Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Paraguay doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but PC volunteers do :). Since it wasn’t an official holiday, the fact that my Reconnect event ended on Thursday didn’t matter, because the unofficial festivities didn’t begin until Friday. Each Thanksgiving a good portion of the ~200 volunteers in Paraguay travel to Capitan Miranda, outside of Encarnacion, for a Friday-Sunday bash at a local resort. Easy there, not on Uncle Sam’s dollar, okay well indirectly on Uncle Sam’s dollar since my salary comes from the gov… but we did have to pay to go. Actually I felt a little guilty because the resort was so nice. Seriously, it’s a top notch semi-tropical set-up. It crossed my mind while admiring my surroundings ‘Hey, I’m in the PC, am I supposed to be having so much fun? I thought I was supposed to suffer a little bit? Aw heck, let’s have a good time.’

Friday consisted of hanging out at the pool we took over due to sheer numbers and the fact that volunteers were staying in most, if not all of the rooms by that particular pool. It was really nice to put faces to so many of the names that I hear floating around all of the time.

We ate a traditional Thanksgiving dinner cooked entirely by PC volunteers. I heard they had someone bring in real Velveeta from the US for the mac and cheese. For once being a vegetarian in Paraguay paid off. We were called to the buffet line by tables, but the cooks and vegetarians got to go first, regardless of their table. I won’t go into detail, but the food was delicious, the one thing I wish they would have done differently was label the food, and note whether it was vegetarian, and maybe a note it had nuts, dairy, gluten if it wasn’t obvious. I was lucky because since I served myself at the same time as the cooks, I was able to ask them directly.

(The main dinner was masquerade themed)

On Saturday I went to see the nearby Jesuit ruins. My camera’s batteries were dead, which of course I didn’t realize until I got there. I’m waiting for people to post to facebook so I can nab some pics. The ruins were very interesting, but the price was much higher than expected. Recently they made some improvements to the site so they more than tripled their prices. We also had to buy a three day pass that allowed us access to two other ruins, there wasn’t a single day, 1 ruin pass. However we were a large group, and made a fuss about the price, so they gave us a guide for free.

Saturday night consisted of a talent show and auction to raise money for our Gender and Development(GAD) programs.

The talent show was pretty good, mostly people on guitar, including our country director who actually has a very nice singing voice. Go figure.

While G30 didn’t have any representatives in the talent show, I am proud [because I had sooo much to do with it naturally] to say that Dina Davis started the auction off with a bang. Her 5 watercolor paintings inspired a frenzied bidding, even though no one had actually seen the paintings before the auction. Minor organizational flaw. Personally, when I found out that Dina’s work was going up for sale, I made sure to comment about how talented she was whenever it came up. She did some amazing sketches and thank you cards during training. Considering how fierce the bidding because, I’m guessing that my g-mates were doing the exact same thing.

Other fun items for sale, a hair cut by one of the volunteers, and pedicure with the removal of up to 4 pique. I think I mentioned pique in an earlier post. Pique is a type of flea that generally gets into your feet, especially if you walk around in sandals or flip flops, buries itself just under the surface of your skin and lays eggs. It starts as a black spot, the flea, which is soon surrounded by a halo of white, the eggs. If you don’t dig the flea out with the eggs, eventually it will burst on its own, like a blister, oozing the egg matter all over. Awesome I know.

GAD initially thought they would make less than 100,000 from the auction. They ended up making 1,200,000ish.

After the auction there was a dance party. Yes, I danced. No, you cannot see proof. If I find any, I will destroy it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


For our first ‘Reconnect’ lasted for three days. My entire group went back to our training community in Guarambare to see how everyone is doing, have a medical session with Medical Mary and Dr. Luis, talk with the PC directors, listened to a few charlas to give us some project ideas... The week also heavily focused on language classes, which I was not happy about. CHP’s language training style and I have never gotten along very well. One the first day we were divided into small preselected Spanish and Guarani groups. The first two hours were helpful, but after lunch the teacher decided that we were going to play games with the new words. While I do understand that games help some people learn, I am not one of them. I find them to be painful and generally embarrassing if they take place right after we’ve learned new material and I haven’t had time to process it yet. So I decided I didn’t want to play games, I wanted to go and study the material by myself.

During training I would have learned a lot more material if I had spent less time in class. I should have just excused myself everyday after about 2 hours of class to go study the material alone. However I felt like I was a bad volunteer if I didn’t stay in class the whole time. I stayed, was miserable, and completely lost my desire to learn Guarani.

Once I left training I remembered that my responsibility was to learn the language, in whatever way was best for me. After that, I decided that I wasn’t going to waste my time with language exercises that weren’t useful for my learning style.

It took about two months for me to regain my desire to learn Guarani, and I didn’t want to lose that, which I why I was so insistent about being allowed to study on my own.

Rough translation of the actual conversation I had with my language teacher on the first day:

Lyn to the teacher after seeing the game board: ‘Hi, I’m going to go study the material from this morning by myself. Games don’t just work for me.’

Teacher: *Gives me a hard stare like he doesn’t understand what I’m saying
‘Oh then we’ll do something else…’
*Reaches to collect the boards from the causing the other students, who do indeed want to play the game, to protest and hold onto their game papers.

Lyn: ‘No no, they can play if it works for them, it just doesn’t work for me, so I’m going to go study by myself outside.’

Teacher: *Hard stare
‘I don’t think you’re allowed to do that’

Lyn: *Hard stare, slight, set smile
‘I’m going to go study by myself’

Teacher: *slightly exasperated expression that in an indirect culture probably means ‘Get your behind into a seat now…please’
‘Well I’m going to have to tell such and such that you didn’t come to class.’

Lyn: *Not from an indirect culture blows off said warning, smiles, and probably rolls my eyes.
‘That’s fine’
*Goes to a bench outside and studies

Reconnect Day 2 and 3

The next day our little group had the pleasure of breaking in a new teacher. And by pleasure I mean that for the next two days we treated her like a bunch of fourteen year olds torturing a first time substitute.

Case and point:
After doing activity with flash cards that we generally decided was not helpful, we then had to use the guarani words from the flash cards in a sentence. To spice things up we started using the word for ‘to dance,’ [ajeroky], since we had all had a hard time remembering it even though we’d learned it in class, in all of our examples. Every single one of them. Even after the poor woman started shaking her head and saying, ‘use a new verb guys, new verb’ we persisted because we had to do something to pass the time.

One day three I just completely skipped out on the second half of class because it was so dull that I was losing my mind. Jenna and I just sat under a tree and chatted while everyone was in class. Evidently while I was gone Miguel took over the class, went over to the board, and started reviewing the dirty words and phrases we had learned during training.

In our defense, she was a pretty bad teacher and as such we were not able to get her to answer the questions we did have. We would ask her a question and if we didn’t understand her response we would ask her again in a different way, trying to get a different response to clear up the confusion. But she would just point at the board and repeat her response from before. She also couldn’t put things into the following structure:

…which is the format that all of our language training is been in.

To give her credit, she was a good sport about it. It is hard to be mad at Carlos and Miguel; they are quite funny, even with they are being terrible students.

In an effort to get out of language class, Jenna and I decided that we wanted time to get together and discuss what everyone was working on, which is what we thought Reconnect was about in the first place. People could still go to language if they wanted, some people were genuinely finding their classes to be very helpful, or they could come to the alternate session and discuss projects. The male professor I’d had a staring contest with was the one who controlled the schedule, so I figured it would be best to ask my program director, Elisa, to request the extra meeting time. I don’t think he is my biggest fan. The next morning the teacher went to Jenna to inform her that our alternate session had been approved 

Host Family:
Oh yea, and I decided not to stay with my old host family during reconnect. Living with Teresa was just too stressful. I probably won’t go back and visit them. I do have 2 of the sister’s emails. I’ve been talking to one of them, she never asked if I was going to come and stay with them, so I didn’t have to find a polite way to say ‘Your mother is a pill and it stresses me out.’ I am sad that I probably won’t see them again, especially little Nati, such a sweetheart.

I stayed with a sweet old woman who had hosted volunteers in the past when her city was used as a training community. It was just a few blocks from the school, and not having to take the bus to CHP was very nice, though I did miss out my morning walk to Jenna’s house to pick her up and then walk to the bus stop.

Only one other person from my group also decided not to stay with her host family, but I think it is because she is going to visit them in a few weeks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Its Getting Hot In Here

Back when I was living with my parents my mom and I used to watch the weather channel. As summer approached our good ole friend the high pressure system would slowly settle over the lone star state like a hen on her eggs, smothering us all into pathetic human puddles as we jumped from between air conditioned buildings and air-conditioned cars. Mom and I used to wait to see how high the temperature would get before the weather person would finally use the word ‘hot.’ Usually they would usually use the words ‘warm’ or ‘very warm’ until about the high 90’s, though I think I recall a few times when it was around 101 and they still had the audacity to use a diminutive form of ‘hot.’ Though it does feel like your admitting defeat when you finally admit that it is indeed more than just a little toasty outside.

As it stands, I have never been so glad to be from hot-box Texas and so accustomed to wilting heat. Right now it is definitely warm, probably in the high 90’s. I read Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, a supposedly non-fiction travelogue about Paraguay that is much more closely related to a novel with all of the exaggerated and pretentious bs he put into that book. Anyway, the one thing I did find entertaining was the number of people from Texas that he came across while he was in Paraguay. Evidently I’m not the only one who noticed the similarity in climate.

I’m proud to say that while I am sweating constantly, my favorite place in any room is right in front of the fan, and the only a/c I have access to is in the Muni, I do not feel terribly uncomfortable…yet. I get a bit sweaty if I go and walk around between noon-3pm, but as long as I have my umbrella to give me a bit of shade, I’m fine. The only time I have any problems is at night, since my perfect sleeping temperature is around 68 degrees and yesterday evening around 8:30pm the temperature was still about 85-88 degrees.

I do have a friend who recently purchased an a/c window unit for his house for 1 million g. He is moving back to Canada sometime between February and April and I’m hoping that when he leaves I might be able to get him to sell me his a/c at a discount. If it is in February or March, I might even be able to get Carly to chip in if the a/c lives at her house for those months.

At least this is still technically spring, so hopefully on occasion I can look forward to periodic showers that will pull the temperatures back into the 70’s and 80’s for a few days. Although last year they didn’t get any rain for 6 months, the week I arrived here in May was the first rain they had had since December, so who knows.

I actually am surprised that the Paraguayans have already started complaining about the heat since they should be used to it. It is still a dry heat as well, which makes the temperatures even more tolerable. I do have a lot of people who tell me that it didn’t used to be this hot and the climate is changing. Climate change or not, it is far too early in the summer time to start being miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that when January rolls around I’ll be crying ‘uncle’ with everyone else. But for now I’m surprisingly content.

Weatherperson Jolley’s current forecast: Very Warm