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.