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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Winter is Coming

It has been far too long since my last update, so this is my chance to catch everyone up with what is going on. Overall I am doing well. Some things are good others are proving to be enormous challenges. On the difficult end I just got back from a week of additional training at what Peace Corps calls reconnect. It was a chance to have more specific question answered regarding technical aspects of our service, specifically gardening, tree planting, and agroforestry.  It was awesome having the chance to see everyone from the training group, and I was on cloud 9 upon my return to O’Leary when my community contact and former host Dad Julio informed me that the lights were now working at my house. Sure enough they were working like a charm for the 36 hours since my arrival, but just as I was sitting down to write this entry they stopped working again. This is despite my investment in a cable that was supposed to fix the problem was installed this past week. It is a pretty devastating blow coupled with the fact that Julio also informed me yesterday that my water still doesn’t work, and that I still owe him some money for materials that went to building that bathroom. To be honest, I have no idea what is going to happen with regards to the house. I am sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place because I invested a far amount of money making the house livable, which it still is more or less, and am still short a bit on the payment front. This house has easily been the most difficult aspect of my service so far. It is very challenging to do projects or activities when you don’t have a place that has consistent amenities.
Naturally as I was writing the previous paragraph in a somber state I had a series of good things happen to me all at once. First, I had a visit from Caludio, an 18-year-old high school student who has agreed to accompany me to a library workshop this Friday and Saturday as the representative of the elementary school where I work. I was initially pretty hesitant to take someone so you to the workshop for the obvious reason being would if he care or get anything out of it? My apprehensions were abated when I actually got to spend time with him this afternoon. He came over to my house and we sat in front drinking terere and chatting about a wide range of things including the library project. He told me a lot about why the number of students at the school has declined citing the leaving of the previous director (principal), an influx of community members reaching high school age who could take their younger siblings to larger schools that are elementary-high school that have more resources and students, and the age average of the community relative to surrounding areas is a bit older than in Barrio Imaculada with a lot of retired age people. Our conversation yielded some very insightful information to say the least. While we were talking Julio cam over, and with the help of one of my neighbors reconnected the light and helped me reconnect the tubing necessary to fill my water tank, which by some small miracle worked effectively when filling my entire tank. So now I have electricity once again, water inside the house, a motivated person to take to the library workshop, and a whole new outlook on how my day went. I nerves were quelled about my financial situation when I talked to Julio who said I could pay him in installments, and mentioned that everything is tranquillo and I shouldn’t worry so much. I would say that my day today went along the lines of many days I have had in Paraguay in that if things are going bad to start something randomly happens that makes things better.
The same thing happened to me yesterday when Julio initially told me that I still owed him some money. That was something that brought me really down, but as I was leaving the seƱor that lives next to my old host family, whose name is coincidently is also Julio flagged me down and asked if I spoke Spanish. I said yes, so he asked me if I could translate some things out of his Mercedes owner’s manual that was entirely in English. Now translating the reasons why ones check engine light would be on and how one sets a few components on the dash board, but I did it more or less and in the process I met a very nice family who expressed an interest in starting a worm compost for their garden, teaching their son English, and gave me a big sack of bananas, palmelos, and Paraguayan cheese. Something upsetting led to something good all of a sudden, and so life continues. I’m not saying that those things happen everyday, but more often than I would expect that is the case.
With that being said I have a few things going coming down the pipeline. I have my first of 6 VRF’s whose acronym I cannot for the life of me remember, but I think it is volunteer report form. Essentially this is a document that keeps track of the projects, activities, and events that I do in my community. Some of them are continuous projects that can be elaborated on throughout my service; others are onetime events that lasted a less than an hour. The point of the VRF is to give some kind of quantitative measurement of our impact in our communities e.g. how many people we come in contact with, whether there was a transfer of knowledge, or a training that would allow a member of the community to do an activity or presentation after we leave. It is extremely difficult to measure exactly how much something impacts someone quantitatively, so a lot of what we measure is an educated guess because there is no real way to express how much a single presentation had on a person ability to comprehend an at times complicated concept, but that is the task at hand, so I am just going to do my best and see what happens.
It is also gotten pretty chilly in Paraguay. Now I am sure a lot of you are thinking how cold could it really be? The answer is roughly mid 40s at night with the absolute coldest only being a bit above freezing in the dead of winter, but what separates American winter and Paraguayan is that in America we have central heat in most homes and buildings. That doesn’t exists here whatsoever, so when it is 45 degrees it is 45 degrees in my house, outside, and all over. There is no relief from the cold whatsoever, and it as led to some pretty cold nights of late in my comely, but very draughty home. I head that it is only going to get worse, so I better brace myself for the inevitable frigid condition which I am not looking forward to but all I can do is bundle up and wait for the weather to warm up again.

I will be sure to update again early next week to talk a bit about the library workshop, the garden project, and the upcoming reforestation project. Until then though enjoy a few pictures of the amazing Paraguayan sunsets that are unlike any I have ever seen thanks to my site mate Kristin.

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