Saturday, September 5, 2009
After I buy my very yummy coke, I stop by the “Senora’s” house, who’s known for her great cooking and buy myself a ¼ chicken with a pork kabob, from her. Less than 6 blocks later with many greetings from people I don’t know, a great coke & great food in tote and $2.00 later—I realize I felt like I just walked through an episode of The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie, only I’m in South America in the year 2009. What a great experience.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
NIGHT BEFORE ‘DAY ONE’ OF CAMP: I was up until 1:00 a.m. researching and preparing materials for the camp. Mind you, I’m not an environmental educator…but was fortunate to have some input and direction from an environmental volunteer. Have to be grateful for other volunteers…
DAY ONE: 10 kids show up (YAY!) in which we talked about trash, recycling and reducing. We sorted out garbage, discussed the four methods of garbage disposal in Paraguay (burn, bury, garbage or recycle,) the pros and cons of each, played games, made recycled paper from used paper, ate snacks and played a game of jeopardy as a means for ‘check-for-learning.’
The kids were very participatory and seemed to have had a good time. I was feeling pretty darn good about day one’s turnout, so repeated preparation until 1:00 a.m., as I had the night before, along with making popcorn the old-fashion way (oil in a pan, kernels, close attention & shaking). Fun, fun!
DAY TWO: NO SHOWS… It rained…already knew (although was hoping, otherwise) the kids probably wouldn’t show up, even though the camp was being held, INDOORS, in my house. Sadly, parents don’t even send their kids to school when it rains. I was planning on showing videos and discussing the importance of trees. I was also going to have the kids make maracas out of aluminum cans. Darn!
DAY THREE: NO SHOWS… This was a nice day, no rain, but perhaps the kids figured…why bother.
Although I was not surprised by the no-shows and was a little disappointed, I certainly was not discouraged. I look at this as a perfect reason to talk to kids about commitments and it gave me experience on preparing for a camp. And, even though it was just one successful day, it was a lot of fun and educational, not only for the kids, but for me.
“Only by joy and sorrow does a person know anything about themselves and their destiny. They learn what to do and what to avoid.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Monday, June 22, 2009
Although this country is very poor and definitely has its needs, I often wonder if the work some of us Peace Corps volunteers are assigned to do, really make a difference. Very often I get extremely homesick and keep waiting and wishing to see something powerful that will make me feel like the family and life I have left behind in the States is worth being without--to be here. I then remind myself this is a choice I've made and was led to by God and that with taking small little steps in my work here--God will reveal to me how those efforts impacted and made a change for others.
I guess this was my own personal pep talk, which I need to do often, to stay focused and positive. Writing and sharing those thoughts seem to be therapeutic.
Now I'm going to have that beef jerky my darling friend, Jeff, sent to me that I was saving for a rainy day. Thanks, Jeff.
Monday, June 8, 2009
I am now at my site in Barrio Laurelty in San Lorenzo, Paraguay, which is the second or third largest city in Paraguay (I get different answers on this issue). My host family is wonderful! I live with Dona Blanca, Don Cisco and their two granddaughters, Mariela (11 years old) and Lujan (5 years old,) who are very beautiful, fun-spirited, sweet little girls, along with their dog, Poochie. They have welcomed me into their home and family as if I am part of it.
I will be working with various schools in my community and the only adolescent hospital in the country, which provides services to pregnant teenagers 11-19 years old. At the schools, I plan on reading to the younger grades and doing art projects. With the older kids, I plan on teaching environmental education, self-esteem, English and preventative pregnancy. At the adolescent hospital, my plans are to teach child development, newborn baby care and family planning. I have no idea how I’m going to accomplish all of this, but these are the needs I’ve identified, in my community, the past 6 weeks. However, I have true faith that with the support of my Paraguayan counterparts, Peace Corps resources and other volunteers, I feel confident that over the next two years, I can do this! Aww…the power of suggestion!!
Today, is an example of the frustrations and obstacle blocks I encounter-- I showed up at the primary school I’ll be working at, only to find out the Director wasn’t going to return until the afternoon (possibly,) so my contact (one of the teachers) tells me “come back on Wednesday.” I then hop on the bus (oh, what a joy,) go to the hospital, only to be told “come back tomorrow,” so I can do some observations. How many times is this going to happen???
Initially, I felt really discouraged and disappointed because, although I’ve only been out of training for 6 weeks, I have this urge to feel like I’m doing something, so I text my faithful friend Joe in New York and he said “Well, if they don’t want your help then just don’t try as much. It will get better. The longer you’re there, the more the people will look for your help. Just give it some time.” What great advice!! Thank you, Joe! It made me remember that, despite wanting to get my projects started, I have to remember that I am a foreigner and need to give others a chance to get to know and trust me. So, this just means I have to work harder on being consistent and constantly showing my face, so they know I really do want to be part of their community and want to help.
So, that being said…I’ll continue visiting and drinking terrere and mate dulce with the neighbors, practicing my Spanish and Guarani, getting to know my community and just giving myself time, as well as the community, to get comfortable with my presence…
Hence: There are no mistakes in life; only lessons. - - By Julie Fuimano, Personal & Career Coach
Friday, March 27, 2009
· A diesel flying by on a busy route with about 8-10 teenage boys sitting on top of (not in) the cab of the truck
· Walking down the unpaved streets and ripping my gladiator sandals and having to hobble back to my house
· Getting lost on a morning run, which was meant to be only 20 minutes, but ended up being 45
· Having one dog barking at and chasing me—only to be joined by 6 others (for no apparent reason, other than to let me know I was in their hood)
· A vacant lot where garbage is burned one day and kids playing volleyball in it a couple of days later
· A battered and deep fried boiled egg
· Running out of water during my shower with my hair full of shampoo and having to tip toe (in order to avoid cracking my skull open on the concrete floor) over to the sink to rinse it out
· Blowing up my blow dryer because I forgot to use the surge adapter
· Families of up to 4 (including infants and/or toddlers) ALL together riding on motorcycles with no helmets
· Being 3 miles from town on a bus and having to walk in the scorching heat because the bus had a flat
· Having to sleep with my mosquito net only 10 inches above me because the ceiling’s too high in order to hang (I’ve become Spider Man)
· Trying to make a Skype call without it dropping 8 times before it finally goes through
· Drinking beer in front of the gas station, along with several others (common hang out in Paraguay)
· Hearing Boy George on a local radio station (this makes me very happy)
· Strategizing my walks to coincide with the shaded parts of the streets
· Attending class outside and seeing two dogs attack and kill a chicken within 15 feet of me
· Bus rides and learning to forget all about “personal space”
· Cows , horses and chickens roaming about freely and knowing their way back home
· Cats, instead of dogs, begging at the dinner table
· Being sick with a temperature of 102 and not knowing which end the junk’s going to come out of (I’m convinced I have dengue—I don’t)
· Being best friends with my flashlight (hey, it’s dark in my room)
Life is good… Miss and love you all.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I will only say a few things in response to the mean, unfounded and fruitless comments left by the mysterious “anonymous” individual who has chosen to call me a racist. First and foremost, I have NEVER been accused of being a racist and there has not been one single thing I have written in my blogs that any intelligent, perceptive individual could ever construe as being racist. Not to mention the fact, I am Hispanic myself…
I’m sorry if this individual or anyone has been offended by my comment that I was surprised at how attractive Paraguayans are and that I expected they would be more indigenous looking (refer to my post dated 02/14/2009). I don’t see how any of that can be construed as racist--perhaps a little uneducated about the culture/people, but certainly not racist. In fact, my comments in my blog are reflective of why it is just as important that Peace Corps volunteers not only show the people of the countries in which we are sent to, a different view of Americans, but that we, volunteers, ourselves learn not to make prejudgments and learn about and be exposed to a different culture, as well. In fact, I specifically said “I guess that’s a good example of ignorance on my part and/or preconceptions.”
If “anonymous” is, in fact, a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer)—this individual should know just how much volunteers sacrifice by giving up 2 years of their lives to live in foreign country in order to help others. So, derogatory, unfounded comments such as the ones I had to erase are very hurtful and saddening.
Adjusting to a new way of life and being away from my loved ones is difficult enough, than to receive hurtful comments from someone (i.e., a supposed RPCV) who should know exactly what I am going through.
I can only hope this individual will refrain from passing unjustified judgments in the future and will rethink his/her approach. I am all about constructive criticism, advice and feedback, but not when it comes to hurtful, unjustified comments…
By no means were/are my posts meant to upset and/or offend anyone. .. I am merely sharing my journal/experiences with my friends, family and those who are interested in reading about them.
God Bless…and I will update about my experiences very soon!
Monday, February 16, 2009
Although I still miss my kids, family & friends very much, I am REALLY beginning to see why I’m here and feel so blessed to have the opportunity to have this experience.
My Spanish has improved dramatically since I’ve been here and I’ve even learned how to introduce myself and someone else in Guarani. PROGRESS…
I’ve made a group of new best friends—mi vecinos (my neighbors)—more like the neighborhood children. I decided last week to self reflect on why I chose to have this experience and decided I needed to really put myself out there (despite missing my kids a lot). So, last week, after school, I changed into some comfortable clothes, went outside and asked my host nephew to play jump rope with me. Before I knew it…one kid asked to join us, and another, and another…and eventually there were about eight, in total.
I decided I’d teach the kids to play kickball, since that’s what I always play with my own nieces and nephews. Well, it was a hit!!! They loved the game, which is what I’m supposing led them to really liking me. Although I had difficulty explaining the rules (due to my lack of fluency in Spanish,) through various hand gestures and laughter from them at my slaughtering of Spanish words, they eventually got the hang of it and we played until way past dark.
The next day, they were in the front of my house—waiting for me to arrive from school. I was filled with so much joy and warmth and right at that moment…I knew…this is why I made the sacrifices I made, to be right here, where I am at. Since then…we’ve been inseparable!
The children are amazing teachers and not only am I learning Spanish and Guarani from them, I’m learning how to see things differently, how to truly laugh and have fun like a child, compassion and contentment.
Today I hung with my new best buds (Dedei, Alejandro, Santiago, Fausto, Ariel, Ismael, Matai, Rita, Fernando and a few others, ranging from 4-13 years old) and it was a great day!! We played Paraguayan Monopoly (which is identical to American Monopoly, expect it has Paraguayan cities and money,) we all went for ice cream, played a little poker (another game I taught them to play, ha ha) and went to Matai’s birthday party (he turned 9 years old, today.)
Birthday parties here are celebrated in a much simpler way. There weren’t any jumpers, games or prizes, but rather—true mingling and enjoying the company of one another. Of course, they decided they wanted to dance, but more importantly, wanted to see how I danced, so I danced my butt off with them for a good hour. It was so much fun!
And, the cake (torta) in Paraguay—is the best damn torta I have ever had. If anything is going to make me fat, it’s going to be the torta.
Dedei (who is 13 years old, beautiful, smart, funny and so sweet,) gave me a poem she wrote, specifically, for me. It, seriously, brought me to tears. I had to explain to the kids I was crying because I was happy. I’m sure they thought I was nuts.
I wish you could all see these beautiful children, all the love and happiness they have, despite how little they have. I feel so blessed to be loved by them and a part of their lives.
NEXT UPDATE…I’ll talk about the living conditions here and how hard Paraguayans have to work in order to accomplish such simple tasks…
Miss you all!