In week 6 of Pre-Service Training (PST), trainees travel in small groups to visit current Peace Corps Volunteers at their sites and get the opportunity to practice using the technical skills they’ve been learning. Since we traveled with our language groups, Ben and I had two different Long Field Practice adventures. I travelled with Cory, Stacy, Tyler, Ashley, and our language professora Ramona. We visited Matt in Capilla Cue, a small community in the department of Paraguari. Matt is an Environmental Conservation volunteer in our sister G (G-37). He splits his time between teaching in the community school and working with local farmers. During our visit we got to participate in both!
During the nights of our long field practice, we each stayed with different host families. My host family lived in a little house at the edge of the community. My host mother cooked us several different Paraguayan meals including chipa guasu and sopa paraguaya. My host father played the guitar and sang as with shared terere in the evenings. My host brother and sister were eager to show me their school projects and were patient when I tried to speak to them in Guarani. They spoke mostly Jopara, (a mix of Castellano and Guarani) so there were many times when I had no idea what they were saying to me. I did learn however, that the community name “Capilla Cue” means “there used to be a little church”, and if you walk along the red dirt road to the school you will pass by a large cross. Unfortunately, I was unable to figure out the exact relationship this cross has to the church that is no more.
We spent the next morning practicing Guarani in language class with Ramona. That afternoon, we drank terere with one of Matt’s neighbors before asking them if we cut down some of their bamboo to repair the garden fence at the health center. They quickly agreed, and soon we were hauling long stalks of bamboo down the road. Once at the health center, some of us chopped and split the bamboo with a machete, while the others staked it into the ground and secured it with wire. I like to think that I was actually pretty good at splitting the bamboo.
Matt rewarded our hard work by taking us on a hike to a “nearby” waterfall. We climbed through barbed-wire fences, walked through grassy meadows, and for a large portion of the trip, wading in the river itself. All the while, Cory whistled the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings, making this feel like an epic journey. When the river suddenly dropped into a wide pool, we discovered that seeing the waterfall was well worth the arduous hike. Here we found a brilliant oasis in the rolling hillsides of prairie land. The water split into two falls and spread into a pool large and deep enough to swim in. There was even a little ledge behind the waterfall that was just big enough to sit on. As I sat in the crevice behind the cascading water, watching Ashley performing impossible yoga positions high up on the rock and the others splashing eachother in the pool, it hit me… “This is Peace Corps. This is what we all pictured in our minds as we suffered through the long application process. What could be more picturesque than the six of us swimming and playing beneath a beautiful waterfall in a foreign land?” I definitely wished Ben had been there to share that moment with me. After spending several hours swimming in the pool and climbing the surrounding rocks, we hiked in the dark back to our houses.
On the third day, after another morning in language class, we visited a corn field of a local farmer and helped him plant abono verde seeds between his rows of corn. The plants will help to keep the soil rich with nutrients even after the corn is harvested. That evening, we worked with Ramona to prepare our charlas for the following day.
The theme of our charlas was making “Recycled Art” out of trash. For our charlas, we split into two groups: Stacy and I made water rockets out of plastic bottles with the younger kids, while Tyler and Cory made wallets out of milk cartons with the older kids. Both crafts were made of recycled materials. With the younger kids, we had to give our entire charla about the 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) completely in Guarani. We started with the game “dibujo surpreza”, which Ben decribes in his post, to kids active and participating. Then we asked them leading questions about what trash they usually see and how they manage their trash. After that we introduced the 3R’s and told them about one fun way to reuse plastic bottles- Make a Water Rocket! You should have seen the excitement as we launched our water rocket into the air! Afterwards we taught them how to make flowers from toilet paper tubes (the girls loved this!). The charlas were a success. We had a lot of fun and gained valuable experience presenting in schools! The next morning, we said goodbye to our host families and to Matt then boarded the bus for Tacuruty.