“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” -Sam Keen

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A little over a month in site

Greetings cyberspace.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in San Pedro for over a month. May has definitely been a month of high and low points, but I think I’m finally getting into the swing of things. Besides my renovations, I’ve been keeping myself busy by visiting a couple of local elementary schools and hanging out with the teachers. It’s disheartening just how broken the system is; there have been days I haven’t wanted to leave my bedroom and enter the schools. I’ll dedicate another post to some of the specific problems my community faces education-wise, but for now I’ll try and focus on the positive. The teachers are happy I’m here. They want me to work with them. And for the most part, they genuinely want to help their students. That’s what I keep telling myself when I get up in the morning. I’m actually really lucky that people are interested in my project--the trick is not to let myself get too overwhelmed.

Here are some of this month’s highlights:

Completion of my Renovations

I know I’ve discussed this in earlier posts, but it’s really improved my quality of life.

Translucent Lizards

Apparently they’re really poisonous and I shouldn’t touch them. I saw one of them in my room on my very first night in site and had no idea they were dangerous. Good thing I’m not very curious when it comes to reptiles. (Note: they really are see-through, like that weird kind of tropical fish my brother used to have.)

Thinking I was Going to Starve

Peace Corps gives volunteers a smallish moving in allowance when we first get to site. I received mine on swearing-in weekend (April 19-21) and used almost all of it to fix up my rooms. By the middle of this month, money was running VERY tight, to the point that I thought I would run out completely. I tried to take money out of my personal account, but to no avail. Luckily, when I went to the bank, I was happily surprised to find that I had gotten payed at the beginning of May and had more than enough money to eat.

Paraguay’s Bicentennial

On Saturday, May 14, Paraguay celebrated its bicentennial. In reality, the country has been celebrating for the entire year, but May 14 is the official day. Back in 1811, Paraguay decided it didn’t want to be a colony anymore and Spain didn’t fight them. Not a shot was fired. I celebrated by waking up early and marching in a parade with one of my elementary schools. It took three hours to walk three blocks. There was lots of red, white, and blue.

Site Presentation

On May 19 (my one-month anniversary in site), my two bosses came to San Pedro and presented me to a roomful of teachers, kids, and parents. All of the adults had seats, but the children’s chorus had to stand in the back and try not to talk. I was in awe of how well they behaved, considering the boringness of the proceedings. Paraguayans have a special place in their hearts for pomp and cicumstance, and my site presentation was no different. One always begins with the himno nacional, then a series of too-long speeches (I tried to keep mine short), and ends with an artistic number (in my case, the children sang a patriotic song.) All in all, it went very well, and as an added bonus, I was able to hitch a ride back to Asuncion in a Peace Corps van instead of taking a bus.

Trip to Asuncion

A much needed break. My favorite part of this past weekend was going to the chuchi supermarkets that carry American products. Best finds: Jif peanut butter and ICB root beer.

Still to Come

My birthday :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mel and Me

I think if I were to have a half Paraguayan baby, he or she would look something like my little host sister, Mel. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Host family and living situation

Greetings cyberspace!

The renovations on my rooms are officially finished, which means that I now have time to start working in the schools. But before I start talking about my project, I’d like to introduce you all to my new host family, the Ibañezes. In direct contrast to my Guarambaré family, I now live in a family of women (but, notably, the bathroom is equally disgusting.) There’s Ña Hilda, the profoundly corpulent and lovable matriarch; Carmen, a 35-year-old teacher, single mother of four, and my community contact; Angie, a sweet, long-legged 14-year-old; Gianella, a very intelligent and hard-working 3rd grader; and Mel Irene, an almost two-year-old who is very naughty and cute and reminds me of me (Carmen also has a teenaged son named Jorge, but he lives with his aunt in the campaña.) The abuela generates a bit of income by running a pension familiar, or family boardinghouse. That basically means that I’m not the only tenant. A nineteen-year-old law student named Juanita lives in a room connected to mine through an inside window, and three or four people live in a different building behind the house. I see Juana regularly and we exchange awkward pleasantries, but I almost never interact with the guys who live behind the house proper. I think they work during the day and study at night, so their rooms are only for sleeping. The other tenants have a strictly business relationship with the señora, but I’m more or less treated like a long-term guest. I eat with the family, play with the baby, watch TV, and use their internet. They know that I don’t have gente in San Pedro, so they do their best to keep me company and make sure I’m doing okay.

Right now, I’m renting two rooms from them, but only living in the one because I don’t have stuff to put in my kitchen yet. Everyone in the family has been extremely kind and accommodating, which has been a blessing these past couple weeks. I’ve heard stories from other volunteers about how their host families don’t give them enough personal breathing room--entering without knocking, not taking the hint, etc.--but I haven’t had any sort of issue in that respect. And, not surprisingly, Ña Hilda is super proud of my rooms because of the new flooring and paint. I see this as a true win-win: a get to live with a great host family without paying rent for five months, and they get a much cleaner, prettier, and safer section of the house once I move out.

...I’m getting really tired, so I’m going to postpone writing about my job until next time.

Jajotopata, nos vemos, or until we meet again,


P.S. Ña is a term of respect used in PY that comes from the word Doña. It’s not my landlady’s first name.