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.

November 5, 2012

Ben's Long Field Practice in Alberdi

Ben went to Alberdi on Monday, 11/5 a little town on the Paraguay River on the south west side of Paraguay. When standing on the banks of the river on a little dirt road and gazing out over the river, you can see a small town across the river called Formosa. A lot of kids from Alberdi take the bus into Argentina everyday to go to school, mainly because a lot of the schools are better in Argentina. Pregnant mothers actually even travel into Formosa to have their babies so that they can receive the far superior healthcare available in Argentina.

Alberdi itself is a great little town, or pueblo as you would say here. Even though we had to drive about 2 hours on a dirt road to get there, it was a great little town with paved roads, restaurants, colegios, etc. The main attraction would be the huge market section that extends the entire length of one of the main roads with multiple staircases at every block that offers access to great views of the river. (One of the few times we got to take the awesome Landcruiser instead of the worst buses known to man.)

Ben travelled with 4 others: Katalina (Kathleen - Hi Kathleens Mom Denise!!), Andres (Andrew), Pamela, and Elliott (Hi Elliott's Mom Pamela!!). They visited Jake, a current volunteer in the city who has lived there for over a year now. It was a very eventful trip, and we hit the ground running. First we figured out the sleeping situations. Us visitors stayed with different families; all except for me. I stayed with Jake cause the guy who I was going to stay with got bit by a spider on his neck and was having issues. Jakes house was great though and we had some good times.

One of Jakes main contacts was a guy named Roberto who operated a small computer lab called the Informatica. This was a place where locals took business classes (typing, excel, etc.) to get more technical skills and better their resumes. We spent most of our time in and out of this building. Our first night we went to one of their classes (which was mostly women by the way) and introduced ourselves; explaining why we joined the Peace Corps and what kind fo work we want to do in the future. It was a very real moment for me. Not just because I realized how bad at Spanish I really am, but because it was one of the first times explaining myself to a group of Paraguayans.

The next morning, Tuesday 11/6, we all got ready and headed to a small town outside of Alberdi called Lomas. This town was in the Campo. Campo basically means in the sticks, in the boonies, out in the middle of nowhere, a town where there are probably a lot of latrines and/or bucket showers. I guess there aren't any exact criteria for Campo, I'll just say this: As we were walking through into the school and through the courtyard, we could hear a ton of howler monkeys in trees doing mating calls.

We introduced ourselves to a small class of kids, and Jake gave a lecture on the differences between organic and inorganic garbage. Afterwards, the visiting volunteers gave a small icebreaker involving a trash relay where kids rush to a garbage pile, pick up a piece of trash, and race back to the starting point placing their piece of trash in either an organic or inorganic pile. After that, Jake made a timeline from 1 month to 1000 years and the kids placed garbage on the timeline based on how long they thought it would take for each piece to decompose. We wrapped up pretty early and headed to a small restaurant for some Sudubi (a fish native to these parts and is pretty delicious).

After this, we had language classes with Andrea. Then we had an impromptu meeting with some farmers from Lomas who were upset about the soil quality of their farmlands. The visiting volunteers again introduced ourselves and offered some ideas (very little) for a solution. Jake suggested that they plant some abonos verdes in a test plot of land. The farmers were very nice and humble, and we were honored to have met them and shared some culture with them.

After this, we went to the store and bought some supplies for cooking dinner. Then, we cooked dinner! We cooked in Robertos house, which was basically the back half of the informatica. We cooked chicken, some Korean fried dish, and mashed sweet potatoes. Very delicious! That night, after eating dinner we convinced Andrew to shave his head bald. We were really excited, but when the time came, he wound up just getting a good, modest haircut.

The next morning Wed. 11/5 we got up and went to the radio station to promote the youth group that Jake was putting together. We all gave a little blurb about who we are and the work we want to do. I wrote mine down completely in Guarani and read it verbatim. At one point, the DJ guy asked me a question, which I clearly did not understand and confidently replied "Heeee'eee" (The Guarani word for yes). It was VERY apparent that I had no idea what he was saying, and we all had a good laugh.

Later on we went to another school and did another ice breaker. This time we did Dibujando Supresa, as it has now been named, where kids line up and draw on eachothers backs with their fingers, trying to relay the original message through all the kids and have the last kid reproduce it on the board; much like the game telephone. It went pretty well, then Jake gave a long lecture on recycling. Another interesting part involved a picture on the board of a giant sweating sun, that appeared almost as if it were crying, but it wasn't, which at the time, I didn't realize. So when we were all asked what we thought, I'm pretty sure my answer didn't make any sense. But when Jake described it to me later, it seemed that the teacher did in fact use the drawing to offer some pretty deep insights into the problem of global warming.

Later that night we prepared for a youth group meeting that Jake had been advertising by talking on the radio and passing out flyers at the high schools. Since the main coordinator got sick, we secured the fire station as a last minute venue and got everything set up. We got things ready for a vasso making demonstration (making drinking glasses out of old wine bottles), and illustrated a giant picture to attract the local youth. We prepared an icebreaker about what Peace Corps is and what youth groups are, and Jake prepared a presentation about the different kinds of projects that youth groups are capable of. Not too many kids showed up, but that didn't stop us or Jake from giving a good presentation and having a good time.  Even the volunteer bomberos participated in the vasso making!

Our last morning there we got to sleep in, hung out and talked for the morning, then we collected everyone and headed back home. What a trip! If you have any questions about any details of these events, I can elaborate... just post and ask! And Hi to all the other Mom's out there! Like my Mom Lenny and Sarah's mom Angie!

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