Our Story

Our Story: After meeting in graduate school at UGA, we were married in 2011 in Marietta, Georgia. A year later, we joined the Peace Corps as environmental conservation volunteers and embarked on our adventure in Paraguay!

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are ours personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

October 14, 2013

Bogado Verde

When training was over and we arrived in site, we brainstormed a lot of ideas for projects. We knew we wanted to make benches at some point with classes. We knew that we wanted to do little workshops around the community. We knew we wanted to pick up trash with kids in the community. We wanted to ask the municipality to do something about all the missing garbage cans in the community. We wanted to do a lot of things to say the least!

So we decided to that the best way to accomplish most of our goals for the community was to start an environmental youth group in Coronel Bogado. The name was pretty easy to come up with. Bogado Verde. Plain and simple. Green Bogado. It went hand-in-hand with the name of the country-wide camp that Peace Corps puts on every year named Paraguay Verde.

We started by inviting kids from our English class to come to the plaza every Wednesday night and every Saturday morning. We also invited kids for the high school we work at and kids from the Scouts. On the first day, a 60 year old woman named Sixta came and helped us pick up garbage. She was the nicest lady ever, and we talked a lot about how the community needs to be cleaned more and how she wants to see people take more pride in the nature of the town. As we picked up trash in the entrance to the peatonal, Sarah and I taught her little expressions in English, like "I don't like trash!"

The second meeting was one of the only times when no one showed up. But over the next couple of weeks, we had more and more people come. Sixta brought her daughter to help, Juan came and brought his sister and his friend, 3 random guys who lived fairly far away starting coming to every activity that we had. And so it went. We were growing! And we were joined by members from another environmental group that started a couple of weeks after ours.

Our friend Hugo studied English for several years and even travelled to the US as a Youth Ambassador of Paraguay. He got to visit California and Washington, DC and see a bunch of cool stuff that I've never even seen before! This kid is 17 by the way. As part of his project, he has to come back to his community and implement a program or activity that will help the people of the community. So he decided to start an environmental youth group that consisted of English classes and environmental activities.

At one of our meetings, we had 16 kids show up and help clean around the park. Wow! That's a lot of kids! Both groups were growing and really making a name for themselves. At one point, Hugo made T-shirts for his group and put a logo for our group on them. It was really awesome; each of our groups had eachother support because we both started at relatively the same time.

So, then we started doing weekly workshops. Our go-to activity has always been glass-making with old wine bottles. You take a bike brake cable and tie some sticks to it, then you wrap the wire around the bottle and alternately pull each side of the wire. The friction of the wire will make a thin line around the bottle super hot, and then you place the whole bottle in ice water. This causes the bottle to break perfectly and PRESTO! You've got yourself a free glass (just sand down the sharp edges). Sarah and I still swear that we are never going to buy glasses again when we come back to the states.

We did this activity several times in the plaza and once at the old train station. We've people and kids of all ages stop by in the park and give it a try. Most people don't believe that it can be done at first. Every time we prep for the activity, most people look very skeptical, smiling and giving us the "are you sure?" look. But it always makes me really happy to have the bottle break perfectly when placed in the water and have kids get really excited about it. I will never forget the looks on these kids faces when they see this happen. :)

Ok, let's see, here is a random list of other avitivites that we've done for our workshops: Making bracelets out of old grocery bags, planting trees, planning a bottle top mural of the world, building a trash can out of wire and empty plastic bottles, making eco-bricks... I can't even remember them all!

We created a page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BogadoVerde. After about 7 months we have 283 likes (me gustas)!

So, this was our group that we created, fulfilling Goal 1 set forth by our Environmental Conservation program here:

Goal 1: Paraguayan youth will engage in environmentally responsible activities which contribute to the conservation and protection of the country's environment. (Starting youth groups, doing activities, etc.).

An interesting thing to point out is that our number-one goal here is to focus on youth in the country. This is of course because the older generation is less likely to change, but if we focus our awareness campaigns towards youth, we are more likely to make an impact. This always makes me think of a great little metaphor that we heard during training; that we are planting trees whose shade we will not get to sit under. This is true because these kids might not immediately go and be the most super environmental people, but they might always remember those little green things they did growing up and those two weird people for the states who were always talking about how great the environment is, and hopefully these people will wind up leaders in their communities and in the country itself.

Alright, well that's pretty much it. If you're reading this, and you have any questions about our work, feel free to ask!

September 22, 2013

International Coastal Clean-up: Paraguay!

The people of our town take pride in their local stream. Everyone knows it by the name "Ka'i Puente" which means "monkey bridge". Originally, monkeys were commonly found here, but because of deforestation, they have now lost their habitat. The stream has been suffering as well. Everyday people walk along the stream eating candy, drinking a soda, or snacking on chips. Sadly, when they finish their treat, they drop their trash on the ground, or in some cases throw it directly into the stream! The trash-free ideals that we hold in the U.S. simply haven't made it into the mainstream down here. People just don't realize the negative environmental impacts of littering.

Because of this problem, we decided to raise awareness by participating in an international coastal clean-up event. Every year, Ocean Conservancy challenges the people of the world to come together and clean-up our coastlines. This year, Peace Corps volunteers decided to extend this challenge to Paraguay. Although Paraguay is landlocked, we strive to teach the people that even the smallest streams lead to the ocean! No matter where you live, you can make a difference by picking up trash from your local waterways (be it a beach, river, or stream!).

So we made the announcement to our community. We invited members of the city hall, environmental groups, the scouts, and high school students to join together to clean up Ka'i Puente. We set up a sign in table, where volunteers could learn how to fill out the trash collection form and register for their certificates. The volunteers formed groups and spread out to different areas of the stream. One member of each group was in charge of recording each piece of trash that was collected. In just under 2 hours 23 volunteers from our community collected over 200 kilos of trash! The stream was transformed! People from all over the community noticed the difference we had made. It was definitely a day to be proud of!

The Top 5 Offenders
Plastic grocery bags (395)
Food wrappers (324)
Plastic bottles (118)
Cigarette butts (97)
Glass bottles (94)

September 15, 2013

Our Trip to Northern Argentina

A little info about Peace Corps vacations:

Peace Corps volunteers earn 2 paid vacation days for each month of service in-country. This adds up to a total of 48 vacation days for an entire two-year service.
There are a few stipulations:
1. No vacations during the first and last 3 months of service,
2. You need approval from your PC bosses,
3. You need special approval to advance vacation days for months you have not yet accrued.

And now onto our vacation:

Our site is located in the southern extreme of Paraguay, only an hours bus ride to the border of Argentina. We decided to take advantage of our location and travel through Northern Argentina.

Encarnacion, Itapua, PY
Since volunteers get bonus vacation days to travel to the border, we spent our first night in Encarnacion. The city has a beautiful beach costanera that is lined with fun little restaurants. We walked barefoot in the sand and gazed across the river at the city we had been itching to go to since we first laid eyes on it. Posadas, Argentina! We ate dinner at a beach-side pizza place. The owner of the place was so delighted that we spoke English that he gave us each a free piece of cheesecake! We felt like celebrities :)

Posadas, Missiones, AR
Early the next morning, we took a bus across the big suspension bridge to Posadas, Argentina. We changed all of our money to pesos and headed for our hotel, a small residential near the main plaza. We spent the day exploring the town and walking along the river. We ate lunch at a gaucho-style restaurant over-looking the water. The waiter brought out our pork on a huge skewer! It was delicious! That evening we checked out the paseo and the plaza downtown. The sidewalks were filled with artists, musicians, and locals selling handmade jewelry.

Resistencia, Chaco, AR
The next day, after a slight alteration of our travel plans, we boarded a bus to Corrientes. Although the bus was a double decker, we made up 2 of the 3 passengers aboard. We had the bus completely to ourselves! Halfway to Corrientes, we decided to extend our bus ride across the river to Resistencia in the Chaco province. We arrived in Resistencia after dark, ready to camp at the park. To our dismay, we discovered that they were having a heavy metal rock concert that night in the park. Not that we have anything against heavy metal, it just didn't seem like it would be a very restful night.

Backpacks back on, we headed into town. We didn't want to spend too much money on a hotel, so we asked for recommendations from the locals. This brought us to the glamorous Hotel Luxor. The price seemed reasonable, but before checking us in, the clerk asked us if we wanted to see the room first. Well that seemed strange, so yes let's go see the room. We walked up three flights of stairs to our would-be room. On the way we noticed that many of the guests like to hang out in their rooms with the doors open and playing the radio for all to hear. We heard a baby crying from the floor above, and I was more than a little bothered when a 40 year old man walked by with his arms around a scantily clad teenage girl. We decided on our way back down the stairs that this was definitely NOT the place for us! After that incident, Ben said "I don't care how much it costs, we're staying at a nice hotel downtown!" So we ended up in a beautiful hotel with a balcony overlooking the central plaza.

In the morning, we went on a self-guided walking tour of the town. Resistencia is famous for its statues and sculptures. Every two years, the city holds a contest where artists come from all over the world to create works of art. The winning sculptures earn a permanent place on display in the city. Now, the city boasts over 150 sculptures!

Chaco National Park, Chaco, AR
That afternoon, we boarded the bus called "La Estrella", and headed to Chaco National Park. The park is about a 5 kilometer (3 mile) hike down a dirt road from the bus stop. Lucky for us, we were able to catch a ride, with a very friendly family. The park had an interpretive center and great campgrounds with public restrooms and grills. As we were setting up our tent, we saw parakeets and toucans in the trees above our heads.

We woke up the next morning to a cacophony of birdsong. We unzipped our tent slowly so that we could watch the birds hopping around our campsite. We flipped through our bird guide to identify all the different birds we saw. Our favorite was the urraca (plush-crested jay), a bird with a black head and back and a yellow underside. His electric blue eyebrows gave him personality. After eating a quick breakfast, we rented bikes and toured the park.  From the vantage point of an observation tower we gazed across a wide grassland dotted with palm trees. Our guide told us that this area used to be a river populated by a variety of fish, wading birds, and caimans. We learned that the region had been experiencing a serious drought for the past 5-7 years. On our way back to the camp ground we spotted a family of howler monkeys hanging out in the trees. You can easily tell the males and females apart by their colors. Males are black and females are tan.

Mercedes, Corrientes, AR
Later that day, we headed back to Resistencia and boarded a bus to Mercedes, Corrientes. We arrived after dark, so to keep things easy we stayed at the closest hotel to the bus terminal. Mercedes was really just a stopping point on our way to Carlos Pelligrini and the Ibera Wetlands. Since our bus didn't leave until 12pm, we spent the morning walking around the town. We stumbled upon a free museum that had a great collection of stuffed birds, reptiles, and mammals that live in the wetlands.

Carlos Pellengrini, Corrientes, AR
The bus runs from Mercedes to C.P. twice a day. Be prepared for a bumpy and dusty 3-4 hour ride along a very long and straight road. About an hour into the trip, you'll start to see wildlife out the windows so stay alert! The Ibera wetlands are the second largest wetlands in the world and home to some really cool animals.

We camped for 2 nights right at the water's edge of Ibera Lake. The campgrounds were fantastic! Each site had a cabana, picnic table, grill, electricity, water, trashcan, and clothesline. Their public bathrooms felt very clean. We took a morning boat tour of the wetlands and saw tons of wildlife! Birds we saw: greater rheas, tinamou, cormorants, whistling herons, great egrets, ibises, roseate spoonbills, maguari storks, jabiru storks, southern screamers, crested caracaras, and wattled jacanas. There are floating islands formed by thousands of water lilies that grow on top of each other. Over time, they collect soil and provide habitat for animals. We saw dozens of caimans basking in the sun and capybaras swimming and foraging around the islands. We even got to see the extremely rare marsh deer! The deer was wading up to his shoulders foraging for aquatic plants. We felt like national geographic photographers snapping pictures of him from the boat. Our guide even let us get out of the boat and walk on one of the floating islands! Walking on the island was a lot like walking on an inflatable mattress. The ground dips down a little with each step and if you jump you send a ripple across the island. It was really cool!

In the afternoon, we crossed the bridge to check out the interpretation center and trails. The center had a great video (English subtitles) was very informative and had awesome clips of wildlife. We hiked both the trails, and even hid a geocache on one of them :)

Unfortunately, there is only one bus that goes from C. Pellingrini to Mercedes and it leaves at 4:00 AM. So, we woke up in the middle of the night, packed our tent, and waited. That whole day we spent traveling from when we woke up at 2 AM to when we arrived in Posadas at 12 AM. That was a long day, but at least the buses are really nice and offer movies.

San Ignacio Mini, Missiones, AR
After crashing hard in Posadas, we took the bus to San Ignacio Mini to see the Jesuit ruins. We dropped our things off at the hostel and found a place where we could drink some refreshing beverages and eat french fries. The ruins were crowded with tourists from all over the place. As foreigners, we had to pay a higher price than both Argentinians and Latin Americans. That kind of irritated us since we have Paraguayan I.D.s. For those of you coming from Paraguay, I think the ruins in Jesus and Trinidad are just as good, if not better, than those in San Ignacio Mini. On the other hand, we really enjoyed the ruins in Santa Ana. In Santa Ana they leave the ruins as they are instead of trying to maintain them.They even let the jungle grown up around them, so you're not just walking through buildings, but a forest. They had a slight Indian Jones/Tomb Raider vibe.

Posadas, Again
Back in Posadas, we decided to make our last night a date night. We walked through the plaza, ate candied peanuts, had a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant, and stayed at a beautiful hotel. Overall, we had an incredible vacation and hope others follow in our footsteps. For those traveling around southern Paraguay or northern Argentina, it is definitely worth your while to make it our to Carlos Pellingrini and experience the wetlands of Ibera.

May 11, 2013

Iguazu Falls (aka Jared and Dad in PY Part 2)

Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls, the world's largest series of waterfalls, is ranked as #1 of the 7 wonders of the nature. Spanning 2.7 Kilometers across the border between Brazil and Argentina and reaching up to 80 meters in height, Iguazu Falls definitely live up to their name which means "Big Water" in Guarani. These immense falls are a must-see destination for anyone traveling through South America. 

Crossing into Argentina

Most visitors to the falls come from Rio or Buenos Aires, but our trip begins in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Even though it may be quicker to take the bus through Brazil, we decided to try the scenic route, the ferry across the river to Argentina. Embarking from Tres Fronteras, the ferry offers a tranquil ride over the Rio Parana directly to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. We were able to see all three borders (Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina) from the middle of the river. 
Logistics: From outside the terminal in Ciudad del Este, you can take a bus through Presidente Franco to Tres Fronteras. Ask the driver to take you to the "balsa"(ferry). At the turn for Tres Fronteras you will see a big green sign that says "Balsa a la Argentina". After walking about a half kilometer down the hill you will find a little customs office where you can get your exit stamps. The balsa costs 10 mil Gs/ $2.5 per person and runs every half hour from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Saturday. 

Puerto Iguazu

Once off the boat, you can get your entrance stamps at the customs office. Make sure to print out a copy of your Argentina visa ($160 for U.S. travelers, technically a reciprocity fee). Remember walking down the hill in Tres Fronteras? Now it's time to hike back up to Puerto Iguazu.  After eating pizza in the centro, we walked down the cobblestone streets to the beautiful Jasy Hotel.  Despite being only 8 blocks from the center of town, the hotel has a surprising jungle atmosphere. We felt as if we were staying in tropical rain forest resort! And we definitely loved the welcome drinks, caipirinhas!

Parque Nacional Iguazu

To get to the falls from town, you can either take a bus or a taxi. Since they cost the exact same price when divided among four people, we chose the much more comfortable taxi. There is a park entry fee of AR$115, but once inside the park, all the trails, the train, and passage to the island are free. There are several "adventure" packages you can buy including a ride through the jungle, getting splashed by the falls in a boat, and a rafting safari. 

The park is huge and has many different trails that each offer spectacular views of the falls. Because of the size of the park, we never felt like it was crowded. We started out by hiking the "Paseo Superior" which takes you up above the falls. From the viewpoint at the top of the trail, the falls seem to continue on forever. Next we took the "Circuito Inferior" a loop trail that weaves through the jungle and takes you to the boat landing at the base of the falls. The forest around the trail is filled with colorful birds and other wildlife. We even got to see a pack of coatis cross our path!  From there, we took the exhilarating boat ride into the falls. The shear power of the water is terrifying! Clothes now completely soaked, we crossed over to the Island San Martin to dry off on the beach. The the hike up the island trail gives you an incredible close-up view of the falls. It's hard to describe the views of the falls without sounding like I'm exaggerating, but every time we reached a new look-out point we would say, "Now this really is the most beautiful view!" In reality, they are all spectacular! 

We took the boat back to shore and rode the train to the "Paseo Garganta del Diablo". Make sure you hike this trail! You get to stand directly over the part of the falls called "the devil's throat". The water crashes below you in an 80 meter drop, so far that you can only see mist flying back at you. It is awesome! Wow I forgot to mention the rainbows... you will see dozens of rainbows in the mist of the falls, the largest of these can be seen from quite a distance hanging ominously over devil's throat. In the case a river exploration, if you see a rainbow over the water... look out! A huge waterfall could lie downstream. 

We ended our day with the ecological raft ride. We really enjoyed the contrast between the torrential rush of the devil's throat and the slow pooling waters above the falls. As we drifted languidly through little islands of trees, we caught glimpses or parrots and toucans flying overhead. We even saw the infamous "jacare" quietly resting in a bed of reeds. As the sun began to set, we reflected on the beauty, power, and majesty of the falls. 

Guira Oga

The next day we went to an animal refuge called, Guira Oga, which means "bird house" in Guarani. There you can hike through the reserve to see all kinds of cool jungle animals: monkeys, toucans, anteaters, eagles, otters, and more. Ben loved getting to see the toucans up close and Jared actually got to touch a monkey! That afternoon we took the direct bus to Ciudad del Este and began Part 3 of our journey.

March 29, 2013

Trash. And Culture.

Well we came to Paraguay to help with environmental conservation. Whats wrong with the environment in Paraguay? Well, upon arrival into any city or town, including ours, the answer is obvious. There is a lot garbage in the streets. There's garbage in the fields and in the parks. The stadiums at the high schools are covered in trash. People dig holes in the park and fill it up with dirty diapers. There are just giant bags of trash lying next to a flower bed or some newly planted trees in town because people didn't feel like burning it, putting it in a garbage can, or taking the time to recycle, start a compost pile, etc. etc. etc.

And why? "Being green" is just not a part of the culture yet. The general psyche, the general mindset is that there is no point. We don't really understand it. But it's just the way it is. Sometimes it makes us mad. Sometimes we're analytical, thinking of ways to solve the problem. Sometimes we laugh out loud when a guy gets a hamburguesa and just throws his wrapper on the ground, then his napkin, then his empty bottle of coke with the straw pushed down inside; all thrown right into the street with the others. We have to make ourselves laugh cause we feel like it's pointless to care.

But it's not that they hate the environment. Paraguay is a beautiful country and most people know it. It's not that they don't care; a lot of people will tell you they hate the litter. It's just not a part of the culture yet. It's just not part of the general psyche. And I think when an individual thinks of what it would take to change the status quo, they eventually come to the conclusion: "If you can't beat em; join em."

We have to remind ourselves that even the US was like this. Things were different in the 1970's. American citizens littered all the time without care until a crying indigenous north american invaded the TV and made everyone feel bad. Now there is a gigantic industry of private and federal organizations working together to make campaigns to stop littering and spark environmental awareness. Paraguay simply hasn't gotten there yet, although they are trying! Here are some Paraguayan organizations that are devoted to environmental conservation.


The Yacyreta and Itaipu dams are gigantic. They completely destroyed the eco-systems surrounding them, and in some cases flooded out communities living near the coast. There are tons of research papers about it. It's still happening. And they know it. That's why they have a sector of their corporation devoted solely to environmental protection and awareness. They have donated tons of trash cans to communities throughout southern Paraguay. They partially fund a high school here in town that is known as the "environmental high school". They have even sponsored a Peace Corps camp, complete with visits to the dam. So on one hand, it looks as if they are just trying to bolster their reputation, trying to make up for the environmental damage they've caused (which is immeasurable; the itaipu dam was placed on waterfalls that were bigger than Iguazu Falls), but on the other hand, they're actually doing more than most city governments are. 

There are several Paraguayan non-profit companies that work together to help the environment. One company is called A Todo Pulmon: Paraguay Respira (http://www.atodopulmon.org/). In Spanish, this means "A whole lung: Paraguay breaths." This is an organization dedicated to reforestation and conservation. They give away free 1-3 month old native trees by the thousands, and if they can't get them to you, they will buy trees from the tree nursery nearest you.

A similar organization named Pro Cosara (http://procosara.org/es/) owns a lot of land near a giant reserve where loggers are still stealing the trees and selling them. They try their best to protect the land, but it's hard when people just have no respect for protected areas. They plant more trees and try to maintain all the diverse species that live in the forest. We haven't visited there yet, but we really want to! 

Guyra Paraguay (which means bird in Guarani;  http://www.guyra.org.py/) is an organization that is dedicated to saving the diverse animals in Paraguay. They do a ton of research and they try to increase awareness about and protect endangered species. WWF offers Paraguay help in environmental policy, forest restoration, improving habitat for biodiversity, and watershed management. (http://www.wwf.org.py/

And there are even more organizations than this trying their best to get Paraguay up to speed with regard to environmental conservation. There is even a city that calls itself the cleanest city in Paraguay (actually, if you say that, they will correct you and say the world haha), but we went there. And it looked like all the rest (except for a super nice park area that actually was clean. But the people still had large piles of garbage beside their homes. Most side streets were still full of garbage. Most of Paraguay is. Culture is really hard to change and it will be some time before Paraguay gets there. Plus they need to take care of these serious problems like deforestation before they can even tackle the trash problem. 

So this is how we have been experiencing Paraguay as far as our work goes. We walk around town seeing another pile, another bag in the street. We brainstorm and come up with ideas on how we could change our community's attitude about trash. Then we go out and do it! 

We'll tell you about all of our projects in the next post! 

March 6, 2013

What's with Sarah and Ben wearing those Scouts uniforms?

One of the first contacts we met in site was Daniel. He is a member of the Lion's club and a part of a group of people who are starting up a Scouts group in our community. He invited us to a dinner and we met all of the leaders, and Dani said that we were already Scouts, so get used to it! Since we didn't have too many projects going on, we decided it would be a great experience.

We started by going to a lot of their initial planning meetings each week. Every leader takes turns having a meeting at their place, and we take care of business first, then we eat snacks! Yum! Usually pizza or empanadas or some kind of desert, or all 3! That's our favorite part.

After a bunch of planning meetings, it was time for all of the founding leaders, including us, to swear-in as Scouts. We adapted ours a little; we had to say I will serve my countries instead of country. We thought we were really smart for adding that. We had just swore-in as volunteers about a month before, and here we were swearing-in to another organization. I wonder how many we can swear-in to in 2 years. The ceremony was again in Cristina and Albertos living room. We went one by one saying the promise, then we all say down and watched a movie about helping motivate people who don't feel like they belong. It was called The Butterfly Circus. Then we got snacks again! Here's the oath we took:

Prometo hacer cuanto de mí dependa para amar a dios, servir a mi países, trabajar por la paz y vivir la ley scout.

The Scouts group is the same as Boy/Girl Scouts in the states, except, you know, everything is in Spanish. In our community, they started a cub scouts group (lobatos) for the younger kids and a Scouts group for the 12-15 range. As they already had 2 guy leaders for the scouts and 2 girl leaders for the lobatos, they decided to put Sarah with the scouts and me with the kids. All the leaders wear the official grey uniform shirt with the official uniform badges of the World Scouts organization, the Paraguay Scouts organization, and Troop 99 of Coronel Bogado. We also get to wear a bandanna around our necks. Each troop designs their own bandanna. The red, yellow, and green colors of our troop bandannas mimic the colors of the flag of Coronel Bogado.

After a few weeks of planning, we had our first meeting. We started with a lot of scouts basics, we all stood in line, wearing our uniforms, as the Scouts flag was raised along side of the flag of Paraguay. Sarah and I sang Mami Loro for all the kids. The kids were really enthusiastic and everyone seemed to like it. The next meeting I read the story about Robert Baden Powell and how the scouts was founded. Sarah's group practiced Scout formations and played a few team-building games.

The leaders are all really excited to get our name out there. Our town had a big event called the sounds of the world and a bunch of school orchestras came from all over the world. Our Scouts group volunteered serving food to people and cleaning up afterwards, in our uniforms of course to show a connection to the community. Sarah and I even went around collecting all the plastic bottles so that we can reuse them for eco-ladrillo projects. Everyone was asking us what we were doing and what are uniforms meant. Some people even recognized us as scouts and greeted us with the Scouts salute.

After several meetings of helping with icebreakers and generic Scouts related activities, we have worked out a different niche in the group. While we enjoyed being leaders, we have decided to shift gears and act more as the environmental experts of the group. Sarah and I are going to be working together presenting environmental activities to the kids each week. We will present twice each meeting, once with each group for about 20-30 minutes. This change to our role in the group came right after we had our site presentation and our bosses finally brought all our training and activity manuals that we had put in long term storage. So, good timing! Now we can use our manuals to plan environmental activities for both the Lobatos and the Scouts.

All-in-all, we love working with the Scouts, and we hope to support them throughout our entire time here. We can't wait for our first camping trip! Siempre listo!

You can keep up with our Troop 99 on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ScoutsDeCoronelBogado?fref=ts.

March 1, 2013

Painting the World in Jesus

The day before Camp Itapua, we headed up Ruta 6 to visit our fellow environmental conservation volunteer, Anna, in the city of Jesus. Anna has been working with students to grow a school garden and has been helping the community develop sustainable tourism. To get to Jesus, you can take any bus heading to Ciudad del Este from Encarnacion. Make sure to ask the driver if they can drop you off at Trinidad. Buses that say "Rapido" in the window will not stop for you. Jesus is about 12 Km from the ruta once you get to Trinidad. Here you can either wait for the little bus (7 mil/person) or take the taxi (6 mil/person). We piled in the taxi with three Paraguayans and a baby in the back seat, and I sat on Ben's lap in the passenger seat. Since the first half of the ride in downhill, the taxi driver will get out and push the car until it begins to roll. Then, jump in for the ride and off you go! Our driver didn't turn on the engine until we were well underway.

In town, we met up with Anna, packed our gear, and headed to the primary school. There, Anna had arranged for us to help the students paint a map of the world on the wall of one of the classrooms.

Here's how we did it:

1.Paint the entire area of the wall light blue (the lighter the blue the less coats you will need for the countries).

2. Use a projector to display an outline of the world on the wall.

3. Trace the outline with permanent markers

4. Decide what colors you will need to paint the countries (Look online for examples)

5. Mix the paint to make the colors you need

6. Mark each country with a dot of the color it needs to be painted (This will save you a lot of trouble if you are working with kids.)

7. Delegate one color to each kid. Pour the paint into a smaller cup to minimize spills. We cut up egg cartons to make little paint trays.

8. We painted the outside of the world black to look like outer-space.

9. Once the paint drys, use a permanent marker to trace all the borders and label the countries.

10. Add details: compass rose, label the oceans, have fun!

All the paint for the project was donated by local hardware stores. It took us about 4 hours to complete steps 2-8 and it looked amazing! Painting the world map was a great opportunity to teach the students about geography. While we painted, we talked about the countries we wanted to travel to, which ones were the largest in size and population, and where major landmarks were located. We had a blast! We can wait to bring this activity to the schools in Coronel Bogado.

After a long afternoon of painting we cleaned up our supplies and walked down to see what Jesus is famous for, the Jesuit ruins. The ruins are considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Although the park was closed, Anna convinced the security guard to let us take a quick look around. We arrived just in time to see the sunset over the ruins. Beautiful shades of orange and pink softly illuminated the giant pillars and walls of the old church colony. The view was breathtaking! We will definitely be returning here with my parents in May.

Paraguay Photos