A lot of people have asked me about what kind of house I live in and what have I been doing over the past few weeks? This will be my modest attempt to catch everyone up on all the events that have occurred since my last update. Life for me is pretty much the same with a few minor changes. A week ago I planted my garden, and am currently in the process of trying to grow tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, beats, lettuce, and cucumber. My biggest problem is the chickens. Despite spending what seemed like days trying to fix up this rickety old fence that surrounds the garden using exclusively recycled wood, rusty nails, and random lengths of wire. My efforts yielded some success initially, but it wasn’t until I took the time to chase the chickens around the garden for what seemed like hours that I was able to accurately determine the weak parts of the fence. In spite of those efforts I am never truly surprised when I walk into my garden to see this one particular chicken rummaging through the area that I planted. Luckily to this point I have not noticed any significant damage to my seedbeds, so I have not had to machete any chickens…yet.
My other activities include being dirty, sunburned, and sweaty. I never in a million years thought the sentence “man I cannot wait for that bucket bath tonight” would ever come out of my mouth, but amazingly it did and I am grateful to have it. I still feel pretty stuck in terms of finding things to do on a day-to-day. Recently I have been making a lot of pizzas with Mike, the volunteer who lives in the center of town, to raise money to send some teenage kids to a series of camps sponsored by Peace Corps. We entitled the endeavor Yankee Pizza, and to date we have made and sold about 17 pizzas with the proceeds going directly to funding the transportation for the upcoming camps. My sectors, Environmental Education and Conservation, camp is intended to connect youth from all over Paraguay to discuss environmental issues facing individual communities and Paraguay as a whole. It is the first time Peace Corps has done a specifically environmentally themed camp, so I don’t know how it’s going to go but I am sure it will be interesting. Needless to say cooking pizzas in 100° heat is brutal, but it is a great money making operation.
As for my living situation I currently share a house with a family of 6 people, 1 dog, 40 chickens, a couple of cows, and close to a dozen pigs. My room is small and sweltering hot because of the tin roof and the lack of drop ceiling. My biggest and easily best purchase was a fan that I bought the first day I was here. It is pretty much on nonstop when I am in my room and has probably saved my life to this point. Keeping clean is definitely a challenge though. I have noticed that no matter what I do I always seem to have a thin layer of dirt on all my cloths and the rest of my body that never quite seems to go away even with copious amounts of scrubbing. At least in the case of my family they appear be very clean. The house is swept and mopped every other day, bucket bathing are nightly occurrences, and the dishes are done immediately after meals. The one thing I have noticed though is a general lack of teeth brushing. For as clean as my family seems to be I have not once seen any of them brush their teeth. I find that weird especially because they all have their tooth brushes lined up in rows in the medicine cabinet, and could easily do it but don’t. As a kid I remember not liking brushing my teeth, but I find it amazing that Paraguayans take so much time cleaning their houses and yards yet fail to clean their teeth on a regular basis.
The rest of my house is pretty small for what you would expect a family of 6 to be living in. I feel a bit greedy being the only member of the family who has his own room, but also pretty fortunate. Most of the house has nice tile flooring including the bathroom. The exception being the kitchen, which has brick flooring making it easier to clean up after the chickens raid the kitchen leaving a mess on the floor. There are several sections of the house that were added on after the construction of the original house. One of the walls in my room was formally on he outside of the house before the family built the extra room. I think the nicest part of the housing situation though is the amount of space in the yard throughout the day my family will move around to different spots of the house to sit and drink terere. This probably happens at three different junctures once after the morning house cleaning, once immediately after lunch, and from about 4:30 until dinner. Easily done for about 4-7 hours in a give day. I usually take time to study Spanish or Guaraní during this down time. I find that by sitting and hearing them talk in Guaraní helps me better understand the words and sounds, but it is still hot or miss with comprehending everything. Some days are better then others with regards to language, but an elderly Paraguayan woman paid me a complement concerning my improvement in the language, so I guess I am getting better little by little recently paid me a complement.
This upcoming Thursday is my site presentation at the school in my barrio. What that means is that the heads of my sector will come to O’Leary and bring me the remainder of my luggage, give a brief presentation about the Peace Corps and what my roll as a volunteer will be in the community. My job is to give a brief introduction in Guaraní about myself and what types of projects I am interested in pursuing. The hard part will be getting people in the community to come to the school at 3 pm on Monday. I printed out a series of invitations, and have been handing them out, but I guess we will wait and see about the turnout. I have met a fair amount of people, but am not sure how many of them that I know well enough get them to come. Hopefully the incentive of soda and cookies will tip the balance.