When we arrived in site on December 10th, we lived with a wonderful host family. Nohelia and Cesar have two kids Federico (17) and Guillermo (14); or Fede and Guille for short. The parents are both teachers, and both were on their summer vacation until school started up again. Even though it was their vacation, they were always on the go! They are super into church. They go to Mass twice a week, where they know everyone and the kids play guitar during the youth group portions. The parents go to several other bible study groups throughout the week. Then, they usually play volleyball in the evenings. This starts around 9 or 10 and usually goes until about midnight. They are always going to other little events that are sprinkled throughout the week. It takes a lot to keep up with them! We lived with them for 2.5 weeks, right up until New Year's. So, here is what we did with them.
Our first week in Bogado (the cool kids just call it Bogado...instead of Coronel Bogado), we tagged along with the family to every event. We went to a graduation ceremony for the kids. Both of their kids were graduating with honorable mentions; they were superstars. I would count a Paraguayan graduation as a cultural experience. All of the parents walk their kids down the aisle and then kiss them on the cheek, and everyone applauds for every family. It actually kind of felt like a wedding at first. It was kind of long; we got there at 7:30 and didn't leave until 11. The very first thing that happens after everyone sits down is the Pastor comes out and gives a speech about how every kid should always follow God in their lives. Then 6 different leaders from the community line up, and every kid goes through, receives their diploma, and shakes every persons hand. The whole time, there is piano muzak playing; American songs that no one knows. Songs like "My heart will go on" and "Candle in the wind," but everyone just likes the pretty melodies of the songs; they dont actually know the songs. So we got funny looks when we were singing the words to all the songs really softly. We took pictures of our family as they walked down the aisle and we tried to sing the Paraguayan national anthem, but didn't know all the words.
One Saturday night around 8ish, we went to a bible study group where we met a ton of couples, and we were given little paper hearts with a great message: Defiende tu amor. Ama y valora. Defiende. Crece. This coincided with the message of the bible study; to always defend and grow your love. A great message of always working together to keep your love strong. On the other side of the little paper heart, there was a great message that was related to the bible study, but was great motivation for any couple in general:
Te estoy haciendo feliz?
Que tengo que hacer para hacerte mas feliz?
Que tengo que dejar de hacer hoy, para hacer te mas feliz?
The translation is am I making you happy? What do I have to do to make you happier? And what do I have to stop doing today to make you happier? They used these little talking points as the basis for the whole meeting, and we felt really refreshed afterwards. :) Not only was it a great message, but it was also really great that we understood most (well a lot, anyway) of what they were saying in Spanish. This of course all took place late (8ish-11ish) on a Saturday night. Paraguayans are always doing things really late at night!
Also in our first week, there was a giant storm! We all woke up in the middle of the night to loud (really loud) thunder, lightning, and water leaking in through the roof. We all jumped out of bed and headed into the hallway cause it sounded like there was a tornado coming. We debated getting under the table and/or putting mattresses over ourselves, but then decided to stand in the hallway for a bit cause it was the most structurally sound place in the house. After things cooled down a bit, we acquired buckets (baldes) from around the house to put under the water dripping in. Then the guys all grabbed squeegies and started pushing the water into the bathroom drain. We sat on the bed and provided light for the job with our cool headlamps from REI. Then we both found dry spots on the bed and eventually went to sleep. It was a giant storm that caused flash flooding all over the country and downed trees all over the place. It was pretty crazy.
We also had a birthday party for Cesar on another Saturday night. This was a typical Paraguayan birthday party. Everyone comes and sits down in a big circle. They make conversation, and they catch up with each other. The circle gets bigger as more people show up, and it gets smaller as people start to leave. About every third or fourth person gets a cup of soda and/or beer and then people share. This is a custom that we were very familiar with because we learned to share drinks with our training community. Then all of the women go into the kitchen and prepare little plates of snack foods (empanadas, sausages, etc.) while the men sit around and chit chat. Then we all ate. At one point, Fede and I decided it was time to play guitar and get the party started. We played the Felicidades song, then everyone wanted to hear me sing some songs. Sarah and I sang Jumper and Californication, then Fede played some Argentinian songs. Then I started playing Twist and Shout, which I only know one verse of. So I just kept playing it over and over again. Then Sarah got up and started dancing, and pretty soon all of the women there got up and started dancing. It was a lot of fun. Sarah and I went to bed around 1 and everyone was still up. This was another Saturday night where everyone stays up really late and somehow still makes it to Mass at 7:30 in the morning. This is a common practice. I am still super impressed by it.
Nohelia and Cesar are professors in multiple different cities. We tagged along with Cesar to visit the different schools he worked at. One was at a town called Artigas. There is a small university there where Cesar teaches agriculture classes. The town was very similar to any other town you would find in Paraguay, except that the name Artigas sounded very familiar to me, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I looked it up when I got home in the book I'm reading "The Open Veins of Latin America" by Eduardo Galleano. Jose Artigas was the man who personified the agrarian revolution. In the early 1800's, he was the voice of the poor country people, the indigenous people who had long been exploited and taken advantage of, and he fought vigorously to give the land back to these people. His efforts were thwarted by the Uruguayan and Argentinian governments around 1820, and in his defeat, fled to Paraguay for the remainder of his life. It was here, in this town of Artigas where he resided. Another fun fact that I learned from Cesar was that the town had a different name before Artigas. It was named after a pair of Indigenous Guarani brothers; Cango-Bobi, and people like to argue over which brother was a better leader than the other.
So, this should catch us up to the first couple of weeks in site. We still have to write a post about our trip to visit the Itaipu dam, and then we're gonna write about our Christmas festivities in a little town on the river named Ayolas. Stay tuned!
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.