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,

Sunday, June 8, 2008

2nd attempt at photos before a busyyy week!

this is the street that I live on

this is a cow in front of a house on the main road i our town

This is the pig that lives at Erik´s house (and rebecca petting it) soon to be dinner

This is part of the Muni group when we stopped at my house during the home tour (Mark, Liam, Rebecca, Courtney, Joan, and Shola) Notice Courtneys VT sweatshirt, we graduated the same year!!

These are my scary dogs, not looking so scary at the moment... but don´t be fooled

This is Frederico, who can also be scary and part of our patio with well in back

This is my host sister and one of the cutest 1 year olds in the world, drinking the drink that Paraguayans swear by, Terrere

This is Shola and the neighbors and my host cousin, I guess, Carlito playing soccer in our backyard

This is the view of Asuncion from the plane, look at all those dirt roads, even in the capital!

This is also in our yard, basically every room opens up the the patio, it´s an open air set up house... there is the pit where we burn trash, que mala

These are the chickens and ducks that provide us meat and eggs

This is the kitchen, with many lards and a large freezer :) They make a lot of good meals here and on the outdoor stove. Everything from scratch, que bueno!

Thats all for now, I probably won´t be able to update this for a while. MISS YOU ALL :)


Friday, June 6, 2008

I wanted to upload photos....

but I can´t because the computers are too slow.. but I¨ll try to make them smaller so it won´t take as long.

It`s unfortunate because my latest picture is of a bug that looks like a fly but is the size of my hand!! it´s gross! today it is really hot even though it is supposed to be further into winter than when we arrived, but apparently the cold and then hot temperature changes are very common for Paraguay! If I had to guess I´d say it´s 85 and the humidity os at 92 percent, according to my profe.

Here is some more info from my Journal-

Last night I really felt like I was a part of the family. Everyone calls me Tia (aunt) Julie and I took care of the baby and it was really nice. I hope that my Spanish can get better and my Guarani so that I can get more of what they are saying, as well as a lot of the jokes.

Today we did a tour of everyone’s houses and I was surprised to see basically everyone’s house was nicer than mine and I thought I had it good! Everyone is so hospitable and everyone invited us in to eat and drink something and by the end of the tour I couldn’t eat or drink anything else. That is until we got to my house and I had a café con leche. One house had a pig that wasn’t full grown and it was soo nice. I’m glad I don’t have that at my house because I would feel bad eating it later. I already feel bad about eating the chickens that run around the house. There was one on the kitchen table today, which made it seem like it was just asking to be eaten. I’ve never eaten more meat in my life. Hot dog for breakfast, carne asado (I’m not sure what it is.. ribs?) for lunch, chicken for dinner. We also had this food called chipaguas’y.. That would be my guess on how to spell it, but it was really yummy. Basically a type of corn blended with onions, eggs and cheese… it was kind of like corn bread and kind of like Tortilla in Spain. J I went to church tonight and it was pretty interesting. It actually was a Catholic church and it was pretty and big, especially for this little town. The father of the church was from Poland and he spoke a bit of English. Mano walked me there because I didn’t want to go alone, he is a very helpful 13 year-old, and sometimes they aren’t that helpful at that age. He said something that struck me, “no hay reglas en Paraguay”… there are no rules in Paraguay, which is something that seems simple, but it really hit me for various reasons based on various things I have encountered here.

That´s all for now !!
I would draw a smiley but I can´t find the right keys!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Paraguay, Para Que?!

The title of this blog is a well known joke in South America which translated into English means “Paraguay, for what?” but I like to say “Paraguay? Que Guay!! “Which means Paraguay? How cool!” (In Spain Spanish, they don’t use Guay here) I’ve been in Paraguay for three days, and training for 3 days, yet I feel like I could write a thousand pages. There are soo many differences, even more so than I had noticed in Peru. You get such a good look at the culture by staying with a family. So I’ll start there first, mi familia is pretty great. I love my sister Azucena (27) and her 1 year old, Favricio. Her husband Francisco is really funny. The grandma lives here and she is 74. The “aunt” is the one who decided to take on a volunteer and she is really nice too. She is a teacher of teachers and she is very religious. We are going to church tomorrow, but it’s not Catholic, which is kind of rare. I can’t remember what church it is exactly. And finally a 30 year old brother who lives here too, he is a teacher as well. That, along with 3 dogs, 7 birds and lots of chickens and ducks, all of which are very mean except Sancho, a small and long dog. It’s definitely a full house, but it’s a lot of fun. I have my own room and I have a pretty big bed too, fit with a corner dedicated to Jesus Cristo. There are three others that are here most of the time. A nanny for the one-year old, an aunt that lives down the street and her two boys, one is 7 and one is 13. The 13 year old is very helpful and he is very close with this family.

The house is open air, which is probably really nice in the summer, but right now it’s about 40 degrees and there is no escaping the cold. I am super super glad I brought that sleeping bag, because I’m only slightly cold at night, and it gets down to 32 F. I’ve been sick since staging and they gave me some yuyo (pronounced JuuJoo) as a remedy. It’s basically hot water with different herbs from their garden. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence but I am starting to feel a little better. My family told me not to wash my hair this morning because I will get even more sick, so I didn’t. They have some interesting ideas about health and similar topics. I don’t know about this one, but apparently owning cats makes you infertile. We don’t have any cats here.

The town we are in is very cute, all the roads are a mix of really red dirt and cobblestones. But mostly it is dirt. There is a main road that runs through the town that is paved but that’s all. There are many animals running around, like in Peru, but the scariest of all the animals in Paraguay live at my house (it’s true!). I want to take pictures of the town but I don’t want to be flashing around my camera, so maybe I will on the last day that we are here.

The water here is apparently a lot cleaner than the rest of South America so eventually I might be able to drink the water without getting sick. We had our first shots through the PC, and we had to get the flu shot and the yellow fever one. My arm is still sore from the flu shot, but I apparently am the only one that is still in pain so I don’t know. We have to get more on Wednesday.

Another interesting thing about Paraguay is that for a country where things tend to move very slow, news moves very fast. One night I didn’t drink cola when offered to me by my aunt and the next day my host brother asked me why I didn’t like it, even though he wasn’t there when this occurred. I also keep hearing about other volunteers and what their families think of them and how they adjusting and what they eat. For example, I’m not sure which volunteer, but one that lives on my street apparently refused to eat anything or watch telenovelas (soap operas) with his family and also really loved the tea cocido… I’m not sure why these things are important or need to be talked about, but it is funny how that kind of stuff gets around.

So this first week has already been quite the expereince, I could write a lot more but I will leave it at that for now.. Hopefully next week I can upload some pictures, esp of Favricio bc he is sooo cute!!

MUCH LOVE!! miss you all!