Friday, December 24, 2010

Uruguay travels!! so far..

I appologise for any spelling mistakes, this computer is set to spanish so everything i write has a red squiggle line under it!

Decided to journey to Uruguay for Christmas and New Years. Christmas by the beach, ah. It deff doesn´t feel like christmas when all you do is sweat all day. My association of Christmas is cold, New York City, commercialism and lots of decorations, all of which are not found down here. Ok, there aaare decorations but not to the extent that we have!

Anyway, off to Uruguay we go! We decided we would fly down because it would take 1 1/2 hours as opposed to 18 on a bus. Our flight was at 6:40am so we had to stay in Asuncion the night before and take a taxi to the airport because we didn´t think there would be any buses. Turns out there were buses and one was driving by as we pulled up in our taxi that cost us WAY to much and wasn´t really a taxi but just some worker at the hotel and his car. We get to the airport, checked in ok except for that pesky baggage fee no one told us about when we bought the tickets. $60 less we move onto immigrations where nick had to pay an exit fee (not meee cuz i´m a resident of py hehe) and we headed to the waiting area with our wallets much thinner after all our unexpected spendings.
At this point I´m past the tired stage as we board the plan and find out we have the exit seats, good, we think, more leg room! But soon I realized that the seats don´t recline, the arm rests are different from normal and uncomfortable and you can´t close the blind when the sun 7am sun is shining in your face. Thank god it was a quick flight.
There´s an hour time difference so we landed at 9am tired and hungry. The view of Uruguay from the landing was mostly flat pasture land and the airport was really modern and funky lookin. Got in with no probs, immigration didn´t even ask us why we were here, just said hola..stamp..stamp.. adiós. Now what! We had to get to La Pedrera where we would be staying but we weren´t sure exaclty hooow. I went to talk to the information lady but she was just ignoring me and then was on the phone so I walked away. Nick went to talk to the tourism guy who also appeared to hate his job but we figured out the buses we needed to take to get to the terminal in Montevideo.
The city buses were nicer than what we were used to but getting on was another thing. Firstly, we both had our big bags on us which isn´t easy to squeeze on a bus and people continued to be rude. here´s the thing, I don´t expect to arrive somewhere and have everyone bend over backwards to help me but some common decency woudl be nice. Coming from Paraguay where common decency in public settings is as hard to find as brown rice (the way I get cut in line all the time, infuriating)but I was hopeing here it would be different. So far I was not impressed. Then Nick tried to ask a bus driver who had pulled up if he went by the terminal, the bus driver shut the door in his face. Finally, a bus came that we knew we could get on and as i went to get on it this lady selling random stuff was getting on and asked me what I thought was if this bus was going to the terminal. I wasn´t used to the uruguayan accent yet (which is like an Argintinian BA accent) so that´s what I thought she said. So I said I´m not sure. And she came back with well i´m trying to teach you! and did not say it in a nice way. I said we wanted to go to the terminal and she said two different names and I wasn´t sure what she wanted, if she was trying to help or just wanted to be a bitch. She kept yelling that this wasn´t the bus and finally I´d had enough and just said OK JESUS! She glared. thankfully another bus came after that one left with the same number on it and yes, it took us to the terminal. At this point my frist impression of Uruguay was not good, I was tired, hungry and people were being d´s. I was thinking maybe it would have been easier and cheaper to just have taken the 18 hour bus ride. But, after an uncomfortable ride trying to fit on the bus with our bags we got to the terminal and bought bus tickets out.
The bus ride was nice, not like PY where the bus stops and picks people up the whole time. It was nice and empty with comfy seats and i got to sleeep finally! The country side was really nice, kind of like Py but not, and I couldn´t put my finger on why not. We got to La Pedrera 3 hours later and learned that our hostel wasn´t actually in the town and we had to call to get picked up. Here´s where things started to get better with the people.
the only phone we could find was one that you had to put a phone chip in to use, a chip we did not have. the cyber seemed to be closed so we couldn´t go in and use skype and we weren´t sure what to do. We went back out to stare the phones some more and right then a man pulled up who works with the phones. I asked him what to do and he said we could get a chip at a small grocery store, i told him why we needed it and he said hold on, maybe you can use my thing and with a wink he went to his car and came back out with this phone that he attached to the phone booth! He called the number and gave me the phone and we got our ride. He was so nice! We got to our hostel called La Casa de La Luna. It´s very tranquilo surrounded by bushes and from our room you can see and hear the ocean. It´s a small house converted hostel with a hippy, arty vibe and nice wooden floors and a common room w bean bag chairs and brick walls. our room is small but cosy and I´m not sure but I think there are only two other guests here.
We kinda need a car but walking back into town takes only 20 mins so it´s not to bad. there are soo many houses to rent here, which range from chuchi to funky to cute. A great refresher from the PY houses that all kinda look the same more or less.

So here I am on chirstmas eve with the sound of the beach in the background!
With that I will wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and appoligise for how long this turned out to be! Hopefully there will be more to come, next we travel to a place called Punto del Diablo where we rented a house with some other volunteers who we will be meeting up with and after back to Montevideo!

Monday, November 22, 2010

An Update on the Goings On

Right after my birdfest I had to shift gears to help with the training of the newest batch of volunteers. These guys are our sister G, meaning they’re the next Environmental/agriculture volunteers and I was where they are a year ago. Crazy. I was called in by my old trainer to come back to Guarambare to tell of my experiences in doing big event days. That’s what my service has been mostly, so far. I’ve done things for Earth Day, Tree Day, Water Day, and the birdfest was a pretty big event. Guess that’s where my expertise lie eh? Since this group of EE trainees is bigger than we were last year I had to do my talk twice, one for the first group and the next afternoon with the other group.
I already knew some of the aspirantes (trainees) since a few visited Lauren and I the weekend before this training session. They came to see what it was like to be a volunteer and shadow us for 3 days. It was a good time, they got to help us with our last bird fest!
So I did that, hosted a trainee and came in for a training session. The next thing I had to concentrate on was Long Field. Long Field is when a bunch of trainees and a language teacher go to a volunteers site for a week to do planned activities and practice being a volunteer. I was asked to host 6 trainees and a language teacher. It was actually pretty tough thinking of things to do every day for a week that wasn’t doing the same thing every day and finding families for them to stay with, fortunately the school helped me with that. I ended up planning as followed:

The first day we went to Jirca, a model farm down the ruta from Carapegua. It was set up and run by Japan but right now it’s totally run by Paraguayans. They have demonstration plots to show farmers how to better use their land and about composting and worm composting. It’s a pretty cool place, unfortunately when we went there wasn’t really anyone to show us around, but I think they got the general idea. Then they had time for some language and to prepare for a charla I had set up for them at my main school.

Day two was the charlas in the morning. 2 ppl went to the 4th grade, 2 to the 5th and 2 to the 6th. I had asked the teachers ahead of time what topics they would like covered so the aspirantes got to work with topics like air pollution, aquatic ecosystems and biodomes. They all did great! That afternoon they went out on interviews I had set up with some community members and had some language training.

Day three we went out to Lauren’s site for an agroforestry day. I had gotten some root stock for them to learn about tree grafting. That’s when you take the roots from one tree (root stock), cut a branch or bud off another tree, cut a slit on the root stock and a point on the branch and tape them together. And walla! With luck you will now have the tree of what the branches were. For example, one type (and the easiest) of grafting is a mango graft. You take the root stock of a Paraguayan mango tree and graft a Brazilian mango tree to it. This is beneficial because the roots will be hardy and used to Paraguay while the fruit will be the big, yummy Brazilian type mango. The Paraguayan mangos are smaller and are full of fiberus strings that make it hard to eat. The other type of grafting is with citrus fruits, it’s much harder and involves taking a bud from one citrus tree and sticking it into the roots and stalk of another citrus plant. This all needs to be done when they are saplings and the percentage of takage (is that a word?) is pretty low. I think only 20% of grafted trees take, so they are pretty expensive to buy. Hopefully the ones we did will take. We went to one of Lauren’s contacts house who has an awesome garden goin on, he was interested in doing grafting and we gave him the trees when we were done. He also showed us his garden and how he was using methods that we learned at our IST back in June! He had loads in it, very good utilization of space and abono (fertilizer). He pulled up a beet from one seed bed that was fertilized the normal Py way and one fertilized the way we learned in IST, the difference was amazing!! The normal fert beet was so small compared to the goliath IST method beet! Wish I had a picture. We also planted some trees at his house. After lunch we headed to Lauren’s school so they could see the end of the year fair that schools put on showing all the work they’ve done that year.

Day four was another charla day at the smaller school I work at. One group did garbage charlas with the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and the other did games with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. Then we learned about the artisan work that is done here in Carapegua (hammocks, blankets, crochet, etc.) at the artisan center close to that school and after we went shopping! That night was a movie night complete with popcorn, watermelon, ice cream, soda and chips.

Day five we went over to the next town, Paraguarí, to meet up with an urban youth volunteer and see a war museum and of course have a yummy lunch at the Tropicana, a place I wish was in my site. Then everyone got on a bus to go back to Guarambare and I went back to Cpeg. I had to get to the small school I work with because I had to plan a camping trip with the kindergardeners and my contact. Phew. We planned for it to be thurs night into fri but things changed and it was moved to tues all day but things changed and it just turned into me going in on tues afternoon and singing environmental songs, coloring and making frog masks. I think they liked it.
But back to Long Field, it’s supposed to show the aspirantes what a week would look like as a volunteer, I don’t know anyone who does all that in one week and it was pretty exhausting. I slept in that Sat and it was wonderful. I forgot what it was like to be in training :p

Now I’m gearing up for Thanksgiving, I will be going down south to Encarnación for the weekend with most of the other volunteers. Apparently this happens every year, we rent a hotel and cook and swim and have a jolly good time. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard talk that there will even be pumpkin pie…
So that’s what’s been going on. I’m happy now because its watermelon season and we have so far eaten seven watermelons (yes we’re counting) since they first arrived in site 3 weeks ago. So good.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bird Fest wrapped up

Last monday was the last festival de aves, and other then some paperwork to fill out I can officially say it is over. It took 3 months to exicute, 7 volunteers, about 300 kids and around 15 teachers to pull it off. I say it was a success!

I'll do a quick rundown of each school..(Escuela Basica de Nicaragua is in the previous post)

Monseñor Acha: The biggest school. Had four other volunteers come in to help us and we didn't stay at the school we went to a teachers house that could handle that amount of kids and was kinda campo-ish. This included a bus ride that the directora of the school organized!! We went out twice that day, with 90 kids in the morning and 60 in the afternoon. The bus came to the school, we drove out, did our thing and got back in about 3 hours! Since there were so many kids we broke them into four groups. We would have three games and a birdwalk with two volunteers per game and me for the walk, after 20 min the group would rotate. I did many bird walks that day! We also had a bird costume that we busted out for a skit at the end about why you shouldn't use birds as target practice with your slingshot.
here are some pics from that day:

bus ride out

Tringy! a sandpiper like bird that migrates to PY for the winter
Noo!! Don't shoot tringy!!
Stop shootin me

a ball of bird masks
At this school I had them do some bird drawings to put out
so colorful!

The next school was in  Ndavaru, about 7 miles outside of the city center, and with only 30 kids it was done in one afternoon and was really nice! Lauren had been working with this school and we stared off the day with a giving out the cups, a presentation of the bird masks and a play they had been working on. Parents were invited to view this part. After we played a game with all of them that Lauren had made up about migration that involved running and tagging and was a good time. Then we split them into two groups and the teachers and I took half on a birdwalk while Lauren and Andrew played games with the other half, we had a break in the middle then we switched. Then Tringy came out for a group picture! It took us the whole afternoon and was a beautiful day outside. Another great success! This school was the best bird walk that I went on because we were out in the camp and I saw so many things, the teachers really knew the plants and birds and were able to point them out much better than I could have! I saw a monkey nest in a tree, a tarantula hole in the ground, snake skin, crazy fruits and rare birds. I was excited. The kids were as well, every time a bird flew by or was spotted they would get really into it!

Presentation of bird masks
The play
Bird walk led by Profe Will
Group Pic!

The last school was San Vincente, we did a similar model to the school in Ndavaru since it was small (30 kids) with the mask presentation and skit and all. This time though Lauren and I had 3 aspiring volunteer trainees visiting us. Our sister group has arrived driving home that fact that we've been here for more than a year! So they got to witness and experience ..and help.. on our last bird fest!

Bird beak game
Slingshot game, kids have to hit the x's not the birds

Group pic

So now that it's over I can look back and say it was a great success! Will schools continue to do this after I'm gone? I'd have to honestly answer probably not. A festival is a big thing to plan and teachers are already doing other things that they might not think they could handle it. But at least these kids have more conscientiousness about birds and that's something right there.
Things I would have done differently, just done three schools. Or even better just one. The charla's themselves should have been broken up and done at least 2 different times to really drive the points home. The kids didn't really remember anything we taught them in the charla. Good thing we left a copy with the teacher. Lets home they use it!

I thank everyone who helped me and I think all in all it was a success!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bird Fest cont.....

Bird fest is going well...mostly. Today we should be doing a double, two schools, two bird fests, one day, but there was a huuge storm last night with mega mpr winds that knocked down my tv antenna and garlic plant and all sorts of stuff throughout the city. The supervisor of the Environmental sector and the president of the organization Guyra were supposed to come out and watch/help/bring binoculars as well today and it aaalll got cancelled. We have another school to do tomorrow so we really needed those binoculars, so what we did was have our supervisor send them encomienda. Thank goodness for this system. Pretty much someone at some location can put stuff on a bus and send it to your location. So she sent the binoculars, a bird costume that some poor soul will wear and some prizes via the bus and we picked them up on the ruta by my house. So we're all ready for tomorrow!

Now this is our day of games, we did our charla day earlier with all the schools to lead up to this day. So far we've done it with one school.

How it went: With this school it was with the 5th graders only and our plan was to get them all together (there are 2 diff 5th grade classes in the morning and afternoon, four in total) do a big game with both classes together then split them back up. One class went with Lauren and I on a bird walk and the other stayed with Andrew to play some games. Then a break and we would reconvene and play a few big group games all together. Then I would give them their stickers and all would be well. Ok so it didn't go exxaactly like that. I was able to do a big group icebreaker game with them, kinda like tag but with an extinction theme. We did one round and then they were done with that.
We then broke up into the groups so Andrew could do his thing and Lauren and I could go bird watching. We had about 14 kids in the first group, 2 binoculars and no teacher, not by choice... he was just busy making fruit salad.... We pretty much just went to the plaza for 15 mins but there were enough birds there to look at. A little population of green parrots live in the plaza and, of course, lots of pigeons. The kids would get really excited when the spotted a bird and really wanted to see them with the binoculars and would always point them out to me and Lauren. It was cute. But then they all ran to the playground to play, and there was no controlling them. We did the same for the next group until they told us they had to go to gym class and then recess. oookkkk. So much for our event, we just waited till they were done to try and have our big games. At this point we were kinda burnt out because these were the most rooouuudiest kids ever! Sooo hard to settle down and we were just yelling over their voices all the time, it was really difficult! We decided to cut our large games down to one and we only played it once, after the kids ran off before I could give them a sticker. The one teacher who was helping us seemed like he was a step away from having a heart attack from yelling at the kids which also helped in our decision to end early. I just gave the stickers to the teachers to hand out later.

We were scared for the afternoon class and decided to try not to make it long but thankfully it went much smoother! Tomorrows school is a big one, we will be working with 102 kids in the morning and 73 in the afternoon..and there will be some friend coming in to help manage it, 6 volunteers in all we will be!!
So that's what's been goin on round here, stay tuned for more...

Many pigeons in the park

bird beak game

Lika and the storm damage

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Festival de Aves

   My bird festival has officially begun as of Monday the 13th! What is a bird fest you ask? It is a day (or many days) to heighten awareness of the birdies (aves). And why? Because birds are a terrific indicator species of how healthy a habitat is. Having a diverse bird population demonstrates that there is a diverse ecosystem afoot. Why is biodiversity important? Because daily, we humans use 40,000 plants, animals, fungus and microbes to make our stuff with. Stuff like medicine, food, and combustibles. When we destroy habitats, we destroy the diversity that we need to survive.

Didja like that? I just snuck in part of my charla (lecture)into this blog. Here in Py, October is a big bird month because of migration. Many birds either pass through or come to Paraguay from up north for the summer here. Paraguay has 708 different species of birds in it and 30% (212) of those birds are migratory. So we here at Cuerpo de Paz team up with Guyra Paraguay to help bring about awareness to Paraguayans about the importance of birds, habitat and biodiversity.

Guyra Paraguay (pronounced goorah, means bird in Guarani) is the Paraguayan offshoot of the Birdlife organization that is dedicated to saving birds around the world, in America it's the Audubon society.
So what have I been doing then? A few volunteers ago some money was donated from one of the volunteers friends and family in the states to do a sweet birdfest near Carapegua. With that money the volunteer was able to get some snacks, rent a bus and take school kids out to a reserve nearby that is a known hotspot for migratory birds. There he played games and they went on a birdwalk complete with binoculars lent by Guyra and a guide from the park. There was plenty of money left over so the next volunteer in the area (the person whom I'm following up) was able to use the money to have another bird fest in the same place. And still there was money left over and they were able to do another bird fest in the same place the next year. Now I'm here.. and there is still money left over for me to use. Que suerte! (what luck). Albeit it's only a small sum compared to what was available for the other bird fests but that's ok.

What I plan/have planned to do:
1.Charlas in the school. I was told the other years prep work in the school was very little, to the kids it was a day of fun games but not much lesson behind them. So me and my guapo (hard working) PCV neighbors Lauren and Andrew, who have come on board to help, me all sat down and decided what was the best for the kids to learn. We came up with Biodiversity, Extinction, PY bird facts and Migration. It seems the teachers don't really know much about it either so it's a good opportunity for them as well. To interested teachers I have been giving a copy of our charla so they can use it again.

2. We're getting a lot of support from Guyra. They will provide binoculars and a bird costume for the game day. They have given me books, stickers and bird watching guides as well to use and donate to the school when we're done.

3. Bird masks. I have a book full of bird masks that the kids can color and cut out and wear for our game day.

4. A game day and bird walk day. We're going to stick around the city because I don't have the funds to bring them out to the reserve, but it's fine because they can see the birds that live right in their backyard. We're doing this with 4 different schools.

5. Plays and drawings of birds so we can have an exhibition day.

6. Maaaybe paint a mural on one of the schools walls about biodiversity.

Andrew teachin that biodiversidad!
7. I bought reusable plastic cups and I'm going to have stickers printed out to put on them that I will give each kid as a gift and to teach them about reusing.

So far it's gone well, we've completed the charla in one school (the biggest one) with the 4th, 5th and 6th grades (173 students). Thank goodness for Lauren and Andrew's help!

Before wrapping this up I would like to share 2 things that stood out from giving my charlas...
Lauren, Andrew and the 6th grade class pretending to be super aves
#1 I taught the morning 4th grade class on my own and then in the afternoon lauren was there to help me, thank goodness because the afternoon class is much more rambunctious than the morning. Afterwords I said to the teacher the difference between the two classes is amazing and she said yes, the biodiversity. Hehe! Yay new word learned!

The kids pretending to be cold during the winter! Gotta fly south!
#2 Lauren and I were right at the end about to finish the charla when a man walked into the class, I thought he was there to give something to the teacher...boy did I get a shock when instead of going over to her desk he stood right in front of us and started selling stickers to the kids!!!! Who does that?! Strait up interrupts us, stands in front of us and just starts selling s*%t?! We were so in shock, and the kids ran up to him to buy some so we had to wait till he was done. Absolutely amazing. So RUUUUUDE! And the teachers didn't even do anything! I'll be ready next time.

Anywho, I'll keep updating how it goes!!
Ñanday Parrot. Prob caught in the wild and they will prob stay in cages this small for the rest of their lives. This is why we need to educate the people!!
Cardenal's in the back cage. Different from ours, only the head is red. I was told they aren't many left. Both these birds were for sale at the mercado in asuncion
Lauren, Andrew and I work space while we were making the charla

Monday, August 23, 2010

Door Drama

April to August. 4 months. That’s how long it has taken to get me a door for my bedroom. My house has many doorways, 8 in total, and 6 doors. One of those doorless doorways is the main door to my bedroom, for awhile I had a sheet hanging for privacy reasons that served it's purpose. But then my kitten started getting bigger and was soon able to jump on my bed to sleep with me. At first it was cute and I didn't mind the cuddle, but she was taken from her mother to young and because of this she has a little problem. Whenever she feels content and purrs, she also starts to nurse..on me. So I would be awoken at very early every morning with a kitten sucking on my shirt or neck, then she would get up and want to play resulting in her jumping on my face. Not a nice way to wake up. I put up with it though because there really wasn't much I could do without a door. Then she got fleas and I could feel them crawling on me. It was time to ask for a door. I started with the owners of the house to see what they would say. I told them I needed it for the cold and I wanted my room to stay warm. I couldn't tell them the real reason was for a cat, they would just tell me to kick her out of the house or hit her or something. She is too Americanized to be kicked to the curb at this point. Then one day...I saw worms coming out her butt!!!!!! NO WAY!!! LAST STRAW!!! NO MORE CATS IN THE BEDROOM!!!

The reason for all of this
We took the door that divided my room from the spare room and leaned it up against my doorway like this...
The "door" to my room
So now we have to walk through the storage room to get to my bedroom, there is no direct way out to the kitchen or livingroom. Bear in mind that my bedroom has three doorways, one going into the storage room, one going into the livingroom (now blocked by door barricade)and the third going into the kitchen which I put my dresser in front of and barricaded the bottom from cats. Now I've been waiting for this door for about two months, I keep asking my neighbor and he says oh yes he has one for me but we need to get someone to look at the doorway to make a frame, he'll come tomorrow. This person never shows up, I leave it alone for another week then ask again. Oh yes I have a door frame and a door I'll bring it tomorrow. Never shows. I leave it alone for a bit. it's now been three months. I go over and hang out with the fam and casually ask about it. He's forgotten alll about. Come by tomorrow at 12! He's not there he's having a siesta. come by at 5. He's not there he's at a meeting. I'm starting to doubt he even has a door. It's 4 months now and we're really puttin the pressure on. It may be customary in Paraguay not to follow through but if you say you have something we're gonna hold you to it! Two weeks ago we saw him and I asked if we could get the door now and he said's made of wood. maybe tomorrow. There is no door is there.... Then last week he brings us over to his shed and shows us the door, and the frame!!! They're reeeaaaallll!!! But we couldn't take them yet he had to clean the shed. Sigh. At least we know it's there. The next day we had a surprise when we came home and saw the doorframe put over our fence and into the patio..we're halfway there!!!! Then, 2 days ago, I saw him out raking his yard and we went over and he tried to tell us he'd bring it over tomorrow but I was like no it's ok we'll get it today that way you can rest tomorrow. And guess what, we finally got a door!!
Other side of current "door" to my room
The antenna, a bamboo pole and florescent light
The florescent tube with cable connecting to TV

The garden project, revisited

My garden class was moving along swimmingly until we hit a pretty big road block. After we made the tablones (raised beds) in the ground at the site for our garden, we had to wait to put up a fence before we could plant any seeds or transfer any of the growing plants out of the seedboxes. It is very necessary to have a fence because of free roaming chickens. A chicken drive by could ruin all the hard work you've put into a garden within minutes!

I was told the teachers would put up a fence and have the kids plant seeds and transplant the other growing plants while I was away visiting the Iguazu falls in Argentina, when I came back they told me they were sorry they didn't do it and they couldn't do it without me! (Idk maybe they need me as a cheerleader or just someone who keeps showing up and pushing them). So they asked if I would come help them during the winter break which is 2 weeks in July, the same 2 weeks I would be in the States. Upon returning from Los Estados Unidos I learned that the government tacked on another week of break due to cold (they wouldn't last a Jersey winter then!). So by the time I got back to the school there was still no fence up and the plantitas (transplant plants) were muerta (dead).

"We must begin again!" they told me. "But this time we shall plant the plants right here in the school in containers, just the plants that will grow in the winter".
This is what I suggested we do in the first place but I suppose they had to get to that conclusion their own way. So we began once again. This time some students brought some wooden crates from fruit stands and some brought abono (fertilized or composted soil) which we put right into the boxes after lining them with plastic garbage bags with drain holes. The teachers told me where they wanted them to be which is in between these two buildings in a kind of alleyway next the sink. This area probably gets about two hours of sunlight a day, I told them this but...many times... but hey, at least it's close to the sink. I told them if they don't start to sprout better move the location.

Last friday I stopped by to talk to the principal of the school with Lauren, a volunteer who lives close by. While there one of my students came into the office and told me that kids had walked all over our garden, Lauren and I went to look. It didn't appear to be stepped on but there was garbage in one, and all of them were without sprouts. Sigh. Bad location and no one taking the initiative to water them even though I told them and the teacher make sure they get water every day!

I asked lauren how much do I hold their hands with these projects? I know they wanted a school garden and I tried twice to help them with that but I can't be the only person trying, they need to take some initiative as well! How many times do I have to repeat simple things like how much sun a day they should get and how they need water every day... to teachers??!!

Well I tried. And my garden is coming along nicely! The next project I'm working on is a big one. We call it the festival de aves (bird festival) and it's to raise awareness of the importance of birds. It's been done in my site since 2007 and I'm happy to carry on the tradition. More to come.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Frutas y Verduras

I would like to take the time to point out the differences in produce here and produce back in the States. I do my shopping at the market and supermarket a couple blocks away. Now, I'm not exactly sure where the fruits and veggies are coming from in the supermarket (could be close by, could be Argentina) but usually the fruits and veggies in the stands at the market come from local farms and gardens and there is such a difference in size from what I'm used to back home. I'm sure here there are no growth hormone genes and whatever else is put into our American produce, does this mean these are the fruits and veggies true sizes???
And at some point my garden will be ready! (If the cats don't jump on it first)...

My Wee Garden

Cantalope (Melón)

Pineapple (Piña)

Green Pepper (Locote)

Cucumber (Pepiño)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Cold and Dia De Amistad

We are now in the dead of winter down here, sounds funny saying that since it's August and I know back home it's hot hot hot! But down here it can range anywhere from 80F down to 55F and at night it can be in the 40s. I live in a cement block of a house with sun only hitting one side of it and no heat,and I can tell you that 60F is cold in my icebox house!! At this moment I have on slippers, sweatpants, a hoodie and gloves with fingerholes. It's amazing to think that during the summer just the thought of these clothes made me want to jump in a cold shower! Now I wish I had more!
We've actually just come off the winter break down here, it's supposed to be 2 weeks in July but because it was so cold they extended it to be 3 weeks. Last year they extended it to be 3 weeks as well because of swine flu scares. I couldn't imagine the schools in New Jersey trying to extend the break due to cold, it's hard enough to get a snow day! This extended break worked out well for me though since I just got back from a wonderful 13 day trip back home. I needed that extra week to get back into the swing of things.

So July 31st is Dia De Amistad,friendship day, is a big deal down here. When we told them we don't have one in the states they couldn't believe it. It's pretty much a day to acknowledge your friends by sending them texts or giving them little stuffed bears or signs that say something about amistad. I was told that you should especially be nice to your friends who know all your secrets. Seems like a plesant little holiday, unless of course you don't receive a text, call or any presents. Could get a bit depressing then.

Ok I promis to be better and update my blog more, especially now that I have the interwebs in my house. No excuses!

ChauChau 4 now

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

school garden

So I´ve been doing a garden with the 4th graders of one of my schools. I´ve been teaching them in the classroom for about 4 weeks every friday. So the ministery of education here wants every school to have a garden here to teach kids nutrition and gardening and whatnot, it´s a pretty good idea. Some schools just hire ppl to make them for the shcool and some schools make them theirselves (i think it´s best if they do it theirselves and of course let the kids do it).
The school I´m doing it with is a city school with no land to plant a garden on in the school grounds, so when i mentioned the project about doing one they got really excited since they didn´t have one and it´s something they should have. We found a place to do it (behind the principals house) and last week we went out to make the tablones (raised seed beds). That´s all we had time to do, hopefully this week we can plant some stuff and transplant the seeds we planted 3 weeks ago in almacigos (transplant boxes).

yesterday i went to the school and the vice principal told me she, another teacher and a parent were going back to redo the tablones because.... they´re not pretty enough!!! they have this thing in their head that each raised bed needs to be exactly the same hieght and width and of course, has to look lindo (pretty). I wasn´t to shocked because, well it´s something I would expect here, but still disapointed. The kids (kinda) made the garden and i feel that they should be proud of their work, not be told that it´s being redone because it doesn´t look pretty enough. I guess it´s the whole social idea of conformism instead of individualism here in PY, ideas left over from the dictatorship. Everyone and everything should be more or less the same. (That´s why cheating on tests is ok, so long as everyone passes together to the next grade)

But the farther they get away from the dictatorship i´m sure the more that will change.

Here´s some pics!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Five and a half month in site update

I know it’s been awhile so here’s an update!

I’ve been teaching a weekly garden class with the fourth grade of one of my schools. This Friday will be my fourth class and we have yet to even go out to the garden to make it! Last week we did plant some seeds to transplant though, hopefully they’ve been watering them and giving them sunlight… next week we’ll start the garden.

I’ve started working with another school who seem very into all the stuff we do and teach! They’ve had a garden and a compost pile and we’re going to make a hole to burry garbage and make garbage cans. They also want to plan a kindergarden campout as well as a mural on one of the walls. Oh and make a playground out of recycled stuff. I’m looking forward to working with them.

I’ve also started working with a highschool who wants to so a clean up of the stream that runs through the town. Last week I went out with a couple of teachers and we followed the stream all the way to the spring where it comes out of the earth. It runs out through the campo (countryside) right outside of town and is mostly on private property. It is also a dumping ground for garbage coming out of the sugar factory near town. So I will be working with the students and teachers to help clean it up.

I’m planning on starting a radio program with a fellow volunteer as soon as we get out and talk to the guy.

So that’s what’s on the burner for me workwise.

I’ve had a taste of winter last week…lots of rain. What I’m up against…damp cave house and mold!!! It rained for about a week last week and my house is still drying out. I can see on my walls where it’s wet and where it’s still drying! Today I just noticed that all my pants that were in my wardrobe were all moldy!! As well as my hat and a shirt and my kitchen table, my burkenstocks and my hemp role I brought for bracelets. And worst of all, my pillows!! I went out and bought new ones don’t worry. Every thing was just damp that week including my bed, it was not fun. And there’s really nothing I can do about it but dread the rain and put on fans. I just got over a pretty bad cold/sinus infection..wonder where that came from.

In other news container garden is coming along nicely with lots of sprouts from all the rain.

Nick is here visiting me for a bit and he’s done some wonderful fix ups on my house! So far he’s fixed the drippy toilet string flush, put in more lights in the kitchen so I can see when I cook at the stove (important) put in a switch by my bed so I don’t have to get out of my mosquito net and warm bed to turn it off at night and put in a light over my desk so I can see when I do stuff there. He’s gonna put the door up in my room, chop some of the branches off the mango tree to get some sun through my window and build me a bigger garden space, compost space and worm compost space!!

V happy

The kitties have been spayed! Their stitches need to come out this Monday and that will be the end of that. No kittens for us! My hand raised kitten is so easy to handle to clean out her wound, but the bigger street cat is not having it. very scary to clean out hers out, it takes gloves and a towel and an enclosed space.
But chisme is proving to be exactly like Sadie, my dog from home. She has to be the center of attention and would rather be squished, as long as she’s sitting on or near me.

Like I said before I’ve had a pretty bad cold and for some reason my thumbnail is doing something funky. I’ll put a pic down below.

I was feeling pretty frustrated because I can’t just guess what people want from me. I can go in and tell them what I can do and ask them what they want but usually I just get the answer “whatever you want to do” which is fine to have free reign but also It’s not just for me I want them to get something lasting out of it. This town seems to have a pretty good consciousness about environmental issues but I felt like I was on the outside of a fence looking in when people don’t tell me things. For example, we had a parade for Carapegua’s birthday and they had a whole section of students marching for the environment with signs and all that jazz. Why hasn’t anyone told me about these kids?!
That’s why I’m glad that the two new schools I started working with know what they want, I can work with that!

I’m heading off to the states soon for my cousins wedding and quite looking forward to it, plus it will be summer there and I can get away from the cold here! No heat in these houses!

The world cup is starting! First match to watch; England vs. U.S.A then Paraguay vs. Italy!

Everyday I try to do one Peace Corps thing, as I call it. Be it going to the school to organize something or visiting a family, it helps keep the guilt away when I feel like I’m not doing anything. It’s like being self employed and having to get yourself out there to get your things done, if that makes sense.

I exercised for a month and now having in a week and a half. Gotta get back on that.

Gonna head down to Argentina to the Iguazu falls for a few days with Nick 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Life Without the ‘Ol Snip Snip; A Case for Spaying and Neutering

It’s 4:40 AM. The nights have gotten colder so my fan/white noise maker is off, and every dog near my house (at least 20) are barking. Now I don’t know if this happens every morning since my fan is usually on but my God, how can people live like this! Laying in bed I was motivated to write this blog, and why not, I won’t be sleeping anytime soon.

We North Americans are fortunate to live in a world where spaying and neutering is not only accepted, but in some cases mandatory (like when adopting from a shelter). Most people agree with it knowing it keeps the population down and dogs and kitties off the street, away from starvation, disease and wreaking havoc on the native bird population. Here is a different story. From the many talks I’ve had with Paraguayans I have learned that: I have yet to find a word for spaying (I just say ‘cut the equiptment’ and add gestures) people do have a problem with street dogs but don’t care to do anything about it, there is a shot you can give female dogs every six months for $2, they think castrating a male is bad (machismo society here) and/or people don’t care about the lives of dogs and cats. This last one I can understand, if you’re poor and barely have money for your family why should you care about dogs when you’re just trying to get by. But I live in the city, and there are many well off people here yet the story is the same. They have them mostly to guard the house (usually about 2 or 3 big Sheppard like dogs) but there are also pet dogs too; usually the little, hairy kind who are treated much better than their guard dog counterparts, aka allowed in the house, but just the same usually given rice, mandioca and bread as meals.

What it’s like to live in a world without spaying and neutering…

1. Obviously, there are dogs everywhere you go. In the schools, in the plaza, on every corner (this is also true for chickens and cows except maybe not so much in the plaza or schools, here in the city at least. God knows what it’s like in the country). I’m sure there are many cats as well but they are good hiders.

2. Most of the dogs I see are males because no one wants females. They are either cast out in the streets or fields or killed.

3. Giant dog testicles cannot be ignored. It is not enjoyable.

4. This means that there are a bunch of testosterone crazy males runnin about and things can get a little weird. The other day I had to walk past two male dogs humping on the sidewalk, and I don’t mean the kind of humping to show that one is more dominant than the other. This was different.

5. And so when a female in heat is present there are about 49 males around her going nuts.

6. More aggressive males, more likely attacks.

Which brings me to my story.

I was at my friend Lauren’s site for the night with another friend Julia. Lauren inherited a sweet little girl dog named Luna from the volunteer she followed up. She’s a medium sized dog, golden in color, a little overweight and cute half pointy half floppy ears. That night we watched a movie and hung out, Luna enjoying all the company. The next day it was cloudy, grey and cold and we weren’t sure where the bus would be coming since it was Sunday so we decided to play it safe and walk a little ways down the dirt road to a spot it was sure to go by. Luna was so psyched to go out with us, all we had to say was jaha Luna! (let’s go) and she was jumping all around and spinning in circles.

As we set off we weren’t sure if she should be walking with us because of other dogs, we tried to make her go back but she wanted to come and kept following. Mostly, the other dogs just ran up to her and greeted her, body language alert and curious, sometimes playful. The farther away we got though, the less dogs she knew. As we neared the bus spot we came across this one house that had a chain fence around it, and thank goodness to because inside were three very big German Sheppard males barking at us and very angry. Luna stayed on the other side of the road not wanting to get near. The next house had a smaller dog who started barking but was not in a fence, he started to run over and stopped a little in front of us. Suddenly, from an open part of the gate, came the three Sheppards at top speed. Oh @#$%. The first one got there, body language dominant but not overly aggressive and started to sniff Luna, but a second after that began the smaller dog, having become brave with his 3 bigger pals there, attacked.

After that it was four against one. They all went after our poor girl at once. She cowered, trying to be as non threatening as possible but they wanted to kill. I just rememnber seeing her on her back as they pulled at her skin. We were in shock! We obviously were not about to jump into that and couldn’t find any rocks near us to throw at them. After what seemed like a minute but was probably 7 seconds, Julia yelled “Throw your shoe!” and began taker hers off. At that same time I saw a branch with lots of twigs on it, almost like a broom. Julia threw her shoe as I brandished the branch around my head and threw it. This got their attention and they ran off.

Fortunately Luna was more shocked than anything, the worst of her injuries being a bite on her hip which wasn’t bleeding to bad but made her limp. Poor girl was saved by her fat and loose skin, which was all they were really getting a hold of..and us of course. The worst part of it all was that the people in the house didn’t do a thing. I saw one just sitting and looking out from the window and another come out and close the gate after we all passed. It made us pretty infuriated at the time. After that any dog that came up to us we acted as bodyguards throwing rocks and making the noises that makes dogs go away (yes there are noises here dedicated to that purpose, one is a kissy noise and the other is one of the most ugly noises we can make with our vocal cords. If I accidently make it to your dog when I come back to the states I apologize now!)
I’m happy to report that Luna is doing fine now. They brought her back home and gave her a bath and disinfected the wound. She spent the rest of the day sleeping.

Dogs don’t just attack other dogs, these guard dogs are known to attack people walking by, especially when it gets darker out. To fend them off you make the appropriate noises and throw rocks.

This is what life is like, and it makes me wonder at point does a society make the switch from dog as neglected house protector to dog as much more. I write this more about dogs because, well there isn’t a problem really with cats running out into the streets and attacking (unless rabid of course, but I have yet to see that) or barking or night, and you can’t really see their testicles. Also, here it’s more common to have dogs than cats, I’m still baffled by the amount of women I’ve seen shying away from kittens (how is that possible?) and when a cat does have kittens they are usually killed by dogs anyway. Sad but true. I got my kitten because she was a female and no one wanted her, also there was no way I wanted a dog. The cats stay inside and on the patio, the dog would have to go out on the street where all the other dogs roam free, ready to defend their territory. Oh the stress!

But let me leave you with a happier story! Last night my friends Dan, Emm and Thomas slept over for Dan’s birthday. I was in my room, Tom was on the bed in the living room and Dan and Emm were on a big mattress on the floor. The next morning I go out to the living room and sit on the end of the bed. I look down and see this weird black figure on the floor. As I got a closer look I realized it was the carcass of a tarantula, its legs strewn about beside it, and looked to be headin in the direction of Tom’s bed! One of my cats had killed it during the night and thus saved Tom, Dan or Emm the hiivie jeevies from waking up because a tarantula was slowly crawling up their body. Way to go kitties! And yes, they will both be getting spayed…as soon as I can find a vet who doesn’t just work with cows.

here's a pic of the dead tarantula going for the bed and the mighty huntress

So as I finished this blog everyone sleeping in my house woke up so we could get into Asuncion. As we were getting ready the dogs were still barking, so much so that it made us wonder. Finally Tom looked out the window and there were about 10 male dogs surrounding this poor female in heat, all of them try to get at her. The poor dog’s neck was all bloody from all the males grabbing her by it and she was just trying to get away. Then my two neighbor dogs who live together, one German Sheppard one some pointer mix, were GOING AT IT. They were going to kiiilll each other! They are the same size but the pointer is much younger than the Sheppard (named Oso) Oso was bleeding by the ear and they just kept snarling tearing and blood was everywhere, it was aweful. Of course no one else came out of their house so we ran out and were beating the pointer with a huge plastic tube we put poster paper in, throwing bricks at him point blank. Nothing. He would not stop tearing up Oso, but Oso wasn’t’ leaving either.
A person finally came out of the house that Oso and the pointer belong to and tried hitting them with a stick. Then another neighbor came out and took off his belt and whipped them, that finally made them stop. It’s aweful. Please spay and neuter your animals.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

CHIPAAA, CHIPA RICA CHIIIPAAA what you normally hear coming from the mouths of the chipa sellers on the bus or the street. Chipa is very famous here in PY; as a mid day snack (marienda), or in the morning with some codico or mate. Sometimes it takes the form of a yellow bagel, a mini loaf of bread or, in the event that I’m making it, stars and smiley faces. Now I don’t make it often, in fact I’ve only made it once, and that was this past Wednesday the 31st of March or chipa day. The 31st of march is the day that all of Paraguay is making chipa. Now why would everyone be slaving over a hot tatakua when you can just go out to the street and find someone selling it? Because it’s tradition. It’s like us coloring eggs, it’s done every year for Semana Santa (Easter). The reason is that Friday, the 2nd, no one eats meat, so there must be chipa around to sustain and nourish the body for this day.
I, of course, wanted to get in on the activity of some imposter bagel makin, so I headed across the street to the neighbors house to check things out, laugh, get laughed at and share some semana santa traditions… specifically, chipa making.

We started in the kitchen…like ya do, first my neighbor Maria started with mixin of the chipa mix.

Ingredients: mandioca or some other sort of starch
Butter or fat (Some make chipa w pig fat, you can because when you bite it it squeaks)
Queso Paraguay (PY has it’s very own cheese… they love it and are v proud of it, I have yet to Share their enthusiasm)

Mix and mash and fold it all together until a Paraguayan tells you it feels right (to my untrained hands it felt the same the whole time, like playdough)

Mold it into a traditional bagel shape or mini loaf of bread or if you invite a
Norte (me) over they might make untraditional shapes like hearts and fish.

Next have some lunch

Then a siesta

Then heat up the tatakua (brick oven) by starting a fire in it and letting it get
really hot, while it’s getting hot have some terere and make a broom out of a
long branch and leaves

when the tatakua feels like bowels of hell, spread it about so it’s just hot
coals and sweep them out the side of the tatakua with the long tree broom

Then put in the trays of chipa into the hot tatakua and cover the entrance so they can cook.

Apparently you just know when they done

Next take them out, let them cool, eat some, give some to other people and
and save the rest for fri (the day of no meat, except fish, and chicken, all the meat is eaten thrusday night for the last supper)!!

It’s a very nice tradition involving many family members, also neighbors come as well because some don’t have their own tatakua

Easter Sunday isn´t that big of a deal here as it is up there, i think. It´s called pasqua and everyone is just supposed to be happy that jesus came back from the dead. zombie jesus. and today you are also allowed to hit ppl your age and younger since during the other days of semana santa you couldn´t. So you can get it all out of your system today. Praise the Lord!