Friday, May 10, 2013

Demons, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


4/3/13 – 5/9/13

I’ve finally moved! It’s been a really long process to get here and that’s probably why I’m so proud of my shack in the middle of nowhere. I’ve replaced a roof, patched walls & floors, helped build new doors & windows, installed electricity, and secured the place with bolts and locks. I moved over to my new house on St. Patrick’s Day and I’m enjoying my service a lot more now. It’s great being able to cook my own food, exercise more, and just do things on my own schedule.



The best parts of my days now are just being able to work in my garden and listen to music while I do it. This week, I built the fence around the garden and dug some trenches around the edges for better water management. Most everything I do still stimulates interest in the entire community so the goal is to get people to practice some of the same permagarden methods that I’m using in their own gardens. I’m teaching English at the high school, which some kids are interested in, and some just aren’t but that’s okay. I’m looking forward to starting up a school garden project soon as well.

A lot of what I do right now is just learning how to live (on my own) in Paraguay. I don’t have running water so carrying water from a well in town takes up a surprising amount of time. Washing clothes by hand, growing my own food, bathing from a bucket – there’s a lesson in it somewhere but it takes some getting used to. It’s gotten cooler here, which is something I never thought would happen, and I love it. It can be really cold at night, but a good sleeping bag does the trick.

At the top of the charts of “Best Parts of Living Alone” alongside any ounce of privacy and gardening, is definitely my new neighbor, Dona Ambrosia! Like the salad. “Neighbor” actually doesn’t do her justice; she’s my community’s witch! And wouldn’t you know, I would be the lucky guy to live across the street from her in that abandoned shack! Dona Ambrosia measures about 4’8”, wears a headdress, and has a kickass walking stick/staff that has less to do with walking and more to do with spells and hitting the cows that come into her yard. There are all kinds of benefits to having a witch as your neighbor, but with the advantages, also come the disadvantages.

Top 3 Advantages:
  • When you’ve got a witch on your team, you feel all sorts of invincible. ‘Na Ambrosia explains in old fashioned, True Guaraní (the kind that isn’t mixed with Spanish words and is nearly impossible to understand) that we have different demons. The fact of the matter is, I’m from North America and she’s from South America and as logic would follow, we just have different demons (in a more metaphorical sense she really isn’t wrong). She has decided that I’m super-guapo (hard-working), and therefore, likes me enough to pray for me - and ward off the North American demons. I trust that it’s a tiring job, but I’m thankful that someone is looking out for me.
  • I want to devote the #2 advantage entirely to the day that my wardrobe arrived by oxcart (long story) and the resulting visit by ‘Na Ambrosia. Every part of my moving and settling in process has been a community effort so after my wardrobe arrived by oxcart, ‘Na Ambrosia was gracious enough to come over one afternoon to bless my newest piece of furniture. After pointing out, more or less to my understanding, that we don’t know where this wardrobe has been and what it’s seen, she blessed my wardrobe, my things, and even the picture of my family on my nightstand (you’re welcome guys!)
  • I spend a lot of my time looking for ways that I can help out in this community and make use of my sacrifice coming here, and to put it bluntly, the old, neighbor-witch is an easy target. This week, I was on my way home from visiting my host family when I spotted my witch leaving the little despensa/store with her groceries. Boom. Consider those groceries brought. The community loved it and it may have been the most impactful thing I’ve done in my 7+ months here.


Top 3 Disadvantages:
  •  Although I truly appreciate the blessings and the demon-blocking or whatever, ‘Na Ambrosia isn’t going to protect me against any, um, real-life, human demons. Like thieves. I haven’t had any problems yet but she ranks as about as useful as the neighbor’s cows when it comes to protecting me from dangerous situations. Fortunately there are some other neighbors for that.
  • Sunday guilt. Palm Sunday has always been my second favorite church service of the year. It’s second only to Christmas Eve (for obvious reasons) but comes in second because you get these weird palm things to hold and hit your siblings over the head with throughout the service. I was curious about Palm Sunday this year so I thought it’d be nice to walk ‘Na Ambrosia to attend the local only-option Catholic Church service. She absolutely loved it. If you can believe it, she spent more time telling everyone about the fact that we walked there together throughout the service than she did warding off demons – North or South American. The problem arose a week later, on Easter Sunday, when she tried guilting me into coming with her again. Palm Sunday was one thing, but Easter sounded longer (and without palm-weapons) and when it’s in Guaraní, your patience wears out even faster than when you were six years old sitting next to your parents. I ended up staying home to hand-wash my clothes and I’m just hoping I wasn’t cursed for it.
  • Unfortunately, the warding of demons is a 24-hour job. Now, I’m sympathetic to the fact that one, single, ninety-some year-old woman is taking on all of the demons for two continents, I am. But at 2am I have to wonder if all parties - ‘Na Ambrosia, the roosters, the cows, the demons (both North and South), and myself – if we can just all take a quick break for a few hours and catch some sleep. In the end, I think we’d all be better equipped to hate each other the next day.


No such luck yet.



And a shameless plug for coffee:

Nick Fisher
PCV tel: 0986-287-303
Ybycui 4390 Paraguay
South America

News from the Pediatric Ward


2/25/13


This week will mark five months since I said goodbye to family and friends in the Eastern Iowa airport, and perhaps I was due for a little sickness. Problems started Tuesday afternoon with some drama surrounding my housing situation (we don’t have the Oscar’s). As the local celebrity, everyone has an opinion about where I want to live. This week, after starting to move forward with one housing option (mentioned previously) and beginning improvements and repairs, the gossip came forward that the community doesn’t trust the owner and I’m making a mistake moving there for a number of reasons. In a community of less than 200 people, and nothing else to do besides farm and talk about each other, we’re bound to run into some gossip issues. However, I can’t exactly ignore my host family’s opinion on this seemingly big decision (where I’m going to be living the next two years) when they are, albeit forcedly, the only people I have to trust in the community. So, in the midst of trying to balance everyone’s opinions, and stretching what little patience I have left of living with no personal space whatsoever and wanting to move into anything that barely resembles a standing structure, my fever began to climb Wednesday afternoon. After passing out in our community’s health post (what is the crazy American doing NOW?!), I called Peace Corps and was required to go to the local hospital. It was actually a pretty big bonding moment for host mom and I (whom I refer to as the dragon because she is a great woman, but heartless) because she was really concerned and accompanied me in the ambulance (a stranger’s SUV). After a few hours in the Mbuyapey Medical Center, the Peace Corps doctors wanted me transferred to Asuncion so they could keep a close eye on me from here.

I have to take a minute to describe our two Peace Corps doctors because they are incredible and really add to the experience overall. Peace Corps Paraguay obviously hired them based on looks and that’s strangely okay, but they don’t fall short on medical knowledge either. Male doctor was voted “Mr. Paraguay” and is a semi-retired body builder. He drives a mustang and wears those sunglasses that fit too closely to the eye sockets and are usually blue-tinted. He’s huge, and immediately takes control of any situation he walks in to. To soften this scene, enter: lady doctor.  She’s the nicest, most beautiful Paraguayan you will meet and many of us are convinced she has stylists that get her ready for work everyday. She consistently is matching some bold color of nail polish to lipstick, wearing something only she and Beyoncé could pull off, and her shoes are her signature. My friend Julia and I often guess how many costume changes she pulls off in a day (including shoes). Add this Paraguayan Barbie to the Mr. Paraguay body-builder, and they make a pretty incredible team. They are exactly who you’d want to come pick you up in an emergency way out in the Paraguayan jungle. Imagine, over the dirt roads comes a huge American SUV with grates all around it and tinted windows and all. Before everyone in the community has time to take in this duo, their patient is in the backseat of the car and on the way to the hospital. I guess I should probably also note that these are excellent Paraguayan physicians who have to go through a lot of Washington DC screening and training to get where they are, and then get paid an American doctor’s salary but live in a developing country.

Anyway, I’ve spent a few nights here in the hospital and am feeling much better. If anything, it was a much-needed break with some air-conditioning and privacy. In order to get me my own room, I ended up getting placed in the pediatric ward so that has definitely added to the fun. The nurses think I’m funny because every time there’s a shift change I ask for cookies; hasn’t worked yet. Actually, this morning one of them slipped me an extra apple, which was pretty cool. I am now feeling more ready to return to site and get back into things. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Less Cow Stomach in 2013


Apologies to those who read my blog… I don’t have internet where I’m living but I’ll try to update every couple of weeks when I come into the closest town. I think about where I was a year ago, checking my email several times an hour and rushing from class to meetings all day, and now I go three weeks or more without checking my email. It’s a very different life! Cheers to everyone who sent me Christmas love – especially all of the letters in Spencer’s package! I can’t tell you how awesome it was to hear from everyone and get some support in what could have been a lonely time. I’m alive and well and liking my job here (whatever it may be) more and more every day.

So what’s been going on in Nuahi? Some verbs: meeting (people in my community), walking, conducting (a census at our new health post), sweating, reading, attending (committee meetings and cooking classes!), running, studying language, and just thinking (a lot). It’s hard to explain how slow development work is, but it definitely requires months and months of getting to know people and getting them to trust you, so that’s what I’m working on now. Everyone that calls me asks the same question: “…like…well…what are you, like…doing though?” I sort of laugh now because no one will ever really completely understand (including me) how unstructured this work environment is and how it works but yes, it’s my job to get out and get to know people and try to get them to trust you. And it’s exactly as easy as it sounds on the best days and other days it’s the most difficult job requiring more patience than I ever thought I had. This month, I’m part of a government initiative to teach healthier cooking in communities throughout Paraguay and we have a government extension agent that is teaching how to cook healthy foods using the farm products that families have available. It’s great for me as well because I get to know what foods I can make with the limited basic ingredients that I can find around my site – there definitely isn’t a trader joe’s nearby. We made bean burgers over an open fire the other day and I got to show off because I happen to know a little about that. I also am helping a little in the health post and we’re planning some educational sessions on personal health and hygiene for kids that will start up in the schools after this summer vacation.

For over two months now I’ve been living with the Giminez family; and I’m going on four and a half months living in families’ homes throughout Paraguay. I’m so ready to live alone. In the Giminez family, we have a bunch of mix/match bowls and silverware, but there’s this one bowl that’s bigger than the rest: the guest bowl. I ate out of this biggest bowl through Christmas and New Year’s and a few weeks following that, but I’m glad to report that the guest bowl has been shared with others, and I just get whatever bowl happens to be clean. It sounds stupid but it’s just my little symbol that I’m integrating and becoming part of this weird, crazy family. I have found the house that I will be living in for my service, which is pretty cool! House Hunters International is less cool in real life than it sounds but I think it’s finally over. Working out a lease in another language is weird. I’ll spend the next month or so making it into a habitable structure, which is kind of annoying that I can’t move in right away but it’ll be a pretty rewarding experience to rebuild the house that I’ll be living in for two years. I hope to rebuild the roof soon and hook up electricity as well. It’s also a good way to get to know my neighbors and community members because I have absolutely no idea how to do those things but I ask others to help me and we get to work together and that’s pretty rewarding too. It’s a long process but, again, I’m learning some cool things about patience.

This is another address for mail that can come closer to my site instead of all the way to the capitol:

Nick Fisher
PCV tel: 0986-287-303
Ybycui 4390 Paraguay
South America

Cool! Thanks for reading! Jajotopata!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Graduation of sorts


Monday 12/31/12

“And the culture-shock got so bad that I began to shake uncontrollably for days and eventually had to see a monk to help me through the experience”
                                   -       a quote from the wife of the United State Ambassador to Paraguay’s wife’s address to newly sworn in volunteers in Guarambare, Paraguay. 12/7/12.

So I’ve graduated from Peace Corps training which, as it turns out, would be a lot like graduating from middle school. My mom is done packing my lunch; I don’t have the curfew anymore, even if I never respected it; and I’m more used to the strange acne I’m experiencing due to the absurd amount of fried food I consume daily. This is my life now and everyday I adjusting more and more! The above-mentioned quote is from our swearing-in ceremony three weeks ago at the municipality in the town where we were training the last three months. Our host families, several different Peace Corps ‘bosses,’ our language and technical trainers, and the US ambassador and his wife were all in attendance. Besides being over 100oF, lacking vegetables, and generally unnecessary, as were most things in training; it was a pretty cool event! We presented our families with some thank-you certificates because Paraguayans love certificates and some people gave us their best wishes for our service. My highlight, as you may have noticed, was the guest of honor and his wife, the US Ambassador to Paraguay. After showing up only 45 minutes late with an entourage of security detail, Ambassador Thessin and his wife gave an impressive performance to the people of Paraguay, PC staff, and the newest Peace Corps Volunteers of Paraguay. After making it clear that knowing Spanish nor Guaraní are requirements to be the ambassador in a painful speech that I could have written in my first three weeks of Spanish instruction in high school, the ambassador was kind enough to turn it over to his wife who, thankfully, didn’t even make the effort to speak a language that over half the guests in attendance would understand, and just addressed us in English. She described her experience with culture shock and how she can relate to our experience of serving and living alone for 27 months in a foreign country with a delightful story about the semester she studied abroad in a University in India. After describing how bad culture shock got with ‘the shakes’ and how she sought help with a monk, she only confirmed for everyone that she indeed has never left the US embassy when, during her speech, she began to call for and pet the flea-infested stray dogs wandering in and out of the ceremony. All in all, a fun day in Paraguay that ended with cake and sugar and awkward goodbyes.

So on we went to Asuncion to spend the weekend and celebrate officially being Peace Corps Volunteers. It was really strange to go from PC staff constantly knowing where we are and caring about our whereabouts to the life of a volunteer that basically has suggestions of when and where to be but no actual way of monitoring it. I mean, we are supposed to let PC staff know when we leave our sites but even that is granting us more freedom than we’ve experienced thus far and was much needed (middle school graduation, remember?). When I landed in Asuncion, Paraguay a little over three months ago, I remember thinking to myself that this was one of the dirtiest cities that I’ve visited in the world - and I saw Cedar Rapids after the floods. Now, however, after months of living in a small town with one bar and one restaurant (whose owners both know us very well now), the city of Asuncion has become the city of ~dreams~. In reality, Asuncion is just like any other “large” city in the world with places to shop (price tags conveniently all listed in USD), places to drink & dance, restaurants with vegetables, and even several McDonald’s. It was a much-needed weekend for everyone and became obvious quickly that the capitol of this country will become a sanctuary of sorts for the next two years.

By Sunday morning we had said our goodbyes to fellow volunteers and set out for our sites, where we are supposed to begin our integration, as well as beginning the search for our future homes for ourselves. A more realistic house-hunters international, if you will. I will be living in an abandoned health post out in the middle of my community, Nuahi. Overall, finally being a volunteer and out of middle school rules even though I miss seeing friends everyday in language classes. Cheers to friends and family near and far - happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Little Mess


It all starts with the Salto Cristal; this is the bus line that you’ll take to come visit me in my permanent site. It’s one of the older bus lines in Paraguay and if you get the chance to ride on it, I dare you to look out the front window: it’s a lot like what I imagine space travel to be like. After about four hours on the Salto and through the beautiful Paraguayan countryside, you’ll come to a fork in the road with a sign that reads Bienvenidos a Nuahi I. That’s right, after nearly two years of the Peace Corps process, I finally have a my permanent site and the community where I’ll be living for the next two years. Nuahi I – not to be confused with Nuahi II, which is coincidentally only 5K further down the road – is a peaceful little community located near the town of Ybycui, just outside the Ybycui National Park. There are about 50 houses in the community as well as a nice primary school and high school where I’ll be teaching English and computer classes (they have four computers at the school, which is extremely rare and pretty awesome). Felix is the community leader that requested my help through the Peace Corps and I’ll be staying with him and his big family for the next three months; and for those of you keeping track at home, I think this is host family number 5. I spent five days visiting last week and although it was very overwhelming, I really enjoyed my stay overall. Everyone in the community was very welcoming and hospitable, and appears to be excited that I’ll be living there. The name of the community, Nuahi, means “little mess” in Guaraní, and I really like that. With only a short introduction, I personally didn’t find it to be much of a little mess; but hopefully, with two years ahead of me, I can make it a little less so.

My first day in my site, I decided to go up to the high school to get to know the principal and the teachers. So I walked over to the school noticing along the way that it sort of looked like rain. As it turns out, Paraguayans don’t believe in work or leaving the house when it rains so one of the teachers decided not to come in and teach (extremely common). So after I met a few students and the teachers that were there, I introduced myself to the principal right before classes were about to start. During the conversation he noticed that the one teacher didn’t show up to teach and therefore the kids were starting to head home. I don’t know really what happened in the next 60 seconds but somehow the principal decided that I was the one that should fill in for the teacher so he called all of the students back, introduced me in front of the class, and left me to…teach? So I’m thinking, okay, act cool, use this as an opportunity to get to know some of the teenagers in the community and explain that you are not a spy from America sent to steal their water (a lot of people actually think this). I spend about an hour just chatting with the class, explaining why I am going to be living there, seeing if they had questions, doing an activity that I made up (years at camp paid off), and then defaulting to the important stuff: easy cultural questions about how close I live to Justin Bieber and how often I see Lady Gaga out and about. Somehow while talking up in front of the class - don’t ask me how I did it - but I got my foot stuck in this shelf thing under one of the desks. Again, thinking, act cool, wait until you excuse them and you can deal with this situation on your own. At this point I thought I had entertained someone else’s class long enough and told them they were free to go because I had nothing else to “teach” (not to mention my foot was still stuck in a desk). Unfortunately for me, they were having a good enough time talking about the real issues of the world, and just would not leave. I kept telling them they should head out but they just kept saying they were fine and wanted to talk more about America, which I should see as a pretty good sign. So here I am, first day on the job, and my foot is stuck in a desk - at this point it’s fallen asleep, but I’m still trying to act cool even though I’m ready to go home because I’m done talking about Beyonce and her love life. Finally, I surrender to the situation completely and confess to the class that my foot is stuck and asked two students to help me remove it from the desk. Foot extracted, blood returned, class dismissed. Definitely not my strongest entrance, but they seemed to enjoy it and I’m sure it made for some quality dinner conversations later at home.

We now have less than two weeks left in training and it’s going by really quickly. We had a great Thanksgiving at the ambassador’s house in Asuncion and we have a lot of cool activities in the coming days. Our official swearing-in ceremony is next Friday, the 7th and after a weekend in the city, I’ll move to my site (via the Salto Cristal) with what I can fit on my back. I feel slightly homeless, but I’m very excited to return permanently to my “little mess.” 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wildlife


Tuesday 11/13/12

This is a blog subject, if you will (I clearly don’t know how to blog, let alone the blog terminology), that I’ve been meaning to write for a while and it’s time I’ve gotten around to it. I have to dedicate this to a new friend, Erin, whose pet owl most unfortunately met the end of its short life yesterday when a cat ate its head off. It was this weekend, as I was reading my book outside in the shade of a mango tree, that I realized I needed to address (for memory’s sake) some of the wildlife around me. I was sitting there reading and waiting for my clothes to dry in the sun when I mumbled something under my breath like “why won’t those damn crows shut up?” Suddenly, however, I realized that those weren’t crows – nor are there crows anywhere nearby; those are small parrots, and they’ve too easily blended into the background of my everyday life here along with many other things. So yes, parrots have now replaced crows in my life as the annoying birds that make too much noise and steal my corn. My friend, Kylynn, was given one little parrot as a pet this weekend and we fortunately found another home for it. As I said earlier, my friend Erin had a pet owl as a result of a wild beehive capture gone wrong. Additionally, toucans have begun to fly overhead lately during the fruit season. As a rule of thumb, I generally steer clear of birds and cats and now after the cat vs. owl catastrophe I have further reason not to trust either animal enough to want to spend time trying to raise one.

Some other weird animals? About six houses down, another trainee is living with a family whose home is set back further from the road in the jungle where there are usually about 15 wild monkeys around. I thought they were pets until I went over to see them and they are legitimately wild monkeys that the family has to be wary of so that the monkeys don’t run off with their belongings into the jungle. Some volunteers think the snake and spider situation is exciting and exotic and I have to say if I see anything too dangerous in my house, it will make me rethink my dedication to my service. Tarantulas are definitely a thing here, as are scorpions and poisonous snakes. Anacondas live close enough that when I asked my family about them, they offered for a family member to take me to the nearest lake to look for one on the weekend. I politely declined such an exotic opportunity and I don’t care if that makes me boring.

As far as dogs go, I’m pretty torn. I don’t know how long it will be until I break down and get a dog of my own, but it may be inevitable. The problem, of course, is bringing it back with me to the states in two years. Lots of volunteers make it happen and pay for all of the vaccinations and transportation costs, but it’s clearly a ton of work. Arguably, getting a dog is worth the cost when I’m living alone in a different country speaking a forgotten jungle language constantly and I just want to speak English to something, albeit, a dog. If you were worried about where I’d find a dog here, please don’t worry; mosquitoes are the only things that outnumber the dogs. I’ve had several neighbors, family members, and strangers try to sell or even just give away one of their many dogs. I know I could easily snatch a dog off the street and no one would notice; it’s just that the street dogs travel in packs in Paraguay. These street dogs have ill intentions, no plans of making friends with humans, and chase me down the street whenever I run. Literally the entire neighborhood knows that I get up and run at sunrise because I wake up everyone on the street. I guess I thought, just maybe, that the dogs in their packs were similar to my favorite childhood movie, Homeward Bound, and wanted to make friends with humans, play catch, and defeat the dogcatcher. Not the case.

So tomorrow I find out my permanent home for the next two years. They try and distract us in the morning by taking us on a ‘cultural excursion’ to the really artistic towns in Paraguay to spend money and get cool things. I’m looking forward to Aregua although we have to really save up our money now in order to be able to afford the next couple of weeks traveling to our sites and in and out of Asuncion. Anyway, tomorrow afternoon they hand us a packet of information about our very own sites. We’re all very excited about it and should be, even though the name of the site will mean very little to us. We get certain information like the size of the site, some of the existing infrastructure, and general location. I think most everyone will be trying to figure out their sites in relation to others’ so that we know how far we have to travel to visit each other; I know I will. It’s hard to get an idea of a location from a piece of paper – so why not visit? How about Friday? Yes, Friday it is. We’ll pack a bag and travel to our new homes to meet our community contact: the person in our site who took initiative and requested our assistance in their site. I’ll spend Friday through Wednesday in my site trying to get some general idea of what it’s about; hopefully it’s not too revealing because I have two years to figure that out! Wednesday I travel back to my current host family to tell my host mom that no one in Paraguay cooks better than her. Speaking of food, next Thursday is possibly my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. We found out that we’ll be spending the entire day at the US Embassy and dining at the Ambassador’s house! All I know is that there’s a pool involved and needless to say, I’m excited to see what our US Ambassador has planned as far as a menu goes. Training pretty much flies by from here until I officially swear in as a volunteer on the 7th of December. It’s an exciting and difficult time because we are all not looking forward to being away from each other but very excited to start our lives in our own sites and have a little more control of our Paraguayan lives. Hopefully I get a great site where you all can come visit and share in some of this crazy wildlife with me. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Long Field


Well I’m wrapping up week six of training now and I had a great week visiting PCV Ashley at her site in the department, Guaira. This week’s event was called Long Field Practice and I was able to get some hands on experience with some of the more technical aspects of my job. Crop rotation, biodiversity, HIV/AIDS, permaculture, Agro-Forestry, and apiculture just to name a few. Vegetable permagardens and bees are really cool and I’m looking forward to working on some of these projects, hopefully soon. I visited Ashley with the rest of my language class – three others – and our professor, Juan. With each site I visit, it’s becoming more and more apparent how different each site and town are from each other; each has its own problems, its own feeling to it. Ashley had one of the bigger sites you can get in the agriculture sector, with 250 houses, and she had her work cut out at this site. Her service will be up in December but she has decided to extend for another four months to finish up some projects that she’s currently working on. Highlights of Ashley’s work for me definitely included the biodigestor project that we learned about. She helped a single Paraguayan mother of two apply for a grant for all of the materials, and was able to get members of their women’s group help her assemble everything. Basically, the woman can fill the 10 meter long plastic structure with cow or pig poop and it produces methane gas that she can hook up to her kitchen stove. It was an awesome display of functionality and sustainability, as it was the Paraguayan woman that was doing the actual explaining of the project to us.

As with all volunteers, it was good to talk to Ashley about a lot of her other non-technical experiences surrounding her service, as well. She spent a lot of time with host families in the beginning and although she didn’t like it, her patience paid off and she landed an incredible house for a good price. She talked about how she deals with the bad days; always try and get out of the house and talk to others, even though it’s the last thing you want to do. Visiting other volunteer’s sites was another great piece of advice -and teaming up to give a presentation to the community is a great way to accomplish something when visiting others’ sites. Ashley has had some security problems in her site and had some difficulty extending her service because of it, but she was able to give some advice on how to avoid and deal with those problems. We also got to talk about the two marathons she ran during her service and I’m pretty sure (if I can afford it) I want to run either the Rio de Janeiro, or the Buenos Aires marathon this year. She came to Paraguay without Spanish and so she chose to focus only on learning that during her service. She was still able to be productive, but it was clear how much more she could have done with both languages; and she said it was her greatest regret, not learning Guaraní. During my visit, I stayed with a 76 year old man who only spoke Guaraní and it was the best host stay yet. We didn’t have much to talk about and I like to think that was fine by both of us. I would get up and run, he would get up and take care of the cows, and then we’d meet back to drink maté together from 6-7 and watch the sunrise. As far away as his grass hut seemed from my home, he was the one who informed me that President Obama won the election and would extend his presidency for another 4 years; the presence of the United States is unbelievably far-reaching.

Other than that, things are going well. We have class this weekend and I’m looking forward to having Sunday off and celebrating my friend, Corey’s birthday. Just as Paraguayans don’t celebrate Halloween, they of course don’t celebrate Thanksgiving so we still have yet to see what we’re doing for that. Fortunately, since we’re in training, Peace Corps is either going to have all of us at the embassy for a big meal or at our Country Director’s house. Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday, especially now in a new country, because it’s a holiday that surrounds great food. We find out our permanent site placements next Wednesday and then go for our first visit that Friday. I’m excited and nervous and about every feeling in between. Our Director of Programming of Training (basically, the VP of PC Paraguay) got a new job as Country Director of Madagascar – how cool is that! And if you’re reading this and you haven’t congratulated my brother, Evan, on winning the state trophy yet, get to it!