21 October, 2007


Mbaeichapa! Greetings from Paraguay everyone! My apologies for taking so long to update this but it´s very difficult to find the words to describe the experience I am having. And what an experience it is! A lot has happened in the past three weeks! Let´s see, thinking back...
I arrived in Paraguay the 27th of Septmeber after a 10 hour layover in Buenos Aires. This may seem like a long time but in the company of such great and interesting people the time flew by. The people I am referring to are G25, my fellow "PCV´s in training." They come from all over the country, Hawaii to New York, and each one of them has a backgound as unique as the qualities they bring to the group. We´re all divided up into sub-groups: environmental education, agroforestry, beekeeping and crop extension (that´s me!) It´s only been a short time but these people are really beginning to feel a little like family here in Paraguay. We´re all going through different but similar experiences, which causes pretty instantaneous bonds.
On top of that, I also have a Paraguayan family! (which I´ll tell you about in just a second, I´m getting ahead of myself here).

So, flying in over Paraguay was amazing. It´s a beautiful, lush country in the Amazon basin navagated by rich, red dirt roads. These get pretty intensly muddy when it rains and most buses stop running. Luckily when we flew in it was clear skies, save for the smokey effect from all the fires that had been happening. At the airport we were greeted by Peace Corps and CHP training staff, they all clapped as we exited the airport, it was great! The night was cool and the drive to our "retreat center" was super exciting, it finally hit me that this was going to be my new home. I can recall it now, a caravan of packed passanger vans, weaving through the busy streets lined with vendors, windows down and fresh night air mixing with the beat on the radio... classic!So from there we were taken to the "center," which turned out to be a Fanciscan monestary. I couldn´t think of a better way to start our service.

By the next day I was ready to get settled in and meet the people that would be my host family for the next three months. All crop extensionists live in Porvenir, a small compañia about an hour from Asunciòn, the capital. My family consists of five sisters: Belen (8), Beatriz (8), Leti (12), Jessica (14), and Luz (19), one brother: Alexis (6), an "uncle" and of course a Mama y Papa. My "family" here is really great and it´s interesting getting to know each of them a little more each day. When I´m walking with the kids they like to hold hands and it´s super cute! I love it! In some ways though, being in this family here makes me miss mine even more. I begin to wonder what everyone is doing at home and really wish I could be sharing more of this with them... in time I think that will be more possible.

Anyways... let me tell you about terere here! It is not just a drink, it is a lifestyle. Terere is basically cold tea that we drink out of a guampa while sitting in a circle. It´s a great way to cool down when it gets hot, which it does, and just enjoy each others company. That´s something that has taken a lot of getting used to. As an American I feel like I´m always go-go-go, and these Paraguayans really have perfected the art of living in the moment and taking time to enjoy life. It´s a good lesson I´m sure I´ll come more comfortable with over time as well. They call it "tranquilo," I think that pretty much sums it up!

With that said, I´ve aslo kept pretty busy while I´ve been here, with training and all. In tech. class we have planted a field and a garden, constructed numerous bamboo structures (with a machete might I add!), worked with abonos verdes and now are starting up some chicken raising, yee haw... More importantly, back to machetes ;) they´re pretty cool and we get to use them a lot! Last weekend we had our current PCV visit and I got to chop down a tree with a machete! Save for chopping down a tree, it was a very rewarding experience! I stayed with a girl named Hannah and it was great! She didn´t have any electricity and we had to get our water from a well. She even built her entire house herself, along with her really cool bamboo hamock which she has so graciously turned over to me since it´s the end of her service. It makes me realize how simultaneously fast and slow this service is going to be. Overall it was really nice to get a break from the rigors of training and get a sneak peak at what service can actually be like.

Training is six days a week, usually language (guarani) in the morning and tech. in the afternoon. We also work a lot on integrating into our communities and the different avenues to community development, which is our underlying goal. But between this, tech. and language (which is proving to be sufficiently difficult) I keep pretty busy and am in bed by like 9 every night. Next week I plan to start structuring my mornings a little more, running with a fellow volunteer a couple days a week and helping milk the cow on my off days. Generally it´s good that I keep busy because it helps me from thinking how much I miss home.

Most of my time here is really enjoyable, and I am loving the fact that I can dedicate all of my efforts to serivce (even though I am getting a lot out of it too). But just like any big change, it has it´s ups and downs. Sometimes I find myself wondering what I would be doing if I were back home in the states, how different life would be. Being here also makes me realize how much I love the people I left at home. I miss so many of you terribly and wish more than anything I could be sharing more of this experience with you. It´s also made me realize how utterly indispensible you all are and how I pretty much could not do this with out all of your support. I want you to know that I don´t feel like I´m here alone, because I have a little bit of all of you with me (which is really the only thing that is going to help me through those tough and lonely times- of which I´m sure they´ll be plenty). I can not thank you enough for being the wonderful, loving, fabulous people that you are and I want you to know how honored I am to have you in my life! A lot of the time when I´m lonely here I just pull out my picture album and stare at all of your smiling faces (while listening to some of my country, of course) and it just brings me right back up! So I hope that all of you are staying healthy and happy, and please know that you are always on my mind!

Well, I feel like I have been sufficiently long-winded and sappy, maybe this would be a good time to wrap this up. (I really enjoy writing this though because it makes me feel a little closer to all of you at home!) I miss you all and wish you all the best!

OH, and if you´d like to write (which would be really, really great) the address is: Erin Hogeboom, PCT Cuerpo de Paz, CHP 162 Chaco Boreal Mcal. Lopez, Asuncion 1508, Paraguay, South America. Thanks in advance for your continued love and support! Until next time, jajotopatà!

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