Monday, May 31, 2010

The real work begins...

So you might be thinking, what are you talking about, you only have 10 months left.... Yes, this is true, but today the municipality finally gave us the key to the library locale, so we are moving in and we are moving full force ahead! Tonight we will have our first library committee meeting in the library and there is much work to be done. Obviously, I have been keeping myself busy with various side projects but this is my biggest project and where my heart is so I can't wait to get started!

Main things to get done ASAP:
-Secure the locale with new locks and new electrical fixtures
-Paint the inside of the building
-Catalog books
-Turn in more donation solicitations
-Plan the inauguration of the library
-Talk to the candidates for mayor in this coming election to garner support :)

I can't believe I have so much to do with so little time left. We have big plans once the library is up and running to work hard to integrate the institution into the community and really make it an active part of Altos. Instead of having dusty books in a room, we want the library to be a place where there is movement, meetings and cultural events. We hope to do this by working together with the other organizations in the community, such as the women's center and the schools.

Overall, I really hope we can help nurture creativity, a love for reading, and learning in general. There are so many kids here with so much potential to be tapped :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WORK UPDATE: I'm on a blogging kick!

I'm making up for 4 months of no blogging in three days, so get ready!

February and March were great months for me work-wise because I started to see the fruits of my labor and I would like to share them with you all today.

In February, three volunteers (Brenda, Laara and Andrew) and myself created a environmental workshop that we ended up doing with kids first in Brenda's Site, then Andrew's and then mine. In my site, we had arranged with the principal of a local public school to work with the kids for two mornings, from 7 to around 11am... The first day the focus was trees. We created trees out of things found in nature, sang songs, played a game to teach about photosynthesis, did a small theater about deforestation with the kids and ended with tree planting in front of the school. The second day the focus was trash and recycling. We did a timeline about decomposition of different kinds of trash, alternative uses for recyclables and then we made trash-cans out of old plastic bottles and grain sacks. It was very successful and the kids had a lot of fun. Here are some pictures!

One of the groups presenting their tree art, aren't they cute?!?

Theatre time to learn about deforestation!

Laara is in that group of kids somewhere explaining the timeline of trash.

First step in the trash-can- making: poke holes in the bottles and string them with wire.

second step: cut a rice/grain bag to fit the bottom and then attach it to the bottles with wire.

Even the principal was helping out with the trash-cans!

What did we learn with Andrew Porter, hehe.

As you all know, I taught the first part of an "Introduction to English" summer class in the local woman's center called "Kuna Kyre'y" or hard-working woman! There were two classes, one of students ages 8-12, and another of students 13-20, about 50 kids in total and we met twice a week for an hour each time and they learned a lot in a short amount of time! There were two exams and at least a homework assignment a week and if they passed they received a certificate! Summer here ends at the end of February so we had the culmination to our three-month English class the first week in March and it was really a beautiful event! The parents collaborated on food and drinks, each person brought something. We borrowed the stereo system from the school and the school librarian became our DJ! We had a "cultural moment" (Andrew singing a Beatle's song in English) and the younger kids sang the colors song to show what they were learning and two kids from the older class performed a dialogue in English. It was really great and I was super proud of them. At one point I almost cried because on of the moms of one of my students got up to speak on behalf of the parents and said some really sweet things about me. It's nice to feel appreciated :D We took a break until the end of March and started the class up again the beginning of April!

A lot of parents came out!

Small guys on the left and Big guys on the right.

Momma's working hard to prepare the plates of food for the guests.

Kids getting ready to show off their singing skills.

The director of the hard-working women, Josefina.

Giving out certificates.

The bossman Elisa, director of my sector of Peace Corps, saying a few words.

Cake made for the occasion.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

11 months left of the Paraguayan life.

About a month ago I received an e-mail directed to my training group (G27) inviting us to our "Completion of Service" (COS) conference, which happens to be next week! As you all know, I am sticking around for another year (until next April) but I still had a strong reaction receiving this e-mail. First, Ahhhh I'm going to miss my group and why are they leaving me so soon?! (with the exception of a precious few, thanks for sticking around with me Courtney, Pooja, Paulette and Joan!) Second, wow the only thing standing between me and COS is training group G28 (because I will be COSing with G29). Third, this is a good time to think about what I WILL MISS ABOUT PARAGUAY so that I don't have the urge to jump on the plane with my training group... and maybe when I get closer to COS I'll start to think about what I WILL NOT MISS ABOUT PARAGUAY, so that I don't end up staying here forever, just kidding.. hehe... But it seemed like a good plan to me, so here is my first list.


the smell of cocido being made, the brilliant colors of the red dirt, green plants, and bright flowers, drinking terere under a tree with friends, stopping by my friends' houses and always feeling invited, the rich traditions ranging from the guarani language to making chipa and even the festivals of San Juan (FIRE!!!), the humming birds, the delicious fruits and vegetables, acknowledging every person that passes, the lack of complaining and abundant laughter, getting to decide what I do everyday (FREEDOM!), thinking outside my cultural context, taking advantage of every new opportunity, reading in my hammock, feeling appreciated and unique, surprising people with my guarani skills, wiping my hands on the table cloth, hugs from little kids, working with my library committee, making my english classes laugh at me, dancing with people of all ages, constant positive reinforcement from my bosses, my beautiful home and patio, being able to walk everywhere, the sound of a motorcycle pulling up to my house, little kids looking in my windows (unembarrassed curiosity haha), walking through the plaza, boys playing soccer at sunset, people yelling at each other in Guarani (it's comforting, not sure why..), a meal waiting for me in every house, the restaurant Caipirinha when I need something to remind me of home, cheap public transportation, fried everything (you have to admit it tastes good!), constant generosity, fresh and local foods (nothing in my freezer but ice!), rainstorms, the stars in the compania, picking fruit off trees, and simplicity.

Here is a picture of one of the things I'm going to miss, working with the library committee! Here are some of the members sitting around the municipality waiting to talk to the Mayor... One of the last photos I took with my wonderful camera .... sigh..