Tuesday, September 30, 2008



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.



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. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008



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 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.


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. :)


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.