Every time I sit down to write a blog I can’t find the words to fit everything in, so I keep resorting to lists. And here we go again:
-This past week we traveled with our language class (3 other girls), our language teacher, and a technical trainer to visit a volunteer in the field. We were in Caaguazu, the 3rd largest city of Paraguay at 70,000 people. We visited the local government and a lot of local organizations that our volunteer works with. We also were in charge of giving a few lessons to Paraguayan youth as a team in Spanish/Guarani (aka the 5 words we knew, incorporating them whenever possible, rentendepa?) For the most part I would say that our lessons were a great success.
-Two of the lessons we taught were basic photography, part of the Ahecha project that Peace Corps does in Paraguay, a sort of Photo Voice project inspired by Born into Brothels.
-One of the Ahecha lessons we did was with an organization that recruits kids who work in the street (often times selling DVDs) for a sort of after school program. Since Paraguayan schools work in “turns,” you either attend school in the morning, or in the afternoon. As part of the program you then report to this NGO for food and activities until 4pm. The incentive for families to participate is a monetary reward families receive for perfect attendance of their child at program. However, organizers know they just diminish the amount of time the youth spend on the street, as most donned their uniforms and grabbed their bag of DVDs and headed to the streets right at 4pm.
-While in Caaguazu we all had new host families for a few days. My host mother was a grandma who danced in a group with all other older women, primarily widows. The group was cleverly named “Mujeres de la mejor edad” (Women of the Best Age). They’ve recently become all the rage, winning competitions all over Paraguay and Brazil. When we interviewed them one woman said, “My husband always says, ‘I don’t understand how you limp around the house all day, and then manage to dance every night,’ but I don’t know, I just don’t hurt when I dance.”
-To get ready for an upcoming competition in Brazil my host mother said she likes to turn the TV on to Brazilian channels in Portuguese to practice. I couldn’t help but laugh as we watched The Bernie Mac Show dubbed into Portuguese, as I joked with her in Spanish, and she spoke to her 92-year-old mother in Guarani.
-Her mother lived in the house as well and was quite hard of hearing. To interact with her you had to get a few inches away from her and scream into her ear. I would say this limited her interactions with most people in the house. Therefore, she surprised me with the few sentences she said to me while I was there, which usually went something like this: As I was playing Uno with my host mother and her 9 year old grandson, great grandma walks up really close to me and smiles, and then says: “She’s North American, I bet she’s counting cards.” And then she walked away.
As always, I’m much longer-winded than I give myself credit for, whoops! One closing story to break Emily’s heart (and plant the seed for a future book drive that I will surely do at some point):
A few weeks ago at dinner my host brother commented on the amazing progress I had made on the book I was reading, The Most Human Human by Brian Christian (courtesy of Ben). Earlier that day I was thinking about how it’d been so slow-going with all of my training reading/homework, which prompted me to ask if he had ever read a book or chapter book, or if his older sisters had read a novel. Confused looks crawled across their faces, “Well we’ve read excerpts of different books that our teachers made photocopies of, but I guess never out of the actual book.” Oh how my heart hurt in that moment, what luck I’ve had to hold so many books in my hands! It definitely made me feel passionate about working on a library project in some way while I’m in Paraguay. (Although volunteers have reported stocking libraries with lots of books only to find no one reading them– so it would definitely take a lot of effort to integrate the library into the community through outreach/activities, etc.)
On that note, I’m signing off to go read…or watch one more episode of The Wire. Only TEN DAYS until I find out my site placement, woo!