Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Karla (slide show)

This here is a slide show of various pictures of the party and also other pictures that I think you will like. Happy Birthday. I love you.

Happy Birthday Karla ( The Movie)

Because I couldn´t be at home to celbrate your birthday, I decided to celebrate your birthday here. I invited my families and friends to your birthday party and celbrated. We had cake, pizza, ice cream and champagne. I hope you enjoy your video. Happy Birthday. I love you.

Karla como no pude estar ahi, por tu cumpleanos, invite a mi familia y mis amigos y te festejamos en casa. Comimos muy rico y celebramos tu cumpleanos. Feliz Cumpleanos. Te amo.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My House #2

Continuation of the previous video
En continuacion del video previo

My House #1

This is the house where I am currently living. Im in the process of acquiring the things I still needs, so please excuse the mess!

Aqui esta la casa donde vivo ahora y vivire los proximos dos anos. Como estoy en el proceso de conseguir las cosas basicas mi casa es un poquito desordenanda. Disculpame!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

(Chuchi in Villa Florida)Visiting Jesus# 2

A continuation of the previous video.

(Chuchi in Villa Florida)Visiting Jesus #1

I've mentioned to you that the way peace corps volunteers live runs the gamut. I recently went to a rural volunteers house and saw that he was living in a house that had about 5 holes in the roof, the floor was completely dirt, the bathroom was a hole in the ground outside and the place was full of rats and roaches. While this may sound really bad there are places that are worse. In the case of the that I visited, he was happy to be moving to this new place because his previous one was that bad. Seeing how most of my group is Municipal Volunteers, many of us live pretty "upscale" compared to all other volunteers. In this video you will see one of my good Jesus's house. Take a peek.

Cemetery on Day of the Dead in Paraguay.AVI

This is a celebration of the Day of the Dead. People go to the cemetary and visit their ancestors. The kids like it because they get lots of candy. Supposedly the candy that the eat is given to them by their deceased ancestor.

*OJO* SORRY FOR THE CHEST SHOT...THIS WAS DONE BY ACCIDENT, I GREETED HER AND POINTED MY CAMERA DOWN!!

Making Huevos Rancheros.AVI

Here I am at Jesus's House in Villa Florida. We are making Huevos Rancheros. I miss Karla's mexican eggs so I did my best to make some at my friends house. They didn't turn out as well though. If you look closely you'll see that we are really infusing some culture in this video. Jesus is making some Batidas (blended fruit drink popular in the Carribean) since he's from Puerto Rico, we are listening to Salsa music and we are about to eat Huevos Rancheros (mexican style eggs) and we are both in Paraguay. INteresting huh.

Graduation Speech.

Those of you who have been following my blog will remember my posting about our graduation—that is our graduation from Peace Corps trainees to Peace Corps Volunteers. Well this event (held at the Embassy) was a great of event. Since formally becoming a Peace Corps volunteer I have been thinking of a way to try and describe how I felt at that moment, how it feels to be a Peace Corps volunteer and how my feelings change on a daily bases. Well, a fellow volunteer (Paulette, who also graduated with us) wrote a speech and presented at the graduation. I thought Paulette did superb job with her speech. Here I would like to post it here. Read along and I believe her words will give you a small bit of insight to my feelings when beginning and during my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer.


 

Training Graduation Speech:


 

(References - *Jason is a mystery guy who was supposed to come but just never showed up. *Also, our director gave us this speech where he said we should think about the movies we had in our head about our service and be our own protagonist.)


 

To my fellow G-27ers,

Do you ever wonder where Jason is, our mystery 19th volunteer. I wonder if he's working some 9 to 5 somewhere, thinking about that time he almost joined the Peace Corps. We'll never know what actually happened to him, but I wonder if he just wussed out? I wonder if he packed his bags, said his goodbyes. I wonder if he went to the airport. I wonder -- At what point did he turn back?

I almost backed out a million times. I laid in bed, obsessing, needing to know exactly what my life would be like. I made lists of pros and cons, thinking I could quantify the decision. I sought advice from everyone. I even asked my four-year-old nephew if I should join the Peace Corps, and he said, "Sure."

But I still couldn't decide. Then one day I realized, I was afraid to fail. That's when I decided I at least had to try.

There were still plenty of moments of doubt. But, like you, and unlike so many other people, I got through every one of them. I think that's the biggest thing we should really be celebrating today.

Yay for us, that we'll never have to be the people who say, "Peace Corps, huh? I always wanted to do that."

Let's celebrate that we are not of the people who maybe sent out for the packet, but never filled it out. Maybe they filled it out but never found the guts to mail it.

Let's celebrate that we are not of the class of people who have been duped by advertisers into thinking that they should be spending their youths trying to look more youthful, spending thier money to be thinner, using their time to get more things.

Yay for us that we didn't listen to those who said you're going to work your job and go home to your couch and watch your tv and eat your fast food. This is how things are done around here.

We heard another voice, just a whisper, that brought us here. And we did all that paperwork and dismantled our lives and got on the plane.

And we had that movie in our head, the one that Michael Eschleman told us about.

But then we got to our sites, and, for some of us, it felt like we walked into the wrong theater. The set was all wrong. The cast was not following our script. We brought all the wrong props. And we're back to being scared.

This is because we mistook ourselves for the screenwriters. We are just the characters. And the characters never get to choose their challenges, only how they will act in the face of those challenges.

Maybe you saw yourself being Campo Cowboy, with bragging rights that you walk 10 miles to your latrine, uphill both ways, but you ended up chuchi.

Or you were hoping for chuchi, and now will find yourself with a lot of time to think, while squatting, about just how long two years is going to be. And you're wondering again - Can I do this?

When that fear starts to creep in, try to find that voice, that whisper, that you listened to in the months before you stepped on the plane. It's a humble voice, that didn't bring you here for the sweet Facebook photos or the captivating blog material. It's something that tells us that there's more to life that what we've found in our own little fishbowl.

And if we stay to find out how our movie turns out, we'll leave with benefits too numerable to list, the least of which is being able to say, "Peace Corps, huh? I did that once."

“home”coming…

In the previous post I announced Re-connect. Basically this is a time for us to go back to our training center and do a "check-up" on how we are doing in our sites. This is a good opportunity for many reason, but most of all it gives us an opportunity to find out if our frustrations are shared by the rest of our counterparts or are individual frustrations. Anyway, this post has nothing to do with re-connect, but instead, with arriving "home".

The site of our training center is in a city called Guarambare. This is where we spent the first 3 months in Paraguay. For many of us coming back to this place is like a mini homecoming. We come back to what is familiar to us, families that have always treated us well, and more than anything, the town is accustomed to having Peace Corps volunteers in the town and don't seem to be too surprised when a foreigner is seen walking down the street. The only difference is that Paraguay is not accustomed to having black people walk down the streets. In most cases a black person is a Brazilian campesino (farmer) who is coming to take land. Well when I arrived last night (Wednesday) all of the good feelings about Guarambare went out the window. I am no longer known in the town of Guarambare. One would think that a tall black guy (Brazilian as far as they are concerned) who speaks weird Spanish who lived in a small town for 3 months would be easy to recognize—uhm, not exactly.

Wednesday night I arrived in Guarambare at about 9pm at night. As always the town was lively with people walking to and fro, the normal hustle in bustle in the plaza near the church. I arrived with Jesus who is also about my stature and same complexion (now we have 2 Brazilians walking down the street). When we got off the bus two blocks away from our house (the normal stop as usual) we proceeded to our houses via the normal route. The normal route takes us by the plaza, the church and the comisaria (police station). Lucky for me my family's house is located less than 10 meters from the church and about 30 meters from the police station. In other words this means that I was almost home. Once we arrived to my house I said goodbye to Jesus (as his house is one block further past mine) and approached the main door. To my surprise the door was locked. This is somewhat normal given the fact that I arrived semi-late and my the people in my family are not night owls. Nevertheless, I knew they were awake and had simply planned on waiting for them to hear the dog and come and see who was at the door (a total time frame that would normally take 1.5 minutes). Well as soon as I arrived and noticed the door was locked I heard someone behind me, I turned around to see 2 policemen. As soon as I saw them I became somewhat nervous. I begin thinking of the dictatorship that Paraguay lived under 35 years. These 2 policemen that I was looking at (and were looking at me) were the same police force that was used under the dictatorship to brutalize the people and force them into submission of the dictator, the same police force that tortured people….in other words the same policemen that were staring me down. Finally, I said hello to them ("Muy Buenas Noches!!). There was not response from the stoic policeman and he commenced to asking me questions—"De Donde venís? (Where are you coming from?) questioned the police officer. Me, not knowing how I should respond (I'm from the U.S., I from San Juan Bautista, I live here) stammered out a "huh", in English. Realizing that he didn't understand me and I hadn't comprehended what he said, he repeated the question "De donde venis?" This time I was ready, and I told him that I lived at this house "Vivo aqui." In disbelief he responded "VOS, vivís aquí?" (YOU, live here?) I assured him that I lived at this house and once he understood exactly what I was saying both policemen looked at each other as if to say, "does this guy think we are crazy? I know this family and he does NOT live here". At this moment my host mom opened the door and greeted the policeman. They asked her in disbelief if this guy lived at the house. She assured them that I did and told them that I was an American who lived here in Paraguay and visited them from time to time. The two policemen respectfully excused themselves and bade us good night.

After speaking with my host mom about the incident she told me that a week ago someone had been assaulted in at their home (this does not happen much in Guarambare at all) and the police were watching very closely everyone in town. For this when they saw me (an outsider) they became concerned. So, in my opinion the police did a good job. I think they are very vigilantly to protect their town citizens. I just wish they didn't have to do it in such a scary manner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reconnect

I have been in Paraguay now for almost 6 months and have been in my site of San Juan Bautista, Misiones for over 3 months now. At this stage of my time here we have what is called re-connect. Many of the individuals that I spent my training period with I have not seen since I left the American Embassy after swearing in. The training period is a time where very strong bonds between volunteers are made. After three months, reconnect is a time when we all go back to our training city and stay with our original host families. This is a time when we go back to our training center and discuss all that we have been doing over the last 3 months. This is usually scheduled at this time because most volunteers that terminate their service early do it within the first three months. The goal is to give the volunteers and opportunity to get all of their frustrations off their chests and discuss the difficulties of service so far.   Tomorrow I'll head back to good 'ole Guarambare to see how my fellow volunteers are doing. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I'll write soon!
 
 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Varios Pictures

Here you will find various pictures of kids of the different members of the family I lived with since arriving to San Juan Bautista.



From (l-R) Moises, Chucha, Maria Asuncion (China), and Miguelito (being held)


Maria Asuncion and Miguelito



Maria Asuncion (after stealing my Coca-Cola!)




Justina, eating stolen fruit and being stubborn





Moises in the corner, Justin eating fruit and Maria Asuncion finishing off my Coke that she stole from me.

Sick in Paraguay

Being sick in Paraguay is an interesting experience. I guess being sick is always an interesting experience, as one never knows what to expect or when he/she will begin to feel better.  All last week I was sicker than I have been in a very long time—the cultural differences, being in a semi-rural site and having a caring family made for a very interesting experience.

If you have been keeping up with my postings you will recall the posting titled " The King", in this posting I described how many of the people and families that I know have always treated me wonderfully—in fact they have always treated me like a king. Well, during the time I was sick I really wished that I was a peon—or at least I wished they would have treated me like one. On Monday of last week I awakened at 5am with every symptom you can imagine: My whole body ached like one feels with they are about to come down with the flu, I had a pretty high fever, my sinuses felt like they were about to explode, I had a massive stomach ache, I felt as I would pass out when I stood up and worst of all, I could not stop trembling.  To add to all of this, I had to get up every 30 minutes and run to the bathroom with reoccurring diarrhea. I crawled to my handy-dandy-super-duper Peace Corps health kit and begin taking some of the drugs found there. Noticing that I did not get up, the young girl from the store next door (owned by my family) came to check on me. Not being terribly concerned at first, she simply prepared some tea for me and left me to rest.  By about Noon I decided to try and get up and go to the bank. I made it to the bank and was strong enough to make it to the clerk. However, just before I was tended to by the clerk I felt an unbearable rumbling in my stomach and lightheaded and I left the bank running home. It was too hot and I couldn't make it. I stopped at a gas station and fearing using the restroom there, I purchased some bottled water and sat down at a table.  In no time I found myself asleep at the table.  An hour went by and I slowly pulled myself back together and made my way back home. Upon arrival I went straight back to bed.

By 8pm that night (not having left the bed or eaten anything…this last fact seemed to alarm my family) the young girl from the store became scared and called Dr.Miguel (a family member of mine here in Paraguay who is a bone and joint doctor—Don't ask me to remember what a bone doctor is called in English) who quickly came to see me. I was awakened when he removed  the blankets from over my head. I noticed that behind him and standing over me was Cirila (the girl from the store) Marite (my host mom that lives next door), Justina (a 10 yr old that lives with the owner of my house) and Juanho (Marite's grandson) who just wants to see what's going on.  Dr Miguel began poking  around on my stomach and back, took my temperature and promptly prescribed something, quickly sending Cirila to the "farmacia"  to purchase the drug. After coming back with the pain killers and detailed instructions on how to take them, I was eager for everyone to vacate the room so as to escape the reality of being sick by once again falling asleep. Little did I know, I was in for the worst.

Upon the Dr. Miguel's exit my symptoms took a turn for the worst. I began trembling uncontrollably and broke out into a very cold sweat. Don't ask me why but I assumed that, like many other bugs that one catches, all of this would pass by morning and I would be able to go back to work. Consequently, I didn't call the Peace Corps doctor in the capital.  In my vain attempt to fall asleep again, I was bombarded by text messages from each and every family member and relative asking about how I was feeling and if I was feeling better.  My initial notion was to turn off the phone. However, after rethinking this, I decided not to as my family may think that I had gone into a comatose stage or died and would have came running to my room. Needless to say I didn't rest the whole night.

When Tuesday morning finally arrived, along with it came an army of people (my family) to check on me and see if I was okay.  Cirila (who is studying to be a nurse) came in with recommendations of what to take, Karina (who studied medicine but never graduated) came with her suggestions, Marite (the senora who claims to have experience because she's older than the rest) came in with a glass of carrot juice, swearing that it would make me feel better, Dr. Miguel (the bone doctor) called with another prescription of what to take. Fatima (Cirila's best friend) shows up to "see what's going on" and Felitsa (Marite's empleada) comes into to chat with me. If you can imagine all of these people in my room all telling me what I should be taking, you can get a glimpse of the chaos. What made matters worse is that each one was arguing with one of the others about why the other was right about what to take and what to do.

If that wasn't enough, each time someone left my room and was gone for longer than 30min to an hour they would feel the need to text me or call me to see how I was feeling. If I didn't answer their phone call or text them back, I would get and good scolding when they came back to my room an hour later. To top everything off, my room became the place to hang out. Of course, the excuse is that everyone wanted to be "available" in case I "needed" anything. I found myself listening to chit-chat and local gossip as everyone carried on with their personal conversations in my room—the new lounge. This continued most of the day until about 8pm.

 When the last person left the room I was excited about trying to get some rest and managed to get a bit of rest until about 9:30pm that night, when I heard a knock (not a knock of request of entrance, but a knock of warning that someone was coming in.) at the door, and in came walking in Karina. Karina's sister, on her way to visit her mother, dropped Karina off to check on me. Knowing that I had not eaten at this point for 57 hours, she brought me 2 pears and more medicine that she suggested I take for my stomach. My guess is that Karina planned on staying for a few moments to check in on me and that was it. However, when Karina spoke with her sister at 10pm about her whereabouts she responded saying that she was watching a good movie with her mom and would be by to pick up Karina shortly. After enduring 2 and half hours of falling asleep and being woken up by a "Hey, Hey Marcos….." only to continue with whatever nonsense story she was telling me, Karina's sister finally arrived at about 12:30am and  I was able to get a bit of rest—as much as one can with the symptoms described above.

At 6:30am on Wednesday morning (still feeling horrible) I decided that I needed to go into the capital, Asunción, to see the Peace Corps doctor. After speaking with my friend Jesus, another PC volunteer, he decided that he would go to Asuncion with me.  Jesus arrived after walking a mile from the bus stop in a downpour.  Upon entering my room Jesus was taken aback by the number of people hanging out in "the lounge" (my room).  After deciding to go to Asuncion we had to call the bus try to convince the driver to deviate from the usual route (a few blocks) to come and pick me up. Although willing, because of the rain, this particular bus line was not running.  Having a nice family, Don Mario agreed to drive Jesus and me the one mile to the main road to catch the bus.  Jesus and I boarded the old car of Don Mario and headed down the road toward the main road, when suddenly the car began jerking and lurching back and forth finally coming to a dead stop in the middle of the road.  Don Mario exited the vehicle with a can of gas and added less than a quart of gasoline to the tank, all the while explaining that if he added too much it would all leak out of the tank. He turned the key and the car started up once again. This time we made it less than a block and the car stopped again. This time no fiddling, or tinkering would get the car to start again. Though in the middle of the rain, Jesus and I thanked Don Mario for the effort and exited the car to begin the long walk to the main road. As Jesus tried to walk as quickly as possible in order to make it to the road before missing the bus and also trying not to leave me far behind in case I passed out, I dizzily followed along.  Thankfully we finally made it to the main road and boarded the bus.

Once on the bus I was able to get some rest…don't give a sigh of relief yet, my phone continued buzzing as my family wanted to check in on me and every member felt it necessary to try and get a hold of me. I kept my phone on in case the Peace Corps doctor wanted to get in touch with me for whatever reason. Once arriving in Asuncion and making my way to the Peace Corps office I was finally able to get some good drugs to knock out the pain and get an idea of why I was so sick. According to the doctor I had come in contact with some type of stubborn stomach bacteria.

Once I made it to the hotel it was like heaven to be able to rest and turn off my phone for 2 days. Though I didn't do much, I was able to watch the first game of the World Series and watch some classic American movies (Top Gun). This was enough to make me feel (for a short time) like I was back in the states.


Friday, November 14, 2008

The Long Absence.... La Ausencia Larga

First and foremost I would like to ask that you excuse me long absence from the blog. As you will read in later posts, I have been sick, moving and working a lot. During the last few weeks I simply have not had enough time or have been so sick, the writing was the last thing on my mind. But I want to thank you for following my Peace Corps experience here in Paraguay. Check back soon for updates! Thanks again.


De ante mano les quiero pedir discuplas por no escribir por mucho tiempo. Como veran en las proximas actualizaciones, he estado enfermo, mudandome a otra casa y trabajando mucho. Durante las ultimas semana simplemente no he tenido tiemp o he estado tan enfermo que al pensar en actualizar mi blog solo causaba más pena. Más que nada, les quiero agradecer por seguir mi experiencia del Cuerpo de Paz en Paraguay. Proximamente habran noticias nuevas.

Mark

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A LONG WAY FROM HOME.....

So today is September 29th and that means I have been in Paraguay for 4 months and in my site for about 2 months. When my group and I first arrived to Paraguay all of us were really excited to be here and see what Paraguay was all about. Added to this excitement was the task that each of us had, that is the task of getting to know the other Americans with whom we would spend the next 2 years with. Although I say task, this turned out to be much easier and much more pleasurable then initially anticipated. I think I speak for most volunteers when I say; we volunteers have become a family. We complain to each other about other volunteers, we argue, we hang out and we confide in each other. The initial adjustment to Paraguay required that we volunteers support each other and listen to each other, as we had no other person here who could empathize with our emotional rollercoaster and experiences here in Paraguay.
Again, today completes 4 months in country and about 2 months in site. It rained two days ago and when it rains in Paraguay this means nothing opens for business, no one leaves the house and no one visits friends or families, the whole town shuts down. This can be very depressing. In fact it is very depressing. Sometimes it’s hard to get out bed. Why? When I leave the house I have to be Paraguayan Mark, and that’s not easy. I’ve only been here a short time and have not yet allowed Paraguay to change Mark into a Mark that embodies both the good from Paraguay and the good from the U.S. Again, it’s a hard process and very depressing at times. If you go back and read above you’ll see that I wrote it rained 2 days ago…..it’s sunny out right now, but I don’t want to go out. I think the rain here depresses one, but the effects last longer than the rain. The other night I had a dream that I walked into my house (in the States) and my dog Plocky ran up to greet me, half barking and half whimpering from my absence, jumping up and down begging for me to pick her up. When I reached to pick her up I realized that it was my alarm clock barking…or buzzing.
Shifting gears slightly, my family and those of you who know me very well personally, know how important music is to me. Then night before I left the states, I stayed up until 6 am trying to upload all of my music (50,000 tracks or 300GB) to my external hard drive to bring with me to Paraguay. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time and had to leave to catch my plane. Thanks to my parents they were able to overnight my hard drive to me in Miami before leaving U.S. soil. Boy, was I thankful to receive my music. My music repertoire is very diverse and serves many different purposes depending on how I’m feeling. In it you’ll find the common genres such has: Hip hop, R&B, Country, Classic Rock, Oldies, Rap and Pop. However, you will also find: Salsa, Merengue, Tango, Ranchera, Mariachi, Bolero, Cumbia, Villera, Guarania, Vallenato, Bachata, Sertanejo, Samba, Son, Pakastani, French, Swedish and Tanzanian Rap, among many others. Why am I focusing so much on music? Because for me, like many others, music has always mentally taken me where I want to go, and allows me to remember the pleasant times and pleasant thoughts of things in the past. Like my faith, it has never abandoned me. When combined with my faith it’s such a powerful force that I feel like I can endure anything. However, being here in Paraguay the experience is different. Here my music has betrayed me. Here my music is painful. The music brings back good memories, but it’s a constant reminder of how far away I am from home, my girlfriend, my family and friends.
I think I’m going through much of what the Peace Corps has already explained to us. The first two months of training did not allow me to get accustomed to Paraguay, but instead helped me to get used to Paraguayan life as a Peace corps trainee. However, now I am having to get used to life as a volunteer. Life as a volunteer does not include: 17 other Americans, a Paraguayan family that has hosted numerous Americans in the past, a training team that can answer just about every question one may have, someone to cook and clean for you, nor does it give you an opportunity to blow off steam with other people who are probably experiencing the same thing. Life as a Peace Corps volunteer is sometimes the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and at other times the most depressing experience of my life.
All of this combined with what I’ve written in my previous posts make for a hellish experience. Thank God I still have my faith to count on.

I would be interested in reading all of your comments, especially those of you who have served in PC or in Paraguay.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

BLING-BLING


BLING…BLING

For those of you who are up to date on you hip-hop lingo will understand what "bling-bling" means/is. For those of you who are not, "Bling-bling" refers to what bright shiny jewelry does when light is reflected from it. Another explanation may be that "bling-bling" might be the imagined sound effect if one were to stumble upon a heap of fine jewels, diamonds and rubies. Make sense? So why am I writing about "bling-bling"?

Since I came to my site here in the state of Misiones, I have been working to try and find some interesting projects to work on. The municipal building is a pretty well organized entity, at least compared to others. Because there is a lot going on and my site has more organization and infrastructure than most the challenge is finding something to work on. So far I have handed in 2 project ideas. Unfortunately, it seems that the people with whom I work are not really interested in any of my work.  Nevertheless, I am always invited to every public event, every event that includes the press, and from time to time I'm invited to the radio station. I spoke with another volunteer about his phenomenon and she explained to me what I have termed "the bling-bling syndrome". In short, we think that many of the city leaders are interested in having an American Peace Corps volunteer around them like an expensive accessory or jewelry. Given that the U.S. is the bastion of democracy, when the public/community sees an American Peace Corps Volunteer involved in anything they assume that the matter is being done correctly, honestly, democratically and fairly. She explained that for this reason many of the city officials invite me to everything. In other words, I'm there expensive accessory, that which they try and show off in order to promote their activity their political agenda. Obviously this is not Peace Corps purpose and we as volunteers have the freedom to attend or not, and determine  how involved we want to be in a certain activity if we perceive that we are pushing a political agenda. 

On a good note, back in April Paraguay held their local elections and because of the work of Peace Corps volunteers the event was executed successfully. Never in Paraguayan history has there been a smooth exchange of governmental power from one person to the next. Local government is usually plagued by the same tendencies. In most cases, the community complains of corruption, mistrust, nepotism and manipulation. However, back in April two peace corps volunteers organized the voting poll at the local church and facilitated the voting process throughout the day. They simply handed out the ballot made sure each person was not bothered during the voting process and walked each person to the ballot box as they placed their vote inside. When the results were announced, no one in the community complained. The assumption was that because "the Americans" organized the voting process, it was done correctly and honestly. As it was explained to me, since then the community leaders like to Peace Corps Volunteers to show up at all the events as much as possible.


THE HEAT IS COMING


THE HEAT IS COMING….

As many of you may know, I'm from Oklahoma. Summers in Oklahoma are atrocious.  I'm sure everyone feels that summers are horrendous wherever they're from too. However, I would bet that Oklahoma heat probably has your town beat. Not only does the temperature reach 103-107 degrees outside, but at night we do not have a cool breeze like many other places. Therefore, it's nothing to walk outside on a July night in Oklahoma and find that at 1am the temperature is hovering around 98 degrees. Since I arrived here in Paraguay (during the onset of winter) I've been told about how horribly hot the summers are. When Paraguayans would tell me this, I would think to myself, "yeah right, I'm from Oklahoma…I know about heat……"

It's not summer yet here in South America, here we are just entering spring time and I've gotten a taste of the heat the last few days…it's already becoming unbearable. Friday, I went hammock shopping with some friends in a nearby town called Carapegua. They have nice open air markets and so we walked around for a few hours. Once I arrived home (now evening) I was beat, the sun had drained me of all my energy. After showering, I lied down to rest. In a matter of no time, I was sweating again. I looked at the thermometer (is that what it's called?…I'm forgetting all my English…) and it read 88 degrees..inside the house. At this point it dawned on me. In Oklahoma, sure, the heat beats down on your head and fries the back of your neck like an egg…BUT one can then enter an air conditioned house that comfortably maintains a 72-74 degree temperature.  Here in Paraguay-inside or outside of the house- one is always subject to the elements. Most houses are made of cement or brick and therefore are not insulated. So, as I lied there sweating in my bed (under a ceiling fan that blew hot air on me) I realized that I might be in for it when summer finally arrives.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

word on the street....Las ultimas noticias

Word on the street is that the volunteers in Bolivia are being evacuated for political reasons. This means that they will be coming to Paraguay. This could be an interesting event, or maybe each of us will get some help in our sites.  Who knows, I´ll keep you posted.
 
Las ultimas noticas son que los voluntarios en Boliva se estan evacuando por la situacion politica. Dicen que es probable que ellos llegan a Paraguay y terminan su servicio aqui. Vamos a ver que pasa. Puede ser muy pesado aqui o un apoyo necesitado aqui en Paraguay. 
 
Mark

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A BIG THANKS....

I JUST WANT TO SEND OUT A BIG THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO READ MY BLOG, ESPECIALLY TO THOSE OF YOU WHO LEAVE COMMENTS. OF COURSE, I CAN´T RESPOND TO ALL OF YOUR COMMENTS, BUT I READ EACH AND EVERYONE ONE.

Thanks for following my Paraguayan experience. It means a lot to know that your keeping up. God Bless

Mark Carter

Friday, September 12, 2008

THE KING...

THE KING…
The King always sits at the head of his table, right? The King is always the one in charge, right? The King is the one that gives all the directions, right? Well since I have arrived in Paraguay, this has been the case exactly, but with just one small change: I’m not a King. During training we were told that Paraguayans are known for treating guests very well. Initially I thought to myself “O Yeah? What’ makes Paraguay so different? All Latin American countries are known for being very hospitable to guests. In fact most people (no matter where you go) treat guests well, what makes Paraguay so different? ” Well, I have changed my mind. As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, a unique characteristic of Paraguayan culture is the manner in which they receive guests (or outsiders).

To be brief, the Guarani Indians were nomadic and peaceful people. As the group traveled, the always were kind to everyone they came in contact with and all new comers. Part of this was because they are peaceful people and part of it was because they understood that being a nomadic group they would come into contact with the same groups again, for these reasons (among many others) they treated outsiders very kindly (this my own brief summary of some of my readings). This aspect of the Guarani culture has carried over to today. In case you didn’t know, Paraguay is one of the only (if not the only) country in Latin America where most of the population speaks Guarani (more or less) and Spanish. So what does this have to do with being treated like a king? I have noticed that each time I go and visit a family or meet someone, I am given the choicest cut of meats, the best seats, the last morsel, the most beer (against my will), allowed to eat first, in many cases I decide what the family is going to eat, on many occasions I’m forced to sit at the head of the table.

The manner in which I’ve been treated does not just involve food but many other things. In some of the rural parts of Paraguay a cold shower is common. Many rural houses now have an electric overhead apparatus that heats the water as it comes out of the spigot. This is not very reliable and sometimes goes on the blink. Well in most homes, I’m given first opportunity to shower (given=forced) before the apparatus goes on the blink. To use the system you simply flip a switch as the water runs through the overhead apparatus and it heats the water. On one occasion, I turned the switch off (as I always do) when I completed my shower, when my host dad went in the bathroom after me, he noticed that the switch was off and he thought that I had taken a cold shower. He thought that my host brother, Cesar (who showered before me on this occasion) had turned off the switch, resulting in my cold shower. My host dad came and apologized and was about to get onto Cesar until I told him that I had in fact turned it off. My current living situation is a bit different. I have a separate room that is apart from the family next door. Knowing that I live alone, the family next door frequently brings food over whenever they eat.

The way Paraguayans treat me always makes me feel weird. I have not learned to let Paraguayan be nice to me. I try and tell them “no Thank you” and “ Don’t bother, I can ….” But it has not worked yet. So, although I’m not a king, I’m treated this way on many occasions. I’m still not sure I like it though.

Delicious

I guess I don´t need to write about how good the food was. So, I´ll leave it that. Those of you who have tasted Paraguayan food, I´ll just say it doesn´t get any better than the food that comes out of Margarita Perez´s kitchen. It was delectable!!

Hot, hot....

Listen to the food sizzlin´

Oops, we don´t want to eat that.....

Okay great, lets get the bread in the over....huh? What´s that? You don´t want hair in your bread? Oh, let´s get that out.

Sopa Paraguaya

While the fire is still getting warmed up and the chickens are set aside, lets start preparing the Sopa Paraguaya. This is a great tasting bread that is found only here in Paraguay. Not, it´s not sopa (soup) but bread.

Still cooking....

Wow this is turning out to be a lot of food. Let´s check on the pork that´s on the other grill....

While the fire is burning....

While the fire is burning let´s prepare the chickens. We won´t mention that the chicken is being prepared on a unsanitized wooden table that is kept outside all the time. We´ll just be thankful for hot fires that kill any germs or insects that might decide to get inside the chickens. :)

BIG FIRE

Gotta get the fire burning in. This type of ove is called a Tata´kua. It´s wonderfully designed oven for cooking. It hold heat very well and cooks to perfection. Most families have one.

Cookin´it up

First you gotta get the fire started....

Cookin´it up...

Cookin’ it up…

This past weekend I went to visit my family in Guarambare for the celebration of their Patron Saint there. It was a really big celebration. Most of the volunteers who came to Paraguay with me also came back to visit their families and check out the celebration. The celebration attracted people from many small towns around Guarambare. The Plaza was full of different kiosks and stand selling good food and different arts and crafts. However, what I enjoyed the most was helping my family to prepare all the food that we ate. Here you will see all the food that we prepared. I guess I should say, you will see the preparation process. I tried to film as much as I could, but helping and filming at the same time does not allow me to get everything so the videos may be may be a bit out of sync.

The Muni 3

This is the third of 3 videos on the municipality.

The Muni 2

This is the second of 3 videos taken at the municipal building.

The Muni 1

This is a video of the municipal building and a few of my co-workers. Please excuse the video quality. I did the video pretty quickly.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Municipality

The Municipality…

Sorry it’s been so long since my last posting. Here I have posted a brief video of some of the people that work in the Municipality. I apologize before hand for the low quality of the video. It was taken very quickly. This is mostly due to the fact that most of my acquaintances at the municipality do not want to be filmed so, I had to do it quick in order to get them on the video. Anyway, here you can get a quick view of them and the municipality.

Perdon por tardarme en actualizar mi web. Este video breve es de la municipalidad donde trabajo en algunas personas ahí. De ante mano te pido perdón por la baja calidad. La mayoría de mis compañeros de trabajo no quisieron que le filmara, asi que lo hice con prisa y por eso el video me salió tan mal. Espero que disfrutes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Place

Okay,so for those of you who have not been keeping up, I have finally moved to my site where I will be working for the next 2 years. This is a video of where I am staying right now. I live in a one room building that is relatively comfortable for a Peace Corps volunteer. Although I will probably one be here for 3 months, it´s nice enough to stay here permanetly. I will see how it goes before deciding on where I will stay for good.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Youth Group from Santa Rosa

This is a picture of a few guys from the Santa Rosa youth group. Again, this is not my site, but there is another volunteer in Santa Rosa that I visit from time to time. This is photo of the guys who refused to let me carry by backpack. They decided that they had to carry it for me to the bus stop. Great group of guys.






Friday, August 29, 2008

Family in Santa Rosa

This past weekend I went to visit my host family in Santa. I went to Santa Rosa about a month and half ago to vist a volunteer. This was part of our training: to go spend a week with a volunteer and observe his work. I stayed with a awesome family that was very kind and took me in as one of their own. This past weekend I went back to visit them see how they were doing. See the picture below.



Saturday, August 16, 2008

Update on my living situation…

Well, I have been here in Misiones for about a week. When I arrived planned on finding a family pretty quick. Unfortunately, it has not worked out as planned. I am still renting a room from a nice lady. I have spoken with a number of families and most of them wanted to charge extremely high prices. The Peace Corps is one of a few humanitarian groups in Paraguay. There is Japanese group that is similar to the Peace Corps and also a German group. However, these groups are paid a whole lot more than the Peace Corps pays us. Many of the other groups do not integrate into the community like the Peace Corps does. For this reason they live in the nicer places and rent large homes that house a number of people. For this reason, the peace Corps volunteers like myself sometimes have trouble finding reasonably price housing, given the fact that many people expect us to be walking banks. This is not the case. So continue to pray that I will find a family that will take me in. If not, I will continue to live on my own, but this will make my work a lot more difficult

Where am I from? (I think I have forgotten)

Recently, I was sitting in the plaza enjoying the day and eating some ice cream. My friend Jesus, also another volunteer, was in the plaza as well. Because tall fair complexioned people with coarse hair are not a common sight here in Paraguay, our presence always turns a lot of heads. Well recently, I had a lady approach me and begin to discuss (even argue with me) about where I was from. She asked me where I was from and I asked her to guess. She ran down the list of places where I “had” do be from. This list included Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba and the Dominican Republic and finally Africa (yes, the country of Africa). When she got tired I told her I was from the U.S. and she responded, “No puede ser” (that can’t be true). I asked her why and she responded that they don’t look like me. I asked her when was the last time she went to the U.S. to see what they are “supposed” to look like. She said never, but ‘’you know, they all have blue eyes, with blond hair”. So I had to explain to her where I was from and the diversity that exists in the U.S. The lady didn’t believe me, so I just talked to her in English. Finally she just walked off. This was an unusual event in that the lady didn’t believe me, but it is very common (at least 2 or 3 times a day) that people ask me where I’m from or yell something at me. So far, it has not bothered me too much, but when they want to tell me what the people look like in the U.S, that does kind of bother me. In fact I think it’s funny. I’ll have more later.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Chill-laxin`

Since wednesday we have kind of been on a break before gong to our sites. We have been using this time to purchase whatever odds and ends are only available in the capital. So I have been spending lots of my time Chill-laxin' (Chillin and Relaxing). But when saturday comes I will have to head to my site and will not be back for the next 3 months.

Swearing In…No longer a Peace Corps trainees,

Last Wednesday (august 6th) We were finally sworn is as Peace Corps volunteers, and are no longer trainees. This event took place at the embassy and once again I was impressed by the embassy. I guess one is surprised by the stark differences between what’s outside and the embassy grounds. The event took place under a covered patio outside. We don’t have an ambassador at the moment and the Peace Corps country director is on vacation. So the assistant country director presided over the event. The event was pretty simple, nothing too fancy, but still a big moment. I really can’t explain why it was a big moment, but I guess it has to do with the extremely lengthy process to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.

When you sign up to become a volunteer you first have to fill out a very lengthy application. Second, you are called in for an interview. If the interview goes well, then you are nominated to be a volunteer. These first three step can take 6 to 8 months. Then you have to wait another 2 to 3 months to find out where in the world you are going to be nominated for. Fourth, you receive your invitation to serve. Once you agree to the invitation, you are still not a volunteer yet. Technically, you are agreeing to participate in the “training”. Once you arrive at staging (the U.S. city you fly to immediately before departing to country of service) the Peace Corps begins preparing you for what you will see and do immediately after arriving in the country of service. Fifth, you arrive in country. This seems great because your surroundings are new and exciting. Yet at the same time, you don’t know what to expect. At this point the Peace Corps informs you that, still you are not volunteers. We are Peace Corps aspirants in training. From the time you turn in your application to his point, can sometimes be as long as 2 years. This is the only explanation I can give for the grandeur of the swearing in ceremony. It just amazing how simple the ceremony is but also how a wave of emotions hit you at the same time. So anyway, we swore our allegiance to the U.S. and then were allowed to enjoy the food. Most of the volunteers decided to spend the last few days in the capital before going to their site for the next few months.

While in Asunción I decided I was going to have a BIG FAT HAMBURGER from BURGER KING (burger KANG, as Steve and I would say it). So I walked to 25 blocks and found Burger King. I went inside and ordered a double whopper and the biggest French fries I could get. I didn’t finish either one, but boy was in heaven for the short time I was stuffing that hamburger in.
Anyway, below I have attached some pictures of the swearing in ceremony.

Despedida… Saying goodbye…

Despedida is the Spanish word for goodbye. At this point in our training most of the volunteers feel very comfortable with their families and hate the thought of changing to a new environment. I think I fit in the category as well. I’ve been treated very well by the Perez-Aguayo family. I’ve mentioned to them on many occasions that I wish I could stay here in Guarambare. I know that it’s impossible, but I think I would I enjoy the most is the simple fact that I have a routine, I have become comfortable with it and I know what to expect from the routine. The mere thought of changing routines and beginning this process again is rather daunting. Moreover, to have to do this alone without a peace corps trainer, or language teacher to help me is kind of scary. To be honest, I have not required any help from the Peace corps trainers nor the language teachers, but simply knowing that my safety blanket is being removed is enough to make me nervous. It’s like the little boy who has been riding his bike for the last 6 months with training wheels, but has not needed the training wheels the last 5 months. When Daddy approaches his son and the bicycle with the wrench to remove the training wheels, Daddy had bettered be prepared for a vicious fight to the end from his son. Not because the son can’t ride a bike, but because the training wheels have always provided the little youngster with the security to answer to question of “what if…….”. Again, I have never required the assistance of the trainer nor the language teacher, but now that my blanket is being removed, I’m like a babying coming out of the womb, “put me back in….it was warm inside there!”

So back to the Despedida, the last few days here have been filled with these formal goodbyes. We have been invited to many goodbye parties by different families. My family did not do one for me. Little do they know, but I’m thankful that they didn’t. To me it seems bassackwards. Maybe I’m the one who is confused, but I think the volunteers living in the families homes need to be throwing the party for the families in a way of saying thanks. If I were to be walking in downtown Oklahoma City and picked up homeless child and took him home, cleaned him up, fed him and taught him all sorts of things, I think it would weird for me to throw him a party when leaving (still not knowing much about the culture he’s about to enter). The best way the young child could repay me would be to keep in touch and keep me informed about how his life is going.
Here in Paraguay, the Perez-Aguayo family has accepted a stranger into their home. They have opened up every nook and cranny of their home to a stranger. The Peace Corps has not done a mental evaluation on me, and this family has no idea if I’m crazy, going to rob them or hurt them. What assurance do they have? They have provided me with a room and a key to my room and allow me to go into my room and close the door (which I would never do). To me it seems that the family needs to be given a party, not me. Without, the family most of us volunteers would be found in the street crying because we don’t know how to buy and hot dog. For this reason I’m glad that they did not throw me a party. I have told them on many occasions, I think the Lord provided this family and I’m thankful for them. Don Eddie likes to drink coffee (actually tea) in the morning, and although it does not compare to having coffee with my Dad in the U.S., it helps to facilitate a good relationship with my host dad here in Paraguay. My host mom here is retired but still works at the school as the director and is out of the house a lot. Like my mom at home in the U.S., when my host mom comes home she make sure to express to you personally how happy she is to see you. My host sister Gladys (actually the maid that works here, but is just like family) has a good attitude about working around the house. Given her job as a house assistant here in Paraguay, this means that she is probably from a family of severely limited economic means. Despite this she is diligent in her work and appears to enjoy her work (I don’t know if she really does though). The family treats her as a daughter and helps her by paying for her schooling in exchange for her working at the house. In a strange way, her position, socially and economically, inspires me to be a better Peace Corps volunteer. According to the Peace Corps, the generation of Gladys (and especially the generation younger than hers) is the first to grow up in Paraguay without a dictator. Gladys’ effort to overcome her position without expecting someone else to take care of her is something new here in Paraguay. This attitude is a very North American attitude, but not so common here in Paraguay. This is another reason why the Peace Corps work can be very effective here in Paraguay. Many of the people are mentally ripe for the planting of new ideas. I just hope the ideas that will be planted will be good seeds.

For all of these reasons and more, I’m thankful to my Paraguayan family for helping me to learn all of this. This will help me in my work. This is why I think they deserve a party, not me.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

DJ Markoss...

The first day I arrived in San Juan Bautista, I was briefly shown around and then driven to the local radio station to announce my arrival. The previous volunteer that served in SJB left in august of 2007. So most everyone in the town still remembers him very well, in fact some are surprised to find out that he has gone, when I tell them that I am the new volunteer. During my first visit to my site, my main objective was to find a family to live with. This is not an easy task, because few people are eager to let a stranger simply move into their house. So while at the radio station, I decided to take advantage of my time on the air and announce to the community that I was looking for a family to live with. I didn’t think this would be effective and I was right, it didn’t work. However, it did express to the community that I didn’t have a place to live. Many people already recognize the stranger walking around the street. Each time I meet someone new, their first questions is, “Y con quien vivís?” (Who are you living with). Most people have heard me on the radio and are curious to know who I’m living with. This is funny, because although many people know I don’t have a place to stay, none have offered to take me in. This is not abnormal. The way most things are done in Paraguay are by reference from friends. I’m pretty confident that when I arrive on Saturday I will have a place to stay. I talked to the director of a high school and he assured me that we could find something for me among the professors or the families of the students. I have also spoken with some of the previous volunteers in my site and asked them to contact their previous families and see what they can find out. Lastly, I have a friend back in the states whose parents live in Paraguay and they likewise have friends in SJB. As far as I know, I should have a few options of families to choose from once I arrive on Saturday. See the pictures below of DJ Markos.



Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Villa Florida

After receiving out site assignments, the next day we were off to visit our sites (a one week site visit). On the way to San Juan Bautista (my site) we had to drive through a number of other sites and drop volunteers off. Once we arrived to the state of Misiones, we passed through Villa Florida. Villa Florida is a touristy site that is very nice and receives many tourists throughout the year. The place is beautiful and well organized. The good thing is that this site is only about 30km north of SJB and one of my good friends was placed in Villa Florida.

This day, the municipality was celebrating the mayor’s birthday. In traditional Paraguayan style and huge asado was prepared (an asado might be compared to a barbecue). I liked seeing the way the meat was cooked and prepared. Though the method might not be exactly sanitary, I guess the heat would kill anything that might harm humans. To cook the meat, an open pit is dug, about 1 ½ -2 feet deep. The pit usually runs a long length (thus creating a shallow trench). The length depends on how much meat is going to be prepared. Next long sticks of wood are driven through the meet and the sticks are stuck in the ground vertically along the trench. The trench is filled with fire wood and charcoal and a fire is started. The meet that runs the length of the trench is and cooked by rotating the stick in the ground every so often, thus turning the meat and evenly cooking it on all sides. The meat is wonderfully calicious (calicous = better than delicious). In fact all the different cuts of meat are good. I don’t know the different parts and types of meat in Spanish, so I have just had to try all the types by trial in error. On more than one occasion, I have eaten blood sausage. As of now, blood sausage has probably been the least desirable, but I’ve managed to eat it without leading on that I really didn’t like it. See the pics below on how the meat is cooked.




My Host site (Missiones)...

Misiones…..
My new site- San Juan Bautista, Misiones. I spent the last week getting to know my future work site. I walked into the municipality not knowing exactly what to do. After being shown around and introduced to all of the employees (called Funcionarios in Spanish) I learned that there will A LOT of work for me to do. The municipality were I will be working in San Juan is one of the best organized municipality in the country. The town of SJB is very active and involved and participative in the local government. For me, this is good and bad. It’s good because this means that I will many opportunities to work in various areas of the municipality. The bad thing is that I’m concerned that the Peace Corps may expect a lot from me since I am surrounded by great work opportunities. By the previously mentioned concerns are the least of all my concerns. The mayor has asked that I work with comisiones vecinales (neighborhood commissions) and educacion cívica ( civic education). I am glad that he chose these two sectors because I enjoy them. However, the neighborhood commissions, deals with helping people from groups in order to solicit funding for projects. My greatest concern is that in most cases the individuals in the neighborhood commissions speak Guarani, the other official language of Paraguay. Unfortunately, I have not mastered this language. In fact, I know very little.
Last week, while visiting my SJB, part of our homework was to find a family to live with for our first 3 months in site. Well, I gave it my best shot, but unfortunately did not find a place to stay. So as of today (Tuesday) I have no place to stay when I arrive in SJB on Saturday. While in SJB last week, I did make some contacts with people who agreed to try and find a family that I would be comfortable with. I’ll keep you posted on this.
Lastly, before receiving my site I said a prayer to our heavenly father, that I would be placed near some of my fellow volunteers. SJB is located about 30km from Villa Florida. One of my good friends was placed in Villa Florida. Villa Florida is a tourist site and there is a lot to do. This is a good thing because there are numerous buses that run between the two sites. A bus ride from SJB to villa florida is less than 20 minutes. Another good friend of mine is located in the next state over in the city of Pilar. A bus ride to Pilar is roughly an hour and half. Needless to say, the lord came through for me!
Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more updates……


Receiving our Site assignments...

The day before we went to visit our future working sites, we received notification of where we each of us would be going. If you have seen the video, you will remember that at the training center we have a large map of Paraguay. When our site directors came to the training center they used this map to place our names on, indicating where would be going. Our three site directors each walked in and placed boxes on the ground. These boxes contained our site assignments. After placing the boxes in front of themselves, each one took turns reading the names of the volunteers and their future site. As each director read a name, our technical trainer would walk over the map and place our name in the corresponding place on the map. This was a very tense moment. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the map as we tried to figure out who was next to who and who received the best sites. More than anything, each person was hoping that he/she would not be placed in the CHACO. The Chaco is the western portion of Paraguay that is barely inhabited given super-harsh climate. Lucky for me I was not placed in the Chaco. See the pictures below...




Friday, July 25, 2008

Misiones.....

Misiones…
Well today was the big day. We received our future work sites. Today was a very stressful. We have been waiting anxiously for the last 9 weeks to find out where we will be working and in what capacity. We have heard all about the different climates and different geographies of Paraguay. This morning seemed to last for an eternity as we did our regular routines in anticipation for our Site Directors to arrive. At about 3pm they arrived. If you have seen the video of our training compound you may remember that there is a very large ground-to-floor map of Paraguay. When the directors arrived, they wrote our names on small pieces of paper and put them on the wall, but not on the map in Paraguay. They places them in a line and had our training coordinator stand next to the list of names as if he was Vanna White. The three site directors had us all take a seat and they stood next to each other with a box of folders that contained all of our site assignments. They then each took an even number of folders out of the box and distributed them among themselves. One by one they then called out our names and announced where we would be going. As they announced our names our training coordinator (Vanna White) placed our names on the map in the corresponding sites. I will be going to the city of San Juan Bautista in the state of Misiones. San Juan Bautista is located in the south of Paraguay close to Argentina. This place is very green and one of the pretty places in Paraguay. The good thing is that all of the southern part of Paraguay is green. So, I feel blessed to have been placed in the site. The work that I will be doing will consist of numerous activities and secondary activities and projects, but I was placed in this site because of my management experience (McDonald’s) and experience teaching and training (McDonald’s). Also my main project will be civic education and working with neighborhood commissions. I am happy to work in these two areas because the civic education will means that I will have to touch the political matters here in Paraguay. Civic education will probably be done in the community, schools, even some of the universities (this location is not terribly likely though). The neighborhood commissions work will consist mainly of helping the people in the community group together into what is called a commision vecinal (neighborhood commsion) in order to get funding to perform local projects. This work is the most interesting because I will have to help the individuals work in groups and following the legal ramifications to have their group recognized by the municipality. This also means that I will be working very closely with the intendente/alcalde (the mayor in English). However, all of this sounds fun and good productive work, but of all of this, the most challenging work will be the group dynamics of getting people to work together that 1) don’t know each other and 2) don’t trust each other. So when working in groups like this and handling money, transparency is critical. Unfortunately for Paraguay, transparency is something that is almost unheard of. This will be a challenge, but I’m excited to working in this area and in this site. To top it off, my Site Director was able to place me close to two of my better friends Jesus and Joan. This was a big deal also because being placed close to your friends almost never happens according to Peace Corps. Lastly, I was placed close enough to Jesus that we will probably be working together in our different projects.

Embarrased to be serving in the Peace Cops...

Last week I went on what is called Long field. If you don’t remember Long field was our opportunit as trainees to go and visit other volunteers and spend a week observing what they do and learn more techniques. I went to misiones. Santa Rosa, Misiones is a state (here called Departamentos) in the south of Paraguay. My group and I went there to work with a volunteer in Urban Youth Development. We worked with his youth group that recently created a co-ed basketball team. The reason we went was to help them with community service and also participate in a basketball tournament called “Friendship International”. During the week we cleaned the sports complex where they were we played and repainted the lines on the court and also helped generate ideas on how to generate funds for the co-ed basketball team. On top of this we practiced every day. Needless to say, I have not played basketball in over 12 years and after the first day, I was sore up and down my body. I don’t know what happened, because I barely played, but the youth group, the kids that came to watch and the parents all called my Michael Jordon. I don’t know how they could compare me with Mike, but I guess the simple fact they we are both black had something to do with it. I asked one of the kids why they compared me to Michael Jordan when I suck at basketball now. He responded, that because I dribbled behind my back one time (the have never seen this) they thought I was really good.

Anyway, back to the Urban Youth Basketball team. At the end of the week we played in the tournament (three teams) called “Friendship International”. There was a team from a nearby town, the team volunteer’s Urban Youth team and a Peace Corps Team (the one I was on). Our team consisted of three girls and four guys. The three girls were the volunteers that came down with me. Three other Peace Corps volunteers met us there in the town to participate in the tournament. The very first came we had to play a team from the nearby town of San Ignacio. I was expecting some kids who could barely even dribble the basketball. However, all of these guys were taller than I have and knew how to play very well. I knew immediately that we would get beat. However, I didn’t know what was coming next. The tournament had been announced on the radio and most of the town knew that the tournament would take place. Therefore many of the Urban Youth basket ball team’s family came to the event. Of course their brothers and sister also came and brought friends. Many individuals came to the court to watch, in fact many of the children sat on our bench, so much so that we didn’t have any place to sit. So what happened? One of the Peace Corps volunteers that came to play with us begin to act up. During the game the team from San Ignacio begin to play very unfairly, taking cheap shots and smarting off yelling many gesture that were unbecoming. Because of the way this team acted this particular volunteer began to yell and curse at the other team. At one point, all us volunteers felt very embarrassed to be part of the Peace Corps. This particular volunteer begin to curse and insult the other team. Most at the court were taken aback by the volunteers behavior, especially us volunteers. At the end of the game (we lost) one of the players from the other team walked over to our bench (in front of everyone there) and told the Peace Corps volunteer off. He told him that his attitude was completely unacceptable and that as an American should be an example for Paraguay and especially for all the children that had been following us around, and that he should be ashamed of himself. This was done in a screaming fashion and all that were present saw the arguing that was going on. I don’t need to tell you that that was the first time I was completely embarrassed and wished that I could just sink into the floor and disappear. The only thing that I could do was turn to all the children explain to them that the Peace Cops does not condone the type of behavior that the volunteer displayed and that most Americans are not as short tempered as this volunteer. Thankfully, most understood and agreed with me.

5th Dia de Practica...

Today was our 5th dia de Practica (Day of Practice). This was our last day to practice speaking to groups before going to our future sites to begin working. Once again we went to a school to talk to the students about the environment. We had done this discussion before. The difference today was that our trainers came to observe and grade us on our presentation and language (not only Spanish but also Guarani). Talking to students it is always difficult to break the ice. So I figured what better way to break the ice than to go into the class and immediately start speaking Guarani. Because I don’t speak Guarani, it came out horribly and the whole class busted out laughing. I tried to do my introduction in Guarani, and they understood me, but it came out horribly. This worked and the students loosened up and our presentation went very well. I don’t know what our “grade” was but the professors were very impressed. Take a look at the pictures below.



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cocido (video 2)

Making Cocido

If you have never heard of Cocido, Cocido is charred tea and sugar. You blend this together and then add boiling water. It is delicious. I drink it every morning at breakfast. What´s even more fascinating is seeing how it is made. One usually mixes the sugar and tea together dry. Next your drop a flaming piece of charcoal in the dry mix and scoop the tea and sugar over the piece of flaming coal to char the tea and somewhat carmelize the sugar. Once charred really well, you dump this mixture into boiling water. You then remove the charcoal shortly after and drink what´s left.This is calicious.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

WHERE I`M FROM

Since beginning training her in Paraguay, all of the volunteers have become pretty close. We are all experiencing many of the same things and given that we only have each other to talk to about our experiences, it has brought us together like a little family. In an effort to get to know each other better, we decided we would write poems titled ``Where I´m From``. Each of us wrote poems about our home towns, families and other things that are important to us. At the beginning I thought this was one of the most stupid ideas I had ever heard of. When my day finally came to share, I decided to give it my best shot. After receiving ver good feedback from my poem I have decided to post it. Please let me know what you think of it. I didn´t like it a first, but the process was fun. If you liked it let me know and maybe I will continue to write. See Poem below.    Unitl Next time!

 

 

WHERE I'M FROM

I am not from the mixing bowl, or a place well known.

Many of you have heard of it, but have never visited my home.

 

I am from prominent and pervasive plains...clean air, lots of space, and we know all of our neighbors by name.

 

I am from dirt, dust and tractors.

Where I come from the local church, in our lives, is still a major factor.

 

I am from a family were house rules are not broken and most are simple, mostly based biblical principal.

 

I am from discipline that might include a switch, hand or belt, but always ends with a kiss a hug and conversations that are memorable and heartfelt.

 

I am from a family of loud talking, shouting, cooking, dancing and music. Respecting your siblings was expected "Now, now you know the consequences...you choose it."

I am from going grocery shopping at 2am..as a family.

 

I'm from skating rinks, skating parties and couple skates.

I am from parents who lived, saw and experienced brutal race relations, but have encouraged me to express and share love and compassion with other nations.

 

I am from Oklahoma. I am from the Black side of town. I am from the white side of town. I am from the "no-body-wants-to-go-to-side-of-town" This side is usually full of the other brown people, restaurants, cumbia ranchera and duranguense music. Also on this side of town, some of the most loving, compassionate and caring people can be found.

 

I am from heartfelt smiles & firm handshakes. I am from Sunday entertainment that includes a drive around the lake.

 

I am from big sky sunrises and sunsets, slow living that's free from the complex.

 

I am from a place where a "how are you?" is followed by an "I'm doing fine"... a conversation ensues because we are not as concerned about time.

However, I am also from one of the many places that populate the military and for you, we put our necks on the line.

 

I am from a place where the list of professional dress items will likely include cowboy boots.

 

Lastly, I am from the United States. Were many flaws exist. However, given my race, the U.S. has done more for me than any other place.