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.
November 2, 2012
Day to Day
What day-to-day life is like in Peace Corps Paraguay:
Monday through Saturday mornings we either walk to our language classes/tech trainings at the centro'i (small community center in our barrio) or take the bus into Guarambare. Paraguayan buses (or colectivos) are usually pretty crowded. Typically, we have to stand the entire ride into town (about 30 minutes), and sometimes you get that crazy driver who thinks he's in the Daytona 500! We could write an entire blog post about our bus ride experiences... Another fun fact is that our host mom cooks our lunch for us every morning and we take it to training with us. A few times, unfortunately, we have forgotten to bring it and our family laughs at us. In the evenings, we get to ride home on the chuchi Peace Corps bus- air conditioning and seats for all!
For the days when we're in the training center, we have several different presentations/trainings/classes that we participate in. Most are presentations mandated by Washington DC, presented by Ellen (Director of Training, or something like that), Dee (Another training director), the PC Doctors Luis and Luz, our tech trainers (previous PC volunteers), our security advisor Gustavo, or the directors of the Environmental Conservation project here, our bosses Eli and Allister. We have had countless hours of presentations related to medical (diarhea, dengue fever, shots, rashes, STD's, nutrition, dental health, alcohol, etc.), security (transportation safety, sexual assault, burglary, theft, harassment, healthy relationships, etc.), and other core presentations about gender norms, cultural differences, development, facilitation, being a good ally, monitoring and evaluation, the site selection process etc., etc., etc.
The rest of the day we have language classes. On the first day of training, everyone was interviewed for language placement. Those who had a strong Spanish background would start learning the local language, Guarani, immediately. Those who still needed to improve their Spanish would be placed in Spanish classes for the first two weeks. Sarah and I were placed in Spanish classes. After the first two weeks of training, our classes began learning Guarani. Guarani is a really interesting language, and we will be putting up more in depth posts about it later. The y's are pronounced much differently here. They are more of a gutteral sound that sounds like "uuuh" that originates in the throat. Here is a sample of some Guarani expressions:
Hello how are you? Mba'eichapa
I'm great, how are you? Ipora ha nde
I want to plant some trees. Che anotyse yvyramatakuera
The weeks are sprinkled with different types of interviews. We have had a few language proficiency interviews for placement purposes. More importantly, we have interviews with Eli and Allister about where we want to be placed and what we want to do. I usually ramble on about how I want to work with the Paraguayan park systems, how I want to be involved with nature tourism or eco-tourism if possible, how I want to plant trees, maybe do some other science or research stuff, and the like. Sarah tells them how she wants to teach environmental education to kids, hopefully near wetlands, and how she wants to work with eco-tourism or nature tourism as well. At this point, we really have no idea where they are going to place us or what we're going to be doing, but from everything we hear, we think there's a good chance we'll be working with schools in a community, teaching environmental education, and partnering with local organizations in the community to help tackle problems with trash management, deforestation, forest fires, or agroforestry problems. We just hope they put us somewhere near water! We find out where we're going to be placed in mid-November. We can't wait!
Every week we have different tech trainings. One week we had a training on organic gardening. We learned how to make organic pest repellent, how to dig tablones (beds for planting plants), tree planting skills, seed identification, and the like. We've had a training on tool identification and safety where we got to practice with hoes, shovels, machetes and learned all their names in Spanish/Guarani. We've taken classes on tree management and forest conservation and the history of Paraguay's environmental issues. One week was focused on working with Paraguayan youth in schools. We learned a lot of fun songs to sing with the kids, such as Mami Loro, La Medusa, and Jaha Jaguata. You'll have to talk to us on Skype or call us to hear those songs! Another week was focused just on trash management. One day we learned how to make glasses out of glass coke/wine bottles. You take brake wire for bikes, wrap it around the bottle, and pull from side to side until the bottle gets really hot in one small strip around the middle; then you dunk it in a bucket of cold water and BAM the bottle breaks in half perfectly. We also learned hot to make wallets out of milk tetra packs. We've also learned about agroforestry techniques, how to wash clothes in a latona, and how to use Paraguayan money.
Other fun facts: There were 54 of us in the program when it first started, but two have left for personal reasons. The remaining 52 of us are split into two different groups: Agriculture and Environmental Conservation, about half in each. The agriculture kids will work mainly with farmers in their communities. Sarah and I are in the Environmental Conservation group (obviously). Each of these groups lives with families in two different barrios (little neighborhoods). So if you're doing math right, that means that we are split into four different groups in 4 different little barrios; two ECO (Environmental Conservation) and two Ag. Another fun fact: We are all split into different language groups; their really small (about 5 people) so we get a really great teaching experience.Fun Fact again: We are the first training group to get cell phones and internet in the training center. Lucky us!
So, yeah that was a lot of information. Please Please Please post questions here if you want to know more details about anything we're doing down here. We hope all of our friends and family are doing well. If you have any updates for us, let us know on here as well! Take care everyone!
Ben and Sarah