Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trip to Ca'acupe

This past Sunday I participated in the Catholic pilgramage to Ca'acupe, which is the capital of my department (or state)... Many people walk to the church in Ca'acupe to request a favor of the Virgin of Ca'acupe or to thank the Virgin for a good year. Fortunately I don't live THAT far from Ca'acupe...If you were to go along the main road it would've taken about 10-13 hours to walk there, but we went with a group that has gone every year for 15 years, and they new a lot of shortcuts, and we walked through Paraguayan countryside and it took about 6 hours, but only about 5 hours of that we were actually walking. It was actually really fun, but that was two days ago and I'm still really sore. We left at 6pm because it was too hot to walk during the afternoon, got there just in time for the midnight mass...but there were sooo many people we couldn't even get close to the church..they say that 3 million people made it to caacupe that weekend, and that's a lot considering there are about 6 million in all of paraguay haha... I have friends that live on the other side of the country and walked for three days straight, sleeping in churches along the way.. It's a really interesting experience because everyone helps you along your way, giving you food and water and even a place to sleep if you want... but we brought our own food and didn't need to sleep anywhere, but people did give us water and ice, which was nice.. and there were doctors and nurses checking people's health along the way and even giving massages hahah! Once it got dark, I almost fell a billion times because we were walking on dirt roads with lots of rocks, but i never actually hit the ground..thankfully, we also had a doctor close by, so if something did go wrong, we would be well taken care of haha... But we went in a group of people mostly my age, one couple that are some of my best friends in altos, one p.e. teacher and his girlfriend, Laara (the volunteer that lives in Loma, close to Altos) and my friend Cecilia, the secretary from the municipality) and me.

Sonia and Hugo before the sun went down... we took the back way, so we didn't see many people, unlike the paved road, which was so packed with people you had to walk slow and all traffic was shut down..

The half way mark, a church in Atyra...These are the girls that we went with.. Luz, Sonia, me, Cecilia, and Laara (another volunteer)

We were so tired that we were feeling kind of loopy...

One kilometer from our religious destination, naturally we stopped to share a beer... notice the one cup being passed around the circle, this is how all drinks are drunk here in the PY.
Ca'acupe was a weird mix of vendors and sleepers at 12am when we arrived...
We had a little "trencito" so we wouldn't loose eachother...

And finally we see the Basilica in Caacupe, but there is no way we are seeing the Virgin of Ca'acupe with all these people!!

Right now, it's over 100 degrees F and I'm sitting in my kitchen, drinking terere and wearing spandex, I've become so Paraguayan haha. (Spandex are all the rage here).

Yesterday was a national holiday (for the Virgin of Ca'acupe) so I took the opportunity to take my first dip in my host family's pool...and it was very nice.. Even though I have lots of time on my hands, sometimes it seems like the day goes by so fast just taking care of my house and cooking.. It takes a lot of time to sweep everyday, because of all the dust, doing laundry but mostly COOKING..takes SOO much time.. I sometimes don't want to eat haha.. so I feel like I spend a lot of my day cleaning andcooking...but overall, it's worth it.. I love my little house..
If you are wondering.."Julie, why aren't you talking about your work that you are doing in Altos?" It's because it's quite depressing, and I tend to just skip over that kind of stuff when I write my blog.. I went to the municipality this morning but I am completely lost when it comes to any possible projects.. Everything I try just kind of flops (like the activities I planned for world AIDS day and for the day against domestic violence) and so today I retired myself to my home, and some index cards to learn some Guarani... Mainly, my "work" so far is just researching what I can do to work...but once I have something concrete, that actually turns out to be a project, you won't be able to get me to shut up about it!!

That's all the updates for now.. I hope I caught you up a bit on my life.. MUCH LOVE!! Julie

Election Night --jacked from Laara

A Historic Night
I wasn’t sure where I would go on election night, but I knew for sure I’d be in Asuncion and thought my friends and I could find a place at the Embassy with a TV so we could watch as results came in. The Peace Corps librarian – and “knower of all things,” Marianne told me about a party that the Paraguayan American Cultural Center (CCPA) together with the Embassy was hosting. Peace Corps Volunteers were invited along with Embassy staff and staff and students (the CCPA teaches English among other things) of the CCPA. I left for Asuncion very early, leaving my house at 6am and after meeting Julie in Altos, we hopped on a bus and got our trip under way. Later, in Asuncion, our friends Karen and Courtney also met up with us. We treated ourselves to a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant (very expensive but oh so worth it!) and then walked to the CCPA which, as luck would have it was close to both our hotel and the restaurant we dined at. We were among the first people to arrive and we ushered in through the VIP entrance (which we noticed most people were using, but still). Our names weren’t on any list but we were assured if we showed our Peace Corps id’s we’d get in without a problem – and so we did.

There were three big projection screens up – one was connected to a laptop and was showing the BBC’s election home page, which displayed a map of the country and as the night wore on was colored in either red or blue depending on which candidate won the electoral votes from that state. The other two screens had live feeds from CNN International (in Spanish) and the BBC. My friends and I mingled about for a bit and cursed ourselves for eating so much at the restaurant as waiters walked around with delicious looking little appetizers. There were also waiters circulating with glasses of soda and wine (and we of course availed ourselves of the wine). There were as many – if not more Paraguayans, there as Americans and so the air was filled with Spanish and English (as well as a bit of Spanglish). We decided that what we really wanted was to just know what was happening so we parked ourselves in front of the screen showing CNN. What we discovered was that we wanted to know what was happening but we preferred to do so in English, so we moved over toward the BBC screen. We stayed there throughout the rest of the evening. One of the local Paraguayan television stations had a reporter at the party and my friends and I found ourselves on television periodically throughout the evening. I didn’t realize they had captured us until my mayor’s wife (the mayor from my home town of Loma Grande) texted me to say she had just seen me on TV!

There were also photographers around and the following day my friends and I saw a photograph of us all in one of the local papers!A few interesting things (aside from news of the results) happened throughout the evening. We met and spoke with the US Ambassador to Paraguay and later she spoke briefly to the crowd at the party. We also saw the Vice President of Paraguay at the party (and in fact, he was standing right next to us while the Ambassador spoke). A group of Paraguayan students who take English classes at the CCPA also gave a presentation. They sang the Star Spangled Banner for us and it was very very sweet. They did a great job with a not-very-easy-to-sing song and it really touched the Americans at the party especially, I think.As the results started coming in my friends and I were on the edge of our seats. The four of us all represented so-called battleground states: Karen is from Ohio (OH – IO), Courtney and Julie are from Virginia and of course, I am from Florida. As Florida and Virginia were too close to call for most of the evening we concentrated our efforts on Ohio and helped Karen celebrate when the final tally came in. I’m sure we amused most of those around us as we high-fived one another and held our breath as each new result came in and the numbers shifted. We explained to our fellow party guests all about where we were from, and what was meant by a battleground state. We explained (as well as we could) about the Electoral College and spoke to people about how we had all voted (absentee ballot). Another amusing thing was the fact that each of us had our cell phones in hand and were constantly texting groups of our friends with results. Not many of our friends were able to come in and of those, most have no access to television or radio. In a normal day I probably send out about 5 or 6 texts. In the course of a few hours I probably sent out about 20 or 30!

Karen and Julie, exhausted decided to go back to the hotel and watch from the television in the lobby. I didn’t want to move until the results were known. Unfortunately, the CCPA wasn’t counting on either the contest going on so long or that anyone would want to stay until the bitter end and as such began taking screens down and turning sound off around 12:45. So, Courtney and I also headed back to the hotel. We changed into our jammies, grabbed blankets from our bed and headed down to the lobby to continue our watch. We didn’t have to wait very long. Within 30 minutes of coming down, Obama’s numbers climbed to over 270 and so sealed his fate as our next President. We were able to hear McCain’s comments as he congratulated Obama but of course, it was all translated into Spanish. We were eager to hear Obama’s comments also, but by now it was closing in on 2am (we are two hours ahead of the East Coast of the US) and we were exhausted. We also realized that we’d prefer to see Obama’s words as he said them and not through the voice of a translator so we went to bed with dreams of change in our heads.The next morning we all sat in the lobby (where there are also a few computers connected to the internet for guests) trying to find friends and family that were on-line so we could chat with them and the few of us that had laptops were scouring for updates and news of reactions. I found Obama’s speech on you tube and began the long process of downloading it (the internet connections are slow so it took about an hour to get the 20-ish minute speech to download completely) and then we all gathered around my laptop and listened to Obama’s comments.

I’m not sure how the others felt, but it was important to me to feel connected to this process. We all voted via absentee ballot, but that was, for most of us, weeks ago. I really wanted to see and feel my vote the way I would if I had been there to cast it in person. I also wanted to feel the energy, anxiousness, and excitement of the evening. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay, it was great to share the evening with my new host-country friends. That was something I hadn’t thought about and wasn’t counting on when I thought about the evening. During election night and the following day I got to speak to a ton of Paraguayans about the US, about our government, the campaign process, the electoral college about the candidates – just a varied number of topics. One of Peace Corps’s goals is intercultural exchange and I was happy and proud to be fulfilling one of those goals. Election night was memorable, but not just because of who was elected but because of how I spent it and who I spent it with.

I just wanted to share that the next day our picture was on page 7 of ABC Color, the biggest newspaper in Paraguay...which was kind of cool :)


Hello lovely family and friends,

I just wanted to let you know about a campaign called rideforthetrees.com, led by a former Peace Corps volunteer from Paraguay, named Sam Hagler. He's is taking an amazing trip, more than 10,000 miles on bicycle, from Paraguay to the United States, over the course of one year. He leaves from his former site, in Itapua, in January 2009 and hopes to make it to Arizona by January 2010. Right now, he is just visiting volunteers in Paraguay and preparing for his trip and I had the pleasure of hosting him one night here in Altos! He's got all the gear he needs to basically live on his bike, it's pretty impressive! And the goal is to raise awareness about deforestation and funds for the San Rafael Reserve in Itapua, Paraguay. Just thought it might interest some of you out there, his website has a map of trip plan, so check it out!

"La Yvy ndaha'ei nane mba'e. Jaiporunte nande membykueragui"
"The Earth does not belong to us. We are borrowing it from our children."


I missed you all on thanksgiving... but I did have a very enjoyable time in Encarnacion with about 100 other volunteers, in the southern part of Paraguay...We made turkey,stuffing, cranberry sauce, and everything EXCEPT greenbean casserole bc you can't find greenbeans here :( but nonetheless it did feel somewhat like a thanksgiving dinner, complete with a murder mystery twist hahaha and we even had a talent show.. there are some taleneted volunteers here in Paraguay!... I didn't do anything i just sat back and enjoyed the show..

While we were down in that part of the country we went to see the Jesuit Ruins, which were pretty cool. They are basically little town ruins with a big church from when the Jesuits came in and tried to convert the indigenous people living in Paraguay.. But after the Spaniards thought the Jesuit church was gaining too much independent power, the towns were abandoned and the indigenous people went back to living in the forests...then the towns were rediscovered when the first Mestizo settlers came and they took all the stones and anything of value to use to build their houses and what not and left the town in ruins...

Here are some pics!

Some volunteers playing cards at Hotel Tirol, Encarnacion... My room was in the building in the background. They had three pools and this pool was reserved specifically for volunteers!

This is the view from the resort

Here are some of the Jesuit Ruins..

We climbed to the top of one of buildings next to the church ruins and got a good view of where the "indigenous" lived in the town (behind me).

Here is a shout out to VT... in front of the Church ruins... Courtney and I both graduated from tech in 2007. WHoA! ...and yes, I am that white despite living in 100 degree heat.. .hahah, I try to stay in the shade.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


so i would just like to let everyone know that I will officially be returning to the United States after my service here in Paraguay is over..I had some second thoughts when it appeared that McCain had a possibility of winning the White House, but now that an honest, intelligent, and caring human has won the election, I can once again be somewhat proud to be an American in a foreign country...WAHHOOOOO!!!!

p.s. sorry I haven´t updated in my blog in *gasp* 3 months...to be honest, there hasn´t been too much news to report on.. I could probably sum up the majority of my last three months with a "general day in the life of..." because most of my days tend to go about the same way, with a few event exceptions, which include Birthday weekend, Miss Student pageant, Halloween, and the embassy election party last night... But the biggest obstacle in updating my blog would be my non-functioning computer, which seems to be on its way to recovery, and when it is working again i will try to give this blog thing the old college try... whatever that means.

hope all is well in the U.S. and I hope you all are all as excited as I am to see some changes taking place in the government! But I guess we will start to see what these changes will bring in the coming year...............I can´t believe it´s already November! I´ve been gone for more than 5 months!! that´s almost half a year...weirddddddddd! anywho, miss you ALL to death and hope to talk to you soon. And a HUGEEE thanks to everyone who is still sending me packages and letters, you have no idea how nice it is to recieve little peices of home when you are living in a place that is sooo completely different from what you know.

LOVE, Julie

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

my first big oops.

So right now I'm in Asuncion, because I wanted to get some books about how to teach English... Turns out I'm missing a very important event in my munipicality, where they give a presentation on how all the tax money was spent from the past year. I am a horrible volunteer. BAH! I would have bet 100,000 guaranies (about 25 bucks) that this event was supposed to be Friday. BAH!! QUE MALA!

anywho, while I'm here, I figured I should post some pics... The most beautiful sunset after the fiesta patronal in San Bernadino...
My host cousins-- Richar and Veronica -- and I on a somewhat scary dock...

Yesterday we had the special olympics in my town. They have them every year but they switch locations each year, and this year it was in my town. I helped out with the preparation and with the actual event and it was a lot of fun. The kids were so happy because they all received medals after their event. I got to hand out medals to the kids and I think I had the best job. Their is this one 15 year old named Ramoncito, and he won first place and was SOOOOO happy, and it is very obvious in the following picture.

Handing out the medals to the participants!

This is one of the many ridiculously cute children in Paraguay. Her name is Bianca, She is the granddaughter of one of my coworkers in the municipality. I stopped by their house yesterday after the olympics to drink some terere. She is one year old and she walks and talks like a champ...and she has a sticker on her forehead.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A few random photos

My friends (Courtney, me, Mark, Laara, Jesus) are going to kill me for posting this, but I love it because it makes me smile everytime I see it. This was taken in Aregua, right in front of the lake. Laara is my closest neighbor!
I love this picture because it happened so spontaneously but it looks so planned. Mark and I celebrating the 4th of July in Shola´s host-family´s house. We made pizza using the outdoor brick oven and it actually turned out really good!

The most adorable pets at Erik´s host-familys house in G´re

Sasha and Karen singing Karaoke our last night together before we all split up to live in different cities.

That´s all I got for now! Miss you allll!

Photos from my site

A really nice home right next to the plaza. In Paraguay it is very popular to paint the bottoms of the trees white. People say it´s just because it looks good but I have a feeling it´s also because it keeps the ants from making their huge ant piles up against the trees... another hypothesis yet to be confirmed.
Some of the many Orchids we have in my backyard. There are soo many flowers in Paraguay! And I hear they are soo many more in the summer!

This is the lovely ant tube in my bedroom. The ants constructed it within a day and if you get close to it you can hear them walking around inside. When I first noticed it I told my host dad and he broke off a part of the tube and concluded that it was old and that they would clean it up tomorrow, but when he left to go to bed, ants began to pour out of the tube and started to reconstruct the part that he broke off. The next morning it was all fixed, but I´m still waiting to get the poison to kill them.
This ride was for our fiesta patronal. This one makes me laugh because their is nothing electronic involved. The guy who is standing up on the platforms just pushes the animals so they move in a circle.
The Ferris Wheel and behind it are these traveling toy shops that set up shop in our plaza for a couple weeks during our fiesta.
This is host mom and I at a party at her mother-in-laws house for a party for "children´s day"

They had all these games for all the kids and they even had one of the blow-up rings where the kids all jump around inside.

This is for you Granddad. I went to the swearing-in ceremony for the governor of my state and they had a performance of traditional harps and guitars.

This is the living room of my somewhat luxurious new home.

The church in my town

San Bernadino

These are photos from San Bernadino, one of the summer getaways for the wealthy who live in Asuncion. (12 km from my town)

Mom- this is picture is for you. The Mayor took this and said that I had to post this to show you that I was happy and living in a beautiful place!

This is near the church in San Bernadino, it has a good view of the lake and everything.

This is one of the beautiful hotels in San Bernadino. Tourist season here is summer, December through February.
Fountain in the hotel.

This is the view leaving San Bernadino on the way to my town!

...BY DEMAND (with mailing address just in case you forgot)

If you want to send me something but don´t know what I need, here are some items I could definitely use (some you might be able to send, others maybe not, but I will put them on the list anyways just in case you can):

Melting Chocolate (in a plastic bag, just in case it melts)
Aubrey’s or Jason Shampoo (organic)
Chocolate in general is always good
Burt’s Bees hand sanitizer spray (aloe and witch hazel)
Freeze-dried Mangosteen and Pinapple from Trader’s Joes (so good)
Freeze-dried Icecream (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry kind – can be purchased at super wal-mart)
Orbitz cinnamon gum
Good quality face lotion (preferably organic)
Cute-Professional clothes, light material shirts or whatever you can fit in a box (machine washable por favor)
Music mixes (including artist info por favor)
Cute flip flops/ sandals- brown rainbow brand flipflops would be amazing! Size 7
Formal pants- black slacks, gray slacks – light, washable material preferred (both of mine were ruined with bleach...)
Good Dvds
Good Spices for thai and indian food
Favorite teas
Natural toothpaste
Good knives--cutting boards

Thanks to everyone who has already sent things to me, I am overwhelmed with joy every time I receive a package and/or card! So far I’ve received wonderful treats from Catie, Katie, Gina and Scott! Muchisimas Gracias, I loved everything!

A few things that I don’t need anymore of:
Bug spray/sunscreen (I’m set for a while, thanks guys!)
Medicines- I get those for free through my doctor here

Also, a few tips... Sending packages in the floppy envelopes is normally better than the boxes because they usually don´t get stopped in customs like the boxes do.Basically, it´s better to send two small packages than one big one. Don´t declare any value, unless you want to insure it. If you declare a lot of money than I usually have to pay to receive the package.
Mailing Address is the same, but with PCV (peace corps volunteer) instead of PCT (PC trainee)

"Julie __, PCV"
Cuerpo de Paz 162 Chaco Boreal c/Mcal. López
Asunción, 1580 Paraguay
South America

First Week in Site!

I love my town. It’s so cute and everyone is really nice. We have a huge plaza that is surrounded by these beautiful trees that have these brilliant purple flowers that I am continually amazed by. My town is in a little valley of hills and the majority of the roads have cobblestone, which is very nice because the dirt roads wash out like rivers when it rains. We even have more than one restaurant and a hotel, both of which are hard to find in the majority of towns I’ve been to. The family I’m staying with has a really nice house, where I enjoy my own room, which is at least twice the size of my room in Guarambare. I also have air-conditioning and a wash machine!!! Both of which are almost unheard of here, so I feel pretty spoiled. The only down side is that my room is directly on the main road through town and I don’t have any way to close my windows (I just have metal bars and wooden blinds, but nothing that shuts out sound) so it is pretty darn loud and it actually wakes me up in the morning. Also, there is a business that is directly next to my room and they open up at 6am and start rearranging things, while listening to music, which isn’t the best thing when I want to sleep, but normally I’ll be up at that hour so it shouldn’t be too big of an issue. I live with a couple whose two children are both in New York. They are really nice and they actually go out and do things, unlike my family in Guarambare, so they have made it really easy to meet a lot of people in town.

I’m also about 15 minutes from San Bernadino, which is a big tourist town because it is right on a beautiful lake. There are a lot of advantages to being really close to San Bernadino. First, it is beautiful. Second, it has a good amount of restaurants and internet, which is always nice. Third, it might make a good incentive for people from the states to come visit me? Number three is only a hypothesis that still needs to be tested...

The first day I arrived in site was crazy. I was going on 4 hours of sleep and I arrived here at 12pm and threw down my bags and went to meet my family at the 15th birthday party (quincenera) of the neighbors. From there, the mayor picked me up to eat lunch with all the town council and a mayor and a few council members of a town on the other side of Paraguay who had come into town to celebrate the fiesta patronal (more later about that). The mayor arranged a visit to the nicest house in my town, which is owned by a German couple who apparently moved here after their daughter died in a car accident in Germany and the wife ended up in a wheelchair in the same accident. Their house is AMAZING. Not only is it really beautiful, but it also has an amazing view of the town (it is up on the hill) as well as the surrounding hills. They live on this big property that has all these animals. They have a little house that has all these huge snakes, like cobras and stuff, and they extract the venom to make the antidote, some kind of business I guess. They also have turtles and a lot of big birds and they even had a pond that had little crocodiles in it! They also have tons of guard dogs, which they sell on occasion. Apparently they were all this one kind of Brazilian breed that I hadn’t heard of, but they were big and fierce. When he put one of the dogs front paws on the fence it stood at least 6’5”, it was crazy. Of course, I forgot my camera that day, like I always do on the days I actually do something interesting, but the mayor said we would go back in the next two years haha. After the house tour, I went to Catholic mass in the plaza because they had a special mass for the Fiesta Patronal. In Paraguay, each town had a saint of that town, and our saint is Saint Lorenzo. On the day of that Saint there is a big party. Well Sunday was our fiesta patronal, but they also had activities on Saturday. They had the mass right outside the church because so many people come that they can’t fit them all in the church. After that we went to walk around the carnival that was in town and got some dinner there and from there we went to the big concert/party in the “tinglado” which is basically a big concrete floor that has a tin roof. We stayed until 3:30am and then got up at 7am to get ready for the 9am Sunday Mass in the plaza. Right after the mass we watched the parade and at the end I walked in the parade with the municipal employees. All the municipal employees were wearing their blue uniforms and heals and I walked right in the middle of them with my jeans and rain jacket and hiking shoes. It was pretty awkward and funny but when we walked by the mayor and his wife they seemed pretty amused, so that was good. Later, I ran into a Peace Corps volunteer from a neighboring town and she said that I must be the bravest PC volunteer to be in the parade on my second day in site, haha. From the parade we were supposed to watch the horse show but I was too tired so I had to come back to take a nap, but I was still able to catch the end of the horse show. Basically, there is no competition or anything, people just bring their nicest horses and ride them to show them off, but of course I enjoyed it because I love horses.

To say the least, it has been a really busy first weekend in site, but now I think things will start to get back to normal and I can start to focus on my work. I’m going to hopefully spend the first week spending time with the different municipal employees so I can get to know some of the different departments before I start planning projects with one department over another. Although this coming weekend is pretty crazy. It is the fiesta patronal for the capital, Asuncion, on Friday and it is also the day when the new president, Fernando Lugo, swears in, which is a big deal because it’s the first time there has been a change in political party in over 60 years. Saturday is the “dia de los ninos” or day of the children, which is also supposed to be pretty big.

Things are going really well in Paraguay, hope everything is going well with you all!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My New Home!

I can't post too many pictures because the internet is too slow, but here is the view down one of the cobblestone streets in my town.

Here is a couple blocks from the center where things begin to get pretty rural...

Yay! more later!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mas fotos!

I´ve been slacking on my journal, so I decided to post more pictures, since they seem to please the masses, after all.This is Eriks cat that is soo cute. I think he wanted some of the delicious soy empanadas that we made and the drink is pinapple and soy milk smoothie. We learned to cook with soy for one of our classes because it is really cheap here and very healthy, but hardly any Paraguayans take advantage of it because they think soy is for the animals. This is probably the healthiest meal I´ve had in Paraguay, despite it being fried.

This is my burn a couple days after it happened, here is the story, because I´m disorganized and never posted it.
San Juan festival is one crazy festival that would never be allowed in the United States. I went to my barrio’s celebration, just two blocks up from my house in the middle of the street. They had set up a big pole in the middle of the cobble-stoned road for one of the crazy games. For about 2 hours they were playing the game, Pelota tata, where they kick around a ball on fire until it burns out. The neighbor was making the pelotas in their yard and throwing it over the fence into the crowd. At one point, I was getting sick of the game because they had the fake bull of fire and two or three pelotas out all at the same time and I was turning to go get some dinner when something hit me on my shoulder and I brushed it off with my hand. Turns out it was a ball of fire that burned through my jacket and my hand. I feel pretty lucky it didn’t burn my face or my hair because I had my hair down and it hit my jacket right at the top of my neck. It also burned my purse because it was on that shoulder. San Juan was definitely the scariest and weirdest experience I´ve had in Paraguay so far. Another weird part of the celebration is that a lot of guys dress up as women and put bags over their heads. I´m not sure how this tradition started, but the only purpose they seem to serve to go around annoying people and asking for money for alcohol.

This is the aloe vera plant that Mark´s dad gave me from his backyard to help with the scarring.

Some of the many pets that live on my street

Next week we will be going on long field, where we visit a volunteer for an entire week. I am excited to get out of my town and see another part of the country :)
ciao for now.

p.s. I posted two of my friends blogs on the side menu, if you want to see the same experience from another perspective. (shola and mark´s blogs)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ay Dios Mio, SAN JUAN

Little girl with puppy that lives down the street from me

A huge bug that I talked about in an earlier post that was dead on the street, apparently these are quite common in the summer, I can´t wait!
Sunset at the soccer field

San Juan sac race! I wish I could make this picture bigger (you can click to make it a little bigger), because the look on everyone´s faces are priceless, especially Sasha (the girl bending down in the background)!! The boys were winning, but they took each other down, and I hopped around them to take the lead, but they got back up and beat me anyways :( But I was laughing so hard I couldn´t even hop.

Although most of my San Juan celebrations were fun, I had an accident with one of the fire games and burned my hand. It´s a long story, but I will upload the pictures probably next week!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why isn´t Paraguay more famous?

This is on one of the only paved roads in my town, I don´t know why this cow was walking down it

This is when we went to visit the Rural Economic Development group at their temporary site, it was really beautiful out there

learning how to transplant plants at the training center
The Muni girls minus Rebecca at a San Juan festival

This is when I was in San Lorenzo, the second biggest city in Paraguay, and I was interviewed on the radio for a radio show they were having about the municipality. It was pretty comical considering it was all in Spanish.

It has so much to offer…

Here are some of the top:

- The biggest underground aquifer in the world (under the Chaco)

- It’s the only country that has a different code of arms on the front and back of the flag (a star and a lion)

- Contains the last frontier of South America (the Chaco)

- The biggest operating dam in the world (Itaipu, soon to be topped by three gorges)

- Equal-distance from every coast of South America (good business headquarters)

- Fertile soil and beautiful flowers

- Colorado political party is the oldest party to be in power in the world, but it will be somewhat replaced, by a new party, mix of liberales and colorados, starting August 15th, when the new president elect Lugo, the former bishop, swears in.

- Highest population growth rate in South America

- We beat Brazil in soccer on Saturday, for the second time EVER! (score: 2-0)

- Had the longest dictatorship in South America (1954-1989)

- I think it has the fastest deforestation rate in the world, but at least in South America

Personal offerings:

- Everything, Paraguayans are so hospitable it’s ridiculous, especially when you consider how little they have

- Games with fire- I’ll try to upload a video from the San Juan Festival (saint of fire)

- Lots of tea

- Parties until 6 in the morning

- Lots of music and dancing

- Lots of culture and traditions

As a side note, the legacy of the dictatorship is very detrimental to the creation of a fully-functioning democracy. For 60-some years there was no civil society and groups more than two people were not allowed to congregate, with the exception of family members. This has led to a generation that has no idea what steps they should even take to hold their government accountable. Civic education is critical for the upcoming generation, if they want to decrease the governmental corruption that is rampant in the country currently. This fact makes my future job especially difficult because it can be very difficult to organize people and motivate people to hold their municipalities accountable as well as demand the services they are being promised.

The festival of San Juan is very unique in the way it is celebrated to Paraguay. He is the Saint of Fire and therefore there are a lot of games with fire that take place during the three weeks of celebration, with the most important being June 24th. They celebrate with games, traditional foods, and traditional dancing and music. Some of the games include pelota tata (tata means fire in Guarani, and Pelota means ball in Spanish). This is where little kids kick around a ball on fire, I don’t think there is really a point to it. Eventually the ball falls apart. Sometimes people catch on fire and the whole crowd helps to put them out, unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to witness nay incidents like this. Haha. Every San Juan celebration ends with Judas Ca’i, which is a dummy made out of old clothes and usually they give it a name, like Bush, Bolivian Soccer players, or corrupt Paraguayan politicians and they hang it in a tree and light it on fire. Inside the dummy there are bombs, so once the fire starts to burn into the inside of the dummy, it starts to explode and falls from the tree. I’ll try to post a video that my friend taped if I can. They also have regular games, like sack races and something similar to a piñata, but it’s actually a clay pot that you hit and it has candies in it.

Some of the traditional foods eaten during this time are mbeyu (in Guarani) which is kind of like a cheesy bread pancake made with flour of mandioca, I like it a lot for a snack. Also, a type of empanada that is also made out of their favorite food, mandioca. I don’t know if I’ve talked much about mandoica, but it is at every meal, without fail. They eat it like bread, and they dip it their food, or just eat it on the side. If you don’t know, it’s a very starchy vegetable, kind of like a potato, and they fry on it occasion and make something similar to a French fry. I try not to eat it much because it doesn’t add much to the meal and it is a load of empty calories, and they already over feed me as it is.

They also have lots of traditional dances, two that I learned about is the “chipera” which means seller of Chipa (a cheesy bread they sell in the streets) and the girls dance around with chipa trays haha. The other one is “solita” where one person sits on the chair and the members from the opposite sex dance around the chair. I was preschoolers do it when I went to observe a class and it was sooo cute, I’ll try to post that too. There are tons of traditional dances and another cool one is with the pots on their heads and they dance all around while balancing the pots on their heads and they even laid on the floor and rolled to their backs, it was pretty impressive. The traditional music consists of guitar and harp music for the most part, usually with a singer as well.

Tonight and tomorrow are the most important days of the festival, so I´m curious to see what else they have in store!!

Much love,