Thursday, December 29, 2011
Spent the 23rd and 24th in Aregua with Elmer Calata. Saw artists and hippies and hipsters like I have not at all since I came to Paraguay. I saw beautiful things! Man made things, no less. For all my affection for this country I do believe that it suffers much for want of aesthetic taste. The old fancy traditinoal houses downtown here are cool, and there is a beautiful chruch up the hill from the hotels that outshines the cathedral even. But generally speaking, people built ugly things (even more so than in postwar America!).
But in Aregua there were tall dark trees, fine houses, taste. It was soothing.
Then on Christmas day I went down to Quiindy in dpto. Paraguari where Jonathan Rosario lives in Barbara Dean´s old house. My cousin Bryan lived in a nearby compania six years ago or so. It is a pretty town. It´s not so isolated as many places, but with a rural charm. Departamento Paraguari is my favorite because of it´s varied landscape and Quiindy has rolling hills and dells that give it character.
There were four of us at Jonathan´s house and we watched movies and restored an amoir. I slept in my hammock in the yard which was real nice and something I´d wanted to try for a while. As long as it doesn`t get to cold at night it´s a bed I can take with me that is superior to a thermarest (which I don`t have anyhow).
And now I´m back in the city. I`ll go to Guarambare this evening to visit the host family. Then I`ll take the bus home which passes through the town of 25 de Deciembre, but which I prefer to call Christmas town.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
I listen to This American Life and Selected Shorts in the evening or while I clean or do laundry. The quality of the story telling and even just the good use of language, the quality communication, is a welcome relief after a day of bungled, half-misunderstood attempts to communicate with my friends and neighbors here.
My favorite though is Garrison Keilior`s News from Lake Woebegone, the only part of Prairie Home Companion that you can download. The story telling and use of language is great, but it goes even beyond TAL and Slected Shorts in its beautiful rendition of the mundane of (United States of) American life, which I miss so much. The stories of the characters in the small town, who have known each other thier whole lives, of thier strange behaviors and thier own hesistant interactions with one another, all take place deep within a distinct strain of (United States of) American culture. All these people speak the same language, or often don´t even speak it; they can communicate with a grunt or a back-handed compliment more than I can with all my train-wreck Spanish or Guaranì.
To live in your own culture, to be so deep within it that the entire world is understood through its meanings and connections is a very special, but rarely appreciated thing. You only notice it when you go far away from your native place and you realize that not just the words are different, but that nearly everything else about how people communicate is as well and that you cannot possibly learn it all over again because it has to be hardwired deep down within you to be really natural.
One can learn to fit in, and to an amazing degree communicate with people in a culture so unlike to that in which you were raised (and here I am not even leaving the Americas, speaking a romance language!). I believe there is a limit however, and that even the most brilliant Indian or Paraguayan could come live in rural (United States of) America and be unable to learn the myriad assumptions and unspoken rules of interaction. This is not meant to bash foreigners or immigrants. On the contrary I am in awe of how difficult it must be to permanently leave your native country behind. What I mean to say is that we should all be thankful and proud of our unsurpassed ability to know and speak our own culture, and that even the dullest among us can communicate in a language that can never be completely learned, no matter how supieror the student may be to us in all other subjects or tests of mental ability.
Miss you guys.
Where all the women and strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.
Friday, December 9, 2011
In my garden I've got cucumbers and tomatoes so far. The cucumbers are growing fantastically and it is a pleasure to watch their vines and tendrils grow and move from one day to the next. My tomato plants are coming along and I just put four more plants in the ground. This is my first garden, and I am moving slowly, but it is a great pleasure to have the freedom to go about it as I like and to learn from my own trial and error.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
So far nothing has shown up in my bed. This morning there was a slug down in the toe of my shoe. I didn't even know there were slugs here.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Which from an intergration stand point is a good thing. My language abilities suffer every time I spend a few days with Americans and my connections with my neighbors here are deepened the more I rely on them for my social interactions en vez de far away americans.
The anticipated arrival of a swift little computer in the arms of my soon-to-arrive father will reinforce my connection with the outside world once again. It will give me powerful new tools to make things happen quickly, and hopefully will motivate me to do more work in my "free time" at home in the evening. I think the timing of this is good. I`ll have had 8 months in the country without my own computer (an escape into a whole digital non-paraguayan world) to learn how this place runs and where the bottlenecks are. Now with my decent understanding of how things work here, I`ll be able to use this productivity multiplier more effectively. Or so I hope.
We had a little VAC day last sunday here in Nueva Germania. VAC stands for Volunteer Action Committee and basically means the other Peace Corps Volunteers that are located near me. There`s Leah in a village called Oratorio, about a half an hour away (by bus, at least an hour by bike), and Hannah and Marissa in San Pedro proper, a large town and the department capitol, an hour away. Leah also has a friend visiting her from home these two weeks. So they all came out and we went aswimming in the beautiful undeveloped river near my house. Paraguayans don`t swim there because the current is stronger and the water deeper than the other river, which has "balnearios" built up near where the bridge crosses. But there is a large back water above the bend without current, with the water about 5-7 feet deep. Great for swimming. The other river has only a few spots deeper than 4 feet.
And then we all came back and cooked some delicious spicy sausage and veggies. It was the first time any of them apart from Leah had seen my house, and they all said they liked it. I like it too. Its a great little size and I`ve been able to do a lot to make it feel like my own house in these 3 months that I`ve lived there. Little contraptions and such. I`ve been trying to find logical and easy to access place to store things, mostly by hanging by nails along the wall. I believe in a logical cleanliness only. What good is it to hide my things somewhere where they are difficult to get to if it only serves to keep them out of sight?
But after dinner everyone had to run to catch one of the rare and unpredictable buses heading back towards San Pedro. These buses come all the way from Asunciòn, so there is a window of an hour and a half in which they could reasonably pass. When we got to the highway we discovered that the bus had already gone by, which began a long unpleasant adventure of trying to find a sober ride to San Pedro, which is only 25 minutes away by car. We found a ride eventually with my friend prof. Evanhy and her bf, and all was well.
But I had not taken off my wet cotton shorts, and it was a cool evening. I`m not sure if that was the direct cause of my sudden sickness, which manifested itself as soon as I arrived back at my house, but I`m sure it did not help.
I was feverish yesterday, but merely congested today. But it is late in the afternoon and I must return home to eat lunch (leftover chili, homemade) before coming back here this afternoon with prof. Lyda`s 3rd grade class.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Booty / Body
They sound pretty similar. Also shaking your booty requires shaking ones body.
Fudge / truffles / Fuji / fungus / sushi
This one is a little complicated. Truffles can be chocolate or mushrooms. Fudge is a kind of chocolate. Fuji is the name of a mountain in Japan, and sounds kindof like sushi which is a type of food they eat in Japan, and kindof like fungus, and kindof like fudge. I therefore connected them all and figued fuji was a type of mushroom/truffle they ate in Japan.
I didn`t get that ph makes an `f ´sound so I figured that the correct pronouniation was `pone´ and the way we said it was incorrect like "`aint" or "gonna".
So last week I was at PDM/IST along with all the other PCVs from G35 and one CC each at CAFASA in Ypacarai. In additional to the RHS PCVs, all of the G32 PCVs from the EEE and UYD projects came in as well for our EYD sector encuentro and to meet our new PM Jeremy Smith. Jeremy is replacing Alastair (who`s normal job is PS for EBC) who had been our acting APCD since Josefina was fired in April. Don Clark, the PCPYCD also came in on Monday and Friday. Lindsey, our PCVC did a lot of the work organizing the whole thing because Jeremy was so new.
So, as you can see, Peace Corps has another language of is own.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Generally in Latin America you don`t flush your toilet paper, you put it in a little waste basket beside the toilet. Since most people are right handed the waste basket is usually on the right side of the toilet. In my house it is on the left. But when I use the "water" in other places, I have to reach across myself with the dirty paper to throw it out. This is gross.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I never felt like I got a good understanding in college of what makes a developed country developed. Perhaps there is an econ class that addresses that subject. It seems to me that it`s that industrialization means fewer people can produce more stuff, so stuff becomes cheaper, so people can have more stuff. At the same time, other people are free to pursue white collar activities that enrich the society culturally or in other ways. The real prosperity comes when you can produce things cheaply and sell them to other places, then everyone has more money to spend on physical things and on intangibles.
I think the most visible trait of developed societies is the value of a person`s time. In the USA it is not worth a working man`s time to hand paint a sign, travel by ox cart, plant a garden, built furniture by hand, or ride to work on a bicycle. Given the cost of labor it is almost always cheaper to use a more mechanized process. The cost of labor is high due to a limited population, high levels of schooling, training, and experience, the success of labor rights and unionization efforts in the 20th century.
But I really enjoy the pace of life that comes from a society where a working man`s time is not worth very much, even as I lament the poverty that it is a symptom of.
I love to see things hand-made or improvised, to see the use of beasts of burden, to be able to interact with so many people daily who are not off hidden in a highly regulated workplace. In Latin America you can buy food and drink just about anywhere, because there is someone who`s time it is worth to hang around and sell it to you. Nearly every other house function as a `dispensa`, or convenience store. Mobile vendors will take care of you in parks or at the beach.
Furthermore your commercial interactions with these people are casual, informal. This makes sense in an economy dominated by informal employment, and lax regulation on formal employment. Workers are not controlled by rigid rules passed down from corporations or the government. When rules exist they are loosely enforced, but more often they do not exist. Perhaps because just aren`t making enough for it to be worth it to care.
So I can buy something, and if they don`t have correct change, they`ll either let me keep the difference (or once in a grocery store I was given little candies in place of exact change) or tell me to come back some other time to pay. People trust you. They value you and would not think of putting you through some obnoxious impersonal process. I am sure I will lament all this when I return to that States and all the barren, legally mandated spaces and interactions that I will surely encounter.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
An obstacle to my becoming excited about being in this place was how little I knew about it. I´d never learned much about Paraguay. Even while my own cousin was serving here and diligently writing a blog five years ago I failed to read what he wrote. Paraguay is an isolated country. For me to love being here I`ve had to locate it in the world.
I´ve been trying to better apreciate its geographic posistion, because I think this is very important in understanding this place. It is landlocked, and far from the andes, so one has no immediate geographic landmark to anchor our understanding of where it is in the world. The andes run like a spine streight north from Patagonia forming the entire border between Chile and Argentina. They then run into Bolivia and form a large plateau, but there the course changes dramatically; they shoot off to the West and begin the enormous crescent that runs through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, to Venezuela. Paraguay lies to the South of Bolivia, so the Andes still form thier great wall far off to the the West of here, on the other side of Argentina. Paraguay is mostly flat with some hills near the Eastern and North-Eastern border that it shares with Brazil. This border runs along the Parana river which is heavily dammed, providing most of the power for this country, but also has one of the world´s most awesome waterfalls (Yguazu - y: water, guazu: big). In general the Eastern half of the country is green and wet. It´s in between jungle and grassland. Meanwhile the ¨chaco¨ covering the Western half is dry, and is excellent for ranching. The Paraguay river runs through the middle of the country, and like of spine of an offset-book, forms the western border for the South-Eastern part of the country, and the Eastern border for the North-Western part of the country. It is navigable and runs to the "river" Plate, which is just a glorified bay, and divides Argentina from Brazil and Urugay.
Paraguay has stood outside of the main courses of history. This is largely because of it´s geographic position. It`s capitol city, Asuciòn was the first Spanish Settlement on this side of the Andes, but it soon lost importance to Buenos Aires. To the extent it was colonized by the Spanish was because the Paraguay river was the best land route to take between Buenos Aires and Lima. Perversely, in the old Spanish Empire all trade had to leave America through either Lima or Mexico, so inter-american trade routes were more important than they otherwise would have been. Only once did Paraguay step into the spotlight of (South American) history, and it got severely burned. After the South American colonies became independent from Spain, they spent a good bit of the 1800s consolidating and unifying their territory. Argentina and Brazil (which was itself now a co-equal part of the Portuguese Empire) were huge and decentralized. Paraguay, possibly because of it´s small size and thanks to a competent but totalitarian ruler (Dr. de Francia) was able to consolidate far sooner than its larger neighbors. Paraguay became a true power in South America for the only time in its history. Two dictators later Paraguay still loomed large, but neighboring giants had succeeded in consolidating their power somewhat, and in a bungled attempt to play one against the other, Paraguay ended up at war with both, and with the Brazilian puppet Urugay to boot. The war dragged on and the dictator Lopez put every warm body he could between the enemies guns and himself. By the end 90% of Paraguayan men had been killed, and Paraguay would return to its place as a backwater and footnote to history in the Southern Cone.
History interests me because I have a boyish delight in old battles, amries, ships, and castles. It also interests me in a more mature way because it affects, subtly, so much of the mundane reality of daily life. When I am in Latin America I am struck both by how different our cultures are, but also by how many common foundations we share. My culture is founded in a Western European medley dominated by the English, and Latin American culture is simarly founded in Western Europe, but in Imperial Spain. There is much in both cultures that comes from the Romans. So while I get some delight in thinking of the Roman legions eastablishing themselves in France, crossing the Channel, battling the Celtic kings and building Hadrian´s wall accross the island, the more fascinating thing is how those actions lead to how I live my life, and how it is not so much different, in its foundations, from my host family here.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
CDs: especially classical music. (I´m glad I brought some heavy reading because I really have the time am patience to do it. The same would have applied with heavy-listening)
Winter Clothes: (it doesn´t get too cold here, in absolute terms, but there is no heating and no insulation. One is lucky if the windows shut all the way.)
My brown wool embroidered jacket
My fleece sweat pants/any pajamas
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Northwest Trees by Stephen Arno
My nice blue shirt
I´m thinking of going into San Lorenzo this afternoon to buy
A professional looking shoulder bag
A frying pan for my host mother
A leather belt for Johanna
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
I wore my old red Vashon Maury Maritime Heritage shirt with a compass on the sleeve and the Wind and the Willows quote yesterday and I had to explain to a few people what kind of a strange ¨CREW¨ I was on. I´ve been thinking about the sound in the summer, especially as seen from the water. The floating green seaweed, the trees bursting with foliage, friendly houses with picnic tables in the lawn. Boats Boats.
Not many boats around here. And the golden watery summer on the sound I´m dreaming of won´t even exist for another 5 months. I´m enjoying the summer here a great deal of course. I´ve got a hammock now, and a bag of exceptionally cheap cigars. I´m going to go out to Cumbarity, to visit a trainee friend of mine out there this afternoon, which should be very pleasant. That town is smaller and further from the highway than Guarambare. We´ll play guitar and sit and smoke.
`Do you know, I`ve never been in a boat before in all my life.'
`What?' cried the Rat, open-mouthed: `Never been in a--you never--well I--what have you been doing, then?'
`Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.
`Nice? It's the ONLY thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. `Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,' he went on dreamily: `messing--about--in--boats; messing----'
Saturday, March 5, 2011
I have been enjoying this lightness very much being here. I am probably the only one without a computer in my ¨G¨, which means the 48 of us trainees that arrived in Guarambare (hence the G) at the same time. I also didn´t bring any music, which I regret, but at the same time I am thankful for. I can listen to music with the same virgin enthusiasm I had when I was 14. (Also, they call black cds ¨discos virgenes¨, which I find ammusing).
It is a thrill to be able to redefine ones´self. To find out which parts of what you´ve been carrying are still relevant and important, and which have become vestigial and can be shed as dead weight.
And to be reminded that how much you like what is left!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
We´re learning about classroom manegment skills here, which is something that is totally neglected in teacher training. As we learn new skills there is always the balance of figuring out what it is that we are more knowledgable about, what it is that is lost in translation, and what it is that we really know little about and must learn from the community. Clearly, with a college education, and my Peace Corps training I am privledged to have been exposed to many ideas and methods that my Paraguayan partners have not. At the same time it is obviously futile for me, young and inexperienced as a teacher, to come into a community or school and tell them what to do, both because I lack thier trust and respect and because I don´t know what the needs and strengths of the school or community. Meanwhile, I have to figure out what knowledge is genuinely new and what is already known by a diferent name (many things which seem like common sense and that Americans wouldn´t think twice about are unheard of here. For instance a popular and very helpful training activity with teachers is to teach them the sounds of individual letters, which they do not know because they learned all thier phonetics in chunks: mi, ma, me, mo, mu (mí mamá me amo mucho)).
Still have not tried Avacado with sugar. Mango and guayaba season is just about over, but orange season is about to begin!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Today I bought a straw hat for 10,000 Guaranis, or about $2.2.
I´m in the ¨New Cyber¨ internet cafe, al lado del plaza and the church. The town is quiet and peaceful. The buildings are very old. No one speaks English. This place is very far from the USA, except that internet pentration has increased rapidly in the past few years. My experience using computers here is the best I´ve ever had in a Latin American country. This machine has a flat screen, runs Windows 7 and Mozilla, and is fast.
There are 47 of us new trainees. Half are in the Rural Health program though, and are living futher out of town. I live a few blocks from the central plaza.
The people I´m training with are beautiful and intelligent and motivated. The family I live with is warm and caring. My host brother lives in the front part of the property with his wife and two sweet and adorable kids, Mattias 11 and Belen 15. I live in the back in a small house with Cristi and Artemio, my host parents.
You can´t get a proper mexi-coke here. They´ve got very small ones in glass, and liter and larger ones, but not the normal size.
And they eat avacado with sugar. I have not tried this yet. I´ll report on it the next time I write.