Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day Dos in the Dos - 7.15.08

Tavapy 2, 7.14.08 - Today was another fun-filled day. I woke up, peed in the latrine, brushed my teeth by the water pump, and then took a nice hot shower. I got dressed, drank mate (remember, MAH-tay), then my host family gave me some sugary-ass, hot milky stuff that I found out was soy milk. Not a fan. A rack of bread for breakfast; I ate one sweetbread and then took the rest to go.

Our "language class" was super chill; we talked a bit about abonos verdes (planting trees whose leaves automaticall replenish the soil) then chopped it up about random stuff, then Pooja's senora brought everyone pireka (think: West Indian bakes) for breakfast. Yum. We then went on a search for a hierbal (hierba orchard) and basically went on a fantastic voyages through two through about 20 hectares of farmland. On the way we may as well have been bushwacking at times; it was a good thing that I had on my heavy duty hiking boots. And then Pooja stepped on a fire ant hill and she had Tim (who had on flip-flops, poor guy) were semi-attacked. We gave up and decided to head back to my host family's house for lunch, and then of course when we were back on the path we ran up on two of the guys harvesting hierba leaves from the trees. We arrived at Feliciano's and immediately gulped down some terere (remember, like mate only cold) and then ate lunch. It occurred to me that I told them how I love tallarines (pasta, pronounced tie-yuh-REE-nes) with beef and that's exactly what we had. We hung out a bit after lunch and then headed back to Andrew's crib for siesta. There is absolutely no stress down here, it's amazing. Who knew life could be so simple.

After siesta we were supposed to translpant some lettuce from the seedbed to the garden, but Dres had to go take care of some coop stuff so we laid around and hung out. Earlier in the day I successfully extracted a pique from Pooja's foot, and she had another one in her other foot but for some reason it refused to allow itself to be extracted. Recalitrant little bastard. So anyway, I broke out my Swiss Army knife and decided to saw a bamboo branch and then Timo was playing baseball with it. After awhile Timo left with his host and Pooj, Dres and I hung out until about 8:30. We dropped Pooj off then Dres and I came back to my host family's, ate dinner and chopped it up with Feliciano. He gave me a huge compliment when he asked Dres, "how does she speak so much Guarani???". I thought to myself, mmmmyes the illustrious plan unfolds...

Day One in the Dos - 7.14.08

Tavapy 2, 7.14.08 - So I'm sitting here in my little room at my host family's house trying to listen to some music on my iPod, but it keeps freezing. It just started playing, I think it may be possessed. At least it gives me an excuse to buy a new one. So anyway, I'm here in the town of Tavapy 2 (pronounced tah-vah-pull dos), visiting Andrew aka Andres. So despite my comments about how filthy his feet, etc. are, he is a cool ass dude. He has definitely gone "native" though, as some other PCV's have said. We got here earlier this afternoon after meeting him in a nearby town. After going around and meeting the different families we'd all be staying with we hung out around his crib, which is part of the cooperative with which he works. We took a tour of the coop's barbacua, which is where the hierba is processed before getting sent to the hierba mate company for packaging. The town has beautiful countryside; Andres has an amazing view of the valley from his huge yard. Pooja and I are staying with families right near the coop, while Tim is about 2 km away. Too bad he couldn't have been closer. We also took a walk to the field near Andres' crib and picked some cilantro for our dinner. That'd be tight if I can have some growing wild near me when I get to my site.

So now to the main thing that's been on my mind since I got here - THE BATHROOM SITUATION. So apparently my host family here has an electric heated shower but they all use a latrine. When I say latrine, I mean I'M BOO-BOOING IN A HOLE! So when I first got here I immediately asked where the bathroom was so I could get it out of the way. So I went in there and the stench was UNREAL. It basically smells like a Paraguayan sewer (or any other 3rd world country you may have been to): stale urine and feces on the rocks. So there I was with a little flashlight my host mom gave me, and I squatted and peed. She said that if I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and didn't want to walk all the way there, I could just go on the side of the house. That at least saved me from having to smell the stench, have mercy. We'll see if I'm brave enough to do some "major biznis" in the latrine tomorrow morning, I'm not sure that I will

On another note, the family computer (yes, I said computer) is this room, it's REALLY nice. Quite an interesting juxtaposition with the latrine out back. The granddaughters were watching a DVD old cachaca (Paraguayan music, similar to cumbia, look on Wikipedia if you're still not sure) music, and one of the groups had these dudes with sick-ass Mexican mullets. Not just business in the front party in the back, but gel-sculpted Elvis pompadour (sp?) in the front and permed-out, crimped-up, mid-back length mane in the back.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Some Pics and a Video

More pics from live in Aveiro...I don´t know whether I´ve lost weight or not because my host mom (i call her my ¨Maa", like Granty says it) has been feeding me like a pig getting fattened up for the state fair. Nevertheless, that at least means that things are all good :-)

This is a pig from the Permaculture Farm.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Interesting New and Preparing for Long Field Practice 7.12.08

Aveiro, 7.12.08 - So last Sunday I washed my hair, partially blow dried it and later in the evening, my host sister Rita actually flat-ironed it for me! She did a good job - I think I will have her do it from now on, assuming she's willing. In the late morning we went over to my host mom's sister's house, who was having an asado (barbecue PY style) for her birthday. I met a bunch of other family members, ate a lot of meat, some really salty noodles with chicken and some excellent birthday cake. Happy Birthday Auntie!

Not too much has happened this week. I continue to enjoy having the internet next door at my host brother's, and because of that I was able to reformat my iPod after it crashed a week or so ago. Yes, it crashed and I lost everything. But, luckily I also brought my discman and some cd's so at least I have some music to listen to. I also plan on repopulating my iPod with some of his amazing 80's music; PY soundtrack here we come! However, today I tried to load some songs onto it from my friend's laptop but some of them didn't transfer, and then it froze again so it may be gone for good. So it's very likely that I'll use my readjustment allowance to buy a new iPod at the end of my PC service, assuming I don't get a new one before then. It's all good though. When my computer eventually arrives, I'll have all my music then, so it'll be even better. By the way Lil' Mommy - I met a guy today who was born and raised in Boston but his parents are Paraguayan, and he says that Fedex is how he would always send stuff and it would get here in a week. He moved back down here a few years ago. Depending of course on how much you pay - nevertheless, however long it takes is fine, as long as it arrives.

But anyway, I digress as usual. So this past Wednesday we learned that, due to funding cuts from PC headquarters in DC, our training will be cut short by a week, so we will be swearing in as official PC volunteers on August 6th and heading to our sites by the 9th, instead of swearing in on the 14th and arriving in site the following Monday. While folks were pretty shocked, most of us were relieved because we're all pretty anxious to get to our sites. However, it is also sad because I'll be leaving all of my friends and my wonderful Aveiro family. They have really spoiled me - I hope that I have similar luck with the host family I will live with at my site for a few months. My current family I think of as my Paraguayan home base and an important component of my local suppor network. They are praying that I don't get sent too far away so they can easily come visit me and vice versa, but either way I will definitely come back to visit when I can. A true blessing indeed. Later that day I spoke with Daddy and he asked me when I would possibly be coming home to visit; I told him January. However, as I have begun to think about it more, I think there may be a possibility that I come home for Christmas for about two weeks, depending on my schedule at my site. Based on what I have heard from other volunteers, December through February are among the hottest months in the country and a lot of people go out of town because apparently not that much gets done. Also, when I am able to travel and have visitors starting in November, I will start out with 48 vacation days for the two years, which will decrease as I take vacation. Assuming this is the case, I will definitely have enough vacation days. All of this will become more clear in the coming weeks as we prepare to head for our sites and become official volunteers. As the Paraguayans (and many Latinos) say, "si Dios quiere y la Virgen permite" (if God wills it and the Virgin permits it). Indeed we will see...

Long Field Practice Here We Come 7.12.08

Aveiro, 7.12.08 - So tomorrow I will spend most of the day preparing for my week-long visit to a volunteer about 6 or 7 hours away in a town called Tavapy 2. This is known as Long Field Practice, in which we really get to see the ins and outs of volunteer life, and will even be conducting workshops with the community. I will be going with two other folks from my group, one of whom I pray that I don't strangle while I'm there. I'm sure everything will be fine though. The volunteer we're visiting is also an interesting guy to say the least - he has the record for longest days without bathing and the most pique (PEE-kay). I suggest that you all google pique to find out what it is, but just to give you an idea, it's a parasite that is contracted usually in the feet as result of contact with cow or pig poop or otherwise contaminated soil. It looks like a little splinter when you initially get it, but it then matures and lays eggs which can cause major nerve damage and, in extreme cases, death. EXTREME CASES. I thought I had one the other day and had the doctor look at it but apparently I didn't. So anyway, this particular volunteer had 6 IN ONE TOE at one point, as a result of his penchant for walking around barefoot, especially in the dirt. He's a really nice guy, but we also think he is semi-insane; he kinda reminds me of Pigpen from Charlie Brown. All of that notwithstanding, I have every intention of staying as clean as possible. As was the case in Valenzuela, we will be staying with families. I have already been told that, while the family I'm staying with has a latrine, not a modern toilet, they do have a hot shower! So yeah, needless to say I will likely have some stories at the end of my week. Stay tuned and pray for me! :-)

The Organic Farm in the Middle of the City 7.12.08

Aveiro, 7.12.08 - This past Thursday afternoon we went on yet another amazing excursion, which is definitely at the top of the list with the low-income housing cooperative. We went to a family-owned and operated, organic and environmentally-conscious and sustainable farm located in Lambare, just outside of Asuncion. We were greeted by Fernando, one of the sons, who also gave us a tour of the property. He is a forestry engineer who also speaks excellent English as a result of his time in the States when his girlfriend was in grad school at Oregon State. He began by telling us about the family's biodigester, which uses pig excrement and water to create methane gas that they use for cooking. The contraption itself looks like a garden row covered over with plastic, with resealable openings at either end. When they clean out the pigpen they load up the biodigester, which converts it to methane. They have piping that runs from the BD to the house through the ground, allowing it to come through the burners. The BD cost 300,000 guaranies (a little less than $100) to build and paid for itself after only 2 months' gas usage; they even use less than the propane they had been using before. The BD was in the same area as the rabbit hutch, the vermiculture (where worms are grown for composting) bins, the cow shed and the pigpen.

The farm is set up according to what I viewed as a circular, recyclicle pattern - a true model for sustainability. Many of the trees on the property grow quickly and can be used for firewood for cooking. This is especially important for small farmers who cannot afford to wait years for trees to grow because they need to feed their families. The flora truly looks like a tropical oasis; a little island in the middle of the city. It provides more than ample shade for the compost piles, which are made from the cow manure and leaves from the trees, among other ingredients. They have several bins of dirt with worms in them to enrich the soil that results from the compost. Fernando even had an experiment going in which he was seeing how well the compost pile heated water. He had a container of water in the pile with a copper pipe (because of it's ability to conduct heat) through whcih he filled it. I'm not sure how long the water had been in there, but the amount that came out was pretty warm. It will be interesting to see whether it can become a viable option - using the natural chemical reactive processes that take place within the pile to heat water instead of gas or other conventional indoor plumbing methods. They keep rabbits that are fed with greens and other foods from their farm, that they have for autoconsumption or sell. The rabbits were all so cute, especially the baby bunnies. I understand that the meat is also excellent and very lean.

In addition to purchased feed, the cows also eat the leave from the sugar cane and corn that's grown on the farm. The cows also produce milk the family uses to make yogurt and cheese, which they also consume and sell to buyers around Asuncion. All organic. They may also eat the beef from the cow - I would think so, they grow/raise everything else. Just above the cow area is the pigpen that housed about 15 or 16 pigs, including the piglets. The one male pig they had was the biggest I'd ever seen, 170 kilos (340 lbs)! At 3 years old, it was the father of all the little pigs. It was absolutely huge, it looked like the pyscho, monster pig you might see in a nightmare or that would eat people like those pigs in the Silence of the Lambs sequel. Lawd have mercy. Right, so moving right along, in addition to eating the pigs themselves they also sell them.
Next we went to the poultry coop where they kept chickens, guinea hens, ducks and quails. Autoconsumption as well, but they also sell quail eggs as a delicacy. I must say that they are pretty tasty. In there huge garden they grow yuca, hibiscus (for juice and jam, rich in vitamin C), strawberries, green onions, corn, and some other roots vegetables. So at the end of the tour, the mother and sisters had a whle spread of amazing goodies, all homemade, laid out for us - chipa (Paraguayan sweetbread), yogurt, strawberry milk, hibiscus juice and jam, orange pound cake, strawberry and guava jams, cheese, and quail eggs. The food was crazily ridiculous, unreal. We ate until we couldn't eat anymore. So folks also bought some yogurt and jam. So, from our tour we learned about new information we can pass onto our communities to improve the quality of there lives. The only thing that could've been better was if Fernando hadn't had a girlfriend; actually it's probably better that he did because otherwise we would've all been fighting over him (lol).

How to Make Paraguayan Cheese 7.12.08

Aveiro, 7.12.08 - So yesterday was our fourth Dia de Practica (Day of Practice), in which we go out into the community and learn about different people's activities. My friend Paulette and I have been going to the farm of Don Blasido, a local dairy and sugar cane farmer. While he mainly specializes in sugar cane, at one point he kept even more cows and sold milk, but currently keeps them mainly for autoconsumption and the dairy products they still sell. On the farm they also have pigs, chickens, yuca, several types of squash and root veggies, citrus trees, and his sister next door has tomatoes.

The first few times we went over there, we pretty much hung out with the women of the family. The time before this most recent time was our most productive; we helped clean and peel yuca for their lunch, and one of the grandmothers who had just flown in from Argentina taught us how to play quince (pronounced KEEN-say, Spanish for 15), a popular card game. The main folks on the farm a Don Blasido, who kind of reminds me of my grandfather, Na Dora (his wife), Noelia (his neice, age 24 but she looks about 30) and her two sons (Blasito, 4, and the younger one that I refer to as Chiquitito, 16 months), and Angela (the daughter-in-law, maybe late 30's?) and her two sons (the younger one is 4 or 5 and the older one, Matias, is 12). We spend most of our time with Angela and Noelia in the the cooking area, which is the center of their family life. Angela is definitely the sharpest tack in the bunch, while Noelia is, not so much. Nevertheless, they're great folks.

So the last time we were there, Angela said that she would show us how to make cheese the next time, which we definitely able to do yesterday. I learned how to make it in the traditional Paraguayan style, using the cuajo (say it with me, KWAH-ho), which is the stomach lining of the cow. You start with the milk - since it had been in the fridge since the day before, Angela first heated it until is was warm, approximately 90-something degrees. I then put in the cuajo, swirled it around for a bit and then put it back in the bucket in its bath of sour orange jouice and salt to preserve it. She also said that after you take it from the cow you have to stretch it on a stick and dry it in the sun so it lasts longer. She then showed how you kind of press the cheese around in the pot as the curds form, which Paulette and I both did. After you pour the liquid residue, known as the suero (SWEH-ro), out of the pot. The suero is excellent sustenance for both pigs and dogs. You let the remaining curd sit for awhile, then put it in a colander or cheese mold and press out the rest of the water. After the liquid is pressed out it's ready to eat. The finished product was good, but I prefer the drier, more aged cheese. How y'all like my new skill??? I will be impressing the folks in my site in no time...Real country living boy I tell you, I love it.

Tour of INCOOP and Fourth of July at the American Embassy in Asunción 7.5.08

Aveiro, 7.5.08 - So after being here for a number of weeks, certain folks are definitely starting to work my nerves. A few days ago we had the first big fight between two people in the group (not the larger group, but our RED group of 6), but luckily they've actually managed to smooth things over and get along.

Yesterday we went to the American Embassy for the July 4th picnic, which was a lot of fun. In the morning we went to the Mercado de Abasto, where farmers come to sell produce. We learned primarily about the section in which farming coops are able to sell their produce wholesale to individuals and supermarkets. Some of the buyers set up produce stands in another area across the street and sell it by the kilo for, in some cases, double the price. Crazy, but what can you do when folks are just trying to make a living in a Third World country. Sorry if that wasn't politically correct but oh well. I am living in a Third World country - who would have thought. But anyway, I digress.

After Abasto we went to INCOOP, which is the main body in charge of regulating all coops in the country. It's located in an 8-story building in Asunción with beautiful views of the city. We were initially met by Inginiero Angel Caballero, who kinda looked like a telenovela star. He kept checking himself out in the mirror throughout his schpiel. Hilarious. He is in charge of overseeing new initiatives they have. In one current initiative, bigger coops are working with smaller coops to help them improve their technologies, methods, etc. to improve their overall situation. After he talked with for awhile the president of INCOOP came in, Ingeniero Doctor Antonio Ortiz, who looked like a mini Tony Soprano. Yes, that's what I said - Mini Jimmy Gandolfini. So he talked more about coops in the country, and then Ing. Angel took us on a full tour of each department. My favorite part was when we went to Mini Jimmy's office, which was easily the size of the people's two bedrooms I stayed with in Valenzuela, and bigger than many other houses I've seen in Paraguay. It was one big room with a conference table, two leather couches, a coffee table, a big screen tv (by PY standards - looked like a 30") with a stereo whose speakers were hooked up to the tv for surround sound action., his huge desk and a computer. He also had his own bathroom and what I think may have been a shower in another room, but the door was closed so I didn't dare check. He gave us copies of a little book with all laws related to coops and INCOOP's annual report. An assistant of his even brought us little cups and saucers with espresso and later glasses of water. Talk about big time! Before we left he showed us pictures of his trip to Boston last year, which I believe was sponsored by the US DOD. He spent quite a bit of time with some soldiers, one of whom had been in Iraq and another one who was apparently from Puetro Rico. He was like (in Spanish), "he spoke perfect Spanish", and I thought, um yeah he is Puerto Rican so that's not a shocker, Mini Jimmy. But he was a cool little guy overall. One thing that we all noticed was that the secretaries were all young, attractive females; deductive reasoning led us to conclude that this was among the job qualification criteria.
So after that we piled back into the van and headed to the Embassy. The grounds are pretty lush - it looks like a tropical garden for real. They even have animals on the grounds - I saw two sheep and two peacocks - interesting indeed. The picnic was a lot of fun - they had hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans, and other goodies. There were lots of embassy folks, PC affiliates and their families. We pretty much hung out, drank beer and people-watched. The world being as small as it is, of course I would've run into a dude named Shawn that went to Stanford with my friend Abeo, even her same year (sorry Abeo, I didn't ask what his last name was). He works in the Office of Public Affairs at the Embassy. I also bought myself a Peace Corps shirt that says "Cuerpo de Paz Paraguay"on the front, and then on the back it has a picture of a popular brand of mate and the words "We don't smoke our weed we drink it" on the back. Truly priceless - I'll drink to that (as Maceo would say)!

Valenzuela 6.29.08

Aveiro, 6.29.08 - This past Friday after class we headed out to a small town called Valenzuela for our Tech Overnight. The Tech Overnight is when the Rural Economic Development (RED) and Municipal Service Development (MSD) groups each go to visit a volunteer in their respective sites. The RED homies and I went to visit a female volunteer, Jen Cheng, who works with a cooperative in the town. On the way there we stopped at a little place called Casa de Mani, which specializes in things made from peanuts. They also have bomb lomito sandwiches (seasoned chopped beef, the sandiwch also had melted cheese) and soft serve ice cream.

A little less than an hour later we arrived in Valenzuela and met up with Jen and then got dropped off at our various households where we were staying for the night. We hung out at our houses for about 30 minutes and then got back together to go see the women's center where Jen had done a lot of work, AMUR, which stands for Asociación de la Mujer Rural (Association of the Rural Woman). The house and land on which AMUR is located was donated by a Swiss family that lived in the town. In the front room they a small general store in which they sell various handmade and miscellaneous goods, mainly school supplies and stationary. In another room they have a computer center that is populated with computers y'all might've seen in the 1990's, which is an accomplishment in itself. Two computers were donated initally by one woman's son who had a successful business in another part of the country, and the other computers were purchased with grant money. Not sure how often the acutal classes take place - if I am not mistaken, I think they're on hold because the demand was greater than the teachers available. In the kitchen, they have a commercial oven recently purchased so the women could learn how to bake bread in the hopes of selling it in the community. They currently have a professional baker that's teaching them; we'll see how it turns out. Since she is leaving, one of us will actually be going to her site; possibly me? In another room they have a huge weaver that didn't seem to really be used much. But, if folks decide they want to make hammocks or some other weaved product, it's there. It also doubled as a storage room.

After that we went back to the cooperative where we were met by the woman that maintains the coop's office in the town. The coop, which is similar to a credit union, is in much better shape than that of the volunteer I visited a number of weeks ago. It has a lot of members and a strong Board of Directors. Jen actually lives at the coop in a room they constructed for her along with a modern bathroom and a kitchen; I think the kitchen might've been there already. After the woman left, we hung out with Jen drinking mate (pronounced MAH-tay, a type of tea, the national drink of Paraguayans) and talking about her time in Valenzuela. She said that she absolutely loved it; aside from a period in the summer when she got really depressed because of the heat, which apparently is very strong. That was also when she was applying to schools and stressing over that. She's going to grad school at Yale in the fall for international relations. It started to get a little late so we all headed back to our houses.

Let me say that the house I stayed at in Valenzuela was NOTHING like my house in Aveiro, and I was living in relative squalor for one night. Let me give y'all the lowdown. They basically live in two rooms, eat and brush their teeth in an outside corridor between the sleeping quarters and the kitchen shed. The bathroom - thank God they had a modern bathroom - was filthy and next to the sleeping area. I didn't dare sit on the toilet; I had brought my toiletries but please believe they stayed right in my backpack. The shower floor was covered in dirt, and the sink was not even hooked up. Anyway, when I came back from Jen's that night I watched tv with a granddaughter of Ña Pitu (short for Doña, pronounced DON-yah) and Ña Pitu's older son who has some sort of chronic disease (Parkinson's maybe?). When I first met him earlier, he would ask me a question and then just kind of stare at me, which the two neices were also doing. I might've been the first black person they'd seen up close. But yeah it was kind of weird; I was like, "man I hope this man is not staring at me when I go to sleep and then I wake up and have to knock someone out,". But he actually looked kind of like David Copperfield. So after some time, Ña Pitu called me to come and eat dinner, which was stewed chicken and sopa paraguaya (remember, the paraguayan cornbread). I ate what I could of the chicken because I wasn't really seasoned that well and was undercooked on the inside Oh my God, it definitely was not my Paraguayan mom's cooking. They also gave me some really sugary soda, which I can't stand, and the weird son asked me why I didn't drink more of it. So I failed to mention that they spoke primarily Guarani so while I was able to get in some practice, at times I had NO IDEA what they were saying. She asked about how things were in the States and then, I am reminded as I write, inquired about how much I was paid. The Paraguayans are super-forward at times. I lied and told her I didn't know exactly, but enough for living expenses. She also asked if there was crime in the States, I said there was, and then she said that Paraguay didn't really have any crime until after Stroessner (the dictator) fell in 1989; I got the sense that she wished that the same (or similar situation) was still in place. This same dictator of course initiated a lot of violent repression of dissidents and all great things the worst dictators are known for. Nevertheless, we were watching a hilarious comedy show that I hadn't seen prior to then (because I am usually sleep or in my room reading way earlier than 9pm), so that was cool. At 10:15pm I finally excused myself to go and lay down, in the same room as they continued to watch tv. Her bed was also in the same room on the other side on a big wardrobe. I put on my iPod and was down for the count.

The next morning I was supposed to meet the other RED folks at 7am, but for some reason (I don't know why, I guess my mind wasn't right) I thought they were going to come and get me, since we had all been dropped off by car the night before. So instead of meeting them I hung out with Ña Pitu and 'nem drinking mate, chopping it up, and watching her cousin sew clothes. I had just received a letter from Mommy with a pic of Granny so I showed it to them and they immediately thought Granny was Naturally I turned it into a teachable moment about Black American history and told them about how we have many colors - they also said that they also have family members of various shades, so we had even more in common. So finally Ña Pitu was ready to head over to the AMUR center for Jen's going away party and rolled in around 9:30 am. Everyone wondered where I had been - I apologized to Brian, saying that I thought he was going to come and get me, he said that it was no problem, that he figured that I was fine and had meant to come get me but got trapped in conversation. I love how everything is so "tranquilo" (pronounced, tran-KEE-lo) down here. No worries. My friend Mateo was singing and playing a song on his guitar at the time, after which Jen came up and said some farewell remarks. Afterwards there were refreshments, including some nasty food I couldn't eat, and then we piled in the car to head back to Aveiro. Before heading back, however, we stopped by the coop's main office in the nearest urban town about 15 minutes away. As I mentioned, they are extremely well established - they also have a weaving warehouse on the office grounds where coop members (socios) make rugs and hammocks, and an agricultural technology building.

The first thing I did when I got home was to go to the bathroom and take a shower; easily the best one I've had, laid down for a bit, and ate. Despite the fact that the living conditions of the people I stayed with were a bit different that those I had become accustomed to and the food was nasty, they were great people. The bed, at least, was extremely comfortable (although I slept in my fleece jacket because it looked a lil dirty). It definitely made me appreciate my current living situation, but also made me realize that I can deal with a lot more. And it could've been worse - at least they had indoor plumbing.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Lesson in Paraguayan History (or not)

Guarambare, 6.29.08 - Yesterday, as a part of a session about Paraguayan history and politics, two women came to speak to us about Parguayan history and politics. Unfortunately they were notthat effective. One woman basically used the time to brag about her accomplishments and the time she spentin 30 of the 52 states, namely Arkansas and Albany, NY, where she was an AFS exchange student.Everything she mentioned could be found on the State Department´s website on Paraguay, and of course Wikipedia. The best part was at the end when, in an attempt to quell any fears black peoplemay have had about racism in Paraguay, she told of an encounter she had with a black policeman outside of Chicago. After he stopped her and she began talking, he asked where she was from, towhich his immediate response was, "are there any black people in Paraguay???" In allhonesty, that was also my first question (lol). So at that point in the story, she said thatthat was her first time being made aware of the question of race. While this may have seemedsimple, in relating the story to us, she referred to the policeman as "colored". Now, upuntil that point, the point of her anecdote was unclear and I had pretty much tuned out. However,upon hearing the word "colored", my internal record player came to a screeching halt and I said to myself,"wtf did she just say???" and looked around to see how it registered with the other black peoplein my group. We all met glances. While I am sure that our reaction was not was she was tryingto ellicit, that´s what happened nevertheless. She probably meant well; no one bothered to say anything because we were relieved that she had finished talking. Ah, the irony.