Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Paraguay

Hello everybody and Merry Christmas! Following this link you can see pictures of the holiday festivities that went on down here in Cruce Guajaibi.

I was invited to spend Christmas with the family of a teacher that I have worked with, Profesor Jorje. Nearly all of his 11 brothers came, plus their children and wives and cousins making for a big party. As you can see in the pictures, we had plenty of food for all. Christmas Eve morning they slaughtered a cow and a pig, and a turkey.

The tradition here is to have Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve. We spent the time before dinner sitting by the grill and enjoying beer and clerico (fresh fruit salad drink with wine and sometimes Sprite).

After dinner, we went to bed, I was given a place to sleep there so I wouldn't have to ride the 30 minutes back to my house on my bicycle. I woke up on Christmas day planning on thanking them and then heading home. Instead, I stayed and ate possbly more meat than ever in my life (see picture of cow ribs).

Finally about 2 in the afternoon I thanked everybody and slowly headed home to rest up and cool off before my evening invitation on the other side of the community. That family, another teacher I know, is a little more poor but no less generious and kind.

For new years I will be up at the San Rafael reserve spending some time with a Peace Corps buddy. More pictures to come.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some new photos

I have uploaded some new photos in Picasa.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Plans

With the holiday season in full swing, I have to keep reminding myself that it's December not July. The weather has been near 100 most days, and we just got our first rainfall in about 40 days down in my part of the country. Unfortunately it came a little too late to save the corn crop for a lot of farmers, and a lot of soy is in danger of failing also.

I am on the homeward swing of a 5 day trip that has included an open mic night (I played Rocky Top on my charango with a mouth harp finish) and a going away party for a group of environmental volunteers in Asuncion. That going away party marked my 1 year mark in country as a sworn in Peace Corps Volunteer. It would be more overwhelming except that time is going so fast that I don't think much about it these days.

Last Tuesday the son of my community contact family died suddenly. Though it was sudden, it wasn't unexpected as he has been completely dependant on the care of his family from a very young age after a doctor overdosed him on anesthesia. For 13 years his family took excellent and loving care of him and it has been a testament to what kind of people they are. He died on Tuesday, and was buried the next day after a night in which the entire family stayed up all night with the open coffin in the living room on a table surrounded by flowers and candles. This Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they will hold afternoon prayer services for him. It has been a sad time but also a time for the family to get closer. I feel lucky and honored to have been included as a part of this process of dealing with a loss in a family that I have only known for a relatively short time.

I will be home in my site for Christmas, and then travel with my contact family to visit their extended family in another part of the country to celebrate the birthday of Rocio, their youngest daughter. While there, we will tour a nearby ecological reserve. It is a rare example of eco tourism in Paraguay so should be very interesting.

After Rocio's birthday, I will return to my house, and then ride my bicycle out to the San Rafael forest reserve to spend new years with some friends, one of which will be launching his cross-continent bicycle ride to raise money for that reserve. My plan is to ride out with him as the rode will take him right by my house on his way out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Full vacation photos on Picasa

From now on I will be putting photos on Picasa for everybody to see so that nobody has to sign up for Facebook that doesn't want to (it seems like you need to be a member or have a special invitation to view pictures). You can look at pictures individually or see a neat slideshow. Put on your choice of relaxing music and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Argentina 2

Tafi del Valle was very exciting because it marked the first stop in the part of the country that we came to see: the Andes.

Unfortunately, at this point in the trip my camera was not working yet so I was not able to capture the amazing trip up the mountain, following a winding white river rushing in the opposite direction, switching back and forth on a narrow road while overloaded trucks rushed past, finally over the pass and down into the valley. It was a trip worth doing over again just for that.

Upon arriving in Tafi, some friendly people from local hostals were waiting to welcome us to town, and invite us to their hostals. We thanked them, took their fliers, and struck off on our own. Pretty soon we met up with our Eurpoean friends Carlo and Sara. Not wanting to waste any time, we dropped our backpacks off at a hostal, ate some empanadas (and a delicious bowl of humita) and went out to hike the nearest peak. We were told that from this peak we would be 8530 feet above sea level, and 1000 feet above the town.

After we got back from the hike, Carlo made us a pasta dinner to celebrate Brandon's birthday. He had been craving pasta anyway, saying that back home in Italy they never go more than a day without eating pasta.

The next day, we went for a long walk/hike that looped way out into the country, through a tiny community, around through a larger community where we had a look at a bunch of "huancas" or big rocks that have been carved with faces or symbols. I don't have any pictures, but here are some excerpts from the handy (english) pamphlit I got.

"Huanca" is a Quechua word that broadly translates as "the benefactors or guards
of the place they are in". In this case we refer to the monoliths as "huanca
protectors", who are favorable to the crops and the cattle. They were
probably idols representing different Gods, and placed strategically so as to
provide benefit to their immediate surroundings. Archaeologists say that
the stones found in this area were probably created around 2000 years ago.

Here are some pictures from that day.

After two nights in Tafi del Valle, we were ready to move on. An easy bus ride took us to our next stop: Amaicha del Valle.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Argentina 1

I recently spent a 2 week vacation traveling Northwest Argentina with my friend and fellow Peace Corps volunteer Brandon Kobashigawa. It was a fast paced and exciting time in which I saw and did hundreds of new things, and made a few foreign friends along the way. In the next few posts here I will put down some of my experiences and a few photos to go along.

Tafi del Valle
Amaicha del Valle

Formosa was only a place to switch busses on our way from Asuncion to Tucuman, and back from Salta to Asuncion so I won't say much about it other than that they have a nice but terminal.

Tucuman is a large city of about half a million people. When not sleeping in the filthy but cheap Hotel Florida, we walked around the central area and explored the shops and restaurants. I ate my first baked potato since leaving home, it was a sign of the great food to come.

My best memory of Tucuman is one evening when we were looking for a place to drink terere. We sat down on a bench near an outdoor restaurant seating area. Almost at the same moment, a man walked up to the bench across from us and pulled out a red trumpet. He played for us (and the outdoor diners) for about 20 minutes, including some decent Louis Armstrong classics. I think I saw just about everybody there give him a few pesos for his performance.

There is an amazing restaurant in Tucuman called El Portal. Near the plaza. The owner is a friendly (and beautiful) older woman who speaks British English and will have plenty of suggestions on where to go and what to do in this part of the country. She also treated us to a free lunch on our final day in the city. They serve a great regional dish called humita. Humita is, as far as I can tell, made from fresh corn, cheese, and spices. A treat for vegetarians in an otherwise big meat eating country.

The day before we left Tucuman we met some European travelers, Sara from Spain and Carlo from Italy. We were all traveling in the same direction so we decided to meet up the next day in the next city, Tafi del Valle.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some kinda normal

In contrast to my previous post.

Life here is never normal. Or if it is, I have to redefine the word. Maybe normal means not being constantly presented with new situations and encounters. In that case, maybe things are becoming kind of normal. I am no longer surprised when school is canceled for a national soccer holiday. I am no longer surprised when drunk men want to talk to me for hours, repeating the same things over and over (although I am surprised when the subject isn't US politics). Maybe It could be called normal, but never routine.

Last weekend a trainee from the latest group of environmental volunteers came to visit me for 3 days. It was interesting to see reflections of myself a year ago. After sleeping for most of the first day he was sick in the night and the following day reluctant to walk around in the heat looking at the community. I understood, PC training is probably the most intense learning experience most people will ever go through and it is exhausting. He just needed a vacation.

In fact, life here is exhausting. So many factors contribute to a constant humm of stress that builds and builds. Foreign culture. Check. Language. Check.
  • Chickens constantly plotting to invade my garden.
  • Never being sure if a project will pan out due to weather, politics, and other numerous factors beyond my control.
  • Being taken advantage of.
  • Not being taken advantage of (people not understanding my function)
  • Being the object of daily gossip.
  • And the object of giggles from 16 year old high school girls (flattering, but sometimes scary)
  • Being charged the "Nortè" price.
  • Are those pesticides being sprayed 30 yards from my house getting into my well water?
  • Is any of this really going to do any good, are they really interested in what I have to say?
These things, and others, aren't that big of a deal to be honest. Just like having little rocks in your shoes, this stuff wont kill you but it may eventually make you throw your shoe through a window. Well, I wouldn't, but there are people who do end up a little weird from all the unexpected little stresses that come with life as a PCV. A lot of people deal with it through alcohol, or through healthier exercise and self betterment (reading, writing, meditation).

It is two years of sink or swim that provides the conditions for the type of personal growth that can and will direct and define the life of anybody who gets through it sane.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The normal life

(Reminder: I will no longer be posing pictures here, to see my latest pictures look up my account on Facebook or send me an email for a link)

The longer I stay here in Paraguay the more "normal" life becomes. Not USA normal, and certainly not routine, but I am no longer in a constant state of shock. What has become normal is being aware of the constant challenges that I am presented with every day that would be rare or non existant back home. It has become normal to do things that would be absormal or insane in the United States.

What would you think if a weird foreign kid who spoke a strange form of English came over to your house and offered his dubious services as a "professional volunteer"?

Could a 23-year-old ever in a million years make a presentation to a group of teachers at a school on teaching techniques?

Most North Americans would be amused at best if a foreign kid offered to help plant a garden with them.

We North Americans have advantages based on economic and educational status in the world. In a lot of ways we see ourselves as the top dogs who don't need a word of advice from anybody. I wonder if it would be bad if we were a little more open minded about cultural exchange. Sure, on the technical side we are doing alright but we could gain a whole lot from learning about other parts of the world from a source other than chapter 8 paragraph 3 of a high school history book.

If we knew personally other folk around the world, we would be more understanding of their cultural differences. With that understanding, we would be more willing to work with them to solve common problems. In working together to solve common problems the idea of killing each other over a resource or ideology would seem rediculous.

That is another thing that has become almost normal - philosophical excursions in the middle of otherwise straightforward ideas. After exactly a year in Paraguay, things are coming together and the future looks bright. Life is happening all around me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Photo location

I will no longer be putting a lot of photos on this blog because the process is long and tedious! However I do have a lot of really awesome photos for you to look at, check out my Facebook album. I will put a link here when I figure out how to!

Is he Russian or German?

The age old question "Who am I?" can get blurred sometimes in this wild and crazy slip'n'slide they call Peace Corps.

People often ask me, or the Paraguayan I happen to be with, where I am from. Surprisingly the many people don't guess that I am a North American. It seems these days I could pass for Brazilian, German, Russian, and sometimes a strange sort of Norté.

By the way:
It might be a good idea if we stopped referring to ourselves as Americans outside of the U.S. In the middle of Kansas or Iowa it is easy to forget that the U.S.A. does not take up all of North and South America and there are millions of people without social security cards that also have a legitimate claim to the American title.

When people do realize I am from the U.S. there are a handfull of general reactions:

  • "Want to buy this (random thing I don't want)? No? Can I have some money anyway?"
This is not uncommon when visiting the big cities.

  • "Why are you spying on us and why do you want to steal our water?"
Paraguay sits on part of one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world. Somewhere somebody got the idea that we have plans to pipe or ship or otherwise transport that water thousands of miles north to quench our ravenous thirst.

  • "Nice to meet you, how did you learn to speak Guaraní? How long will you be living here?
Many people are genuinely happy to meet me and hear about what I am doing here. I get all kinds of questions about the states, about my family, and whether I am happy here.

I am a full time ambassidor to the U.S. working at the grass roots level to repair the damage done to our reputation by 8 years of Bush trying to run the world. People are sometimes surprised (and 100% pleased) to learn that I do not agree with all of the policies of my government. A good volunteer friend who lives near my community had a great breakthrough recently. He became acquainted with a man who lives in a lesser developed area on the outskirts of his town. "Sam" he said, "before I met you I thought you were just like all the other Nortes trying to take advantage of us, but now I know that you aren't like them at all!" This guy may have never met a real Norte before but he was certainly biased against us. This is a big invisible benefit that the Peace Corps brings. It is a stated of the goal for cultural exchange, but this sort of thing can't be measured. Without a doubt we are making a difference in this area if nothing else.

Sometimes I am a teacher, in a school or outside of it. I am an outsider and an insider simultaneously. I am a lot of things down here. A lot of them I could also be back home, but from a different point of view. And a different language.

This 2 year experience in Paraguay is showing me more than I can ever hope to record through photos or writing. Essentially, it is teaching me to live in a deeper, fuller, more meaningful way. Im not becoming American, I am becoming Human.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

More pictures

A soccer game in my town. These guys are serious.

A fellow volunteer and I put together my first teacher workshop. Integrating environmental education into the classroom. It was a huge hit and hopefully a source of future work.

This is a grapefruit. It was almost as big as my head. I turned it into delicious grapefruit cider.

These photos are from a cultural festival a couple of weeks ago. These kids are doing traditional Paraguayan dances at a elementary school.

Friday, June 6, 2008


My bed.

There is no gold over there, just soy.

Gigantic garden toad as big around as a frisbee.

Rocio, 100% photogenic.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A storm, A day, Pictures.

I was awoken at about 4:30 in the morning by a big mouse (or small rat) scampering in my kitchen. What followed could have been a scene out of any whacky comedy. Me with a flashlight and a broom chasing a mouse as it ran from room to room through my dark house. As usual, the mouse won the race and escaped to its hidden lair deep within the bowls of the Earth. Already being awake, I put some water on my little gas stove to boil and put a chair out on the front porch to watch the sun rise as I ate my breakfast of oatmeal followed by a nice tranquilo matè session. I had planned to catch the bus to Encarnacion that morning. Fate had other ideas and as I sat sipping my matè a lid of dark low clouds slid over the sky from the West, obscuring the finalé of my sun rise. The storm came in so fast that my eyes were barely used to the sudden dark before the wind started up tearing leaves from trees and even snapping a few limbs. I still had a vague hope of catching the bus so I put my bags together, and got out my squeege mop to take advantage of the rain and clean the constant dirt off my porch.

(A huge double rainbow following an afternoon storm. The plants are called cameroon and are used for cattle feed and to protect soy crops from the constant dust clouds drifting off the dirt roads)

I spend the rest of the day reading, writing, musicing, and even got a little bit of cleaning done.
(Here is my kitchen. I use a big tub for a sink and dump the water out the window. The light in this room is broken, so I often cook and eat dinner by candle light. It would be romantic if I didnt live alone!)

Just as it got dark I heard a familiar voice call from my back yard (where my gate is). I was shocked at the timing. Nobody ever goes visiting after dark out here, and any bus that would have gone through (none did that day) would have been long gone. It turned out to be my buddy Nick from a few downs down the road. He got a ride by his community contact to a big party at my site (being given by my nonfunctioning contact who didnt invite me).

(Nobody in my town has running water. The lucky ones have pumps like mine that suck water from the well up into a tower where it can be stored and used just like running water. This is the back of my house, behind me as I took this picture are some trees, my garden, and way over to the right a little church.)

We went to the party where I got a sheepish late invitation from my contact, and we were invited to partake in a dinner of cow innards. Despite my very true claims to have already eaten dinner, I found myself sitting at a big table with a big bowl of every internal organ you can think of. It had obviously been boiled in its own fat for a long time, and as I took the first bite of mucus-like unidentafiable cow slime I reflected a bit on the things I feel I must do for the sake of acceptance by my neighbors. Then I almost gagged. I took a quick bite of mandioca and swallowed the whole thing down. This was just the first bite and I had a whole bowl to go, luckily the rest was more solid than whatever I had just swallowed. I could identify a piece of heart, some sort of valve, and what I swear looked like a sphincter. For the sake of science and world peace I moved, piece by piece, the innards from the bowl to my own innards where they mixed and danced in a great gastro- cultural integration.

(Better than cow guts! I am eating my dinner of tasty carne de soja, textured soy, over a pile of rice. The spices you see were mailed by my grandmother. Pure love in a tasty powder form.)

The night ended with live music, Polka Paraguaya. The day was one more experiencial grain of sand in my expanding beach of memories.

(Did I say I live alone? I do have tarantulas (horse spiders here) to keep me company. George here was part of my house welcoming party.)


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Elections in Paraguay

Hi everybody,

Things are going great here and life is tranquilo as always. I am heading back to site after a heavy week back in training working on advanced language topics in Guarani. If you don´t hear from me for several weeks (would that be abnormal?) here is why...

Elections are coming up here in Paraguay. This weekend the Colorados will battle the Liberalés in the first real close contest they have had since the start of democracy in the early 90s. Because of the political fever sweeping the country, we have been advised by PC headquarters to stay home for the couple of days before during and after the election to see what happens. While we don´t expect violence (the dictatorship fell overnight with barely a struggle) you can never be too careful. Keep an eye on the news though, because they say this is very important election and a number of international election watch groups have been invited to make sure there are no shenanigans or "lost" ballots.

As for me, I will be spending the election weekend reading War and Peace in my hammock and drinking maté to keep warm.

Cool Guaraní phrases...

itranquilove ýposogui (its more tranquilo than the water in the bottom of a well, which is very still).

itranquilove bakova cachogui (its more tranquilo than a bunch of bananas, this one I don´t fully understand)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another update! (my phone number)

Sorry, no pictures again while I figure out why they won´t upload!

Short update today. The past two weeks have been very exciting and busy. Two guys from the PC office came out to my site to do my official presentation. My job is to bring the people, and the PC people present on what PC is, who what where when why, and who I am and what my roll is. It´s a good chance to get the information across clearly from two people who speak Spanish and Guarani very well. Luckily the morning of my presentation there was a parent meeting at the school, so I got to invite all of them to come to my presentation in the afternoon. About 10 of them ended up coming along with about 50 kids (they just brought all the students over to see).

Right after the presentation work invitations started coming in and in a few days I went from spending my days lazily reading books to having to keep a schedule. This coming Tuesday evening I start an english class for a group of teachers and students. Then Wednesday I have an organic gardening workshop at the smallest school in my area (total of 56 students). Thursday I help out at the garden behind the elementary school with another teacher. Friday I do some real teaching and do the practical portaion of an environmental science class at the collegio (high school). The Profesora teaches the theoretical portion, and it´s up to me to come up with fun projects to demonstrate ideas and points.

All of this starts next week, because this week is Semana Santa, Easter Week, and school is out starting Wednesday.

Finally, if you have Skype you can call me for about 2 cents a menute with this number! +595-0981-940-818

I await the flood of phone calls with eager anticipation!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Summer Camps

I just finished up a 3 day environmental summer camp swing through my site and the sites of he two closet volunteers to me. What a great experience! This has been my first real good old fashioned American job title related work since arriving in site about 2 months ago. You may be thinking "Austin really sounds like a bum, what's he been doing for the past 2 months?" Well basically learning two languages and a new culture, meeting new people, exploring, and relaxing! The Paraguayan life is best described as "tranquilo" and although they absolutely know how to work, they are also experts at chillin' out on the porch 'cause it's fricking hot!

My camp was scheduled for Sunday, but because of rain we decided to flip the order and have it on Wednesday. Since the buses weren't running on Sunday, I had to either leave super early Monday morning to make it to Sam's site on the first bus, OR bike it. After consulting with my PC neighbors Sam and Niko (who both strongly advised me not to do it because of the horrible sticky red devil mud) I strapped on my backpack and rolled off down the road. The ride really wasn't that bad. 23 kilometers on rolling hills like mini Ozark Mountains.

To make a long story short, and to skip to the part that applies to me, both Sam and Niko's camps went very very well. I learned a lot and got to warm up for my own camp.

I expected maybe 20 kids for my camp. Being new in my community and because many people aren't familiar with Peace Corps, I didn't expect much. I was way off. It was hard to get an exact number, but we counted between 40 and 50 kids between ages 8 and 15. They were all excited, and participated with enthusiasm. We played games, sang songs, ate snacks, had a water balloon fight. Great fun had by all and a great introduction to the community.

Time to go, more to come!

- Austin

Some Pictures For You

Today I have 4 pictures, 2 from Carnival and 2 from hanging out at my friend Sam's site. Hopefully I will get some pictures later of my summer camp.

1) Beautiful Peacock lady of Carnival

2)Another buddy and a lady that looks like a witch, covered in spray foam which is a big reason why Carnival is so fun here.

3)Hanging out with Sam's environmental youth group

4) Playing music and visiting with a family. The instrument on the left is my charango.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Carnival, Superbowl, and thoughts

Well, it looks like my updates are going to slow down to once a month with a possible bonus update every now and then. I just can´t get in to town more than that because of money, and because I want to spend all of my time in my community! Coming off the computer after an hour or two is like walking out of a cave after being inside for hours, or like waking up from a dream.

A group of volunteers and a couple from Canada/northern US joined us to watch the SuperBowl last night. Rob and Chris are traveling the world teaching english and exploring. It´s always exciting to find an english speaker down here, they are sure to have an interesting story to tell because as I have said before Paraguay is not a tourist destination. We went to a pizza place that kindly agreed to show the game for us on their projection screen outside. No sound, but the announcers were speaking spanish anyway. I must say that I never expected to be able to watch the game like that and am very thankful. There were a bunch of Paraguayans out there too but none seemed very interested in the game. We weren´t either to be honest. What a slow game! Except for the final 5 minutes or so this was a SuperBowl to forget unless your from New York.

Saturday we went to Carnival. It was basically a stretch of road that had been closed off and painted, and lined with bleachers. You buy a ticket from a scalper on the street (they try to get a 100% gringo markup if you don´t bargain) as well as cans of foam. The foam is essential. We entered the crowd and were instantly assaulted with foam. In general the girls shoot the guys and the guys shoot the girls. I also tried to get the elderly and children because hey - everybody should take part! Floats came down the street, elaborately designed and decorated and covered with beautiful dancing women. There were also beautiful women walking down the street dressed in gigantic outfits made out of feathers and sequins. They looked like peacocks. Unfortunately in addition to the many beautiful dancing women, there were also little girls dressed up too, this added a weird and kind of disturbing air to the event. The party in the stands was what really made it fun. Foam flying and people yelling and chanting and dancing for hours. We were there for about 4 hours, maybe more, but it seemed like 1 or 2. I made friends with the guys around me because it was too crowded for us Americans to stick together too close. I couldn´t speak Guarani to them, they only spoke Spanish, but also a little English (about equal to my spanish skills so far). So we had a weird and interesting, often interupted, conversation for a while. One guy told me he was an illegal mexican immigrant living in paraguay, which I found interesting. We stayed until the party was over and ended the night by walking down the parade street in reverse to head back to the hotel. I slept until 12:30 the in the afternoon.

Things are really going well for me right now. Not always easy, but who wants that? I heard two good phrases recently that I want to save: ¨Bad weeds never die,¨and "If there are ripples on the water, it´s because there are rocks underneath." I spend my day reading and practicing my Charango when i´m not practicing Guaranì or working on a small project. In a couple of weeks I will be running a summer camp for the kids in my town with two volunteers near me. I am very excited about this because it will be my first visible contribution to the community and a great way to show them an example of what I can do. It is also a great excuse to get out and meet people.

Another exciting thing that happened recently was my lunch with the US Ambassidor. A few of us met him and we had pizza and talked about Paraguay. He is a very busy man, clearly politically oriented, but also very socially conscious and devoted to projects that will help Paraguay. He told us about several interesting programs that we can get involved in. One in particular that caught my attention was a Debt for Nature swap that the US has pledged and will fund almost anything that will help protect the remaining forest. He also gave us a ton of anti-parasite pills to share with our communities. Parasites are a huge problem here and something like 95% of children have them. They are being donated by a company in the US and he says we can have as many as we can hand out. I can´t wait to get back out and start spreading the word.

No pictures today, but I promise to post some next time I update!

Live long and prosper!


p.s. Check out this video that describes very well my Sustainable Living program at Maharishi University of Management.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

News and Words!

(Welcome, 2008)

Messages have trickled down through the jungle that people want me to update my blog! Well, here is your update and an explanation for my long absence.

(Even in Asuncion, the capital, is is common to see horse-drawn carts on the roads)

Early December we swore in as full fledged U.S. Peace Corps volunteers serving in Paraguay. It was an important day for me because for a long time, before leaving the states and during training, I wasn't fully convinced that I was here. Well, I believe it now! I have been spending my days living with my incredible community contact and her family in my site, a couple hours north of Encarnacion. She is the vice principal of the elementary school next door, and her husband is the principal of a school down the road. As an environmental education volunteer this is perfect for me and I should have no shortage of work once school starts back up. Live is tranquilo and I am slowely but surely learning to speak the language. If anybody is reading this and considering PC or just learning a new language - take it from me, if I can do it anybody can.

(A playground near Asuncion)

Christmas in Paraguay didn't feel like Christmas due to temperatures in the mid 90's and, well, a very different culture. Christmas here is much much less of a commercial buying bonanza like it is in the state. The night before Christmas, the family I am staying with made clarico which is like fruit salad with soda and wine. Pretty tasty. It is their tradition to wait to eat dinner until midnight which was hard on me, I am used to going to bed by 10 at the latest! Let me tell you... learning a new language really messes with your brain. Sleep is essential. Christmas day there was a big party in the field across the road. Kids from my town and from the towns nearby came and they had a big Christmas celebration. Fruit cake (incredibly popular) was passed out to all the kids as well as soda. There were clowns telling jokes I didn't understand and people all around watching me covertly or overtly. Being the first volunteer in my town, many people still don't know why I am there. Some people think i'm a spy although there's not much for me to spy on.

(Not an uncommon site where Volunteers work. This was outside my training village near Guarambare)

New Years was very subdued for me. My host family left town to visit relatives and I was left to house sit. I took some much needed time to relax and spent the final minutes of 2007 sitting outside watching the stars as fireworks boomed in the distance.
At the moment I am in the capital, Asuncion, getting some work done in the PC Office. Hopefully I will be able to wrestle a bicycle back across the country and I will have transportation to get to an internet cafe so I can talk to all of you more often! As always please feel free to send messages to let me know how things are going in your part of the world.


(G25 Environmental Education group at the Ambassidor's mansion after swearing in)