Tag Archives: train

Biking the Distance

31 Jan

`I saw the existence of the train as the real patriotism of their people that is really far away from institutions and even flags. The train was, and still is, their real flag. And this stands for every remembrance, no matter if it is the boiler of a locomotive, a brick of a station or a story told by any peasant.`

Almost a year ago I was with a big group of friends (other volunteers) when we met 2 Spanish guys who were traveling through planning for a trip to bike the length of the Paraguayan train rails.  We invited them to dinner, which turned into beers and stories, and when they asked for advice on where to pitch their tent, we assured them that on our tile floor was just fine!

A few weeks after that meeting Pablo biked the Paraguayan distance.  Here is what he had to say about his journey-


What impressed you the most on your journey?

The thing that impressed me the most along the way in Paraguay is the feeling of ownership that every person that was anyway involved with the train still mantains. There is a kind of legend about how the train was, but this is still as important for their current life, as it is with the Paraguayan Great War (La Guerra Grande or the Triple Alliance War). It is a sort of event that affected a much longer time than the one it really lasted. So the general lack of infrastructure and movement possibilities underlines even more the importance of a rail system that bring people options to share their goods and prevent isolation. The solution is motorbikes. Invididual and cheap transportation. But it is unsafe and unable to bring goods to markets, i. e.

What was your favorite station?

My favourite station, that’s not an easy question. According to the space and current emptiness, San Salvador, the ancient railway junction, is really impressive to see now. There, Francisco Báez, an old locomotive driver is the key to understanding the past times. Sapucái is really nice, especially the way they tried to preserve the heritage with the English Village nearby, too.

But my favourite, the really charming and sad story happened to me in Isla Alta. There, a random neighbour that finally hosted me (8 of 9 nights people who I had just met took me into their homes.  I had never seen such hospitality, even across Latin America) told me that the issue was not closing the railway, but the uninstalling of the rails. I asked why and then he told me that the government had sold them to a Chilean businessman. He came and brought every rail to an Argentinian buyer, and the very few isolated peasants lost their last emergency exit. The local bus comes so scarcely through those muddy paths (once every 2 days, if it doesn’t rain) that in case of necessity, a grandpa who has health problems at night, for instance, as ex railway workers, they knew how to set a hand-motion little carriage on the rails and push it to Coronel Bogado, the closest hospital. And now they simply can not.

Well, preserving is not putting the rails down again. But, I realised how important the railway was for them. Every single person assured me that their railway was the very 1st in Latin America. This is not true, as New York, Cuba, Chile and a pair of other areas had it first, but it became a truth for them. And sadly, it really was the last steam train in the continent, and this is not romanticism, but lack of investment and poverty. Anyway, I saw the existence of the train as the real patriotism of their people that is really far away from institutions and even flags. The train was, and still is, their real flag. And this stands for every remembrance, no matter if it is the boiler of a locomotive, a brick of a station or a story told by any peasant.

Help preserve the stories– https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009

Pablo Zulaica Parra is a Spanish author, journalist and photographer who, through a combination of train and bike, has traveled his way through 30 countries.  He completed 30 interviews with Paraguayans about their train system and is in the process of trying to publish a book as a result of his work.  You can learn about his other projects here- http://pablozulaica.wordpress.com/


Because I wrangled a sheep for the birth of the babe

30 Jan

In December, things really began heating up, both literally and figuratively.

Summer was in full bloom and the commission at the train station was motivated to clean up the neighborhood and the area around the station in time for Christmas.  Much thought was put into what Christmas lights would adorn the station and the kids of the neighborhood were busy rehearsing lines for their living nativity scene.


I was generally around for the practices and all of the kids know me, so at some point the kids began to look to me as the official costume consultant for the play.  I figured this was not the time to mention that I have never previously attended a reenactment of the birth of Jesus, nor am I entirely up to date on all of my Bible stories.

The fateful day approached and the costumes looked great, the lights had been hung, and all of the neighbors gathered their chairs in front of the steps of the train station.  The only problem was that there was a missing sheep!

Somehow, it became my job to wrangle this sheep from the back of the train station to the front of the presentation.  It belonged to one of the girls in the neighborhood who was a shepherd in the play and she was trying to help me as I woke it up from it’s intermittent naps on the walk around the building (SO tired!).  We pushed and pulled and lifted and grunted and cheered this little sheep up to it’s place in the spotlight with the shepherds, making it just in time for the 2nd minute of the play.

The train station made a great back drop for the live nativity scene, but what was even more beautiful was looking out at the big crowd from the neighborhood and all of Paraguari that had formed to watch.  Neighbors who had never spoke shared Christmas treats, kids from all different types of families played together, and Clerico (the traditional Christmas beverage) was shared by all.

Click here if you think this sounds fun and/or would like me to continue to wrangle sheep: https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009

Conductors of Culture!

28 Jan

The majority of the funds collected from my Peace Corps Partnership Grant will be utilized to fund a youth capacity building program called Conductores Culturales, or Cultural Conductors.

It will kick off with a one week intensive training on important job skills such as: customer service, communication, teamwork, and leadership, with an extra special focus on 21st Century skills and methods like critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving and creativity.

Eight youth who are ages 16 or above will be selected for participation after an application and interview process.  They will train as a team and then be assigned a mentor with experience in their particular area who will help complete their training as well as create and monitor a work plan for their following six months of service.

They will work in the following areas (Areas of work are flexible due to interests and talents of participating youth):

• Literacy Conductor- responsible for the organization and management of the Reading Room at the train station. Also responsible for holding story hours for children. 

• History Conductor- Responsible for formalizing the tour process at the train station and giving tours to tourists. Also responsible for coordinating the effort to collect personal stories related to the train station and the time period when it operated in Paraguarí. 

• Communications Conductor- Responsible for the online presence of the train station (website, Facebook, etc.), radio and television appearances, and other local communication including a monthly newsletter for the neighborhoods nearest to the train station. 

• Tourism Conductor- Responsible for increasing the train station’s capacity as a tourist attraction, this will include: creation of promotional materials, networking with the tourism movement on the national level, etc..

• Finance Conductor- Responsible for researching and applying to funding possibilities, most importantly for identifying funding or income-generating activities for the station to help maintain the Professional training program in future cycles. 

• Recreation Conductor- Responsible for increasing the train station’s capacity as a recreational space for youth, including the natural spaces around the train station. 

• Culture Conductor- Responsible for planning Community events in the train station related to culture, including music, theater, film, and music. 

• Art Conductor- Responsible for managing and organizing the recycled art studio space and programming art events for youth.

I’d love to hear feedback and ideas on this set-up.  Have you ever participated in or ran a similar training program?  What suggestions do you have to make it successful?

I think I can, I think I can!

27 Jan

Day 3 of 30 Days of Trains!

Doubting I’ll make it to the end? Or more importantly, doubting we’ll reach our fundraising goal of $2,840?

Honestly, I have my little pangs of worry as well, but my overriding feeling is I think I can, I think I can.  I think we can together: https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009 


That’s one great phrase to have come from a train as a cultural icon.

What’s your favorite train?

Thomas?  The one awaiting you at Platform 9 and 3/4? The L in Chicago?


Cayendo Hacia Arriba en Paraguay

23 Jan

Through a donation from the author himself, Cayendo Hacia Arriba (Falling Uphill), finally made  its Paraguayan debut!

Scott Stoll is an author from my hometown who served as the U.S. Embassy’s cultural ambassador in Argentina during the 2011-2012 school year.  His time in Argentina and collaboration with Argentine schools resulted in a Spanish language version of his book, Falling Uphill: The Secret of Life, about his 4 year journey around the world on his bicycle.


Thanks to a generous book donation from Scott a group of Paraguayan youth at a national leadership camp called Jóvenes por Paraguay were able to plan a short reading workshop for kids at a nearby orphanage.

IMG_0029IMG_0052The teenage youth and younger kids seemed to love the story equally– always receiving big laughs at the part of the story where Scott says he got stuck in mud in the desert until a family rescued him.  The family told him he was in luck that they came, because anacondas, tarantulas and piranhas love the taste of people from the United States.


It was great to watch the teenagers work together to plan how they were going to present the books to the youth and what activities and games they were going to play with the kids.  The book donation was one of six projects that was used to introduce Paraguayan youth at the camp to volunteer projects and community service.  You can read a bit more about that camp in this post.

Cayendo Hacia Arriba inspired a group of Paraguayan youth to try out literacy service projects in their own communities and surely inspired new dreams in the children, youth and volunteers who read the book– nudging us all forward in our own process of falling uphill.  Thank you, Scott!

If you’re interested in supporting another similar project, please visit: https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009

Help Molly, Help Paraguay!

23 Dec

Happy Holidays everyone!

I’m currently in my twentieth month of Peace Corps service in Paraguay and lots of you have asked how you can help me or help my community while I’ve been here.  I finally have a good answer–
Please share in the journey of re-opening the old train station of Paraguari as a community and cultural center for all of its citizens.
Join me in making this happen by donating to my Peace Corps Partnership Project: https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009  (You can also search by my last name or the project number 13-526-009 on the Donation website: donate.peacecorps.gov/)
What I can guarantee you if you make a donation:
-Frequent blog updates about the status of our project https://mollymeg.wordpress.com/
-A smile on your face
-A tax deduction!
I would be just tickled to receive a donation to my grant in lieu of a Christmas present from you 🙂  I also highly recommend donating in someone else’s honor as their Christmas present to help with all of the holiday shopping you need to get done!  Your last minute gift can make a major difference,  So, donate now!
As always. I’m free to answer any questions or just chat (y’all know how I love to chat!)  Happy Holidays and thank you from the bottom of my heart! 
Need more information? I’m currently a Peace Corps volunteer in the South American country of Paraguay, often called the heart of South America.  I live in a small town about 2.5 hours outside of the capital called Paraguari.  The fact that we have 9,000 people living in our city center actually makes it a “big city” by Paraguayan standards!  While Paraguay does enjoy access to many modern conveniences and technologies, wealth is unequally distributed, corruption is rampant and Paraguay has long remained the second poorest nation in South America after Bolivia.  Creating more public and educational spaces for youth will help train the future leaders of Paraguay.  DONATE TODAY!
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