Well after what can only be called an epic weekend spent at the Zaphir Hotel in the heart of Asuncion it was finally time for me to gather my 40 odd pounds of luggage, navigate the crazy buss system of Asuncion to the main bus terminal, and head off to Juan E. O’Leary. It was crazy saying goodbye to everyone that I have spent training with mainly because we won’t all be together again until the end of April for what the Peace Corps calls reconnect.
Throughout training we have been given a wide variety of recommendations from other volunteers all over the country, the training staff, and Paraguayans about what to do the first few months in site. Naturally, there is no cookie cutter strategy for community integration especially considering no matter where we go in Paraguay we stand out simply because we look different. Essentially the goals are to accomplish what we call a needs assessment for our individual communities. In my case I am a first time volunteer in Barrio Imaculada Concepcion in Juan E. O’Leary, but not the first volunteer to by in O’Leary by any means. There are currently 2 other volunteers who work in the education and community economic development sectors in different barrios. I am the only and the environmental education and conservation volunteer to be in O’Leary in any capacity, so I am kind of stuck in this weird limbo as a volunteer technically being a first timer, but there are a lot of people in different areas of the community who have been and who are currently in contact with Peace Corps Volunteers.
From what I have gathered in my first day here and from the time I spent here in late November Peace Corps has had and currently has a strong presence in the center of O’Leary, but no so much in the peripheries particularly the schools in the outlying barrios. The boarders of the different barrios are by no means completely clear either, and I still have no idea how many families live in my barrio or what many of them do for a living, but from what I have seen so far there is a lot of agriculture and a lot of brick making.
It is probably going to be the hottest Christmas of my illustrious career as a human on this planet with temperature getting well over 100°F. I now have my self phone and consistent access to the internet, so if your interested in actually calling and talking to me that is an option in Peace Corps Paraguay 2011. I would also love to get emails and Facebook messages, and please feel free to ask me any questions. Ciao til’ next time.