Sunday, July 26, 2009

Holy frijoles its FRIO!!!

The temperature has been hovering around a low of 0-4 degrees Celsius and a high of 10-20 for the past few days. It was 0 today when I went to school around 8am and there was frost on the ground. That’s decently cold day for most people in the US [by which I mean I don’t want to get into a dual about who lives in a colder state my northern brethren]. The cold here isn’t terrible by itself, what makes living with it difficult is the fact that none of the homes or buildings have central heating. Its an extreme luxury to even have a window heating unit. Small space heaters are pretty affordable, but they won’t heat a large room. Also, many homes don’t have enough electricity to run one. If I’m using the iron at the house in J.A., we have to turn off all but one of the lights in the house, especially if the tv is on.

Another issue is that the houses are usually made of a single layer of bricks or some sort of adobe like material; there isn’t any insulation. During the day, the temperature inside the house is often lower than outside depending on the wind. At night the temperature may be a few degrees warmer. This makes showering extremely painful. I get fully dressed in the bathroom, coat, socks, and shoes included, at a record pace. At least on the weekend I can wait until lunch, my hair probably still will be damp by the time I go to bed, but it is better than hypothermia.

To help combat the saturating cold, I wear pants every day *gasp…Yes I know. This is the most consecutive days that I haven’t worn a skirt, probably since I was about 7. Actually, because I’m always wearing at least 2 jackets at all times, I wear the same 2-4 shirts all of the time because no one ever sees them. Heck some days, I can hardly remember what shirt I used the day before. Teresa Moment: Teresa pointed to some woman on tv playing a school administrator of some sort in ridiculously low cut shirt with matching tie to cover her cleavage/sexy secretaryesque outfit and asked me if I ever wear anything feminine like her. Feminine, yes…if she only knew about my skirt addition… However feminine ‘like her’…No, not even on a warm Halloween night on 6th street in Austin. Nahaniri. I will admit that with my large pea coat over a slightly smaller coat over a light sweater over a shirt, that I look like I’m taking fashion tips from the female lead in the move Once. I’m not sporting a particularly flattering look, but heck, who am I trying to impress, I’m only here for 3 more weeks. I’d rather be warm and be appreciated for my great personality than be little miss sexy pants and freeze my nalgas off.

At night I’ve adopted the habit of sitting on top of my bed to work at night on my computer. With the help of the adaptor box on the power cable of my laptop [a poor man’s space heater]and my own body heat, I’m able to create a pocket of warmth in the blankets and sleeping bag before I have to climb in. Otherwise the inside of my bag feels like its lined with razor blades. I go to bed between 8:30-9:30pm because fighting the cold takes too much effort and my sleeping bag, 3 layers of blankets, and 2 thickest jackets on top of the blankets are just so much more inviting.

Actually I’ve found that many of the techniques I learned while camping during the winter months and that one very special spring break in the snow in Utah are really useful here. Paraguay is like car-camping, but indoors. Who knew I was actually training to be an urban camper.

PS: Paraguayans do not go out in the cold. If there is an activity planned and its cold, chances are most people won’t show. Same thing goes for rain.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dia De Practica

Dia de Practica- July 24th

In order to prepare volunteer for work post-training, we have 5 Practice Days [1 per week] to plan and execute some sort of activity. Shavonda, who is still working on her Spanish, and I decide to do a Civic Participation/Leadership charla [presentation] together at one of the local schools that we had visited. This would give Shavonda good practice with her Spanish and I could start thinking about Civic Participation charlas I might to in site. We were able to find a teacher to work with and set the date on the first Dia de Practica. Not to brag…but we cruised through the next 3 practice days, developed our presentation. Zero problems. Some groups didn’t know what they were going to do until the 3rd or 4th day because they had to reform their plans a few times. We were good from day 1…until day 5 came around.

After Practice Day 4 we went to Villa Florida for a week to visit a volunteer there and see his work in the community. While in VF the national government announce that they were extending winter vacation for an extra week. That extra week included our 5th Dia de Practica on which we had decided to give our presentation to the class. Oh bugger.

In the few days before our presentation date, Shavonda and I tweaked the material more towards Leadership and Ethics, added a few more activities, and asked the other people in our group to please bring their siblings and any neighborhood kids they knew to our presentation. There would be snacks.

The day of the presentation, Shavonda and I cooked lemon bars and bought some candy. In the end we gave the presentation to 3 Paraguayans (my host sister [Silvana], my host mom, and one of Carrie’s sisters), our 2 language teachers [Aurelio, Pabla], our Tech Trainer [Ricardo], and the rest of the muni group [6 people]. The presentation went well. We made them do some team building activities that were hilarious to watch from the outside. Shavonda’s Spanish was a little rocky and I’m never happy with mine, but I think we kept them entertained.

After our presentation another group that was also planning on working with the schools piggy backed off of our presentation and gave their immediately after ours to the same group. I think it would have been polite for them to bring a few Paraguayans to add to the group Shavonda and I had collected, but oh well. The best part of the second groups presentation was a group photo they took of us. Ricardo wins the silliest face contest. I’m hoping Dina remembers to send me a copy. Isatta had an absolute laughing fit because of it and had to physically turn away from the screen to finish presenting her material.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guarani Myths July 2, 2009: ´Nope, that’s not a belt or a rope ladies´

Once there were two tribes that did not get along. In one tribe there was a beautiful woman, in the other tribe there was a wicked man. The man kidnapping the woman from her tribe, took her to live in the forest and they had many children together in the woods. Her family, upset over the kidnapping of their daughter, put a curse on the children.

These are the children:

One of the most popular/famous of the children is generally a protector assuming you give him an offering of honey, a small glass of beer, and a cigarette in your window at night. If you don’t give him his offering then he becomes a more malevolent spirit. People do not say his name at night for fear that he will visit.

Mala Vision:
A group of spirits that appear as a light. They are the restless souls of people who are trapped on earth and can’t get to heaven. To help them get to heaven you cross yourself (head, crotch, pocket, watch) to help release some of the spirits; if you don’t help them, then they get upset.

Protector of fertility. On land, you shouldn’t walk alone at night in the woods or he will lasso you and take you away. IN the water, if you stay in the shallower parts his presence gives you fertility, but if you venture into the deeper waters, again, he lassos you and takes you away.

(Nope, that’s not a belt or a rope, ladies.)

Teju Jagua (lizard dog)
Protector of yellow/orange fruit. Its okay to take a few mandarin oranges off the tree, but if you take too many…beware of Teju Jagua.

He lives in the cemeteries and eats the dead bodies. If you are in the cemetery at night on Friday he’ll eat you too.

Plata Yvyguy
If you see a tree on fire with a dog without a head it means this spirit is there. Underneath the tree you’ll find buried treasure.

Jasy Jatere
Is shaped liked a human with blue eyes and red hair. (Irish?). He lives in the forest and steals small children that are restless at mid-day and won’t take a siesta.

A bear, sheep mix. He is the protector of forest animals who attacks hunters. To get away, the hunter must climb to the top of a coco tree.

Other Random beliefs of the Paraguayans/Fun things to do to freak them out
• If you drink cocido and eat an orange together you’ll get really sick/die.
• If you eat watermelon and then drink water you’ll also get very sick/die.
• Walk around without your shoes on anywhere, inside or out. They think you’ll get sick from the cold, which isn’t really true. However there are some kinds of worms here that can enter your body through your feet, so it’s a good idea to keep the shoes on anyway, at least outside.
• If a knife falls on the floor, you’ll have a drunk person in the house soon.
• You can’t take salt directly from someone, you have to put it on the table first. If two people are holding the salt at the same time, in the future they are going to have an argument/not get along.
• When a visitor arrives and you are very busy or don’t want to talk with them, you can put a broom, bristles up, near the door and they will leave soon. I don’t know if they believe the cosmos will somehow give the visitor the impetus to leave, or if its just one of the subtle non-verbal clues that the visit should be wrapping up.
• White bread is good/normal bread; whole wheat bread is for sick or old people.
• If it doesn’t have meat, its not food.

The adventures of Medical Mary

We get really good health care in the PC. I mean really really good. We have a doctor and nurse on call 24/7. The doctor’s name is Luis. We found out recently that he was also Mr. Paraguay in 2004. He is also the only person I’ve ever met, other than little children, who I can genuinely say is bashful. He blushes or gets uncomfortable very frequently, usually because of the comments of his counterpart, Medical Mary. However he even gets a little uneasy when some of the female volunteers have to remove a few layers of clothing from their arm to get a shot. You’d think they were actually disrobing in front of him. Personally I just make sure that I wear short sleeves and an easy to remove jacket on shot days to help the man out.

Medical Mary is our nurse who is quickly gaining a reputation for her Maryisms. She served as a PC volunteer when she was 40 but has served as a nurse for the PC all over the world since then. She has this awesome, dead pan manner of delivering lines that you just wouldn’t expect from a professional woman of her age. Most of these are ‘you had to be there’ moments, but I’ll post them anyway and try to keep a running list.

During our safe sex lecture…
Mary: ‘Does everyone know how to use a dental dam?’
*Carrie coughs
Mary: ‘Oh well then *puts her face into the dental dam and demonstrates its usage with her tongue
(She was totally just looking for an excuse to do it)

Mary, commenting mostly towards our four volunteers who are retired from their professions in the states, informed us that she too had lots of sex during her volunteer time even though she was 40 and didn’t expect anyone to be interested in her.

During our sexual/physical assault lecture-July 1, 2009
Mary: But if its hot outside and you’re wearing your ‘come fuck me shorts’…
(Ironically a girl was definitely wearing her special shorts at a birthday party so we all had a frame of reference for her comment)

Mary: And there was the guy who wanted to have hot sex with me…
*side conversation breaks out in the class about whether she really did say ‘hot sex’
Mary “Yes, I said hot sex..”

Host Family In JA Saldivar Training Community

My host family,
Working in security. Goes to work at 4:50am and usually gets back to the house around 8pm. He prefers to speak Guarani, so theoretically he would be a good resource to help me learn the language. However I can barely understand him when he speaks Spanish because he mumbles and I don’t think he always uses correct grammar, so he probably isn’t the best person to ask for help. He has a great sense of humor and likes to tease the lady next door by running over to the fence and holding up the radio so that it plays loudly into her yard when a certain song that irritates her comes on. Evidently he has also been known to ride his bike into her house. Worked in Spain for 3 years as a landscaper to help bring in money for the family. Used to be the president for the local neighborhood commission. Evidently he is a far departure from much less hardworking male figures that most of the trainees are living with

She is a catholic version of the stereotypical Jewish mother. She is very sweet, worked in an office before she had surgery 3 months ago, worked in Spain for a year, cooks well, keeps a clean house, and has raised three amazing, studious, independent daughters, and always has the best intentions. Unfortunately she worries all of the time about everything and always has an opinion about the ‘right’ way to do everything. She constantly nitpicks everything in the girls life, corrects them, gives them unasked for advices…She tried to tell me how to cook the periogies even though she has never seen a periogie in her life. When I hung my raincoat outside to dry, first she didn’t like which clothes line I hung it on. She was worried that it would get wet on the one from rain during the night on the I had initially selected, so I moved it to one closer to the house; it still got wet. Then she didn’t think I put the coat high enough on the clothes line, so she slide it up about 6 inches. Then she didn’t like how I’d hung the coat, so that had to be adjusted. Then she didn’t like the clothes pins I was using, so I had to change those. All that to hang a rain coat. She is like that with everything, cooking, cleaning, how the girls dress…everything. Because she really does just want to be helpful, it generally doesn’t bother me; its only for 11 weeks. But if she was someone I had to live with for an extended period of time, I’d have to put some limits to her ‘helpfulness’, but for now, I just accept that she genuinely is a nice person, take her advice when applicable, and excuse her when she gets excessive.

Patricia ‘Patti’
22, is a student in Asuncion in the mornings studying how to make prosthetic dental work, in the afternoon she works in a dentist’s office. She once dated a Peace Corps volunteer while he was in training, but the relationship fell apart when he moved to his site, several hours away. Patti is very hardworking and very fashionable, and talks alllllllll of the time. On the weekends usually I tag along with her to go shopping or whatever errands she is running.

Silviana ‘Silvi’
20 years also a student. Currently she does accounting work balancing the books, of at least one of Teresa’s friends. Silvi isn’t much of a talker so we get along really well. I can sit at the table and study with her while she is working and actually get some studying done. She is also studying English, so I get to help her some of the time with her pronuciaiton.

Natalia ‘Nata’
12, is in the 7th grade. Takes after her mom and older sister in that she talks a lot as well. Nata is very sweet and was a great helper when I made the perodiges.

I am the family’s 4th volunteer so they are well broken in. They know how to talk to me in a clear, slow manner, what words I’m most likely to know, and what concepts are likely to be new to me(like hand-washing clothes). They have put a high priority on education for the daughters, which is very progressive. The parents lived in Spain for a time, which is the exact opposite of many Paraguayns who may have never left their state, let alone lived and worked in a different country. Everyone is hardworking and chips in to keep the household running. They also have really good manners, wash their hands frequently, including before they eat (this is actually pretty usual), use individual napkins (instead of a communal napkin that everyone shares). The kitchen is very clean and Teresa is very picky about making sure the food from the day before is reheated before its eaten again so I don’t worry about the food getting contaminated. They are uber patient, extremely nice, extremely helpful, extremely trustworthy, and overall just a great group of people to live with during training. I really lucked out this time.

Medical Care

Each week we see our PCMOs [PC Medical Officers]Nurse Mary aka Medical Mary, and Dr Luis at the Guarambare Training Center.

(Dr. Luis who is currently in South Africa because they were short doctors)

They give us shots, check in about our health, and distribute medication, and give us lectures on all of the fun health issues we might encounter during our service. Fortunately PC medical care is ridiculously awesome. They pay for %100 of our medications and medical treatment. Either Mary or Dr. Luis are on call 24/7. If I get sick, call them, and they tell me to come into the office, the PC will reimburse me for my bus fare to and from Asuncion. If I can’t return to my site that same day, PC will pay for me to stay in a preapproved hotel, and give me a daily allowance if needed. If a volunteer is raped or suffers a major assault but don’t need emergency medical assistance, Mary or Luis will come out to the site, retrieve the volunteer, and bring them back to Asuncion for treatment. If a volunteer does need emergency assistance, we’ve been told that people who help us get us to help can be reimbursed. A story has circulated about people [the general public, not volunteers], who have bled to death because people won’t let them into their personal vehicles for fear of staining the seats. PC has assured us that they will pay to clean car upholstery, gas, medication or emergency procedure… whatever is necessary to get a volunteer the proper medical attention in a life threatening emergency will be reimbursed. We are told to visit the local clinics and nearest hospitals to introduce ourselves, makes friends with the doctors and nurses, give them a list of emergency contact information, and assure them that if a volunteer ever comes in for emergency treatment payment is not an issue, PC will take care of all of everything, they just need to focus on getting us the proper medical care.
The only notable exception is for non-emergencies where volunteers get treatment or purchase medications without previous authorization from the PCMO. If the PCMO doesn’t authorize the purchase or treatment beforehand, the volunteer doesn’t get compensated. For example, a volunteers starts having stomach problems, they go to a local clinic and get some medications without talking to a PCMO. These expenses would not be reimbursed.

We are covered if we travel as well unless we go to the US, then we aren’t covered for anything. As government employees we are also covered by FECA [Federal Employee’s Compensation Act] aka workers comp. As long as we are not injured while engaging in high risk activities like bungee jumping, volunteers have long-term coverage for injuries and illness sustained during service.

If something major does happen. A volunteer has 45 days to recover. Depending on the injury, that recovery period may be spent in a facility in Paraguay or at the PC’s medical facilities in Washington D.C. If the volunteer cannot return to work in 45 days, they are medically separated. They still receive medical treatment, but they are not considered a PC volunteer anymore. However if the volunteer recovers within about 3 months of the incident, and would still like to return, they may be readmitted as a volunteer in the same site. For example, there is a volunteer who fell into a ditch and shattered her heel bone. She was MedEvaced, Medically Evacuated [sent back to the US for treatment], was not able to recover in 45 days, and was ‘Medically Separated.’ However she has made enough progress in rehab since she was injured a couple of months ago, and is expected to return to her site in a few weeks and continue her volunteer work.

Dental Care:
Yup, the teeth are covered too. We get one cleaning per year. Also any damage that our teeth sustain ie cracking a tooth on a stone hidden in rice, getting hit in the mouth and losing a tooth, root canals, etc are also covered as long as the procedure is not for a pre-existing condition.

Pregnancy is the one area where the PC isn’t very supportive of its female volunteers.

Male volunteer:
• The in-country pre-natal, delivery, postpartum, and pediatric care of the mother/child are covered by the PC as long as the male volunteer claims the child as his own and lives with the child.
• There is no limit on the number of children a male volunteer can have. So go forth and be fruitful.

Female volunteer:
• Pre-Pregnancy: PC pays for contraception (the pill) and emergency contraception (Plan B).
• If the female becomes pregnant and decides to keep the baby she can stay at her site for 3 months. After that time she will be ‘Medically Separated’ and not be permitted to return to her site. Her pre-natal, delivery, postpartum, and pediatric care will be covered.
• If a female volunteer gets pregnant and wants to terminate, she will be MedEvaced to the US for the procedure [abortions are illegal in Paraguay]. However, once the volunteer is back in the US, she has to make the arrangements herself and cover the costs herself. After she has recovered, she can return to her site.
• If a female volunteer has 2 unwanted pregnancies she ‘separated’ [aka kicked out]of the PC. Two unwanted pregnancies by a female volunteer is ‘considered evidence of irresponsible behavior incompatible with Volunteer service.’

To summarize:
• Male and Female volunteers can get as many STDs as they want, the more the merrier, and all of the medical expenses will be covered.
• Jim Jo Bob Be-Fruitful can start his own human breeding colony and all of his children are covered as long as he claims them and can find a roof big enough to house everyone.
• Fertile Mertil has 2 unwanted pregnancies so she gets fired from her job and has to foot the bill for her medical expenses.
• An notable blemish on an otherwise absolutely stellar health care policy

After I swear in as a volunteer, PC gives me a cell phone and recharges it with a fixed amount each month. I can add to that amount if needed.

The basic jist is that there are some really icky bugs and illnesses I might be faced with, but for the most part, the PC will take good care of me.

How the PC thing works

So I realized that most people probably don’t know how the PC program works…so here is an overview:

Staging: 1 day orientation in Miami, Florida
• 18 trainees from all over the US, met each other for the first time, completed some paperwork, did a few ice breakers, learned the basics of the how the next few hours and months would work, and then boarded a plane for Asuncion, Paraguay via Sao Paulo Brazil.
• Upon arrival in Asuncion we were taking to the CHP via van to their training center. After a few hours of activities, and an interview to determine host family placement, we were driven to our school, CHP’i, located in another community where we would live with our host families and attend most of our classes.

11 weeks of training through CHP
• CHP, which used to stand for ‘Center for Human Potential,’ is an international language and technical training program the PC uses in many of their countries to transform trainees into high performing volunteers.
• A group of volunteers is given a letter and number. Our group of 18 volunteers is G30. I think the ‘G’ stands for ‘Guarambare’ which is the name of the city that CHP is located in, but we use in the same way we would use the word ‘group’. There are 3 G’s per year. A sister G is the group 1 year behind/ahead of you.
• My group of volunteers, G30, is divided into 2 areas: Rural Economic Development [RED] and a subsector of RED called Municipal Services Development [Muni].
• During training, trainees live with host families who are paid a small about per day to cover meals and living expenses. Muni live in J.A. Saldivar; RED live in Paso de Oro.
• Trainees are given 15,000G [$US3] per day as spending money to purchase personal items, take the buses [2,100G], buy snacks, etc.
• Classes last from about 7:45am to 5:00pm Monday-Friday; 8:00am-11:30 on Saturday.
o The morning session lasts from 7:45am-11:30am and usually consists of language classes.
o The evening session from 1:30pm-5:00pm is usually technical training. Usually RED and Muni have these classes separately, however on Wednesdays we go to Guarambare for sessions together.
• During these 11 weeks, trainees complete two face-to-face interviews and one final questionnaire in order to help determine what is the most appropriate future site. During Week#9, trainees are assigned their official site and visit it for about 5 days. After the visit they return to their training communities for 2 more weeks.
• During their future site visit, trainees also meet their Community Contact. Ideally the Community Contact is someone who works in the Muni who will first helps the volunteer find a suitable place to live and then helps them identify community needs and start working on projects.

Final Site
• After the 11 weeks, the trainees are sworn in a ceremony at the US Embassy and become official volunteers.
• After swearing in, the volunteer must then pack up their belongings, leave their host family in their training community, and move to their new site.
• Volunteers are committed to working in their site for the next 2 years.
• After 2 years the volunteer can choose to return to the US, or they can extend their service. If a volunteer chooses to extend they can continue working in their site, they can start working for an NGO, they can work in the PC office in Asuncion, or they can become a site coordinator [the people who go out and find and evaluate potential sites as well as place volunteers in those sites.] Extensions are for a minimum of 3 months, though 6months-1 year is more common. However some volunteers have been known to extend for 2 or more years.
• Extending is a very popular option for volunteers in Paraguay and our Country Director, Don, highly encourages it.

G30-RED vs Muni

Rural Economic Development [RED]
RED volunteers will be working in rural areas with small businesses and cooperatives to help them start new businesses and improve the existing ones. Their training community, Paso del Oro, is a slightly more rural community which will help them prepare for their future living conditions. There are 10 volunteers in the RED group.

Municipal Services Development [Muni] *My Group*
Muni volunteers are supposed to work with local governments in cities ranging from 2,000 people to 100,000 people. Technically Muni is a subsector of RED, though the programs are completely different. I suspect that the Muni program will be taken out from under the RED umbrella within the next few years.

The official goal of this group is to 1) increase transparency 2) improve public services 3)increase public participation in the community. However the actual trend is for Muni volunteers to work less and less with the local government itself. Even though the communities have specifically requested to have a volunteer help at the Muni, the reality is that many local governments are not really ready to make the kinds of dramatic internal changes that Muni volunteers are supposed to create. While there are some exceptions, many Muni volunteers have such a hard time developing projects with the local government that they take on secondary projects in other areas to fill their time. Because, Paraguay is often ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, the goals of the Muni program are very important for the development of the country, but extremely difficult to actually achieve.

Initially there were supposed to be 9 people in the Muni group, however one lady just didn’t show up to staging. Evidently she sent the coordinators an email the day we left for Paraguay that basically said she wouldn’t be able to make it this time. Personally I can’t imagine going through all of that application process and then just not getting on the plane. There are currently 8 in the Muni group.

Other Types of Volunteers
• Environmental Education [EE]
• Agriculture [includes bee keeping]
• Urban Youth Development
• Health and Sanitation

Vacation Time
• Volunteers can travel anywhere they want during their service, including the US, but they have to use vacation time and pay for their own travel expenses.
• Volunteers receive 2 paid vacation days per month which can be saved up over time.
• All trips have to be preapproved and cannot conflict with mandatory trainings
• Taking vacations without permission is grounds for ‘Administrative Separation’ aka getting fired.

Language Training
As mentioned before, most of the training for the 2 groups, Muni and RED, is done separately. The Muni group is divided into 2 language groups, 3 who are studying Spanish and 5 who have strong enough Spanish skills to start learning Guarani. The RED group has 3 language groups, 2 for Spanish and 1 class with 3 Guarani students. All trainees much reach a level of Intermediate Spanish to swear in as a volunteer.

Technical Training
Muni and RED each have training sessions and field trips related to their work area. The RED group has visited cooperatives, farms, reviewed business basics, etc

Muni group visits local governments and offices where social services are distributes, learns about the governmental structure, how local government earn and spend their money, Itaipu Royalties, basic laws affecting the Munis, challenges faced by the Munis, corruption, how to help with project management, feasibility studies, etc

Guarambare Training
In the Guarambare Training Center each Wednesday, the REDs and Munis receive training together on PC regulations, medical issues, safety guidelines, how to make sure our water and food is clean properly, sexual/physical assault, gender awareness, culture shock, gardening, ice breakers, team building activities, group dynamics, PACA tools, etc.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Medical Session 7_8_09

This week with Medical Mary and Doctor Luis I had the pleasure of learning about all of the fun skin problems I might run into from boils to bot flies.

Bot Flies:
I’ve heard of bot flies before and they creep me the hell out more than anything I’ve ever encountered. Ugg my skin is crawling just thinking about them. Basically the fly larva burrows into your skin and begins to grow. Initially the spot looks like a mosquito bite except there is a small hole in the center of the bite that the larva needs to breath. To kill the fly all you have to do is cover the breathing hole with something like Vaseline. Sometimes you can also push the larva out like popping a zit. Another technique is to put a piece of raw meat over the bite in the hopes that the larva will crawl out of your skin and into the meat. However, evidently the larva do not like it if you cover their air hole, they will probably start to sting you and it is possible to feel them moving around. If the larva does die for whatever reason and you can’t get it out, your body will either absorb it or the wound will get infected and the larva will have to be removed by Doctor Luis. Evidently Dr. Luis takes great pleasure in this particular surgery because he has the biggest grin, and a glint in his eye when Mary started talking about it.

There are also a type of flea that burrow into your skin, usually the feet, and lay eggs. 2 people in the RED group have already gotten them. The flea itself just looks like a little black dot that itches. The eggs are little white clusters that also itch. Fortunately removing them is easy. You can dig them out like a splinter with a needle.

They also warned us again bed bugs, athletes’ foot, jock itch, boils, and these bugs that live in the walls of non-brick homes that cause a disease called Changas.

Ahh the wonderful rewards of being a volunteer.



We recently went to see Transformers at a theater in Asuncion. It was in English with Spanish subtitles, which is normal for adult movies from the US. Children’s movies, like Harry Potter, are usually dubbed. Personally I hate dubbed movies, but I do understand why it is preferable for the kiddies.

One interesting thing was that this theater added an intermission. Unfortunately they didn’t do a good job of planning which scene would have the intermission. They paused the film at a spot that disturbed the overall flow of the story. I also think the movie itself was still playing because the scene we returned to wasn’t the same scene that we left off at.

Overall I liked the movie, but what made it such a memorable movie-going experience was the fact that it because very clear that we were the only ones in the theater who were native English speakers. The three of us, Jenna, Elmer, and I sat together in the middle of the small theater. There were many times where we started laughing…but no one else did… because the slang, when translated, didn’t really make sense or wasn’t funny anymore. The fact that we were the only ones who understood all of the funny parts made the whole situation even funnier. We spent most of the movie, giggling to ourselves, in the middle of a full, but mostly silent theater. If you ever get the chance to travel to a non English speaking country, make sure to see a funny movie in English. It will be a notable experience

A rose by any other name…

When I was studying abroad in Chile I realized that my name ‘Lyndsay’ was very difficult to pronounce, especially for the older people. Young people knew how to say it only if they were familiar with Lindsay Lohan. Because of this, I started going by ‘Lyn,’ which they had no trouble with. The Chileans put the articles ‘el’ or la’ before names so I became ‘La Lyn’, which has a really nice ring to it.

I assumed Paraguayans would have the same difficulties with my legal name, so I shortened it right from the beginning. However I’ve come to realize Paraguayans pronounce the ‘n’ at the end of any word like an‘m.’ So they pronounce my name like ‘Lim’ (like a tree limb).

This also means one volunteer, Ron, is called ‘Rom’ which means rum; another volunteer named ‘King’ is called ‘Kim.’

While we’re talking on the topic of names, there is a volunteer named Shavonda in my G. Her name in Guarani is one vowel sound away from meaning ‘I’m a prostitute/loose woman’ = Che Vanda. ‘Che’ means ‘I.’ It also means that whenever I say her name, I’m also calling myself a loose woman. Our discovery of this little fun fact and the overall difficulty that Paraguayans have with her name has considered trying to rename her. Nothing has stuck yet, but a random man in a community she visited suggested ‘Juanita’ and an inside joke has also produced the name ‘Wonderful.’

Computers: I’d like my Google plugged back in, please.

Most people don’t have a computer, even fewer have internet access, even fewer have a personal computer. No one has virus protection, not even the cyber cafes. So I’m really paranoid about getting one on my computer right now because I can’t access the most recent virus protection because I don’t have access to the internet via my laptop. I backed up all of my information before I came to Paraguay and left the copies with my things in Texas and brought extra blank cds with me. However I forgot to bring the computer cds for my operating system and programs so that I can reload everything if I have to wipe the hard drive. My host family always wants me to put my photos on their computers, but because of their lack of virus protection, I’m hesitant to do so. They aren’t at a high risk for contracting something because they don’t have the internet and they almost never use the computer, but still.

I’ve put all of the documents that I’ve created on my pin drive and some of my photos in case my computer does die. At the end of training I’ll put it all on two cds and send one back to the US for safe keeping. I’ll do that periodically, just so I don’t lose everything. I also scan my pin drive everything I put it into my laptop to check for viruses. Again, I won’t be able to protect the computer from new viruses yet, but at least I’ll catch the old ones hopefully.

Internet Access

As far as internet access goes there are several cybers in our community, including one near my house at my training site with an average speed connection most of the time. One good sign that internet access and speeds might be increasing soon is that a few months ago the Paraguayan government opened up the internet market to increase competition. They don’t have wireless at the PC Asuncion office right now, but in the next few months they are working on setting up a hot spot. We had a session with Gustavo, the PC IT guy. Whose most memorable piece of advice for using the PC computers was ‘No porn!’

Many volunteers at their sites have internet access through their USB ports via their cell phone. Once I swear in, the PC will give me a cell phone and I can start looking into an internet plan through my phone carrier.

The best time for me to go to the cyber is after class sometime after 5pm. Unfortunately, usually it gets dark by then and I avoid walking alone at night. So I don’t get as much internet time as I’m used to. In some ways it is nice to unplug.

A CHP employee has come up with a series of expressions like ‘PowerPoint unplugged’ and ‘Google unplugged’ to describe the presentation and research techniques in a community where computer and internet access is limited. I’m fine without PowerPoint, but the ‘Google unplugged’ aka asking the people for information, isn’t something I like to rely on much. Paraguayans are very eager to please and friendly most of the time, so they will give you bad directions because they don’t want to admit that they don’t know or can’t help. History is also a topic that comes up frequently in class; the Paraguayan answers often differ markedly from the record accepted by most historians internationally including whether or not Paraguay won the wars it has been involved in.

In conclusion, I’d like my Google plugged back in, please.

Friday, July 10, 2009

We got a washing machine!!!

It’s bbbbbea-utiful. It only washes the clothes, it doesn’t rinse them, but it is still an exquisite piece of machinery as far as I’m concerned. Right now I only use it to wash my jackets and pants, because it’s a little hard on more delicate fabrics, but not having to scrub my pants is heaven.

I’ve also learned a few washing tricks from a former volunteer. One is that I shouldn’t use OMO, the most popular washing detergent because is extremely strong and will strip the clothes of their color. She also told us that soaping up the clothes and let them soak for a while is just as effective as scrubbing the daylights out of the clothes and they will last longer. I also have to make sure to zip up my pants when they are drying on the clothes line; otherwise the sun will bleach one part of the fabric more, creating an arrow to my ‘particulars,’ to use Anne Marie exact terminology.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 3,4th, 5th, 2009

Even though the PC is a US organization, we didn’t get the 4th of July off. On the 3rd of July however, my trainer Ricardo, had pity on us. We were supposed to do a field trip to a place that related to the municipality; however we went to the botanical gardens and the zoo in Asuncion. It’s a little bit of a stretch, but they do hold environmental education classes there, have a library, the employees do technically work for the Muni, and a lot of Muni volunteers take on environmental education projects as secondary projects [or primary projects if the Muni doesn’t cooperate]. The gardens and zoo aren’t big, but they are certainly a nice change from the surrounding city. IN the zoo I felt horrible for the chimps. Their cage was so small and there were only two of them. It upsets me to see a creature that is so similar to humans treated like this; it must be such a frustrating existence.

After we finished at the zoo we went 4th of July party at the US embassy. It’s huge! It’s a walled compound about 1-2 blocks wide and 3ish blocks long. There is a huge lawn with beautiful trees everywhere, a pool, a playground, tennis courts, a small soccer field, a volleyball court, a bounce house, and a few small buildings. Just beautiful. Can this be my site? When do I move in?

There was also a guy dressed up as Uncle Sam and some red, white, and blue decorations around the facility. Red, white, and blue are also Paraguay’s national colors, so I have a feeling the decorations are multipurpose.

For lunch they had hamburgers, vegeburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, an attempt at potato salad [small red potatoes halved with mayo], potato chips, chocolate chip cookies [though they weren’t quite the same as in the US], brownies, an attempt at cheesecake, fudge, and some apple pie with vanilla ice cream [which is never as good as Grammy’s pie].

But in comparison with the food that I have been eating lately, it was sooooo nice to eat something that I recognized. And no, the lunch was not on the taxpayers dime. We had to pay 20,000 each [about $4] I was lucky because I hovered around the buffet line so I was one of the first people in line. Even so, it took a while to get through line. Quickly the line got long and took forever to move.

After lunch we played soccer, volleyball, talked with current volunteers about their experiences, bought t-shirts [25,000G]and totes [20,000G] designed by the volunteers, I bought a PC cookbook for 25,000G[Medical Mary made the first one 10 years ago when she was a volunteer, this is the first time they have revised it]. I could have bought the disc copy as well for another 10,000G, but didn’t feel like spending the money right now. When you make 15,000G per day [$3] spending about 2,300G for the garden and zoo, 20,000G for lunch and another 35,000G for a cookbook with a disk copy just seems extravagant. I also saw the US ambassador while she made her rounds.

We left as a group around 3pm and came back to the training community. Initially we were told that we could stay in AsunciĆ³n for a few more hours if we wanted, but we would have to find our own transportation back home, but CHP withdrew this option a few days before the party and said we all had to return as a group. There was a party hosted by PC volunteers after the embassy lunch for 80,000G [$16US] and I think they were afraid that we would try and go if given the free time. I personally would have liked to opportunity to go to a market and pick up a few personal items, but I think they were afraid we would party too hard to make it to class the next day. It gets a little annoying sometimes that they restrict us so much with the scheduling and where we can travel during training, and yet they expect us to become self-sufficient. If they want us to be able to learn to take care of ourselves here, perhaps they should give us more opportunities to do so.

Actual 4th of July
We had a history session all morning and had the afternoon, which is pretty much our standard Saturday schedule.

July 5th, 2009
My host mom cooked sopa Paraguay and chipa guasu, traditional Paraguayan dishes, that she doesn’t usually cook to do something special for the 4th of July since we didn’t really get a holiday. My host dad did a little too much drinking again, and then his favorite soccer team won the championship. So he got dressed up in all of his team gear, got a shovel and a hammer, and went around the neighborhood banging the shovel with the hammer in celebration.