13 December, 2008

Wow, it's been a long time! Happy Holidays!

Why Hello Everyone!Greetings from Paraguay! And a particularly merry greeting for the holiday season! I thought it was about time to take a breather and tell you all about what has been happening down here with me in Paraguay! Land of the tranquilo!We, too, are getting all geared up for the upcoming yule season, only it's a little different here... Mainly that temperatures are once again starting to hit above 100 Fahrenheit! Wow, now that's haku! (Guarani for HOT!) So, we sit around under mango trees eating watermelon and passion fruit, and as always, enjoying our ice cold terere! Don't worry, you probably have no idea what that drink is but I promise I'll bring it back to the states with me and you can try it out!

Well, I can't believe it! My sister G (the group that is a year ahead of me) swore out today which means that I have exactly one year left here in Paraguay, and from what I hear, it is going to fly. Language is sooo much easier now, I tend to use much more Guarani in site than Spanish and I'm having a ton of fun with it!

We haven't been all that busy with work the last month or two because we have passed several large holidays here in Paraguay. Probably the most significant for me recently was the Dia de la Virgen de Caacupe. A HUGE tradition in Paraguayan culture for this date is to pilgrimage to the ciudad Caacupe. There you can visit the basilica of the Virgen of Caacupe (she's the saint of miracles!), bathe in the sacred fountain, buy lots of souvenirs and eat lots of chipa (kind of like a corn bagel, Mom and David loved them!). So... I did it! I left with some senoras from my community at 1o'clock in the morning, we walked the night through the campo and arrived at the first town, San Jose, at 7am. We then continued, through the sweltering heat I might add, to cross half of Paraguay by foot. I actually arrived with one of my friends from site in less than 18 hours. We had walked over 45 miles. Let me tell you, it was quite the experience! It was probably the most physically challenging experience I have ever had, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to do it! And man o man, those Paraguayans are guapo!! (that means really, really hard working!).

In addition to that, and the reason I am in the capital Asuncion right now is because I have started singing again! Thursday night the CoCoMu group of volunteers (it is a group of volunteers from all over the country dedicated to promoting the arts here in Py) put together a fundraising concert with American and Paraguayan artists alike. And let me tell you, we have got some talent here! Volunteers played the violin, sang their own music- usually written in the campo ;)- and I performed with my friend Chris Sphar. He played the guitar and I sang three songs, "The Long Way Home" by Norah Jones, "Waiting on an Angel" by Ben Harper and "Oh Holy Night" by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure (in 1847, haha). It was great fun and I think they'll be doing concerts like that around the country so who knows, maybe I'll get another go at it!

As for what is going on in Pindoty, I could not be happier! My families there are amazing as usual and I am continually learning and growing because of them. They are so open and are always sharing more of their culture, memories, and of course tembiu paraguayo (paraguayan food) with me! In turn I try to give them a key hole perspective of what life is like in the E.E.U.U. Everything from the work we do and how we spend our leisure time (sitting down to read a book is quite the phenomenon here) to the diversity that we have and the music we listen to. SPEAKING of which, the radio show is also going awesome! We now have a slot all to ourselves, and though it is not much time- only 20 min borrowed from other programs- it is a big hit! We call it "Rojapo Radio," which means, "We do radio!" Not all that clever, but it rhymes!

Other small developments... Contrary to my original desires when entering site, I have bought myself a pig. Her name is Shakira. Of course, I confuse Paraguayans because I see her as my little piggie friend, and to them she's bacon. And I understand that one day it will come to that, for my despedida actually, but until then I'll enjoy her silly company! I'll try to send some pics soon!

On the horizon I also have a summer camp coming up where me and my friend Travis will run a three day camp about environmental education. I think it will be a lot of fun! Then after that I will be doing a traveling workshop with my other crop extension girls. We will go to each of our sites and give hands on demonstrations about soil conservation, farm planning, crop management and the like! We are going to try and make it as professional as possible in the campo so that the farmers really feel empowered by it. It helps too that we now all are pretty established in our communities and have developed the sense of trust that must be gained before any real work can start. When school starts up again in February I will be teaching a class to seniors at the high school about agriculture systems. I'm really excited about this because we many of them do not end up going into further education and this is an opportunity to plant the seed early for sustainable methods, no pun intended:) We may even get a chance to visit the model farm run by Paraguayans that I have talked about before! This next year should prove to be a busy and exciting one!

Well, that's about it from me, now that I have "talked" your ear off. I would like to thank you all again for your continual support and little updates from home! I also know that things are rather difficult there right now, with the economy and all, so please also know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers here as well! I miss you all greatly! Only 1 more year to go!! Happy holidays!


P.S. Since it is the season to be giving, I thought I'd let you all know of a gender and development program we have got going down here. They need to raise about $7,000 U.S. dollars so any help you can give is appreciated. The website is https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.donatenow&keyword=SPF&SF or on the Peace Corps website then Donors and Paraguay. This is an excellent gift idea for Christmas as well, wink wink nudge nudge ;) THANK YOU for your support!

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