Monday, June 21, 2010

One Year in Paraguay!

One year has come and gone in Paraguay and everyone asks me if I feel like it has gone by quickly. The answer is yes and no. It has gone by fast because I now realize a year is a very short time to learn everything there is to know about a culture and to integrate yourself into that culture, in fact its impossible. Even after a year I am still learning new things about all things Paraguay and Paraguayan. Also, I still feel like I am settling in here, in a way. I am still forming relationships and forming ideas for projects. I think people are still getting used to the idea that I am living here.

On the other hand, this year has gone by slowly when I think about my life back home and how far away it feels, it makes me feel I have been living in Paraguay a long time. I feel time has gone by slowly when I realize how accustomed I am to life here; how I am so used to riding the buses, riding my bike into town everyday, Speaking in Spanish all day etc... At the same time, time seems to wear on me when I start to get fed up with certain "inconveniences" like the inadequate showers, inadequate housing, inadequate technology, inadequate transportation, remoteness and inefficiencies.

Reflecting on my life in Paraguay after a year here is a synopsis of where I am currently at:

Projects and Work: I am working in a lot of different areas, although none are directly related to the sector I was trained in, Municipal Services. Actually, my sector no longer exists as a project in Peace Corps Paraguay. The new group that just arrived two weeks ago is being trained under a new project title "Community Economic Development". That is my project's new sector name. The muni project was scrapped in PC Paraguay because it proved too difficult to improve the muni from the top down by infiltrating the muni and working directly with its employees. The system, we figured out after only 15 years, is too corrupt and too nepotistic for Peace Corps volunteers to be successful. Peace Corps finally realized that after so long when most muni volunteers completed their service never actually having worked in their assigned munis.
This is exactly my case. My muni is very closed off and uncommunicative and has proven almost impossible to work with. So I have had to find work in other parts of the community.

Some current projects I am working on:

HIV/AIDS workshop lectures
Barrio Santo Domingo water commission
Optometrists in Fassardi
Girls Group
English Classes
Library project?

Living: I have been renting a house in a barrio 2km from the center of Fassardi for about 8 months. I rent the home from a family who lives in a neighboring town but they visit about once a month to clean up the yard and collect fruit from the many fruit trees which they sell at the super market. I pay about 45 dollars a month, plus water and elecrticity. I think it is a pretty good deal. I have a lot of space in this house for just one person. Most volunteers live in small, one room houses. So I feel lucky to have a nice, big place. I also have a great family living next door that treats me like their daughter. The bus passes right in front of my house so traveling to and from my site is very convenient.

Pets: Hobbs the cat! Hobbs is 4 months old and was the brother of my other kitten Jeeves. Jeeves was obviously the runt of the litter and was very tiny. He got sick one day and very quickly declined, he never recovered and died a few days later. The vet seems to think he had a respiratory disease that cats get from not having vaccines, and she said it is always fatal. Such is the life of animals in a developing country. The day Jeeves died was my worst day in Paraguay. But, now I am happy to have Hobbs who is very active and healthy. He spends lots of time in my neighbor's yard chasing chickens and loves to sleep in your lap! He is my little buddy.

Language: My Spanish is significantly better than when I arrived a year ago. That is one thing I can proudly say I have accomplished this year. However, Spanish is still something I struggle with. I still constantly make mistakes, I still ask people to repeat themselves all the time and I still find I have difficulty expressing certain concepts. So, who knows if I will ever be fluent in this language I have spent more than a decade studying.
As for Guarani? I had a tutor in site my first few months but it just wasnt happening. I never practiced and I never made myself practice or study. I didnt have the heart. Everyone in my town speaks Spanish and knows it is my best language and so that is what they speak to me. It would be nice to speak Guarani, because I do run across people sometimes who I cannot communicate with, but in the end it has not been crucial to my service. I can communicate just fine without it. But after being here a year I can understand a little... so when people think I dont know what they are saying about me, sometimes I do.

Love: By far the best experience I have had this year has been meeting and falling in love with my boyfriend and love of my life, Adam. We met at a volunteer meeting in Villarrica in October and started dating in November. We celebrated our 6 month anniversary just last week. We are lucky that we live close by each other, about 2 hours by bus, and get to see each other almost every week. I met his family on a trip to Buenos Aires in May and he got to meet my dad at the beginning of this month. Adam is my best friend and its because of him that I make it through the really tough days here.

Visitors: My Dad came to Paraguay in the beginning of June for a small tour of Paraguay and my site. We spent a few days in Asuncion, Fassardi, Villarrica and Adam's site.... I'm still hoping for more visitors!

Other activities: I have a lot of down time in the Peace Corps. At first I thought i might become a cook or a gardner (I did garden for a few months) but I think I was just kidding myself, that just isnt me. Simple chores and errands take up a lot more time here than they do back home and I find myself giving up hours to tasks like cleaning and washing all my clothes by hand. Otherwise I spend my free time reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching movies, napping, playing with Hobbs, talking to Adam, listening to podcasts.

So that is my life briefly after 13 months in Paraguay. I have 14 more to go!

1 comment:

  1. I'm really glad about what I read on your blog. Thanks for such a good writing about my country. Still pendant on my life is to travel to Fassardi on Guaira for my pictures.