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.