Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Cuidar y Cultivar"


In a previous Blog entry I talked about the idea of the "Land of Opportunity," and the fact that almost 50% of the Paraguayan population lives outside of Paraguay in search of more opportunities. There is so much beauty and opportunity here though, and it is a shame that there is such a limited amount of outlets. Just as my summer camp was wraping up, and I was beginning to worry about what project(s) I would be able to work on next, the sky openned up and all sorts of possibilities began to rain down on my little barrio of Mboi'y.

"Cuidar y Cultivar"

... Care for and cultivate...

For the past 7 months I have been living next to that outlet, and I didn't even know it. Ogaguasu, Guarani for "Old House", was the first house built in Mboi'y. It was built circa 1875, after the Triple Alliance War. Currently, Sr. Carlos Ovando, a 96 year old veteran of the Chaco War, lives there. Sr. Carlos is the father of the owner of my house (who lives and works in Argentina) and my landlord Antonia. Recently, his son Ramon (who lives and works in Asuncion) has been visiting to help care for his father and Ogaguasu. Ramon was impressed with my work with the kids, and apporoached me about doing something on a larger scale for the whole community, possibly using the Ogaguasu. I seriously almost passed out with excitment... it was Christmas, AGAIN, in 25 de Diciembre. I told him that it was dream of mine to have a community center in Mboi'y; a place where we can offer classes and hold events for the entire community.

I cannot believe how quickly things are moving along. This past saturday, Valentine's day, we held out first meeting to share the idea with members of the community, and get feedback and more ideas. Fifteen of my neighbors came to the meeting. Now this might not sound like a lot, but keep in mind this is a small community, and this meeting is being held by a Peace Corps volunteer... 15 people is great. My neighbors loved the idea, and were full of suggestions and ready to offer thier support.

And so, the Ogaguasu was born...

Misión: "Ogaguasu Centro Comunidad es un lugar para la comunidad que apoya cultura y crecimiento por expresión creativa y participación."

..."The Ogaguasu Community Center is a place for the comunindad that supports culture and growth through creative expression and participation."

Of course, this is only the beginning... but what a great start! During the meeting we disscussed what types of things we would like to offer the community. This list was created:

  • Basic Art: creative writing, drawing, painting, and photograpgy.
  • Artisentia: traditional Paraguayan crafts.
  • Health: educaiton courses and alternative cooking classes (using Soy).
  • Language: english (that would be me).
  • History: museum with photos, artifacts, and writings.

Needless to say, I am very excited for this project. In the near future I will beginning my english class in the beginning of March. I am asking the Mayor and the municipality to pay for paint and materials to paint the Ogaguasu, and fellow guapo volunteers to donate thier time, and love, to paint. Within the next 3 months we hope to have the property ready its ignaguration... I'll keep you informed!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Campamento Guiaca y Mboi'y 2009

One of the best ways, I have discovered, to gain acceptance in a community is through the kids. I have been very fortunate to live in a community with a very strong sense of family. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I hope to strengthen that the sense of family by working with the youth (all ages) in the area of personal development and community participation. One of the best ways, I have discovered, to gain acceptance in a community is through the kids. I have been very fortunate to live in a community with a very strong sense of family. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I hope to strengthen that the sense of family by working with the youth (all ages) in the area of personal development and community participation.

(Sorry for the order of my pictures, Blogger makes it kind of hard)

King handing out fresh y muy rico empanadas de carne de soja.

The boys drawing thier favorite foods for the Olla de Alimentos.

El Cuerpo Saludable (The Healthy Body).

The build-it-yourslef Olla de Alimentos.

Team Participation day.

The Human Knot game.

The Spider Web (Guiaca).

Haha, and I don't know the name of this game... but they loved it.

Rojo Perro (Red Rover).

Milk Tye Dying.

The density column.


The Elephant game.

This past week, I held my first childrens summer camp in my barrio of Mboi'y. I am very proud to say that it was a great success! The camp was "un poco de todo"; four days of art, science, team participation, and health. I hope you enjoy some pictures from the camp!

Each day we began with a game to get the kids warmed up. Day one was art day, and we began by making name tags that had a drawing of your favoriet animal. The kids were asked to say their name and their favorite animal, then to make to the sounds and motion that animal makes. After our little intro game, we the elephant game: everyone stands in a circle and one person begins by pointing to another in the circle, the person who is pointed to has to quickly put their hands to their face to form the elephent's nose, and the two people on either side of them must quickly for their ears. If you are too slow, or fail to form the right part, you are out!

We had three activities for art day: community map drawing, origami, and homemade Play-Doh. At the end of each day, we gave the kids a healthy merienda (snack). The first two days we had fruit salad, day three was banana milk shakes, and finally on day four we made empanadas with carne de soja (soy empanadas).

Day two Karen, an absolutely amazing volunteer from my G, came up to help out. We had three different science activities: a density column with soap, water, alchohol, and oil; milk tye dying to demonstrate chemical reactions; and bottle rockets.

Day three was all about group participation. We began the day with Red Rover and Comunidad, Casa, Nino. Afterwards we split into three alternating groups again and did the human knot, the spiderweb, and the third... I have to be honest, I do not know the name of this game... but the idea is to get a group of people to all stand together on a small surface (mat, box, etc.).

Finally, on day four, we had two activities to learn about healthy eating. The first was a build-it-yourself "Olla de Alementos," which is the South American equivilant of our Food Pyramid. The kids were asked to draw little pictures of their favorite alimentos (foods). Then they were asked to put together the Olla (pot) with all 7 food groups. After the Olla was constructed and the different groups labeled and discussed, the kids placed their favorite food drawing in the appropriate sections. This activity was designed to allow to kids to compare thier diets with eachothers, and learn about what food groups they need to improve on. The second activity was un Cuerpo Saludable (a Healthy Body). We turned fruits and veggies in body parts and formed "un cuerpo saludable"; spinach is good for your hair, watermellon is good for your teeth, celery is good for bones, etc.
The turn out for my camp was great, ranging between 16 and 35 kids. It brought me so much closer to the kids in my community, and through them I hope to gain a relationship with thier families and the community as a whole.
I want to thank the amazing volunteers that helped me out this week. I could not have done it without you!... seriously, all those kids?! King, Holly, Roberto, and Karen <3

Coming Home

It is amazing how quickly time flies. While I sit here trying to figure out what exactly I want to type on the subject of “Coming Home”, I realized that today is my eight month anniversary. I have lived in Paraguay for eight whole months, and I have loved every second of it. The hours quickly turn into days. The days into weeks, and the next thing you know eight months has gone by. When times flies by so quickly, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the big picture. What was I doing during those hours that escaped me so quickly? Those little hours were what made my week… and those little weeks were what made my month... all of those months will accumulate into 2 years of my life. So, I stopped typing, I took a deep breath, and looked around me. Instantly, I was reminded of all of those hours passed.

When I say “Coming Home”, I am referring to Paraguay. It was amazing to me that it took going home for two weeks, seeing my family and friends, for me to realize how at home I am in here. The weeks leading up to my trip home were a little hard, and all I could do was think about how soon it would before I was home in the States. I actually even wondered if I would go home, see everyone, and not want to come back. Now, this is not to say that I do not love my family and friends and in the States. However, it took me going home with the experiences I have had in this fraction of my time in Paraguay, and the relationships I have built with fellow PCVs and Paraguayans, for me to realize how much I have changed. I love my life in the States. It was wonderful to be able to drive around in a car, and not have to walk everywhere. It was great to not worry about parasites when I drank out of the tap. It was great getting a break from that brutal Paraguayan sun. I missed the food, the people, and the culture. But as soon as I stepped foot in the States, all of those things were just not as important to me. Who would mind having to walk everywhere when you have the beautiful scenery around you that I do? I started to look at the stomach parasites as natures cleanse (ok, maybe that is going to far). That beautiful Paraguayan sun keeps me warm while you all are freezing up there! There is no Chipa, Sopa Paraguaya, or Mbeju in the States… and Paraguay has amazing people and culture too. So I was asked, “I bet you miss Paraguay, don’t you?” And I thought to myself, “Yea, I do.” When I stepped off of the plane my first day back, I thought to myself, “Wow, it’s good to be home.”

As you are reading this you are probably thinking to yourself, “Ok, the girl has gone native and forgotten about us.” That could not be further from the truth. I guess what I am trying to say here is that I have realized that there can exist different sides, or better yet, different versions of you. Neither of which is better or worse than the other. They can exist independently of each other, or not. You can have two, three, four, or however many versions of yourself you like (but not too many, that’s called something else). For me, I loved that D.C. lifestyle: the music, the traffic, the food, the politics… the style. But here, in Paraguay, I discovered another version of me. That version that loves sitting on my neighbor’s front porch, drinking Terere, watching the cows go by. That version that would rather kill bugs with a sandal or her hands than spend the money on bug spray. That version that is proud to have had Pique three times, and Giardia. That Cana drinking, Lomito eating, super tan, jopora speaking version of me that I have found in my new home.