Friday, June 24, 2011

Thumbs up

My daily life is a constant barage of thumbs up. Also everyone shouts my name when they see me. I don`t know how everyone decided this was the thing to do, instead of saying like`hola` or something.

So I`ve been in site for about two months now. I`ve been working in the school and in the library, though not that much still in the library. I would like to work on getting a system so that people, teachers at least, can actually check out books. I`d like to work on the organization and reshelving of the books. I`d like to work on the computers and rules for thier use. So far I`ve just got my weekly chess and checkers club, but I wasn`t able to do that this week because I was still in Asuncion, on my way back from visiting Johana for a very pleasant long weekend.

At the school I`ve been doing diagnostic testing these last few weeks of all the classes from 2nd to 5th grades. This is a quick test done one on one with each student outside of the class to find thier reading level. It`s not something that`s done here in Paraguay, and it can be really helpful in identifying students that need help and for forming class groups diffrentiated by level. I`m done with that so the next step is to actually be in the class modelling techniques, songs, activities, didactic materials, etc. This is a bit scarier, especially because my language skills tend to leave me when I`m in front of twenty-odd students and a teacher.
Trial by fire, I suppose.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maybe June

Thoreau said ¨Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.¨ Likewise I think Summer is when I am alive and there is a June (or a May) in me. I have a May in me today. It poured rain all day yesterday. Last night I saw the constant flashing of lightning through the cracks in my door. Today the sun has returned but the air is cool and moist, the plants green and robust, and the sand and dust subdued in red brown muck.
Though we are still technically in fall here, today feels to me distinctly like a late spring day. Those days felt so glorious both for their freshness and for the iminent end of the school year. The prospect of freedom is always sweeter even than freedom itself.

It is Aldo`s (my host brother`s friend) birthday today and to celebrate they slaughtered one of the pigs at my house today just before lunch. I`d never seen a mammal gutted and disassembled before. I`ve heard pigs screaming here, and seen (everywhere) fresh hunks of flesh tossed about, carried open in horse drawn carts, shlumped in refrigerators and on kitchen counters, but I still had yet to see the most important part of the process.
The pig bled and died quickly. It had been stuck right in its heart, which I can only assume requires impressive dexterity. Boiling water was poured on it and then the hair was scraped off with spoons and knives. Frist its ears were cut, then the skin down its middle. The feet were cut off at the ankle. The skin was opened like a coat and the fat scrapped off the meat. Then the chest cavity was opened and the guts removed. This was the part that amazed me most. To see the lungs, stomach, intestines, liver and heart. I held some of them in my hands. I thought how silly it is that the school recieves so many educational materials with anatomical pictures. These kids have a more intimate and accurate understanding of thier insides than I do.

I`ve found a house to move into in July. Its brick and has tree rooms and a bathroom. The kitchen is the back porch, but that lacks a sink (or a drain...?). They say they`ll put stucco up inside, in the bedroom anyhow, before I move in. I`ll have a little front porch to sit on an drink terere or coffee or something stronger with guests. There`s a little mango tree next door, a couple grapefruit trees in the yard, and also a bitter orange and a banana tree. Its in the poorer part of town, a good 4 blocks from the paved highway that cuts through town, so it is very quiet and removed. I can`t wait to move in, but I`m required to stay with my family for my first 3 months in site. This is so I can share in important bonding experiences, like slaughtering a pig, but its a requirement that many volunteers chafe at.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


At the library. Just finished the second session of Chess/Checkers club, which again was a success with just the right amount of kids showing up, and playing and having fun without destroying stuff, and then leaving peacefully after about an hour and a half.
The idea of the Chess Club is to get more kids in here with a sort of library-related activities. The space is really excellent for a small town in this poor part of the country, but it needs some work. First off, almost no one comes here for the books. A book is a wonderful thing, full of information, or stories, or pictures. But it`s not the one you want, or you can`t find the one you want, or you don`t even know what you want, it is not very attractive. I`ll be working with the library here to make it easy and more pleasant to use, so that hopefully it won`t stand quite so empty all the time.
I think a community bulletin board would be another step in the right direction.

Johanna visited me this past weekend. This was very good. It`s a 11-12 hour process to get from one site to the other however. I`ll be headed down her way the weekened after next.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

the air

The weather here has been phenomenal. In the 70s, with a brisk breeze in the mornings. The air is so light and perfect it makes me just want to melt, or evaporate rather. On top of this perfect temperature (like NW summers at thier best) we have the lovely autumn light. Also amazing half-the-sky orange and pink sunsets. It is three o`clock and so quiet here at the library. This seems somehow related to the quality of the air. Dreamlike. I would like to play guitar out front here (the library has guitars!) forever.
This air, as perfect as it is almost makes me anxious. Because it is so lovely I am concerned about squandering it and about how long it may be again before it is like this. This anxiety is I think a holdover from summers growing up, when the 2 and a half months of summer vacation went by so quickly. Of that you could only count on a good month to a month and a half of warm weather like this, and then you were plunged into the inevitably, progessively shorter and darker days that dominated the rest of the year.

I am amazed how much nostalgia I constantly feel here. I get flashbacks from all different times and places in my life, triggered by the most sutble combinations of sounds or smells, or seemingly by nothing at all. I recently realized that my Peace Corps time already has formed an important epoch in my life and will only carve out a bigger share. In due time I will have the same nostalgias and flashbacks of this time and place, as I`m now experiencing exclusively of places very very far away.