot of people on one big long table!
tomorrow checkout is at 7:75 am followed by some ice breakers and then we get shipped back off to the airport for our long haul to Sao Paulo.

This experience is really reminds me of staff training at camp. When we all arrived and were getting to know one another, and quite frankly, I love camp! And I love meeting all these new people having the same feelings and questions as me! We also realized that in September must be when they send all the environment people down and in May must be the buisness and community development people. Also I'm not alone representing the Dirty Jerz in my group! Found a fellow Jersian! Even if he is from down south :p

Who knows when I'll have Internet next so....until then...BEDTIME!!!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm leavin on four jet planes...

Last night in my bed!!

Ok. I'm more than halfway packed (I know I know, it's the night before I leave. Procrastination Central) and ready for another break. So far my framed backpack is 22 lbs and I'm scared to weigh my suitcase. I can hear my dog rummaging around upstairs in "yet to pack" bags... and dinner distraction complete. Anyway, this is surreal. It doesn't yet feel like I'm about to head out of my cushy American life for the next 27 months, but I'm just a short plane ride away from Atlanta, Georgia to Miami, Florida to São Paulo, Brazil to Asunción, Paraguay!!!

Highlights and Lowlights of this past month (fun game, guess which is which):

My bf leaving his summer long stay here to return to England

Hittin up McSorely's in NYC for some Ale and good company, followed by a night out in Hoboken!

Getting in line 45 mins to late to get into the free Muse show we had tickets for when they played the MTV VMAs. But didn't realize until we stood in that line for a good 3 hours and me forgetting my license which was needed to get into the show and going back to hoboken to find out I did it all for nothing followed by promises of a street song that we lined up for another 2 hours that didn't happen either.

Seeing Gerard Butler!

A great send off party with friends and fam!

Packing, shopping, packing, shopping, thoughts of napping, shopping

Visits from people :)

getting sick and recovering in a record 2.3 days

and my Rosetta Stone Spanish.

I must go finish packing and eat some spinach and cheese rolls my little Georgian (the country not the state) neighbor made me as a goodbye present!

Nos Vimos!

Monday, September 14, 2009

1st post. yaay

It is time for me to post my first post seeing as I will be leaving in a week (!) for Paraguay. The nervousness hits now and again but I also get little clips of excitement too. But mostly I get overwhelmed at what I need to get done before I leave (i.e. packing, paperwork, saying goodbyes and taking naps). So, how did I get here? About to leave to a country I knew absolutely nothing about and live there for the next 27 months? Simple. I went through a short and easy application process. First, I just had to decide if I wanted to go to a developing country and leave the comforts of my home behind for many, many months. I do. Check. Step one completed. Next I just had to:

Watch a live online presentation from a return volunteer

Apply online for an application (easy. name. age. where you live. whatnot)

Fill out the actual application (not so easy. lots of info to put in here from school to your health to your criminal background...don't worry I don't have one....)

Write 2 essays. A personal statement (yep, just like the college application) and a Cross Cultural experience essay. (deff took my time with these. I'm talkin weeks of rewriting and edits)

Find three references to write all sortsa stuff about you and send it in. One from a friend, an employer and a volunteer supervisor or professor. I'd like to take this time to thank mine for sending theirs in in good time.

Have an Interview in NYC. Wasn't scary one bit. The hardest part was finding what to wear (business casual)

Fill out more questionairs when you tell them things like you have a boyfriend and are a vegetarian

of course I did all this between Dec 2008 and March 2009, and on March 12th 2009 I got my nomination! Which basically means your recruiter found a job they thought you would be good for. I was nominated for Latin America to teach environ ed leaving Sept 2009.Spoiler Alert!!!!.....
I got the job :p But back then I didn't know I would so the next step was:

The Medical Packet. To make this as short and painless as possible you basically have to have dentists, doctors and the like examine everything inch about you to make sure you're healthy enough to make it through your service with only the usual traveling pains (we all know what they are). There were many tests involved and examinations of all sorts which would have costs me a pretty penny seeing as I, like millions of other Americans, do not have health insurance. THANKFULLY I was granted permission to use the Lyons VA hospital to get everything done, except the dentist exam, for free (thanks all you taxpayers!!!!! You really helped me out!!) So after the medical packet was complete I sent it in April 9th aaand...

I waited...and waited...aaaand waited. This is whats known as the aptly named, waiting period. Good time to do some volunteering in the area you were nominated for btw....

Lo and behold all my waiting worked because on August 11th 2009 (18 and a half weeks after having turned in my medical packet) while shading myself on the Jersey Shore with the boyfriend I got a call telling me I was officially invited into the Peace Corps and my information packet was on the way!

A week later on Aug 18th I officially accepted my invite to go to Paraguay to do environmental work in a rural area.

See, only a 10 step application process with a completion time of 9 months and I was on my way to Paraguay. Patience is a virtue and something that a volunteer needs to have so why not start practicing it at home! I wasn't stressed though, I knew it would all work out.

Now you know how I got here. My goal with this blog is to show everyone who only knew that Paraguay was even a country from taking 8th grade geography what it's really all about and to bring to light what the PC is accomplishing down there (and it's been there for quite a bit). Hopefully I'll entertain you as well as learn ya!

Bienvenidos and enjoy some Stories from Paraguay!