Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I know it has been awhile since I wrote my last blog and I know this is overdue. I have been surprisingly busy the past few months. First I went on a trip back to the states in the beginning of February to visit my boyfriend in Tennessee. This was my third trip back to the states. If you asked me when I got here if I would fly back to the States three times during my service I wouldn’t have believed it. I had a really wonderful vacation. I flew into Atlanta and Adam and I spent a few days there with his friends. Then we drove to his hometown in Tennessee , we also visited his sister in Nashville and his brother in Asheville. We moved around a lot but I loved meeting all of Adam’s family members and being in the South for the first time. It was really really cold but it was a nice break for me from the stifling heat in Paraguay. Mostly, I was happy to be with Adam again after two months apart. The whole trip was wonderful and it made getting back on the plane to come back to the middle of nowhere without Adam really difficult. Besides an unexpected 12 hour layover in Bolivia everything went smoothly.
Adam left for South Korea a few days later and has been there for over a month now. He has a year contract to teach English at an private English institute on Jeju island. He started with an intense week of training in Seoul and then relocated to Jeju in the south. He loves it so far and I think he feels rich now that he is earning a real salary after two years of making 300 dollars a month. He lives in his own apartment, has made a lot of friends on the island so far, and is working a lot. The institute sounds pretty strict and keeps him on a tight schedule. He is teaching several different classes from elementary to middle school ages. He loves teaching and loves all the kids. He already has a lot of funny stories to tell about cute things the kids say.
The hardest part about Adam and I being apart is not being able to communicate as much as we want. With all the modern technology in the world to connect people it would seem possible but not without its cost. One problem is that there is no cheap way to call between South Korea and Paraguay, from the US to Paraguay or the US to Korea there are a lot of options, but how many people call Paraguay from South Korea? So, we can only afford to talk on the phone a few times a week. Our second big problem is my internet connection. Because Fassardi is a remote little town we have a really slow internet connection and skype does not work here. So, Adam and I have resorted to chatting online at night. So I guess if Fassardi was a little bigger or more centrally located I could have a fast internet connection and all our problems would be solved. So, its all Fassardi’s fault. But Adam and I have realized that we don’t have to communicate every day because we know there is an end in sight to the distance between us and then we wont have to be apart this long again.
I am thinking a lot about the end. My dad says I have short timers disease. And I guess I do because I am constantly counting the months in my head. I mostly want to leave because I am so excited about what is coming next. I get to go live in Korea with Adam and start the next part of our lives together. Also, I am looking forward to leaving Paraguay. I realized this right when I got back from my trip to the states. I am tired of living alone and tired of the Peace Corps lifestyle. I wont miss the long bus rides and the travel. I wont miss the intense heat and the bug bites. I wont miss the other volunteers who party and drink themselves silly when they are out of site. Now that I am here without Adam I have been trying to meet other volunteers and make friends, which has helped me to realize that I was not missing out on anything by spending all my time with Adam.
Of course there are things I am going to miss about my life in Paraguay. I will miss the freedom most of all. I will miss being able to sleep in whenever I want. I will miss the kids that I have formed relationships with. I will miss my dog, Maddie. But really, I am so ready to move on.
I have been busy the past few months because of the library project. Things are really coming together and the library is looking great. Thank you so much to everyone who made a donation. It really means a lot to me. I was amazed at people’s generosity and willingness to help out. There are a few people who went about and beyond. My Uncle Roger donated two laptop computers. One I brought with me back from Tennessee and the other is currently in route to Asuncion, I really hope it makes it here. Also, my dad’s friend Bob Laks made a large and generous donation to my online fund with the condition that we name the library after him. So the library is now the Biblioteca Comunitaria Robert Laks. He picked out a quote for a plaque, which my friend Randi translated for me . Peope are very curious about this Robert Laks so I am going to have a picture of him framed with some facts about him for the library wall. So Bob will always be famous in Fassardi. My contact is convinced he is going to fly here for the inauguration event. Also I want to thank Suzie and her third grade class for their book donations. Suzie had all her students bring in a book in Spanish to donate to my library as a special Valentine’s Day project. What a wonderful way for the kids to get involved! Thank you Suzie.
So my contact and I are well on our way to spending all the cash we had donated. The first thing we did was hire a local man to install bars on the windows and doors to the library building. Theft is a big problem here and computers and other expensive things notoriously get stolen from school buildings in the middle of the night so bars are a necessity. Then we hired a carpenter to build all our furniture. Everything came out beautifully. We have 5 bookshelves, a large table with 11 chairs, a desk and a locking cabinet. We also had curtains made. Next we bought two desktop computers. We have made two large purchases of books from two different companies and are making arrangements to buy more from a third.
So we have spent most of our money and the rest of it will go towards books. We are also considering buying a projector. I have been spending the last few weeks cataloguing all our books into a digital card catalogue and we currently have 730 books, including the text books the high school already owned. This sounds like a lot of books but we are realizing that it is not. Our shelves are still looking embarrassingly bare. Books are surprisingly expensive in Paraguay and the money did not reach as far as I was expecting. I think this is because almost no books are actually published in the country and everything is imported from Argentina or Spain. This is just another reason it is so hard to find books and when you do they are always shockingly expensive. The only place to buy books in Villarrica, my closest city, is from a shelf at the supermarket. I always check the shelf when I am there to see if anything is on sale but most books are 20 dollars or more, which is a whole lot of money for a Paraguayan to spend on a book. No wonder no one reads, even if they have the desire to do so they cant find them or afford them. Just another reason why community libraries are so important. I am still soliciting embassies and other organization in Paraguay for book donations.
I had the best 25 pictures from my kid’s photography class framed and they are currently on display in the library. Also, my mom sent some really great posters to decorate the library. We want to paint before we hang anything so all the posters and photos are sitting propped up against the bookshelves for now. Its not so easy to hang stuff on the cement walls. We have to buy special screws and once something is hung its pretty permanent. I am going to paint a map of Paraguay on the back wall, similar to the world map I painted last year. I want to start teaching free typing lessons with the new computers and maybe host kids reading camps on the weekends.
Tomorrow I have a meeting with the new members of the Youth library committee. Some of them were coerced into joining but hopefully once they come they will realize it’s worth while. We are going to spend the day organizing the books, labeling them, writing library cards , setting up a lending policy and general library rules. We are going to make posters to post around town to advertise the library. There is a lot to do to say the least and this is just the beginning.
I think one of the best things about the library is all the wonderful resources we have for teachers. Supplies and text books are so limited for teachers and now we have a plethora of text books and other educational materials at their disposal in a very central location.
The hardest part is convincing people to come to the library and to make use of it, to teach them that reading isn’t just for studying that it can be enjoyable. I cant tell you how many times a Paraguayan has seen me reading on my porch or while waiting for the bus and made a comment about how studious I am or “wow, what a hard worker”. This is because they don’t associate reading with leisure or pleasure. The only place they are likely to encounter a book is at school where reading is an assignment. I want to laugh every time someone makes this kind of comment but it also makes me aware of how little books are incorporated into their daily lives.
I really hope to leave the library in good hands once I leave. I hope I can teach a few people about how to catalog books in to the computer, how to print out new library cards and to be consistent and enforce the lending policy, to name a few things. I have requested a follow up volunteer to come to Fassardi after me who wants to continue my work with the library. This would be the best case scenario because we still don’t have a librarian or an internet connection or thousands of books. These are all things that are long term goals that I don’t have time to complete but a follow up volunteer would be able to jump right in because I have provided the foundation.
That is the news for now!!

1 comment:

  1. Jenna, so great to hear from you!!! You should bring Maddie back with you! One of my friends brought her dog to India back from Ghana, and now to the US. Mary took her dog to Pakistan... I know Asia is not exactly "dog friendly", but it's been done. Let me know if that's a possibility and I'll ask around for you.
    Girl, a few more months to go! You are almost there.