It has gotten distinctly autumny here in the last few weeks. You notice it especially with the time change. I hate how easily we are fooled by the artificial hours the clocks and governments give us, but there it is.
Autumn is the time to be in school. It feels right. The golden light in the late afternoon and sweaters and jackets and new books and pens. (I can tell that we are going to be friends...) And the crunchy leaves and smoke in the air. There's no pumpkins or wild red and orange leaves on the trees, but I can fill that in with my imagination.
I went in to the school here today and yesterday to start getting to know the teachers and observe thier classes. It is easy to do and totally important for my work, if a little tedious. Once I know what different classes and teachers are like it is easy to think of the little things that would be helpful to introduce. I can also gauge how receptive different teachers are to new ideas.
This school so far appears to be more advanced than my beloved EB 236 in Nueva Germania. Two of the classrooms I've sat in so far were covered with didactic materials and educational posters. One profesora in particular was also using many of the little tricks we've been taught to show teachers here; she says that Lizzy, the volunteer I'm following up, taught her a lot and it shows.
Another classroom was more like the norm I've come to expect, and although the teacher was involved and the students well behaved the walls were barren and dirty. Sitting there as the students copied a non-sensical fable about a dancing bear and a monkey and a pig I was first hit with longings for a clean but cluttered, interesting, engaging and well lit american classroom, and then for the rooms in Nueva Germania which also looked depressing but I didn't mind anymore because I knew the teachers and the students. I suppose I will be able to get to that place again here if I let myself.
I went into Asuncion last week for a workshop by the Ministry of Education about the use of Information Communication Technology in the classroom. It was at least interesting and succeeded in getting me thinking about the subject, while the other volunteer in attendence and I were able to share our experience with ITC with the Parguayan teachers. Then Friday there were commitee meetings at the Peace Corps office; CoCuMu (culture and art I think), Jopara (diversity), Trash, Libraries, Seed Bank, Gender and Development and several others. I only went to the Library meeting this time around. Saturday morning was the National Volunteer Action Council (nvac) meeting which I also didn't go to, but I did happily attend Ahendu, the concert that night which featured both PCV musicians and Paraguayan acts. All these PC events happen three times a year, every time a new group of volunteers swears in, and their preceeding group swears out. I swore in exactly a year ago and so our "sister" (same sector, one year advanced) "G" (for Guarambare, where we were trained) was swearing out and for the first time I had to despedir (saw farewell) volunteers I knew well.
The event was a lot of fun and at a great venue, just across the street from the presidential palace in a bar/cultural center/museum in the oldest part of town. It helped me to start getting my head back in the right place about Peace Corps and my commitment to service in Paraguay.
I'm in my new house now, which is about twice as big as my old one, has a cool checkerboard tile floor and is much safer, though it has its own drawbacks. It recieves very little natural light through the two windows (which are both under awnings) and only recieves water for part of the day. The water that does come does not have enough pressure to reach the shower (which theoretically can have hot water). It gets up high enough to fill up my toilet tank in the middle of the night, which means I only have one good flush a day. The knee level spigots get water most of the day and so I fill up may various buckets and basins from there.
I have built and alternative shower using a metal garden watering can and a set of ropes and pulleys. With this I can juntar cold water with the lower spigot, pour in 2 liters of boiling water from my jara electrica (I guess we call that a hot pot?) and hoist it up above my head for about 90 seconds of bliss. Of course, if my house had a latrine (which is very common in rural Paraguay) and a bathtub (I've never seen one in this country) I could poop and bathe in ease with the water pressure as it is. Ah well.