Peaces of Paraguay

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

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Peaces of Paraguay

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My best friend back in the states is a Spanish teacher at a high school in Denver Colorado. Because our classes are at similar levels in their respective languages, we set up a pen-pal program. My English class wrote their first letters to their pen-pals this weekend and I made a video to give to her class explaining a bit about my experience in Paraguay. I also gave a mini cultural lesson on how to drink tereré. 

Enjoy!

Filed under Video Paraguay Terere Mate English Class Education culture travel Peace Corps Volunteering Pen Pal Letters Spanish class ideas

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English Class

Two weeks ago, I began teaching a Basic Conversational English class. Teaching English was not originally on my priority list, but I appreciated the enthusiasm a few girls showed in wanting to spend their Saturday afternoons in a class when they could be watching poorly dubbed-over American movies in Spanish.

I have two sections on Saturdays; one class is at 2:00 the other at 3:30. I don’t give grades, but those that meet all the requirements earn a certificate at the end of the class*. 

The criteria to receive a certificate are as follows:

  •  Class starts on time. If you’re late more than 10 minutes you are absent.
  • There are 10 classes total and you are allowed one absence. Anything more than that you must make up outside of class.
  • Seventy percent is passing (forty of that is participation)
  •  “Si o si, hay clase” (Never assume class is canceled… because it isn’t)
  • Have patience.
  • “Vamos a trabajar, pero, vamos a divertirnos” (Work hard, play hard)

I speak in Spanglish and expect the same from them. This may strike you as odd, but Spanglish allows them to hear and practice words in English, while still understanding the format of the class. I require that once they have learned a word or phrase in English, they no longer are allowed to say the word in Spanish. For example, we have learned that “tengo” is “I have” but they don’t yet know that “cuaderno” is “notebook” so they would be expected to say, “ I have a cuaderno.”

The first week we learned greetings, introductions, and farewells. It served as a way to gauge where the class stood. We practiced with role-play. That is to say I would play different characters and they would have to start up a conversation with me. For a few it was review, for most it wasn’t.

 Last week, I had a few more sign up for my class (word probably got out about my fantastic acting ability). I introduced colors, body parts, and clothing. And because I didn’t want to disappoint in the performance category, we sang, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” For their homework, they were to write a letter to a high school student in Denver, Co.  

Each Saturday we build on the previous classes, so this week we put everything together by decorating cookie-people.

 As they walked into class, in exchange for their pen-pal letter, they received human shaped sugar cookies and a paper describing – in English - what their cookie should look like. In the center of the table sat 20 Dixie cups filled with different colored frosting and sprinkles they could use to create their little person. Before they could eat their cookie they had to be able to present their person to me in English, and be able to answer any questions I had about their cookie.

They were all able to do it.

In a measly three total hours of class, I had expected them to operate and comprehend a brand new vocabulary that, currently, is pushing about 80 words.

And they could.

It was at this point that I received my first glimpse at what makes Peace Corps service so magnificent. It wasn’t just that they learned a few words in English; it was watching these girls discover new capabilities within themselves. These girls have so much to offer this world, they are bright and talented and creative, and I can tell them that until I’m blue in the face. Still, it doesn’t have any significance unless they actually are able to see it for themselves.

Furthermore the more time I spend with these girls the more I realize just how capable they really are, and the more enthusiastic I become to find new ways to challenge them.  That being said, what they don’t understand is how much they are challenging my creativity and pushing me to learn and test ideas that I have never entertained before.  I’m not sure exactly what I did to deserve such an exceptional group of girls, but I lucked out.

                                                                                                                                                    So, as I prepare my lesson plan for Saturday, I can’t help but wonder what they will be teaching me this week.

Filed under Teaching English English Class Peace Corps Paraguay San Salvador Education Cookies Baking Decorating

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29 Plays

Ne Pora Che Paraguay

Oiménepa ko arapype ndéicha iporãva tetã
ojeguapava yvotype omimbí ha ojajaipa
tovena ku pyharerö tajahecha pe jasy
arapeguaramo guaicha omysãi ro iñasaindy (bis)

Che Paraguay rasa harã
ndaiporichene mamove
che Paraguay ndeve ha´e
rohayhuve cada ko´ë

Pejuna mombyry guava pehechami ko tetã
katuetei pejuhuta tory joayhu ha vy´a
ko´ape jeko ymami Ñandejára oiko oguata
ha ipyporépe oheja hetaite mba´e porã (bis)

Filed under Che Paraguay Guarani Paraguay Ne Pora Che Paraguay Travel Music Culture Foreign Languages Language Idioma South America

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We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
E.E. Cummings

Filed under E.E. Cummings Humanity Curiosity Wonder

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selva:

Meanwhile in Paraguay..

A group of bus drivers is going to extreme measures to get back the jobs they say they were fired from: They crucified themselves—three weeks ago, reports the BBC. The men (some media reports say five, other say eight) used 15-inch nails to affix their hands to crosses that have been laid on the ground, and they’ve been in that position since losing their jobs after clamoring for better pay and conditions. Their wives are taking turns, too, the Telegraph reports. “I am joining in today. Tomorrow it will be another mom,” said one, who asked that the country’s president come and see the “inhuman situation.”

Some of the men are suffering fevers as well as stomach and chest pains, while four other unions members have been on hunger strike for 36 days, the Daily Mail reports. The bus company has said it will rehire five of the workers and help the other three find new jobs, but the group says it won’t budge. “Our position is clear: we want the eight drivers to be reinstated with all employee benefits,” the union leader said. “Otherwise the strike is not lifted.”

Filed under Paraguay Bus Strike News Asuncion Job Loss International News Crusifiction South America Human Rights

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Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion—and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.
David McCullough

Filed under peace corps travel Volunteering Paris Service selflessness 6.8 billion human beings

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San Salvador, Guaira
I have been living in San Salvador for three weeks now and it couldn’t be more different than Itá.
Itá is a city not to far outside of Asunción. It has a lake and a few different parks a farmers market, a Stock (the Paraguay equivalent to Walmart), 90,000 people (if you are counting all the compañías), pizzerias, concerts, ice cream, empanadas, traffic, stray dogs, paved streets, festivals and more.  
San Salvador has cows.
Lot’s of cows.
Ok that is a slight exaggeration; we have sheep and horses too.
San Salvador is a tiny little pueblo in the department of Guairá, just outside of the capital, Villarica. Including the compañías there are about 2,500 people. However San Salvador proper, which is where I live, has about 700 people. There are a few dispensas in the town, but there is no grocery store, no market, no restaurants, and definitely no ice cream.
It’s small and quiet with little to do. But it’s endearing.
We have your basic necessities. We have a little plaza across from the municipality, a public and a private school, a church, a police station, and health center. We even have our own little credit union. The streets are cobblestone and there is a big pasture that runs through the center of the town. At the end of the pasture sits a rusty old train station that is full of character and defines the town.
If you came to San Salvador today, you may not believe it, but a few decades ago this was a happening town.
Paraguay is the world leader in organic sugar exportation. Just outside of San Salvador is a town called Iturbe. In Iturbe sits a sugarcane factory. And up until about fifteen years ago when the station was shut down, the train that ran through town, carrying organic sugar, fueled San Salvador’s economy.
Because the train no longer runs there is little work opportunity for the youth in the community, so many go to Villarica.
Despite its lack of operation the train station is still very dear to the hearts of community. And while there may not be much to do here, the people love their quiet community and they rightfully pride themselves on their inviting and accepting nature.
While my long term assignment is to work with the Centro Social y Cultural as well as the two schools in town to establish youth groups that focus on self-esteem, civic participation, and small business development, I won’t be taking part in any of that good stuff until at least November (with the exception of starting an English class and a computer class in a couple of weeks). Peace Corps asks that you spend the first three months in site just getting to know your community.
Three months of “no work” may sound extensive, but it vital to the success of my service and here is why: There are not words to describe the value Paraguayans put of family and I am supposed to work with youth. And as inviting and accepting as the people in San Salvador are, what parent in their right mind would let their child hang out with the weird rubia girl who jogs around town and takes pictures of the cows in the street?
To make matters worse, I hardly eat any meat… it’s suspicious all right…
So for the next two months I will be, dodging boyfriend suggestions, attending more birthday parties, obtaining worldly advice from Tia Juanita (an elderly woman I have adopted as both my grandmother and my personal guru), drinking terere, and most importantly becoming part of this remarkable community.

San Salvador, Guaira

I have been living in San Salvador for three weeks now and it couldn’t be more different than Itá.

Itá is a city not to far outside of Asunción. It has a lake and a few different parks a farmers market, a Stock (the Paraguay equivalent to Walmart), 90,000 people (if you are counting all the compañías), pizzerias, concerts, ice cream, empanadas, traffic, stray dogs, paved streets, festivals and more. 

San Salvador has cows.

Lot’s of cows.

Ok that is a slight exaggeration; we have sheep and horses too.

San Salvador is a tiny little pueblo in the department of Guairá, just outside of the capital, Villarica. Including the compañías there are about 2,500 people. However San Salvador proper, which is where I live, has about 700 people. There are a few dispensas in the town, but there is no grocery store, no market, no restaurants, and definitely no ice cream.

It’s small and quiet with little to do. But it’s endearing.

We have your basic necessities. We have a little plaza across from the municipality, a public and a private school, a church, a police station, and health center. We even have our own little credit union. The streets are cobblestone and there is a big pasture that runs through the center of the town. At the end of the pasture sits a rusty old train station that is full of character and defines the town.

If you came to San Salvador today, you may not believe it, but a few decades ago this was a happening town.

Paraguay is the world leader in organic sugar exportation. Just outside of San Salvador is a town called Iturbe. In Iturbe sits a sugarcane factory. And up until about fifteen years ago when the station was shut down, the train that ran through town, carrying organic sugar, fueled San Salvador’s economy.

Because the train no longer runs there is little work opportunity for the youth in the community, so many go to Villarica.

Despite its lack of operation the train station is still very dear to the hearts of community. And while there may not be much to do here, the people love their quiet community and they rightfully pride themselves on their inviting and accepting nature.

While my long term assignment is to work with the Centro Social y Cultural as well as the two schools in town to establish youth groups that focus on self-esteem, civic participation, and small business development, I won’t be taking part in any of that good stuff until at least November (with the exception of starting an English class and a computer class in a couple of weeks). Peace Corps asks that you spend the first three months in site just getting to know your community.

Three months of “no work” may sound extensive, but it vital to the success of my service and here is why: There are not words to describe the value Paraguayans put of family and I am supposed to work with youth. And as inviting and accepting as the people in San Salvador are, what parent in their right mind would let their child hang out with the weird rubia girl who jogs around town and takes pictures of the cows in the street?

To make matters worse, I hardly eat any meat… it’s suspicious all right…

So for the next two months I will be, dodging boyfriend suggestions, attending more birthday parties, obtaining worldly advice from Tia Juanita (an elderly woman I have adopted as both my grandmother and my personal guru), drinking terere, and most importantly becoming part of this remarkable community.

Filed under San Salvador Guaira Paraguay South America Cows Horses Sunset Peace Corps Community PCV Travel