Tag Archives: Waukesha

Growing Up Trains

11 Feb

While writing my 30 Days of Trains! blog entries I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about trains– the way they run, their history, and sub-cultures related to trains like model railroading.

Lots of people talk about the way trains influenced their childhood– inspiring a future love for model railroading, the constant chug of trains passing near their house, or Paraguayans running to the train to hear about national news.

I never thought of my own childhood as being defined by trains, but the other day I realized the trains of Waukesha made frequent cameos in my young life.


The trains were always around– causing you to arrive 8 minutes late to dance class, whizzing by covered in interesting graffiti, or seemingly always malfunctioning for extended periods before your eyes.  I can’t count on two hands the amount of times I saw a train almost pass entirely by, stall, start to reverse in slow motion, and then chug forward once again.  You were better off factoring in extra travel time for the train crossing you were bound to encounter.

In Waukesha there are also old train cars that have been remodeled into a great restaurant, La Estacion.  It’s a delicious Mexican restaurant, that to my family’s great dismay is generally too spicy for my palette.  I will admit that they do have great horchata, margaritas, and ambiance!  After spending so much time with other volunteers cooking who are seriously missing spicy food (Paraguay is lacking in the spicy department) I think I’ve been training my taste buds to fully enjoy the glory that is La Estacion by the time I’m back.  I’m sure my family will be thrilled.

How did trains affect your childhood?  Want to write a guest blog?  Let me know!

And don’t forget to donate to the train station of Paraguari! https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009




Don’t be a Bobo

15 Oct

While home in Wisconsin I had the opportunity to visit Waukesha STEM and speak in 5 of the middle school classes there.  It was great to be there for lots of reasons– my older sister is an Instructional Resource Teacher there, STEM is doing great things and it’s the school I worked at for half a year before I left for Peace Corps, and Mrs.Lambert graciously opened her classrooms (primarily Spanish classes) to me!

I talked to the students a bit about my work, showed them photos and a video of Paraguay and tried to leave time for questions.  The STEM students had also worked on coloring Beginning Reader books in Spanish that I laminated and brought back to Paraguay with me.  A raffle that my youth group in Paraguay did raised the money to cover the printing and lamination costs– so it truly was an international collaboration!  We just donated the books to a low-income daycare  center in Paraguari last week.

Mrs. Lambert and I have now formally matched through Peace Corps’ World Wise Schools Program and hope to continue the exchange we began.  Students in my English for Tourism class are currently working to prepare short videos on Paraguayan culture in English and her students plan to include Paraguay in their market research in their toy development project!


As is to be expected to be found in every middle school there were kids who had “too cool for school” attitudes.  Upon hearing that Paraguayans only go to school for 4 hours a day or that they cancel school every time it rains or that there are rarely textbooks/books available to check out at a school, etc. some kids responded with, “Cool! I want to go to school in Paraguay.”

At the time I couldn’t come up with a much better response than, “No, really you don’t.” But I was left thinking a lot about all of the different ways I could have answered.  For some peace of mind I decided to open the question up to a group of my Paraguayan students– “Why are they lucky to go to school in the United States?”

My students had a lot to say:

  • Think farther ahead than the moment you are currently in, you all have access to more opportunities than we ever will– take advantage of them!
  • Your schools have all sorts of resources in one place: books, classes, computers, a lunch room, after school activities and clubs, and you can see your friends
  • Enjoy that your teachers force you to read, it will make for a brighter future
  • Take advantage of a full school day.  We only have 4 hours of school but they try and cram in a subject range meant for a whole school day, which means that most subjects are under-taught if not just randomly cut all together (since the nation wide required curriculum is determined by the country’s government)
  • Compare the country situations where we live– Paraguay to the U.S. (This document is helpful: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2011-12/CountryProfiles/Paraguay.pdf  Quality of primary education is ranked 137 out of 142 countries worldwide)
  • We think that someone who’s a “nerd” in Paraguay would be considered almost normal in the U.S.  It’s hard  to be a nerd (interested in academic things) in Paraguay
  • No one finishes high school prepared to go to college.  Entrance to college is contingent upon passing the University’s “Cursillo,” an intensive remedial course.
  • Teachers have lost their power to parents and principals so they have to generally just pass students and not require high standards of classroom conduct and work in order to keep their jobs.
  • Private elementary and high schools are usually much better than public, but cost a lot of money each year.  Going to public school usually means Mission: Impossible to get into a good university in Paraguay.
  • And finally, “Just tell them, don’t be a bobo.” (stupid head)

This was an awesome conversation to have with my students and they really got into it.  It definitely speaks to the challenges of development and education– as knowing something with your brain does not mean that you will actually incorporate that thing into your life.  Even this group of hardworking Paraguayan students who have chosen to keep showing up and studying with me outside of their normal school day, and who have lots of advice for others about taking advantage of all opportunities provided by the great US of A, don’t necessarily take advantage of all of the opportunities offered to them here or behave like little angels in all of my classes.

So, how do we bridge the gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do?  

And how do we teach things to be adopted into one’s lifestyle and not only absorbed into their brain?

Still waiting for the snow to fall…

19 Dec

Has anyone else heard Coldplay’s new depressing sounding Christmas song?

While the song is too sad for Christmas, the lyrics: “Still waiting for the snow to fall, doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all,” encapsulate my current feelings pretty well.

Thankfully, I head home on Monday morning (to be to Goerke’s Corners at approximately 1am, should everything go perfectly– just knocked on wood) to lots of snow.  I’m excited to see lots of snow and lights because I think they’ll help me more accurately identify what time of year it is…June?  August?  Anyone?

I’m heading to the east coast with family for Christmas and New Year’s, and then I will be back to hang out in Waukesha for at least a month.

YAY CHRISTMAS! Can’t wait to be home 🙂

Eureka Moments!

28 Oct

Steven Johnson is profiled in this article about where good ideas come from– very interesting. (See shorter video version)

As I read this paragraph, I thought, “Hey, I know exactly what you’re talking about!”

“If this seems completely obvious, consider, Johnson says, how it explains the otherwise spooky phenomenon of the “multiple” – the way certain inventions or discoveries occur in several places simultaneously, apparently by chance. Sun-spots were discovered in 1611 by four different scientists in four different countries; electrical batteries were invented twice, separately, one year apart. (Similar things happened in the earliest days of the steam engine and telephone.) People have tried to explain this using vague terms such as the “zeitgeist”, or of certain ideas just being “in the air”. But there’s a simpler possibility, which is that the innovation in question had simply become part of the adjacent possible.”

I immediately flashed back to Buchner Pool in Waukesha, WI, and was staring down at my seven year old hand holding a soft pretzel from the concession stand (much needed nourishment for all of the intense swimming I was doing), when I thought, “Man, these pretzels would be so much better if they were filled with cheese.”  Elated at the prospect of this invention, I began telling everyone…to which many responded, “Molly, those already exist.”

How could these fools not realize the original thought that had gone into unlocking that amazing idea– this cheese filling development was surely going to revolutionize the soft pretzel industry.

My dreams came crashing down when I was on a grocery shopping trip to Sam’s Club the next week– where cheese-filled soft pretzels were available to buy in BULK!

I learned at a young age that often times brilliant ideas are conceived at the exact same time by multiple people…and that SuperPretzel just managed to get the idea to market much quicker than I did.

Better luck next time.  🙂

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