An email excerpt

Here’s is part of an email I wrote to a friend considering PC. It sums up my feelings about the experience thus far…

“In general it’s a great
experience that is probably the best decision I have made with my
life.

Where would you want to go? You’ll probably work most effectively here
in Latin America, so I would recommend asking for that. They may want
to send you to Mozambique (Portuguese), but I’m just speculating. The
thing about PC you have to realize before you come is that it is not
fully about doing development work. As a matter of fact, that might be
secondary. You are coming to mainly do cultural exchange. Some
volunteers have an issue with that, and want to be working on
develoment all the time. If you feel like that is the kind of work you
want to be doing, I would recommend against PC. Working for an NGO
would be a better use of you time.

But! If you are okay spending days and even weeks maybe not doing much
development work, and just hanging out and getting to know people of a
different culture, than PC is the way to go. The highlight so far is a
general feeling of personal growth. I am relying on myself more than I
ever had in my life, in terms of keeping myself healthy and happy, and
I’m getting pretty good at it. I feel like whatever I do in the future
I will now approach with a confidence that I would have had I not done
the PC. Interestingly, that confidence is still what my Dad talks
about when he reflects on his PC service, even though that was over 40
years ago.

Doing things that I realize I would not be doing in the states is also
really cool. Writing, reading a lot, learning languages, playing
guitar, gardening, beekeeping, rock climbing, traveling, cooking.
LEARNING. Would I be doing those things in the states? Maybe, but
almost certainly not to the extent that I do here. I would probably be
working a entry level job and not really enjoying it. I’ve now been
here for two “semesters” and I’ve learned more than I did in all four
years of college.

That’s not to say it’s not without challenges. It’s lonely sometimes,
and I miss things. I miss my family, I miss Kerry, I miss my friends,
I miss good beer. Language is still hard-I speak mainly Guarani, and
sometimes there are times when I still don’t have any fucking idea
what people are talking about. (That varies a lot though based on your
placement, that’s just my experience). Those two things are probably
the hardest parts of service thus far.

The way I like to think about those two things, though, is like this:
Loneliness is a good thing to learn about (That was said to m by a
RPCV before I came down here), and my language is SO MUCH BETTER than
when I got here. Both Spanish and Guarani. I am going to be fluent in
both by the time I leave.

Like you said, everyone’s experience is different, but I hope this
gives you a little picture of what I think so far. DO IT! Everyone
should…

paz, nhd”

Fall Updates

Today I gave my first successful charla in site. Charlas are lectures that are a big part of how volunteers impart their knowledge to their communities. I feel bad that it has taken me this long to do it, but my confidence in my language and really just in the community has come up significantly in the past month or so, so I finally felt ready. I now want to give charlas everyday! I realize how little time I really have here, and how short the cycle of volunteers is in a specific community (6 years usually), so I have to try to do the most good with the time I’ve been given.

In the same vein, I’ve decided to try to spend a month straight in site. That might not seem like much, but it was definitely something I had to work up to. Here are the rules of the challenge: I’m allowed to go to the (well-stocked) grocery store which is located around 4 k from my site, but Santani, the large pueblo 35 k away is out. So, I won’t be able to receive or send mail or take out money for that whole month, so I’ll have to cobrar before going into the campo. I’m looking forward to it actually; being in site for an extended period of time allows you to get in a rhythm with your projects, get to know people better, and stay up on all the gossip.

Two exciting things bookend the month-in-site challenge: Jan and Ryan visiting and the half marathon! First, Jan and Ryan- two of my closest friend from college, doing a pre-grad school South American trip. Ryan’s email updates are hilarious and they seem to be having a great time thus far. We are going to meet at the Foz de Iguazu on the 25th, come to site on the 27th, and then Asuncion for the 4th of July. They say they want to see what my lifestyle is like, and they want to work while in site. I hope they know what they are getting into! So far on the agenda: fogone construction, a garden tour for one of my women’s comites, school garden work. Potentials: trip to the health post (Jan is going to med school), beehive construction, bee revisions. Heta mba’e!

Half Marathon: August 7th, Asuncion. Prep for the full in Buenos Aires in October. Wish me luck.

Che arekoma 6 meses koape

I’v been saying this a lot to people recently. It’s amazing how quickly six months can pass when you are having fun. I feel like I’m over the “getting used to things” phase. I have some level of comfort with Guarani now; enough to get my ideas across, understand most of what people are saying to me, and impress random Paraguayans. Having been in site for almost four months now, I know a lot of people and I always feel excited to return ‘home.’ So, things are good.

Project updates:
-Finished the composting latrine! I’m glad it’s done; it was a lot of work and ended up being more expensive than I wanted it to be. But, it is VERY lindo (if i do say so myself), and should serve me, and my follow up volunteer (if I get one). I’ll post pictures next time I’m in Asuncion.
-I’m embarking on my next primary project, which I’ve decided is going to be fagones. Fagones are brick, wood burning stoves/ovens that take the place of open fires that people traditionally cook on indoors. The raise the fire up off the ground and funnel smoke outside the kitchen. They are a lot healthier than the traditional lena, or cooking fire. The people here who don’t have them already (about a third) are very excited about the possibility. This is a potentially very political project; there have been other NGO’s who have come and built fagones here in the past and corruption, rumors, and flat out lies have followed them. So, I have decided to try to do it without the help of other NGO’s. This is going to mean more work for me, but I really want to avoid the problems that came with building such a useful device in the past. I’ll keep y’all updated.
-Secondary projects continue. The honey season is over, so beekeeping has slowed down significantly, but other things are taking the place of the time I was spending under the veil. My garden is coming along nicely, and I have been acquiring garden seeds for my committees in town. I also have a bunch of Abono Verde (green manure) seeds, that I will be planting with some farmers around the community. My señoras have started using our roadside farmer’s market again (built by my very hard-working former volunteer), so I help them with that as much as I can. I helped out with a very successful HIV/AIDS workshop with my Volunteer Action Committee (VAC) about a month ago.

In other news:
-This month is, once again, going to be full of travel. In two weeks we have Ahendu, which is the Peace Corps sponsored concert in Asuncion, held three times a year. I’m excited to be seeing that! After that I’m back in site for a week (Semana Santa; supposed to be tons of fun!) Then, I head back to the Asuncion area for a week of language classes. It’s known as reconnect, and it’ll be great to spend some time with my training friends. Happy to say nobody from my training group (G34 Crop Extension) has ended their service. Knock on wood!
-On a somewhat sadder note, G29 is finishing their service. I’ll be sad to see them go; they are really friendly, fun, hardworking people. My nearest neighbor is from this group. Once she leaves I’ll have a 35 k radius between me and the nearest Peace Corps Volunteer. On the plus side for her, she recently found out she will be joining Peace Corps Response in Dominica for six months. Congrats Michelle!
-When one door closes, another one opens. G35 will be swearing in in a couple of weeks, and will send SIX people to San Pedro.
-My neighbor Maria brought me some tortillas this afternoon, which she said ‘had a prize in them.’ The prize? Meat. Haha she cracks me up.
-LET’S GO RAMS!!!!! I’ll be gamecasting that tonight.

Well, that’s all I can think of. As always, I love comments, emails, phone calls, packages, surprise visits!

Much love, Nate

Annnd we’re back

It’s been too long since I posted, agreed? I had been sans internet for the past month or so, which accounts for my lack of posts, but thanks to my parents and some very guap@ (means hard working here in Paraguay, although don’t get me wrong they are very good looking) volunteers, I now have consistent internet access in my site. Exciting

I don’t even know where to start! I live in San Rafael now, in my roga’i (guarani for little house). I was really fortunate to be able to move into a place that was practically fully furnished. I am very spoiled, I have running water, electricity, and a nice, hot shower. Many of my fellow volunteers are spending lots of money to buy fridges, beds, ovens, and tables. For me, all that stuff was already provided, por gratis. Some Paraguay friends and I installed terciada (wooden insulation) on my roof, so it is only very hot, as opposed to extremely hot, inside my house during the afternoon.

Really the only thing that is lacking for my house is a latrine. I got approval last night from the men’s comité that owns my house to build a composting latrine, which i’m really excited about. Check out more information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet

I’ll slowly be catching everyone up on what I have been up to, but if you have burning questions, please comment.

Congrats to Sophie and Ross, and welcome Charlie!

Un Mes

Monday (I think) marked my group’s one month anniversary in Paraguay. Similar to my two week post, I find it hard to believe I have only been here for a month. Training quickly settles you into a happy little rut, especially in these middle weeks. The past few days we have had big, long language classes in the morning, and tech classes in the afternoon. Today my fellow croppies and I set up media sombra over our garden, to sheild against the intense summr sun. Tomorrow we are talking about alternative crop choices here in PY. Also tomorrow I am telling a ten minute version of my life story as a part of an extended ice breaker all PCTs do.

Update on my previous post: Halloween party was great! Lots of Paraguayans, including my Dad, Brother-in-law, and nephew, came, and a good time was had by all. I also decided to bring a fruit salad instead of bacon, which went over well with my foodie trainee friends. Although, the bacon was local and some of the fruit came from Argentina. Local or vegan: the hipster paradox…

Big shout out to Carol Ross (hi! :)), and my nieces. Love you S, D, and M.

Sepy’a py’a

I learned a great Guarani word yesterday, which is the title of this post. So here is what you need to know about to pronounce it. 1. It works best if said fast. 2. The ‘y’ in Guarani is like no letter you have ever heard. The best way I can describe it is the sound one would make if one was hit in the stomach. Make sure you are flexing those neck muscles! 3.It has a pretty generic meaning: a veces or sometimes, but if you are saying it right, you will have tons of fun!

Big weekend ahead of me. I am going in to Asuncion with some other trainees tomorrow. We are going to do some urban exploring, and I am going to buy a Terere kit, and something for our pot luck Sonday.

“What pot luck!?,” you might be asking… Well the other apirantes and I are having a halloween pot luck Sunday. What am I bringing? One word… bacon.

Also going on in my life, I found out I share a birthday with Jeff Tweedy! So that’s big :)

Pics soon I promise.