Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Inquiring minds want to know: here's a preemptive list to questions you might have

What is the food like?

Let me start by saying, nearly every dish in Paraguay is centered on yucca/ Maneyoka (which I think is a Cassava). My host family eats a lot of meat and soup, as well as, many traditional Latin American dishes. So far, I’m enjoying myself.

The day starts with a small breakfast around 7:00 am, followed by a huge lunch during siesta time at 12:00pm, and the day ends with a medium-sized dinner at 8:00pm. Also, every hour throughout the day I have some type of hard bread and a hot liquid, i.e.: tea, coffee, or mate (don’t forget, it’s winter down here).

What do I do every day?

My days here are pretty structured:

Monday through Saturday I have training.

6:45: wake up. Walk to the bathroom, flip up the hot water tank and take a shower.
7:30-7:45 have breakfast in my room and rush out the door.
7:46: walk to school with another Peace Corps volunteer, Julie (she’s my neighbor)8:00-11:30: I have Spanish-language training.
11:30-1:00: siesta time, I go home for huge lunch with host my family
1:00-5:00: technical training
After five: TIEMPO LIBRE

San Juan Day

I'm not sure where to start with this story, so, I'll just start here. Yesterday, was the biggest day of the San Juan celebration in Paraguay (June 23rd 2008). I think the holiday is a month-long celebration, to celebrate the saint of fire in Paraguay. As the sun went down yesterday the match hit the gasoline and the rage was on. For about three hours every male in the barrio, got to live out their 10-year-old fantasy and kick a flaming ball of fire around the street. Of course all I had to see was the flaming ball of fire, to know I was in.

One by one flaming balls of fire were thrown into the crowd. As one ball died out another was tossed into the crowd. At one point there were about three or four balls being kicked around. It was awesome!Of course in accordance with Murphy's Law, the people who attempted to avoid the fireballs the most had the most dramatic contact with it. One of the other PCV’s (Julie my neighbor), was hiding in a corner to avoid the obvious chaos of the festival, when a ball of fire was kicked at her. Naturally, it landed on her shoulder burning her jacket and ultimately leaving a good-sized scar on her hand.

During the festival, all the Peace Corps volunteers received a big welcome to the barrio by all the neighborhood kids. At one point there about 20, 5-10 year-old boys shouting at me in Guarani (of which I cannot speak one word). As soon as they realize I could not speak Guarani the s-it hit the fan; they pointed at me for a good 20 minutes, and when they were not pointing and laughing, they shared with me their wide knowledge of American cuss words. It was the best San Juan Day ever!

An open invitation to anyone who wants to visit me in Paraguay

So far I think Paraguay is an amazing country. Everything is pretty cheap and there are a lot of natural and cultural events that take place all the time. The best thing about Paraguay is that it's in the heart of South America. So, it's relatively easy to visit neighboring countries. Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina all border Paraguay.

The top three things I want to do while in South America is go to at least one Carnival, hike the Inca Trail, and backpack down Argentina. If any of these things interest you, you know where to find me. I can start taking vacations about five months from now (July 1st 2008).
Hanging out with other volunteers after training
The back of my host family's house

Yes… I crossed this bridge

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I feel like a house cat.

So, tomorrow will mark my first full week in Paraguay (june 5th 2008) I am in a costant state of information management. Every second i’m hit with new sounds, ideas, notions and thoughts. Its kind stressful but I love it.
Today, I sat around the house while my host sister Delia, she practiced her singing. She is a professional singer… I think, SOME parts of oure conversations gets lost in translation. But she is amazing. My host mom is around 75 years old. She owns a store right next to the Peace Corps training headquarters. Usually once a day I bring other volunteers there, and they end up buying something. I joke that I get commission in hard bread.

So I had my first near-death experience (“MNGO” Mommy i don’t think you should read this next Part).

My host brother asked me if I wanted to go deliver some bricks. And thinking it would be vital to my community intergration I said yes and i had nothing better to do. So, we hopped in his truck (Truck= 1975 Ford Pick-Up with no seatbelts) and drove down barrio. On the way back, THE breaks in the truck got stuck. He had to swerve of the road and onto a side street. Then he saw children at the end of THE SIDE street. So, he quickly TURNED UP a hill to slow the motion of the car. Whilst this was going on and my other host brother was getting bounced around the open back of the truck. As the car rolled to an end, my host brother mottrered his first words in English to me “oh Shit”

(8:00pm on June 7th 2008) I realize all I eat in Paraguay is Hard Bread and tea.

My host sisiter and I had a conversation about race today (June 7th 2008). She told me that some Paraguayans might be shocked when they meet me beacuase there are not a lot of blacks in the country. I told her IF I can survie rural korea, I can make in parguay.

And were off:

May, 29th 2008

Never in my life have I been placed in such an ambiguous situation. The last three days have been an emotional ride, filled with changing people, places, and events. Three days ago, I arrived off a plane in Miami, and was taken to one last farewell dinner by my friend Rita. Later that night I was droped off at the Westin Hotel Miami, and so would start my Peace Corps experience.

The next day, I nervously walk into a room filled with my fellow Peace Corps volunteers. We'll mirrored the same nervous and anxious feelings. Over the next couple of days, we began to bond with each other and begin what some call the “beginning lifelong friendship”

Two days later, ( May 30th 2007) I arrived in Paraguay. Every 1st few minutes within the country was filled with confusion and anticipation. This was to be my first time in Latin America. I found the country to be very similar to Nigeria except there were less people and much less trash on the road. From the ride to the airport to my home community, I began to expericnece Spanish becoming the dominant language of my life. Although, I was kind of scared, I look forward to one day mastering the language and thriving in the country. One of my first reactions to Paraguay was how cold the country was. This was to be one of the many misunderstandings I would have to come during my first days in Paraguay. It was freezing…. yo tengo mas frio.

Over the next COUPLE OF hours our group would come to learn vital information about our stay in Paraguay. Then as abruptly as we arrived in the country we were separated. We were told that our host families would be coming to pick us up and take us to their homes to spend our first night. My stomach dropped… I don't think I've ever felt more awkward and nervous in my entire life. To keep our experience authentic and personal are Peace Corps trainners gave us no real insights into what life would be like with our new families. With absolutely no warning we were lined up, and matched with our perspective families. It was kind of like the feeling of being matched up on a dating show and being picked one-by-one for a schoolyard game, all in one.

As I embrace the members of my host family, so many thoughts filled my head. I thought, “well this is great, my Spanish is terrible, my Guarani is nonexistent, and I have almost no idea about Paraguay and its culture, WHAT am I going to do with these people and”. But I did have one bright thought. About half of our volunteers were told that they would be taken out to a far distant rural community. I thought how lucky I was to be not one of them.

Over the past several months leading to the start of my Peace Corps expirence, I was told about the strenuous conditions I would have to live in. As I pulled into a massive house I thought thank you. As I'm writing now, I'm lying down on a double sized bed. I have my own private room with constant electricity, and a modern bathroom down the hallway. Now I’m not living in the lap of luxury…. but by no means am I even close to suffering….(sidenote) On girl that lives in a rural community has to take buckets baths outside in 40 degree weather.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Hola, everyone. As you all know by now, I'm heading to Paraguay in a couple of days. I setting up this page to help everyone stay connected with what I’m up to in the months to come. I know my time in Paraguay is going to be a mind blowing experience. And it is my hope to share the experience with people in the states while I'm gone. So here we go, let it begin.