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.


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."


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


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.