Tag Archives: books

2nd Quarter but I feel like I deserve a Super Bowl Halftime

15 Feb

In the Peace Corps publication for volunteers the volunteers that are swearing out each re-write the Peace Corps tagline how they think it should read.  In the first issue I ever read one girl’s read: “Peace Corps: Curing optimism since 1961.”

And I thought, hm, I wonder if I’ll ever feel like that?

Let’s just say that I think my current tagline would read “Peace Corps: Teeny-Tiny Victories and Major Failures since 1961.”

Apparently today marks 6 months in our sites.  I was notified by my friend Taylor’s status which said “2nd Quarter.”

For only being on the playing field for 1 quarter so far I have to say that I’ve had the wind knocked out of me more times than I would have anticipated and definitely more times than I would like to admit.  For all of the effort exerted (primarily in the form of visits, baked treats, big smiles, waves, and lots of listening) I would like to say that when I walk out my door in an hour all of my neighbors will greet me by name and with big smiles on their faces, strangers will hand me ice cold guampas of terere, children will giggle at my jokes, my co-workers will give me the thumbs up and say, ‘We love what you’ve been doing and additionally we think you are a capable human being.’  The high school marching band will have put on their uniforms in the sweltering hot sun just to play me the song they wrote in my honor.  Madonna will cartwheel out from behind them, pulled hamstring and all…

Okay, okay, you’re right.  Neither high school marching bands nor Madonna exist in Paraguay, I was getting carried away.

I’ll spare you the details of all the major failures.

But I will tell you that yesterday morning when I woke up I sat up from my mattress on the floor to look at my 2 host sisters from my training community laying in my bed reading the book SWITCH, which I had casually mentioned they could read the night before.

My heart just about melted.  I wanted to get my camera and take a picture, but I didn’t want to disturb them and make them stop, so instead I took lots of pictures in my brain.

Molly, that’s an awfully small thing to make your heart melt, what’s going on?

You’re right, the moment was small, but also big.  My host mother trusted me enough to let her 14 and 17 year old daughters travel an hour away from home to stay with me, her daughters actually like me enough to have wanted to come, and they were READING, out of a real book, that they picked up with their own free will! [Reading books donated by many of my dedicated readers 🙂 ]  It is a rare sight to see Paraguayans reading out of a real book that is not the Bible. I was happy.

I’ll let you know if Madonna makes a surprise appearance in Paraguay, but in the meantime, if you were a cheerleader on the sidelines of my 2nd Quarter what would you yell/cheer/write on your sign for me?



Bernie Mac, o brasileiro

11 Jul

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!

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