Monday, September 10, 2012

Tucker has a New Mommy

So a few weeks ago I put the following advertisement in the Peace Corps Facebook group.

"1.5 year old dog looking for a new home. I’m COSing in September and looking for a new home for my little pal Tucker. I found him on the street, in the rain, when he was 2 months old and just couldn't turn away from his pound puppy eyes.

He is about 1.5 years old, still a lot of puppy in him, but he will be a great dog. He weighs about 28 lbs and is about 18inches tall to his shoulder.

He is neutered, house broken, knows basic commands and has many other special skills.

He is an expert bug hunter (specializing in cicadas), does an uncanny Tigger impression, loves long walks (beach not required), and is endlessly useful for cleaning dishes and cuddling during cold winters. 

So if you find yourself hankering for a four-legged companion, but don’t want to or know how to care for a puppy, give me a call. I’m sure Tucker would be quite happy to be your friend."

At first it looked like no one wanted him, especially since no one responded after I posted the advert again.  I was able find a Paraguayan friend, Carmen, who said she would be willing to take him, but I really wanted to find a volunteer to adopt him since he has some very american habits, such as sleeping in the bed with me.  I was dismayed I couldn't find even one person who truly wanted him.  Thankfully at a recent VAC meeting, I was able to immediately find Tucker a very enthusiastic new mommy named Virginia.  Heck a second volunteer also asked to adopt him.  Finally, people who realized a catch when they saw one.

Tonight is Tucker's last night here, Peace Corps is sending a vehicle to pick up the office supplies from my house, and we're catching a ride in the truck to Capucu to be with Virginia. She is a new volunteer so at the very least, I can rest assured Tucker will have two more solid years of nortetime.

In celebration of our time together here are some of my favorite Tucker pictures.

Dinner time at the zoo.

Puppy love

Bunnysitting...Am I doing it right?

Oh I'm sorry, were you going to use this?

Pound Puppy eyes activate!


Sitting on the step

Too early, back to bed

It's cold


Happy featuring Penguin!

I did my best to avoid getting pets in Peace Corps, and failed miserably in that effort.  Having Lila stolen and having to give Tucker away is heartbreaking, but I have so many good memories of the both of them, that it's been absolutely worth it.  At least I know Tucker is going to a great home with someone who is incredibly excited to have him and will give him lots of love. 

Who knows, maybe if Tucker is a really good dog he'll even convince Virginia to take him back to the states with her.  Maybe if I'm really lucky too, I'll get to see him again.  Good luck on your next adventure Senor Tuck Tuck.  You have been loved; you will be missed.

Followup- Tucker with Virginia (fellow Peace Corps volunteer in Capucu), his new mommy

Tucker in the car on the way to Virginia's House.  He is resting his head on my shoulder per usual when he is in my lap

Virginia gave him a bath.  Time to roll around in the grass

Virginia walking with Tuck

Tuck with new family member Karina

Sleeping on the bed. So gentlemanly 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Closing Time: So how's the weather down there? ...Enjoy Your Summer; I'll just sit here in my parka.

Winter #1-2009
In Training- J. Agosto Saldivar

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so cold and wet. Its always hot in Paraguay right? What a cruel joke. Misery ensues. Showers are dreaded.  I go into the bathroom fully clothed, boots and all, shower in a tiny dribble of warm water and then slip my arms into the sleeves of my three jackets in one smooth motion since they now fit together like one giant jacket.  Showers become infrequent and are taken mostly to show the host family I’m not an unhygienic person.  

What am I wearing? Its been so long since I’ve take my clothes off I don’t remember.  Business Casual dress code in training? Very funny, I'll just keep wearing my pajama shirt because I’m not going to take off my megajacket anyway. Popcorn and mandarins for a snack during class are a sanity saver.

Winter #2-2010
In Campo 9

In site, in my own house, with a space heater, and water bottle and two sleeping bags.  Ok I can handle this. I want to go to bed at 7pm, but try to stay up until 8-9pm, wake up at 10am when it starts to warm up.  Showers meh, ever 2-3days.

Winter #3-2011 and #4-2012
In San Ignacio

Winter, you are my bitch.  I've got this shit down.  Rarely use the space heater, two water bottles, exercise at night to warm up my feet before bed. Shower almost every night after exercising. Bring it!

Summer #1- 2010
In Campo 9

Little uncomfortable at the host familys house since my room gets super hot, but I don’t see what all of the fuss is about. Siesta time- best time to be out and about walking around without being harassed since there is no one on the street.  Adopt my trademark style of wide brimmed hat o senora style umbrella for shade whenever walking around and the sun is up.

Summer #2-2011
In Campo 9

Easy peasy.  I’m in my own house that faces east and is almost completely covered by shade due to large trees on the westside of the house. The dust is annoying, but I don’t care anymore.  Living la vida sweaty and dusty.  Ok this siesta thing is pretty cool.  Lets all just take it easy and chill out.

Summer #3 2012
In San Ignacio

DYYYYYYYYing.  Oh My God Help Me I’m EFFING MELTING!!!!  Partially nocturnal: wake up at 11am or noon, 1pm if I’m lucky. Start off at the hottest part of the day and it only gets cooler.  Bedtime around 2-4am. 

No water inside the house after New Year’s.  Water outside turns on between 10pm and 1am.  Thanks to the intense drought, my neibhorhood being located on a slight slope up away from the centro, and the haphazard system of leaky and mismatched pipes bringing the water to my house. Washing clothes at 2am, yea I’m good like that.  Strategically placed 2-liter bottles all of the house where the water used to be.  

Siesta?? Um that’s when I wake up breakfast = lunch.  Still rocking the hat and umbrella, but since I’m avoiding the sun these days I don’t actually use them much.  Siesta for the non nocturnal is still not for sleeping since its too hot.  However we all need to sit and be quiet for a little bit lest we develop heat rage and start kicking puppies, small children, the wall, or whatever is nearby.  

The heat is making me into a bad person. Keep you distance until after dark or the rain clouds roll in. I'm going to cry now from frustration and heat exhaustion. I think I’m going to die…water, shade. Help. Make it stop.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Paraguayan President Impeached: BBC News Summary

Paraguay President Fernando Lugo impeached by congress

Paraguay"s former President Fernando Lugo addresses the nation after the Senate voted to remove him from office Mr Lugo addressed the nation after the vote

Related Stories

Paraguay's Senate has voted to impeach left-wing President Fernando Lugo, forcing him to step down.
Both houses of Congress had voted on Thursday to begin impeachment proceedings over his handling of clashes between farmers and police last week in which at least 17 people died.
Mr Lugo likened the move to a coup by the right wing-controlled parliament, but said he would accept the decision.
Vice-President Federico Franco has already been sworn in as president.
He will serve the remainder of Mr Lugo's five-year term, which ends in August 2013.
After previously trying to get the Supreme Court to stop the impeachment vote, the fallen president said he accepted "what the law has stated, even though the law was twisted".
'No coup'
Calling on his supporters to remain calm, he added that "the history of Paraguay and its democracy have been deeply wounded".
Mr Lugo's 2008 election ended 61 years of rule by the right-wing Colorado party.
The two main political parties, Colorado and Liberal, had put aside their differences and voted in favour of the motion to begin the impeachment trial.
The Liberals are part of Mr Lugo's ruling coalition.
In an appeal filed with Paraguay's Supreme Court on Friday, Mr Lugo's lawyers had said the proceedings do not ensure due process and that the president should have been granted more time to prepare.
A centre-right legislator, Carlos Maria, denied allegations of unconstitutionality. "There's nothing illegal here, there's no constitutional rupture, no coup," he told AP.
The impeachment sparked clashes between police on horseback and supporters of Mr Lugo massed outside the National Congress building in the capital Asuncion.
"We do not want the return of dictatorship," one protester who had travelled to the capital from the Brazilian border told the AFP news agency.
Water cannon was used by police to drive the protesters back.
'Poor performance'
The impeachment motion accused Mr Lugo of a "poor performance" during the forced land eviction last Friday, in which seven police officers and at least nine farmers were killed.
Congressional President Jorge Oviedo Matto, left, places the presidential sash on Paraguay"s former Vice President Federico Franco Vice-President Federico France was sworn in as president shortly after Mr Lugo's impeachment
Speaking on national television on Thursday, Mr Lugo said he would not resign, but "face the consequences" of the trial. He accused his opponents of carrying out an "express coup d'etat".
The Union of South American Nations has send an urgent mission of foreign ministers to Paraguay to "ensure the right to defend democracy".
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa warned that the regional bloc could invoke its "democracy clause" to sever ties with Paraguay and even close its borders if Mr Lugo is not tried according to "due process".
BBC regional analyst Leonardo Rocha says South American countries are worried that Mr Lugo, Paraguay's first left-wing president, is the victim of a political trial by the Colorado party and other right-wing groups.
Several South American countries, including neighbouring Argentina and Bolivia, have already said they do not recognise the new government, reports say.
Land clashes
During the clashes in eastern Canindeyu province that prompted the impeachment move, more than 300 police officers tried to evict 150 landless farmers from an estate owned by a wealthy businessman who is also a political opponent of Mr Lugo.
The eviction escalated into violence and the farmers opened fire on the police.
The farmers have argued the land was illegally taken during the 1954-1989 military rule of Gen Alfredo Stroessner and distributed among his allies.
Land disputes are not unusual in Paraguay, where a small fraction of the population owns about 80% of the land.
Mr Lugo - a former Catholic bishop who abandoned priesthood to enter politics - campaigned for the needs of the poor.
Before being elected in 2008, he promised land for some 87,000 landless families.
On Wednesday, in an attempt to calm tensions over the incident, Mr Lugo said he would open an investigation into what happened.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Every year on Good Friday, there is a locally famous Holy Week event called Tañarandy. 

(Guy leading tours via horse cart)

It consists of a candlelit walk several kilometers long from the community of Tañarandy to an open space short walk just north of San Ignacio. 

(Procession road during the day, people walking to the starting area to walk with the Maria statue)

(Line of candles made out of animal fat, half of an orange, and a wick)

Around sunset thousands upon thousands of candles are lit down the path with enough space in-between for people to walk. 

(View of the procession road from a hill)

The procession of several thousand people walk down the path, the majority walking a just before or after a statue of Maria surrounded by ‘escenarios’ singers who sing songs relating to different stations of the cross.

 (Maria Statue)

(Escenarios in purple capes walking in front of the Maria)

The statue of Mary is carried to a crucifix in the open area, after which the Jesus statue is removed from the cross.  Then, on a hill opposite the crucifix several scenes from the bible are depicted by actors in living painting scenes.  This year the last supper, 3 depictions of Jesus on the cross, and once scene that I think was the preparation of Jesus’ body for his tomb, and another scene at a table.  There was a choir and live music to accompany the presentation of the scenes.  The event was surprisingly short, which was nice since we were all standing.  The presentation of the scenes was followed by traditional music, dancing, displaces of artisanal works, food, etc around the main plaza of San Ignacio.

On Thursday, I had 5 guests arrive.  Jorge, a Spaniard who is traveling around south America on his bike, 3 PC volunteers, and one American friend of the volunteers.  I cooked up a big pot of sloppy joes for dinner, Jorge brought out a bottle of wine, and we had a low key night.

The next day an Argentine couple from Clordina drove in to stay as well.  I made an awesome chicken soup for lunch and jambalaya for dinner.  I love having groups of people over, but cooking for everyone can be very difficult when the supermarkets closed at noon on Thursday and weren't going to open again until Saturday.  So I had to stock up, esp since there were 5 additional people who had said they might come by.  So in my mind, I was prepped for potentially 12 guests.  It took 3 trips to the grocery store, filling my backpack each time, to get enough food to my house that I felt comfortable I could feed everyone.  Thankfully once you get a group that large together, people understand they’re going to have to take care of themselves a bit more.  I told them the fridge and drinks were all fair game, and to serve themselves if they needed a snack. 

I still don’t have running water in my house, but everyone got used to filling up a large Tupperware container from the faucet outside and dumping it down the bowl when necessary.  Fortunately we had rain beforehand, so we had water in the outside faucet almost the entire time.  When we didn’t, my 30L container helped provide supplemental water and seating.  I only have 4 chairs and a stool.

The day of Tañarandy, my group of 8 met up with my friend Luis and a bunch of his friends, as well as another volunteer, her Paraguayan husband and some of his family. 

 (My crew and me)

My fellow americans and I walked a good ways up the procession route, thought not all of the way.  We sat on some grass and waited for sunset. One of the things I was curious about was going to light all of the candles.  However at the top of the procession road at sunset, we started to see the flicker of candles.  A little while later everyone around me got out cigarette lighters and started lighting the candles around us.  I picked up a lit candle to use since I didn't have a lighter on me.

 (Lighting  the candles)

The most memorable thing about the procession walk was how the candles smelled.  Since they are made of oranges, when the wicks burned down enough to touch the sides of the fruit, they would burn too, which filled the air with a deliciously smokey citrus scent.

After the procession, the scenes were lit up.  At first we didn't realize all of the people were actors, not statues.  One particular scene was of Jesus leaning forward off of the cross at an odd angle which must have been super uncomfortable for the actor. Overall it was really well done. Its unfortunate that buses don't run on Fridays.  If they did, more volunteers would be able to come out and see the show.  They don't know what they're missing.

Afterwards we went to the plaza for a bit, though after about 45 minutes the Americans got tired, all of us volunteers have seen the dancing and the music before, so we went home and at a late dinner.  Another volunteer, Rose, who was in the area with her host family from her community also joined us for dinner and stopped by again the next day.

(Tanarandy Painting)


The next day the Argentineans wanted to treat us to an asado lunch, but it turned out there wasn’t really much food left in San Ignacio.  They went to the carniceria (meat shop), as well as the supermarket, but didn’t find what they wanted.  So we skipped the asado and they took me (everyone else had already left) to lunch.  At the restaurant they were out of most of the menu, but I was still able to get a very tasty piece of chicken with rice with a red sauce on top.

After that the couple also went home.  Although I really enjoyed having everyone over, my throat was sore from talking to so many people, all day long, for three days.  And I was quite thankful for some quiet time.  I passed out while watching the end of You’re Welcome America, took a nap for a few hours, woke up, cleaned the house for about 2 hours, and then went back to bed.  Very tired.

Amazingly, even though 9 people were at my house at one point or another, the house was remarkably clean.  It needed a good sweeping and there was a pile of dishes in the sink, but other than that and refilling my water bottles and rearranging a few things, there wasn’t much real cleaning to do.

I also have a ton of leftovers, so I won’t have to do any cooking for a few days.  Bonus!

*Photos courtesy of Migue and Maria

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fulbright Limbo

Fulbright has made their decision; I’m an alternate. :( :) 

I don’t know how many alternates there are or how far down on the list I am.  I’ve asked, though I don’t know if they’ll tell me.  In some ways its worse than getting an outright rejection because then I’d be able to plan better. 

As it is, I could get a message anytime between now and February telling me someone has dropped out.  Needless to say it makes planning for the future a little difficult, and I have only five months to figure out a plan that keeps me busy but uncommitted until February, in case I get in.  At the same time I need to plan for those months after February in case I don’t get in.

I’ve been looking into graduate schools lately, but since I don’t know what I want to study, it’s very overwhelming.  While I do want to go back to school, I don’t feel like the immediate future ie right after peace corps, is the right time to do it.  I could try to get a job, but it would probably take months, and I’d probably have to quit it a little while later to go to school.  Oh decisions, decisions. I’ll leave them for tomorrow.

I’ve taught my exercise class for today, bought a roast chicken for dinner, given the six hotdog buns that accompanied the chicken to the dogs on my way home.  I’m skipping my own exercise routine, just finished watching Seinfeld’s “I’m telling you for the last time” video, started Sin City, going to pour a nice big glass of wine, take a shower, go to bed early, and start figuring out things in the morning.  

Suggestions are welcome.

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want. 
Ben Stein 

Back Baby, I'm BACK!

I ‘m back in Paraguay and things are going pretty well.

I slept the entire way from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, so after the quick flight between Buenos Aires and Asuncion I went to the Peace Corps office for a few hours, took a siesta on a sofa, and then caught a bus back to San Ignacio. 

While trying to catch a bus between the office and the bus terminal 3 buses passed me by without letting me on because of all of the luggage.  Buggers. Welcome home indeed.

Admittedly for the first 24 hours I kept asking myself “why did I come back.  Why didn’t I just stay in Atlanta, live in Bree’s computer room on the inflatable mattress and make a career out of annoying her cats.  I’m sure she would be cool with that at least for a few months.”

However thankfully the weather was nice for a few days and after chatting with my peace corps wives, Julia and Casey, I fell back into my old rhythm.  My wives evidently began chatting a lot between the two of them in my absence, which I was a little jealous of at first.  But we’re all good now.

Since then I’ve started up my exercise class again.  I had two substitute teachers who took care of the class while I was gone and they did a great job, but the attendance did fall off a bit.  The attendance has also gone down because school has started up again and many of my participants had to go back to teach or to attend classes.

The heat returned after a few days; alas my water has not.  Thankfully a few days before the official end of summer the temperatures dropped and haven’t gone back up since, which has been glorious.  AND it’s been raining. Yes, I’ve heard angels singing and it sounds like rain.  At least once a week.  Maybe I will get to take a proper shower in the near future.  In the meantime I bought a 30L jug to store water, mainly to flush my toilet more than once a day.

If you’ve been wondering what those odd photos with funny faces and white foam are, those are from the San Ignacio Carnaval parade.  Some jerk kept spraying us in the face, which was obviously unpleasant, but overall we had a really fun time.

I also had a Couchsurfer, Koos, from the Netherlands aka Holland who stayed with me for two nights.  I took him to the Paraguayan dance and music presentation they have every Sunday in the centro, which I confess I’ve never gone to before.  I’ve heard the polka and seen the dances, so I didn’t have enough motivation to make the trek into town to see it before.  Admittedly it all sounded the same after a little while since I don’t really have an ear for polka.  A pair of very enthusiastic gentlemen in the back however, made the night very entertaining.

Koos was also wonderful because he change the light in my living room that has been out for months.  I’m too short to reach it, yes, even on a chair.  Thankfully my guest was very very tall and easily switched it out. Woohoo, just in time for the winter time change.

I missed Tuck terribly while I was gone.  He had a good time with his Aunti Carly, got into a few fights, killed a chicken, ran amok but always came back home, enjoyed life as a free range campo dog.  I was home alone for a few days and the house was too quiet without him crying and licking my elbow.  Such a cutie. 

Its good to be back.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How Hot Is It?

The recent temps are in the high 90's.  With high humidity the heat index is usually somewhere between 115 and 120

2/3 of my meals come in slushy form.  I force myself to eat 1 real meal per day, but some of it always ends up going to Tucker b/c hot food makes me feel sick

I realize siesta was put in place as a safety measure. It keep you out of the sun during the most brutal parts of the day, which gives you a chance to hydrate, take a nap, and avoid exerting yourself.  

However it also keeps individuals from beating each other into a pulp from heat rage.  Case and point, around 3pm today I was updating the attendance list for my exercise class.  During the previous class, one lady pointed out that her name was spelled incorrectly, but told me she would write it again.  While looking at the sheet today however, I realized she had written it in illegible cursive, the same way she had written it initially.  And naturally I still couldn’t read it.  This is a pet peeve of mine and I’ve told the class many times I can’t read their cursive and they need to write in print, but alas some still write their names down like wanna be doctors. So I started shouting to no one in part “God Damn it Ninfa!  I still can’t read this shit! Why the hell didn’t you write this shit in print when clearly I couldn’t read it the first damn time!” Or something to that effect. So yes, siesta is important to keep people still and quiet and not angry.

To keep cool I fill a bucket with water to put my feet in. They will stay there for 2-3 hours usually.  If things get really bad, I put ice in the bucket as well.

My favorite possession, other than my fan, is a wet hand towel that currently resides in the freezer or on my neck.

My air conditioner consists of putting my fan in front of my window and blowing the cool night air into my house before I go to bed.

I have become partially nocturnal.  I make an effort to stay up until 2-3am so that I will sleep as late as possible, usually 10 or 11am if I’m really lucky.  After about 10:30 it usually gets too hot to stay in bed and I have to get up and start taking more active cooling measures.  At 6:30 am the sun starts to shine through my windows, at which point I get up, let Tucker outside, and shut my front windows, locking in as much of the cool air as possible. If necessary I go and do morning errands, come back to the house, lie down, and try to take a long nap.  I am like an ostrich sticking my head in the sand; maybe if I go to sleep I can pretend it isn’t blazing hot outside.

If the humidity is high the house never really cools down completely even at night. Its sticks around like old chewed gum. Thankfully the fan makes up for the difference.

My house splits perfectly into an east and west side.  In the morning I close the east facing windows and let the cooler, west facing rooms take the edge off of the hot eastern walls.  In the evening I close off the Westside rooms to lock the heat over there and let the eastside rooms.  It’s a delicate dance, but I’ll do just about anything to keep the house a few degrees cooler.

It gets really hot and humid a few days before it rains.  These days are almost unbearable.  I confess I’ve almost cried from frustration a couple of times.  But thankfully, when the rains come through, the temp drops into the low 90’s maybe even, joy of joys, the high 80’s.  The humidity lowers again until the next storm comes through.

I have not had running water inside of my house since December 29th.  There is one faucet outside that comes on between 10:30 and 12:30 at night, which gives me a chance to fill the eight 2-liter bottles, bucket, kettle, and a large jar I use to store water for the next day.

Wearing pants and a shirt, at the same time, is sometimes asking too much.

I spilled half a glass of ice water on my shorts, after the initial cold shock I decided it was actually an improvement on my previous condition and continued my work.