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Monday, August 20, 2012

Battling Technology and Transition

       During the tedious process of packing for my 27 months of servce in Paraguay there were several items of personal technologhy that I deemed essential for my sanity as a Peace Corps volunteer. Along with a mountain of clothings for all types of weather I brought school supplies, medicine, and all sorts of various trinkets I felt I couldn´t live without. In that assortment of goods was also 2 cameras, 2 ipods, a laptop computer, and a Kindle. I never thought that I would end up bringing so much technology with me as I arrived here. To be honest, I had no idea what sort of technology would be common place here at all given my general lack of knowledge about Paraguayan culture prior to my arrival. The more time I spent here the more I realized that the technology deemed essential to me, and my life back in America, was also developing at a fairly rapid rate in Paraguay as well. Many high school students, especially those who live in larger towns, are exposed to computers at a young age. It is common place to see people around my neighborhood carrying around new Sony digital cameras to take pictures of their kids in parades or school events. The youth group I work with recently went on a trip to visit a cheese factory in another community. At the end of the tour we were taking pictures to put on the group´s Facebook page. I was about to take a picture with my black, 8-year-old Sony Cybershot, 5.1 megapixel, 3x zoom camera that I bought while doing an exchange program in Taiwan in high school, when one of the members of the group asked me to take a picture with his. As I took a look at his brand new Sony Cypershot, 12.1 megapixel camera with 12x zoom I thought to myself maybe the amount and quality of my technology isn´t something that people find unfamiliar.
       As I stood there taking pictures with a camera that was the great great grandon of the camera I was holding in my hand I started to think that I might be the one who was recieving the raw deal with the cost of personal technology. Since my arrival I have managed to break both cameras, one still works but the screen broke meaing I have to look through the view finder making my already old camera seem older. My Kindle made it through the first 4.5 books in the Game of Thrones series before succumbing to the elements, and most recently my beloved computer of 6 years that has been with me since before the beginning of college gave into the powers that be. To be fair, I probably could have done a better job of taking care of these important pieces of technology, but then I think to myself that being forced to ride on a standing only bus all over with a giant backpack would eventually cause too much ware and tear for even the most well put together object let alone a computer. In some ways I am sort of glad that those technologies aren´t at my disposal for a time. It gives me a chance to read a physical book, prevents me from checking my email and Facebook constantly, and gives me time to be a bit detached from the dependency I developed on technology. Still though, when I see members of the youth group jumping on their computers, listening to music on their cell phones, and taking pictures with their new cameras it makes me wonder if I am all that different then the average person here?
       It has taken some getting used to not having those links to the outside world.  Especially with the recent changes that have come to O´Leary over the past month. My closest neighbor outside O´Leary, Jimmy, left early to go to graduate school. Kristin finished her extension, and left at the end of July. Most recently, Mike said his goodbyes, and made it home this past weekend. Change is inevtibly expecially amoungst Peace Corps Volunteers. With a new group coming in every 4 months and another group leaving who's around what area is constantly changing. Lucky for me, Mike got a follow up volunteer named Robert, so while it will take some getting used to not having a computer and not having Mike, Kristin, and Jimmy around I have been able to spend time with Robert and with a lot more time with Paraguayan families who seem to sense that things around here are a bit different than they were just a month ago. While the last few weeks have been a challenge adjusting to a bunch of change I am at least able to keep busy. Not having as much access to technology has given me the chance to focus on some things around my house and projects around the community. Keeping busy has been important, and progress on things is steady. We recently finished planting 2,500 trees, have been able to continue the awesome childrens radio program Kristin started, and make steady progress on the trash project. Life is full of ups and downs and while there have been some pretty bigs downs there have also been some pretty big ups. Things sort of keep plugging along, and while it hasn´t been the smoothiest of sailing of late I think that is a normal part of the experience. Look for a new update at the beginning of September with details about progress of the various projects going on in O´Leary.

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