Saturday, July 25, 2009

Family Update

I have lived in Paraguay for two months and by far the most interesting part, for better or for worse, has been living with a Paraguayan family. I have learned a lot from them and I hope they have learned a lot from me. I feel very lucky to have lived in their house and been part of their family for a short while. I am sad that I have to leave in one month and start all over again with another family.
My host mom, Delia, is my Paraguayan hero. She works so hard, she has never had a day of vacation in her life, she knows her life is hard and she almost always has a smile on her face. She is the nucleus of the family and everyone depends on her. This family would fall apart without her. Not only is she the patrona of the store in the front of our house, but she does almost all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, takes care of the cows etc… She runs the household. She is the woman in charge. She takes care of everyone who lives in this tiny house, including me. She is just amazing. That is the only way to describe her.
Delia is my best friend in this house and when I am home I try to spend as much time as I can with her. I also find her very entertaining. One night, I was outside emptying my plate onto the ground for the dog to eat and Delia was watching me curiously. When I walked back into the house she patted me on the butt and told me “this is much fatter than when you first got here”. Now, fat comments are very common conversation topics in Paraguay and aren’t considered rude but after two months living here its still surprising to me. I still can’t believe my mom told me I had a fat ass. It is true I have gained a few pounds since I have been here, but what do you expect when you have to eat mandioca (like a potato) twice a day for two months? After that night Delia has continued with these comments and just straight out calls me fat, especially around meal times. One day at lunch she said she wasn’t going to serve me meat because I was getting too fat. Instead she gave me chessy soup and a big plate of fried mandioca, which is just like French fries, an excellent diet for loosing weight apparently because only meat makes you fat? I still haven’t figured out that logic.
My friend Lyn and I have brought Snickerdoodles to Paraguay. Surprisingly, the Paraguayans seem to love them. This is surprising because the Paraguayans, for the most part, are extremely picky about their food and if its something unfamiliar they what nothing to do with it. (One night my friends and I made Mexican food and one Paraguayan woman proclaimed, “look at all this strange food” and “I don’t know how to eat vegetables” and only ate the empanadas she brought). They like things extremely salty and extremely sugary. Watching a Paraguayan put sugar in their tea will give you a heart attack, its heaping spoon of sugar after heaping spoon of sugar and just when you think they are done they add one more spoonful. So maybe this is why they like Snickerdoodles: because they have the excessive Paraguayan portions of sugar and butter. Lyn and I made Snickerdoodles one afternoon and I brought some home for my family. They had been bugging me to cook for them and I told them they really didn’t want me to, all I can make is toast and eggs and they don’t have a toaster so it would be a really disappointing meal. Anyways, I brought the cookies home and offered them to everyone and got the customary/polite/passive Paraguayan response of “mas tarde” meaning “a little later” which actually translates “when hell freezes over will I eat that pig shit”. So, I was thinking this is the thanks I get for making you people cookies? I will never cook for you people again!?
I had to leave the next day for a 5 day trip to visit another volunteer and when I came back my mom said that my little sister, Dihana, ate all the cookies and she LOVED them and I had to get the recipe from Lyn. A few nights later Delia, Dihana, and I cooked Snickerdoodles together in our hallway/kitchen. Delia soon got bored of just making cookies so we made a Snickerdoodle cake and other interesting Snickerdoodle creations a la Paraguay. Since then, Delia has been making Snickerdoodles on her own almost every other day and they show up on the lunch and dinner table just as often. The family is officially obsessed with this new exotic food, I even get them for breakfast. No wonder I fat ass, its all her fault. Oh, I love Delia.
I also started to appreciate Delia so much more when I got back from the trip after I had to stay with a crazy lady for 5 days. Her name is Mami and was a lonely widow and therefore thrilled to have me as her guest for 5 days. However, I was happy to be away from training for 5 days and have a little bit of freedom. Our ideas about how we were going to spend our time were quite different. She thought I had come to be her best friend and I wanted to just spend time with my fellow trainees for once. She was crazy clingy! She was calling the volunteer we were visiting when I didn’t come home, asking where I was. The kicker was on the last night when we were cooking and spending time at his house she just came over and joined the group. When we were talking about our activities for the next day she got really mad and advocated we cancel our class and spend time with our host families instead because “we should spend quality time with the host families”. My Guarani teacher found her hilarious. I was scared. Although she did have her quirks. She had a big plastic bag of crocodile meat delivered via motorcycle one day and fried it up the next day. I tired a little, tastes like chicken. (I also ate capibara on that trip without knowing it. I was told I was eating wild boar. I only found out a few days later that capibara is the world’s largest rodent!)

Lyn, Me, and Carrie in Villa Florida

Dihana, my little sister has definitely warmed up to me. She talks to me now, which is a huge improvement from the first month I lived her when she was so afraid of me, the big white monster that moved in to her room, she pretended I didn’t exist. Now, she plays games with me, she lets me help her with her homework, talks to me about her favorite things, loves to let me borrow her school supplies, and help me with my Guarani.
We play tic-tac-toe, hang-man, and mash with chalk on the living room door, we play uno and other Paraguayan card games. She is quite spoiled because she is pretty much an only child because her brother is so much older than she is therefore she is babied and feels entitled and her parents have no parenting/disciplinary skills at all. She can be such a brat. She talks back to her dad and never listens to him when he tries to scold her. He even will get out his belt and threaten to hit her with it but she will grab it away from him! He holds no weight with her. Its pathetic. She is the little princess of the household. Dad and Dihana screaming matches are a common occurrence. I don’t even flinch at them because they are so meaningless, I just sit and watch in amusement. Its like a circus. He tries to get her to stop doing something, she tells him no, and back and forth and back and forth, and he always gives up and she always wins. What a wimp.
My brother, Jorge, is as still obnoxious and full of testosterone as the day I met him. My first impression of him has not changed. He often bugs the crap out of me. He is an immature, insufferable teenager and he just can’t help himself so I guess I can’t blame him for being the way he is. But maybe I should start to consider an alliance with him considering we are now the two fattys of the family. Jorge endures the most attacks of fat comments from his family members. It really doesn’t seem to bother him. He knows he’s fat, he embraces it. He likes to flex his bicep for me and asks me to feel it and proclaims “muscle!” It is so obnoxious I just proclaim back, “fat”. Totally acceptable comment.
My two uncles live with Jorge in the room the back yard. Oscar is 19 and Raul is 20. There are a lot of men in this family. Oscar broke his cheek and jaw bone in a bad motorcycle accident and had to wait almost 2 months for his surgery and finally he had his surgery two weeks ago. He seems to be recovering well but still can’t eat solid food. Poor guy. The health system here is just so horrible and to watch this guy suffer the entire time I have been living here has really opened my eyes to how inadequate, to say the least, the national health system is. But that is a topic for another blog.
Raul was extremely shy when I first met him and wouldn’t even look at me let alone speak to me. But now he has started to relax and will talk to me some. He is still pretty shy but I think he is actually a great kid. He is extremely hard working and has a very good heart. He doesn’t go out and party with Jorge and stays in with the family. One day I watched him washing Oscar’s hair in the backyard with so much patience and care to make sure he didn’t hurt him, it was such a tender gesture of brotherly love it made me want to cry. When I came home from the 5 day volunteer visit the first person I saw at home was Raul, and he was wearing my necklace. It was a gold chain my American mom gave me that said Luck, a necklace I really really loved. I pointed to it, “where did you get that, that’s my necklace!” He said he found it on the ground and has been wearing it for two weeks. He let me take it off of him immediately. He said he thought he was so lucky for finding a gold necklace on the ground. He looked ridiculous with it on because it was way too small and was practically choking him and it is very feminine. But the whole family thought the encounter was quite hilarious and it was gossip for the rest of the day. Apparently Jorge had been trying to buy it from him for 3 mil, which is less than a dollar. This was just too funny for them to handle. Whatever. At least they were entertained and I got my necklace back.
I don’t have much to report about Antonio, my dad. Although, I really love that his nickname is Toto. Toto is a pretty big wimp and giggles at me a lot but he and I don’t have much interaction except when I have Guarani homework. He LOVES my Guarani homework. Although I fail to actually learn anything from him because he speaks so damn fast I never know what is going on. Dihana reminds that he has to slow down when he talk to me, which is very sweet of her, but that just result in another screaming match between the two of them and my homework is forgotten.
All of this said my family is quirky but I love them and I am surely going to miss them, especially Delia. She is so damn cool. Also, living in this house I feel a little spoiled because I know I have a lot that many people in this country do not. I know Peace Corps placed me with this family to mimic what my living conditions will probably be like once I get to my site, meaning I will have some luxuries other volunteers will not. Being a muni volunteer I will most likely be in an urban area meaning I will have more access to amenities. Therefore, I feel a little spoiled. I have my own room, a big bed, I have doors, a window with glass pains, I have running water most of the time, electricity most of the time, a hot shower most of the time, hot meals twice a day, access to the highway, access to internet etc…
Although I am a “spoiled” volunteer this is definitely a new, interesting way of life. Sometimes I come home and we don’t have water to cook with. Every time there is a storm the electricity goes out. The other night during a big storm when the power went out I was preparing my presentation for the next day so I had to make all my materials by headlamp. Although the temperature only gets down to freezing once or twice a year my house, along with the rest of Paraguay, doesn’t have the infrastructure to escape it. We live in our environment. We live with the cold. And when it gets really hot we will live with the heat. There are no furnaces, there are no fireplaces, there is no insulation. The buildings are made of brick and cement so often it is colder inside than outside. There is no escaping “the frio” as we call it. We just have to live with it. We have a really crappy space heater that Delia will plug in on especially cold nights. It will make one part of your body very hot if you sit right next to it while the rest of your body still freezes. Still, better than nothing sometimes. Therefore, I love my sleeping bag, it is so warm and cozy, sometimes I think its my best friend, sometimes its my boyfriend. It’s the best thing I brought to Paraguay.
The power in any given Paraguayan house, including my own, is pretty limited meaning the system can’t support too many electrical appliances, or any one power appliance at one time. Whenever Delia uses the electric mixer (quite a luxurious item to have!) the TV goes snowy, whenever anyone irons at Lyn’s house the shower goes cold. My blow dryer does not work here, even with the converter, and it wont work anywhere in Paraguay.
But none of this feels like a sacrifice or an adjustment. Its just how it goes, its how a lot of people live. But a lot of people don’t live this way. Its much worse. People live in uncompleted houses with no windows, no doors, no roofs, no water, no electricity. So I am extremely lucky to be where I am. I know to some people my situation may not sound like what their vision of the Peace Corps should be. But the Peace Corps has grown and manifested into a different entity than when it was first created. This isn’t your mother’s Peace Corps anymore. Its not just about living in a mud hut and building wells. I mean, it is for some sectors and in some countries. But that is just one part of the Peace Corps. Development can happen in many places and in many ways. Municipal Services is a fairly new program in the history of Peace Corps and not omnipresent in other PC countries but the more I learn about my future work the more I realize how important it is and the more excited I am to start. I find out my future site on Monday and will spend the next week visiting my site. Then I have just two more weeks of training and my official swearing in ceremony as a volunteer at the US Embassy in Asuncion (there are rumors that President Lugo could come). After a weekend of freedom, finally, in the capital I will be off to my site for two year. The beginning is almost here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An American Girl Goes Car Shopping in Paraguay

Wednesday night my host mom asked me if I wanted to go to San Lorenzo for an errand quickly. San Lorenzo is a 30 minute bus ride away and so I figured we could be there and back in an hour since we were taking the car. I also figured we were going to the supermarket, one of the main attractions in San Lorenzo. I was wrong on both accounts.

The family car is tiny and has broken down twice since I have been living here. Cars in Paraguay are generally a luxury for anyone to own and generally shitty. New cars are a fantasy, they are only for the super wealthy, and used cars date back to the dictatorship. Delia, my host mom, doesn’t know how to drive and is surprised that I learned how to drive at 16. She is terrified of driving and never wants to learn. The driving age here is 18, although hardly anyone obeys this law and most people, young or old, drive without a license. I have yet to ask my host dad if he has a license.

So me, Antonio, Delia, Diahana and some other new family friend I had never met before all piled into the car and drove off down the highway to San Lorenzo. I sat in the middle seat in back, the seat of honor, between my little sister and Mr. X. My host family doesn’t introduce me to people for the most part, it is culturally way too forward for Paraguayans to do so, so it is up to me to introduce myself but the last time I introduced myself to a male family friend it backfired and he wouldn’t leave me alone so I have stopped doing so. Therefore, I sat next to this unidentified man who spoke mostly Guarani without knowing why on earth he was accompanying us on our family errand.

We pulled into some kind of car mechanic shop. It was raining and wet outside so we ran for cover. Some men came out and inspected the car under the hood. I figured we were here to get the car fixed since it had broken down over the weekend. However, Delia was dodging my questions and wouldn’t tell me what was exactly going on. It was odd because usually she fills me in on the details. Then a bunch of men, including Mr. X and my host dad all were standing and staring at a truck and talking about it. It seemed like my dad was now interested in buying the car but Delia was still dodging my questions. Then one guy got behind the wheel of the truck and the family all got in, apparently for a test drive. So we were car shopping, apparently. Car shopping in the rain, at night.

The car sales man drove us around the crazy, congested streets of San Lorenzo in the dark and in the rain. He spoke mostly Guarani until he noticed me in the “seat of honor” between my sister and Delia in the back and asked how on earth I could be Delia’s daughter. All of a sudden selling this car to this family no longer became his concern, it was now me. He was asking question after question and Delia and I took turns fielding them. This is pretty common because as a foreigner with white skin and “blonde” hair I stick out and people are fascinated. These conversations seem to be filled with answering questions filled with many stereotypes about Americans. Especially when it is a man they like to make jokes that we should get married and move back to the states because since I am American I am obviously rich. They think they are so hilarious. Like I haven’t heard that one before.
At first I really didn’t like all this attention from Paraguayan men, because once they have started these conversations with me they never end, but I have started to learn how to bend them in my favor. After 10 minutes of the test drive, the car salesman invited me to an asado, a Paraguayan bbq, a very typical invitation from a man to a woman. Being direct and flat out saying “no, I think you are a total asshole” was my first reaction but is not an acceptable answer. Paraguayans avoid confrontation and rudeness at ALL COSTS. Instead they practice the art of the verbal dance which I am just starting to learn and appreciate. Therefore, I told this creep that I would only accept his invitation to the asado if I could bring my whole family. Delia thought this was just hilarious. The salesman said they could come only if they didn’t eat too much. I said “well, my family can eat a lot and they looooove asado, especially my brother, he can eat a whooooole lot.” At this, Delia lost it. Her son Jorge is a giant, disgusting garbage disposable of a teenager and can pack away the mandioca like no other. And, since discussing people’s girth is so normal, she thought my “fat jokes” about her son were fantastic.
Anyway, this conversation carried on for much longer. He asked about my personal finances, am I sure I am not a missionary, what are my mom and dads names, could he marry me and move back to the states with me, why wasn’t I already married, did I know the US has some poor people too (he mentioned this only after he told me I had to be rich because I was American) blah blah blah. Pretty typical. If he had been a kid the conversation might have included what is my favorite color, my favorite animal, my birthday, my favorite food, does the US have mandioca? Etc. etc. etc… the questions never end. The typical questions I field regularly. Sometimes it can be pretty hilarious. But this guy was ridiculous, however, my family found it hysterical and especially found my deflections to his come-ons entertaining. I was glad I could entertain them.
We drove up to the salesman’s other lot of cars where we had to get out in the rain and climb over the fence to open it. We drove in, dashed out of the car to an overhang with chairs and a table and sat there forever and started at the car. I didn’t know if we were going to look at another car because almost right away Delia told me that car was way too expensive and they wouldn’t buy it. It was very nice, I have to say and would have been a HUGE improvement over their current car. I couldn’t imagine how on earth they could afford it, I really don’t know why we ever got in the car to begin with. But we just sat their even longer while the creepy car salesman asked me more ridiculous questions. Then we got back in the truck and drove back to the original lot. The whole way back the windshield was so fogged up the salesman could not see out the front. He had the windshield wipers going, the windows open and was wiping the inside with his sleeve, but it was still fogged over the whole way back. But it still didn’t seem to bother him or warrant pulling over until the windshield cleared up, no one would ever think to do something like that. I thought this wasn’t making a very good sales pitch to my family. But it didn’t matter, they weren’t going to buy it from the second they saw it anyway. They just went through that whole scenario to be polite and not offend the used car salesman by telling him they weren’t interested in that particular car.
So, we got back to the lot, got back in our little car with Mr. X and drove back home.
“Man” I thought, “buying a car in this passive culture is going to be an arduous process”. But Delia was pretty thrilled with the whole experience and was recounting my hilarious comments to the salesman the whole way home.
However, last night when I came home Delia and Antonio were sitting in the car port and looking for a car the most American way I know of, circling adds in the classifieds! I think looking for cars this way might serve them much better, and take a lot less time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I’m a blonde!

After five weeks in Paraguay and one quick lesson this morning on the history of Paraguay, I am going to try and summarize Paraguayan culture from my perspective, experiences and education in this blog. I believe many of the Paraugayan people’s customs, attitudes and beliefs today are a direct reflection of their past and the decision’s their leaders have made over the last several centuries.
Since independence the country has been run by a succession of dictators. The major players include Dr. Francia, Lopez, Solano Lopez and the infamous Stroessner. Dr. Francia began a pattern perpetuated by the rest of the dictators in which he simultaneously supported the poor to remain popular and repressed the elite and middle class. He fed and clothed the poor and provided them with all their basic physical needs. The poor were satisfied with their leader. Yet, he neglected to provide them anything beyond basic needs. Leader after leader saw it necessary to continually repress a middle class and education to remain in power. However, a lack of a middle class and an educated populace in this country for centuries repressed development of any sophisticated culture in Paraguay. The middle class in most cultures are responsible for culture creation and Paraguay lacked this key component during its crucial development as an independent nation. Dr. Francia stunted the progressive potential of the country to keep himself in power and many of the leaders after him followed his example.
Furthermore, Paraguay has experienced two tragic wars in its recent history that has greatly affected the current atmosphere of today’s culture. Solano Lopez led his country into a war that almost erased Paraguay off the map. In the mid 19th century, Solano Lopez foolishly started the War of the Triple Alliance and put Paraguay into a five year siege against the aligned militaries of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Paraguay lost a lot of land, hundreds of thousands of men died, and Paraguay was occupied by the Brazilian and Argentinean governments after the war. After the war, the country was left with less than 30,000 men and 110,000 women. This left a large space for immigrants to begin to populate the countryside, which the government began selling off in large parcels to foreigners as a way to begin generating income again. Paraguay’s economy was stunted during the war but had no hopes of starting after the war because its entire labor supply, young men, was killed off. Paraguay would have to wait another generation to repopulate its labor source once again and regenerate a suffering economy. Therefore, at this time immigrants were seen as very valuable because they were the only ones producing an economy, they were brining their wealth from the outside. This belief is still held today and foreigners are thought to be wealthy and in general Paraguayans are fascinated by them.
I mentioned the Chaco War in a previous blog so I won’t go into too much detail. But, it is often written up in the history books as a draw between Paraguay and Bolivia, a military victory for Paraguay but a political loss. Paraguay once again lost a significant proportion of their men in this war- 41,000- and lost confidence in the ruling Liberal party which set in motion the long reign of the Colorado Party which only ended last year when Lugo historically became the first Liberal in almost 80 years to become president.
Although Paraguay lost these two wars, they are generally extremely patriotic about them and emphatic about their war heroes. Maybe this sentimentality is necessary to keep the country united in the face of such tragedy and shame of loss or maybe it is due to the Paraguayan’s miserable education system and the fact that most Paraguayans do not really know their history. Paraguayan kids only go to school four hours a day and the system is mostly a wrote-memorization style where teachers write something on the board and students copy it down in their notebooks, memorize it and write it back for exams.
When I asked my family about the wars for my homework assignment they all said they used to know details about the war in school but couldn’t remember anymore. Everyone was taught the information at one time but the system doesn’t really allow students to ingest the material. My host brother and uncles all offered their own tidbits about the Triple Alliance War. Raul said Brazil won the war, half true. I was pretty proud of him since it’s a common myth that Paraguay won the war. And then I felt bad for poor, shy Raul when the rest of the family started to tease and taunt him for saying Brazil won the war when obviously Paraguay won. “Oh Raul is such an idiot.” Poor Raul. Its also a common myth that Solano Lopez and his wife collected gold pesos from the populace to support the war but as they retreated from the allied forces they began to bury the gold in the ground and gold is still buried throughout Paraguay. My host mom mentioned this myth as fact once again. Apparently, if you see a tree on fire and a dog with no head at night that means gold is buried below that spot. So everyone grab your shovels!
This brings me to the Stronatto- the reign of Paraguay’s modern dictator Stroessner- the second longest dictatorship in the world and the longest dictatorship in the Western hemisphere. Stoessner’s legacy sounds somewhat similar to other dictators of the 20th century. He had a secret police of spies, party membership controlled all state jobs, propaganda was rampant, people were disappeared at random if they spoke against the government or stood out in any way, he tortured, he supported a constant state of emergency, people were afraid to be out after dark, he created favors, favoritism, paternalism, underdevelopment, fear, patron-client relations, vertical loyalties instead of citizenship. There was a myth that all resources were a gift from the beneficent father figure Stroessner such as schools, roads, hospitals, electricity etc… Every new school/hospital had to be inaugurated by Stroessner before it could be used to perpetuate this myth. In fact, one language teacher at my school tells a story about standing in the rain at her new school as a young child waiting for Stroessner to come inaugurate her school. He was very late and instead of coming in and performing the whole ceremony he just drove by the school in his fancy car and that was his “gift”.
So what does this all mean for Paraguayans now? It means that history separates people, people don’t trust each other and are afraid of each other; they only trust their families. People do not work together, people do not know how to work together and have never thought to work together to solve a problem. There is no merit system. People always got somewhere based on who you knew, who you are, or your political party. How hard you work is not a virtue and is not always valued. People don’t expect their government to work for them. The government always covered their very basic needs, usually, and they don’t expect more when they should. People don’t feel they deserve better. They have a very fatalistic attitude. They have a lack of inclination to challenge information and to question. People look outside for solutions and not in themselves. They don’t think, “how can I fix this?” Individuality, creativity and ability are stifled. The education system definitely perpetuates this last point.
Individuality is not valued. If anyone looks at all different it will be pointed out and in a country where everyone has similar hair, eye and skin color a slight difference will be recognized and somewhat negatively. In Paraguay I am a blonde. This was quite a shock to me. I have brown hair, it says so on my driver’s license. Well, my lighter shade of brown hair and the lack of true blondes in this country has labeled me as a “rubia” in Paraguay. But this new label doesn’t feel endearing. It sets me apart in country where blending in is valued and standing out is uncomfortable.
Furthermore, individuality in personal character is not explicitly valued. Because critical thinking is not present in this culture, this means self exploration is also absent. For example, a volunteer came to one of our training sessions and had simulated an activity she conducted in her high school and elementary level classes in her site. It was called “My Personal Flag”. The idea was to draw a flag with symbols that represented you as an individual. The volunteer drew her flag as an example for the students. She explicitly told them it was an example and not to copy. Her flag had green stripes because she loved the environment, a globe because she loved to travel, a heart, and two flags because she had duel citizenship. And sure enough when I looked through the stack of the kids’ personal flags most of them had stripes, a heart, a globe because they love to travel (even though most of them have never even been outside their own towns) and a Paraguayan flag, they almost all looked the same. Kids just don’t know how to be creative even when they are told to, they were never taught how. They were taught to copy what their teacher did and give it back to them, that is all they know. Although I saw a few flags that were very unique and very creative. So, that is where a volunteer can draw inspiration. Progress!
What about popular culture? TV, music, dance, art are all very simple. Paraguayans have not yet had enough time without the umbrella of dictatorship to begin to explore the possibilities of a more sophisticated culture as a middle class begins to take shape. At night I sit around the sit with my family and watch many dubbed Disney channel shows and man, woman and child all laugh their asses off at the benign humor. My conclusion from this “phenomenon” is that this culture has not had time to develop a sophisticated sense of humor. My friend Lyn and I were guessing that to have a heightened sense of humor you must be educated and without it adults will find the same things humorous that children do. The constant commenting on who is fat and who is not and how you get fat, who is getting fat, who got skinny is another facet of a simple side of culture. This is what they will continue to find entertaining.
So what does this mean for me as a Peace Corps volunteer? It means I must show how democracy is a beneficial system and how the average citizen can use it to their advantage. Right now a common thought is that democracy is messy and nothing gets done, for example no roads have been built since Stroessner, and Stressner provided a lot more to the people. The fact is people do not know how to run a meeting or work in groups. People do not know they can go to their local municipality and talk to the local mayor or authorities and request funds for a project or ask for help. They do not understand that the government is supposed to work for them. They can form local commissions and petition their local government but often these commissions fall apart because they don’t know the rules or don’t know how to work as a united group. Also, it is my job to teach Paraguayans to challenge the status quo, to not take things for granted, to question. This might seem like such a common concept to us but it has been ingrained in us since we were children. This is a democratic and American quality. It must be taught, it is not inherent. Paraguay is a forgotten corner of the world but in the last two decades has been making great strides to become more exposed. It was easy for the rest of the world to forget about Paraguay: it didn’t have a coastline, its dictators closed it off to the world and was mostly self sustaining, and it didn’t offer any valuable resources to the rest of the world. But as Paraguay has more opportunity to be exposed to the modern global culture and is importing more common global products it is changing and expecting more. So in a country where I am a blonde and a headless dog means buried treasure I guess anything is possible.