Valenzuela, Cordillera, 8.20.08 (6 days til birthday!) - On Monday, the AMUR Board of Directors (4 of the women) finally met to discuss my workplan and other orders of business. This was the third time the meeting had been set, since everything gets cancelled when it rains.
It took place in the house of Na Inma, the head of the Board, who is also one of the more well-off members of the community. Her husband, Don Carlos, was the one who gave me a ride out to the Ovando's when I initially arrived. They have hectares of farmland on which they primarily cultivate sugar cane. He is the first farmer I've met with a fully mechanized farming operation, as opposed to oxen and manual labor. They also have a number of animals on the farm aside from the coker spaniels, Chucho and Lola, that I met initially. Upon approaching the house, visitors are greeted by two gargantuan, killer attack rotweilers, one of whom is named Negro. I am serious when I tell you that there is no shortage of dogs in this country named Negro and Lobo. But I digress. Even though the dogs are chained, the chain is like 20 or so meters long, so the dogs can reach past the center of the driveway and tear you up if you're not careful. Therefore, before people come visit they are strongly advised to walk along the far left side of the driveway along the fence so as to avoid any maiming. There have apparently been several instances in which people either forgot or didn't know the dogs were there and suffered the unfortunate consequences of their sudden appearance. In one case, a couple arrived on a motorcycle and the dogs snatched them from the bike. Although the wife suffered a minor bite wound, the husband was not as fortunate and had to be taken to the hospital. He survived. Anyway, aside from the rotties they have an ostrich, rabbits, a monkey named Monica, as well as cows and probably chickens.
In the meeting we mainly talked about things they wanted to get done and my role with the organization. One of the first things I'll be doing is a series of charlas ("talks") on topics of interest to the socias. The first one, which will be next Monday at 2pm, will be on gardening. Don't laugh...lol. However, since my knowledge is quite basic, I am basically going to introduce the topic and have another socia who is a gardening pro do the presentation. Instead of talking at the people, I figured we could have people work in AMUR's garden, maybe visit some nearby gardens, and at the end have people sign up to help tend the garden. As it is, there are one or two people that do most of the work; hopefully my plan solves this problem. Na Nelly was also saying that, when it's been done in the past, the women enjoyed making different dishes from recipes found on the internet. Me too. The problem is that there is no money to pay for the cooking gas, which is expensive. I will need to figure out a way around this obstacle if I decide to restart the activity. A problem is also lack of member participation (shocker! lol), which would certainly be improved by the institution of regular activities.
The biggest thing the Board would like to do, which will be my long-term pet project, is start a profitable business in which most or all of the socias can participate. As I told them, it would require a lot of time, planning, research and potentially trial and error, but I was excited and up for the challenge. There are many towns in Paraguay that are known for a particular good that its inhabitants produce. For the especially popular ones, people come from all around the country to purchase. My goal will be to have AMUR profit from and also be recognize for a particular product. Even if they don't achieve national fame, sustainability is most important. I first need to figure out what the socias would like to do, whether there's a demand for it, and what it would take to produce it. This means the cost of capacitating the socias, the cost of raw materials and so forth. And naturally we will have to figure out where the funds will come from. Paraguayan small-business development here we come :-)!
So this afternoon I was walking to the bus stop on the main road and I came across a suspicious dog. He kind of looked like a hyena; he was brown and skinny. He still looked a little crazy though. Normally the dogs here just kind of do their own thing, but this dog seemed to be a bit too concerned with my movements. You can't be completely sure if a dog is going to kirk out on you or not until you're almost up on them, so I didn't want to take any chances. At first I turned around and walked in the other direction, glancing back to see what the dog was doing. Walking in my same direction. I then came across a decent-sized log, with which I could effecttively defend myself in the event things got hairy. Weapon in hand, I turned around and walked back toward the bus stop. Since it was siesta time, the roads were basically deserted. I couldn't take any chances. As the dog continued to observe me from a distance, I shooed it away by raising my club. He seemed to still be curious. Instead of going about his business, he went and sat under the little shelter where I had planned to wait. He sat. He watched me. I cursed him under my breath and gave him the evil eye. Not too much og an evil eye though, because I didn't want him to think I was challenging him. Not wanting to complicate thing, I walked a little down the road and waited in some shade. And of course the flies attacked me and my freshly-washed, perfumed hair. I set my stick down since ol' boy appeared stationary. He then started to walk back toward me. I picked up my stick; he reconsidered. And then the bus came.
So of course I get to the town and the person that's supposed to meet me at AMUR to work in the garden doesn't show up. I sat and chatted with Na Rosa, ate some oranges, met the English teacher, bought a few little things for the house and a Guarani dictionary for myself. I made sure to catch the 3pm bus that passed my house so as to avoid a run-in such as that which I experienced a few hours earlier.
Tomorrow I'm going to check out some internet to see if it's working, have lunch with Na Nico and then sit in on the advanced computer class in the afternoon. This weekend I'm going to hang out with Paulita and some other PCV's and come back before lunch on Sunday. And so the birthday celebrations begin...