Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dia del Agua

OMG. I´ve typed it out twice now and both times it´s been erased! Blogger, why didn´t you save it in the drafts!¿? Peace Corps office internet, why do you just stop working?!¿...

3 times the charm, this time I’m writing this on my laptop with my pendrive.

Monday March 22nd is Dia Mundial de Agua or World Water Day. This is not a day to reenact the movie Water World with Kevin Cossner but instead a day to recognize one of the most important elements known to man, water. What I used to teach to the students for survival class when I worked at Fairview Lake YMCA was the rule of 3’s. On average a person can live 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food (and it takes 3 hours to build a good shelter, so, think about that for the next time your lost in the woods).
So, only three days to live without water.. I’d say that it’s more important than gold! Our planet has a lot of water on it but only 3% of it is freshwater in rivers and lakes and aquifers underground. That’s not a lot for a planet with more than 6 billion people on it and unequal water distribution. And unfortunately, like the masochists we are, we’re doing a good job of contaminating what little freshwater we have! We’re using it and contaminating it faster than it can be purified and replenished by the water cycle. When the rain falls from the sky (after being evaporated up there of course) it gets purified by passing through swamps and tree roots that help decompose those toxins we put in the water and air; but with us chopping down our trees and filling in our swamps our water stays contaminated.
Agriculture, I feel, has the biggest effect on our water. Huge amounts of pesticides get washed into our streams by rain, animal waste products from factory farms get dumped into our rivers not to mention that the production of one pound of beef uses 2500 gallons of water. There is much this world can do to not waste so much precious water, and that’s what dia del agua is about, raising awareness about water. Please hold while I get off my soap box.
So what did I do for DDA? I went to the schools of course! I had planned a 3 day event with the vice director with the 4th 5th and 6th graders, morning and afternoon session (Paraguayans only go to school for half the day, so there are 2 different sessions each day. So everything I did I had to do it twice). The first day I planned a charla (lecture) about water, where it comes from, what we’re doing to it and how we can help cuidar (care for) it. I stayed up until 2 am the night before getting it ready, making a lindo (pretty) charla paper, getting ready my demonstrations and writing out a script I could look at. The morning of my charla I got up at 5:30am, was at the school by 7 and was told by the vice directora that instead of doing it with the 4th 5th and 6th graders I’ll just do it for the whole school (k-6) right after announcements. In the morning the whole school lines up in front of the flag pole, so after announcements she had them all sit down where they were and I had my audience, about 200 kids. At this point I had realized I’d forgotten my script at home and realized I had to wing it, and so I did. It went really well, my first charla in the school! The students and teachers alike loved the demonstrations (one involved my pouring a glass of water and putting something in it like dirt or soy sauce pretending to be oil and asking if they wanted to drink it, they especially loved when I put the cow poo in it). I did the same charla for the afternoon group as well.
The next day was games and activities. I had three different games and split the kids up into three groups so they could go to one station and switch to the next when it was over. The teachers helped me with that which was awesome. The last day (Monday the 22nd DDA) the directora had a 15 minute movie that we decided to show the kids. Since there were a lot of them we had to split them up into groups and they came to this other building where we had a projector set up. I hadn’t seen the movie before but after the first time I thought ..oh no.. It was so boring!!! Not meant for 4th – 6th graders!! I had to watch it 7 different times too. This prompted me to ask the library at the PC office if we had movies to rent out, educational ones that would hold kids attention. We don’t. PC doesn’t buy them so they would only be there upon donation. I’ll have to get that planet earth series in Spanish or something next time.
So it was kinda exhausting doing everthing twice (and I’m doing it again with another school, only one days worth of stuff though) but it felt good to finally start doing something. The next project the school wants is to start a garden. Many schools here in PY have gardens to meet the requirement for the trabajo and technologia class (work and technology). I haven’t gotten to do anything with it yet though since it’s been semana santa (Easter) and we’ve had a five day vacation (wed-fri no school).

Whew I did it! 3 times the charm!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


So i´m swingin in my hammock in my patio, enjoying the tranquilidad, when my across the street neighbor aka my landlady starts to wander out from behind her gate toward my house. uh oh. she doesn´t usually leave her house...

so i say hello and make my usualy comment on the weather (haku! siii hakueterei.) Then she mumbles something about coming to look at the suciedad (dirtyness) in the street. This isn´t the first time she´s commented on the garbage in the street.

The first time I was by her gate getting another garbage bag (rice sack)when she said "look at all the garbage in the street". I looked. I looked a little harder. I saw nothing. Perplexed I went back to my house when I remembered "oh right, leaves are considered garbage here". I went back out and looked at the street in front of my house and realized through here eyes there was a toon of garbage!! Leaves everywhere! So I raked them to the sides of my house and onto these other leaf piles thinking about organic materials and biodegrading and science and let it be.

So back to my tranquilo hammock swinging...she comes out and comments on the dirtyness again!! This time i knew she meant the pile of leaves next to the house, a little later i hear someone outside raking and I knew what would come next... bonfire! I went inside.
This morning when i went out of my house there were two charred marks, one on either side of my house, of burnt leaves. no biodegrading allowed here! It´s interesting because they will leave a field, or street, full of plastic bags and bottles and wrappers..but if there are any loose leaves about..SUCIEDAD!! It´s like a trigger goes off in their heads: leaves leaves! garbage! must rake! must burn! burn burn!!
At Lauren´s site her host mom told her that they have to get up really early to sweep the leaves since they live on the road, people will drive by in the morning and look at their yard and talk about them if it´s full of "garbage".

this is silly, lets all compost these leaves! but what would they think of that, a giant pile of leaves just ready for the burning! And I think "Is it posible to change someones mentality about biodegradable "garbage"?" i sure hope so...
anyway, i gotta get home and sweep up the garbage my mango tree produces! What will the neighbors think!

Site Presentation

I have now been formally presented to my site! Now I can work (as the vice director at my one school said). My school really helped me out in organising it, they created a list of who to invite and even wrote and printed AND delivered the invataions! I had it in the morning at 8:30 and almost everyone was on time (except for my APCD -the person in charge of the enironmental sectore-and her helper). But everyone waited patiently and when she arrived we did a little icebreaker and comenced with the presenting.
Teachers from a couple different schools were there as well as a lady from the municipalidad and the library. Eli (my APCD) said she wanted EE to work more with the community and not just the school, she also talked about ideas we could do and just baisically what peace corps is. Afterwards we had some soda and cookies I provided so people could chat. Lauren from a site close to me came to my presentation for support, and I would do the same for her. But first we all went to my house to drop off my bike (!) and my bags from long term storage, yes, more stuff. Where does it all come from? Good thing i have a big house...
then we had some pizza for lunch (paid for by Peace Corps thanks) and went to Lauren´s site.
Her presentation was a big different from mine since she lives out in the campo and the community is much much smaller. She had about 25 people show up and Eli went through the presentation and then the community members had a nice little semi heated discussion about the volunteer before Lauren. One woman said he should have worked more with the community not just the school and everyone else defended him and said he did many things outside the school(he was well liked). She baisically said that he should have went door to door asking what people wanted while another person said no, we had invited him, we should have went to him if we needed help. That´s good thinking and I´m glad they think that way, should be helpful for Lauren. It was a good community discussion though that prob wouldnt have happened otherwise.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Plastic Bags in Paraguay…A love story

I must write about something that I deal with daily, Paraguayans and their love of plastic bags. The more plastic bags you can put around individual things, the better! Every time I go to the supermarket down the road I have a tiny battle, sometimes I win and sometimes I come home with 8 more plastic bags. Today for example, Emm and I went to buy some tomatoes, lettuce, bread, bananas, yogurt and a pineapple and today was a day I lost because I forgot to bring some of the 600 clear plastic bags I have at the house with me. To buy fruit here you have to put each kind in a clear plastic bag, bring it to get weighed and a price sticker goes on it. Apples in a bag, bread in a bag, lettuce in a bag, bananas in a bag, pineapple in a bag..even the yogurt comes in a plastic bag. Then when we get up to the counter we have to battle again. I tell them no, I don’t need a bag I’ll put it in here (my canvas one) they just look at me while they continue to put my stuff in a plastic bag. Sometimes I try to beat the bag guy to it and throw everything in my canvas, other times I just give in. They are getting better, the one cashier knows I don’t want it and will tell the bag guy, she’s a ally in this battle. Others, they just can’t understand why this crazy Norte wouldn’t want lots of plastic bags. Guess what’s going to be included in my trash lessons…..


The schools have started. I’ve been in my house for a month. I still am figuring out what my role will be here. Being a third time follow up volunteer has its advantages and disadvantages. Pretty much we come in three’s, if the first volunteer thinks there is more to do in the site then a follow up is requested, if the second volunteer still has projects going on and thinks more work can be done then a third time volunteer can be requested. Usually it’s only up to three that they will send to one site in one sector, so I’m the 3rd EE volunteer in Carapegua in a row. Unfortunately, I never got to meet the volunteer before me since he left a couple months earlier than normal, but he did leave me a bunch of projects I can continue. This is a perk of being a third time volunteer, having projects right off the bat, also inheriting lots of stuff (i.e. my house and everything in it!) It’s pretty difficult for some people to find houses so I’m lucky. Plus the community already knows what Peace Corps is. What I’m finding as more difficult at the moment jumping into these projects the other volunteer left. People lack motivation or someone has moved jobs and no longer wants to have anything to do with a project they headed before. So, for now, I’m going to start in the schools and branch off from there. Being a third time volunteer, my job technically is to assist the people in continuing EE practices we’ve been showing them but taking a step back to make sure they can do it themselves and it will be sustainable after I go, since I’ll (supposedly) be the last EE volunteer here in the centro for who knows how long.
Last week I went to two schools and handed out little survey papers to find out who wanted to learn from me and work with me in their classrooms. I told them to bring them back to the director’s office when they were finished and I would collect them at the end of the week. When I got there Thursday only one person had handed it in and the directora told me to go around to each classroom and ask for them. People said they lost it or would have it later but I was able to collect 2 more. The directora said this was typical; it’s just the way people are here. Well three is better than nothing. Tomorrow I’ll go to the other school to see what they’ve got for me.
New house news though… I got myself a kitty. Actually 3 but 2 will be moving out soon. The Peace Corps Office in Asuncion had a cat living there and apparently PC offices can’t have pets. She was technically not a pet since she decided to move in there on her own terms and comes and goes as she pleases, but someone found out and said she had to go… so I took her. She’s adjusting now pretty well except for the two 1 month old kittens I brought home yesterday. She hates them and hisses and growls at them, not very motherly of her since she just had her own kitten a month ago (don’t know what happened to it, yes I will be getting her spayed). My friend Emily is staying at my site with me for the moment because her site is being moved and so she’s waiting for it to be ready (idk maybe it has to bake longer). We were walking in the market and came across the two kittens abandoned and hungry so I took them home betting that I could find someone to take them. Eve (what I named the PC cat, short for All Hallows Eve because she looks like Halloween) has made it clear she does not want them here but I have found a taker for the 2 cuties with the leopard print bellies.
So in a matter of 3 days I went from no responsibility volunteer to crazy cat lady collecting sand off the street with a yogurt container. I have always wanted a cat though and now I’ve got the opportunity, many of them. The other day on our walk the cutest little white puppy with silly big pointy ears and very cute eyes bounded over to Emm and I. She was so friendly and happy to see us, then the woman across the street said the dreaded phrase “ella no tiene dueƱa, puedes lluevarle” meaning “she’s got no one and lives on the street, take her”. OOOooooo. I don’t want to deal with a dog here and Emm doesn’t have a site yet so we had to walk away, but she did think about it (and still does). If I had a 5,000 Guarani every time I’ve been told to take a puppy or kitten ….

Watched the movie 2012 the other night…It was so awful but we still finished it, those long PY nights..