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 28, 2012
Future Site Visit: Coronel Bogado, Paraguay!
The Friday after site celebration, we boarded a bus that carried us to the CAFASA center where we would meet our future site contacts. These primary contacts would collaborate with us on future projects in our communities. We were greeted by Nohelia and her husband Cesar, both are teachers in our community. After brief introductions with our contacts, we moved to a lecture room to participate in a “getting to know you” activity. On big pieces of “charla” paper, we wrote out the characteristics we expected of our contacts, while they wrote out what they expected of us. As we shared our lists to each other we realized that for the most part they were the same: we all wanted someone friendly, dependable, understanding, hardworking, and accepting of our cultural diversity.
After eating lunch together, the trainees with their respective community contacts went their separate ways. Ben and I jumped in the car with Nohelia and Cesar and picked up Johanna, our PCV site-mate just outside the meeting center. Before beginning the five hour drive to Coronel Bogado, we stopped to visit the Basilica in Caacupe, the largest Catholic Church in the country. We spent about an hour walking through the church and climbing the winding staircase up to the balcony. As you climb the staircase you will find a painted history of how the Virgin Mary appeared to the indigenous people of Paraguay in a vision. We exited the church and crammed back into the car. The drive was long, but we got to talk with our contacts and see a great expanse of the countryside. Much of the area along Ruta 1 is made up of large flat grasslands with occasional interspersed clumps of trees. About two to three hours into the drive the rear passenger side tire popped and we had to go to the gomeria twice to fix it adding an extra hour onto our trip. Finally, around dinner time we rolled into Coronel Bogado.
The next day, our host family took us to the beach at Encarnation. The city lies on the Parana River and boasts a beautiful sandy beach. We jumped out of the car and took off our shoes as quickly as possible, yearning to feel the warm sand between our toes. The sand is as nice as any in Florida and instead of shells you can find beautiful river-worn rocks of many colors and patterns. Some even look like they may be pebbles of petrified wood (very plausible considering the large quantity of petrified wood that is exported from the eastern region of Paraguay). At the water’s edge we were met by shimmering schools of small fish, which proceeded to nibble on our toes as we stood in the water. Had it not been for lack of waves and the view of the opposite shore, we would have thought we were wading in the ocean. Looking out across the river, you can see the gleaming sky rises of city of Posadas, Argentina. We left the beach to go grocery shopping at the giant super market called Superseis. There you can find practically everything you need for day to day life, just like any supermarket in the states.
When we returned to Coronel Bogado, we stopped by a trade show of artensania made by the local women’s group, Manos Laboriosos, which means laboring hands. We were impressed to find that much of their artwork is made using recycled materials! Que guapa! Later that evening, we went with Nohelia and Cesar to a couple’s group reunion. They gather every week to reflect, discuss, and pray about keeping their married relationships on the path that god intended. After the reunion, we all played volley ball on a court behind the supermarket. Believe me when I say that Paraguayans are serious about playing volle. They wear team uniforms and have a team “reina” or “queen”. Fans come out to cheer and support their teams. They will play game after game never stopping for water or even to announce the winners. If you don’t keep track yourself, you won’t even know the score. They will tell you that you are just going to play one or two games, but before you know it, you’ve played four games, it’s midnight, and there is no end in sight!
The next morning we woke up early and went to Catholic mass with our family. Since we are neither Catholic nor native Spanish speakers we understood very little of the proceedings. Afterwards we joined our host brothers in the youth group and introduced ourselves by singing our song from the Lorax. The youth group has about 50 kids in it and we hope to work with them on projects in the future. Around lunch time we went to our site mate Johanna’s house to celebrate her birthday. Johanna has been in Coronel Bogado for over a year and a half working in education. It’s definitely nice having a fellow volunteer in site with us. The following day she took us on a tour of the town and introduced to many people we might work with in the future. We visited the municipality, the university, and walked along the Peatonal, a beautiful path that runs through the center of the community.
Coronel Bogado is a lovely little town and we are very excited to begin working here. The chipa is delicious, there is a great little downtown area, there are several parks, and the people seem to be eager to have environmental volunteers. They have told us of a variety of projects that they would like our help with including restoring the community stream, recycling, planting trees, and even creating nature trails in a nearby forest. We can’t wait to get started!