As I sip on a hot cup of Green Tea (with real green tea that my Mom brought me from the States) I contemplate on what parts of my life should I update you all on as it has been nearly three months, since my last blog post. Even looking at my last blog post, it lacks information, passion, and my commitment to sharing my Peace Corps experience with the rest of the world. Well I will try my best to update everyone on the many things that I have still been trying to wrap my mind around.
Towards the end of May, I was very much occupied with my garden class in the colegio, as well as a small series on Biodiversity. Peace Corps is loaded with amazing resources and materials to teach about pretty much any topic, anyone could ever be interested in, so fortunately I was able to get a hold on a very lindo poster series about animals and plants, that I think my students really liked learning about. I visited my friends site for our first ever Americana hape where we slaughtered his pet pig Chuck, and prepared him into over five rico varieties of meat, that my 13 year old self ( and Kristy) would have killed me for enjoying every last bite, hasta the fatty skin that still had some hair on it.
Continuing on to June, my days are/were still filled with tons of work in the school garden teaching about different techniques, my favorite topic, companion planting, in which we use science and how plants interact together, to determine where they should be placed in the bed. During this time, I was poorly putting together my own garden, as constant rain, and spells of freezing cold weather, hindered it from being what I dreamt could be like the Secret Garden. During this time I also had Reconnect, which was a three day retreat based on project development in Site, I was fortunate enough to be given permission to bring two contacts, my official contact Catalina, Principal of the Colegio, and my unofficial Contact, Liz Paola, my colleague and partner in everything that I do or teach in the colegio. It is amazing how Peace Corps events like this come at perfect timings, as myself and most of my Volunteer friends, were starting on the downward slope of the Volunteer roller coaster, where we were losing a sense of purpose and clarity of what we are exactly trying to do. This retreat gave us a much needed re-charge to get ourselves and our contacts thinking about the possible projects that we could work on in the community. With my two contacts, we created a great list on the necessities of the community, realizing that possible what is more needed from my community is not just the environmental push in the colegio, but also a need for self-confidence and leadership development amongst the youth and the parents. With this list, I have been able to use it as a tool to keep me focused on the big picture and what I am trying to accomplish in the 2/3 that I have left of my service. Towards the end of June I started my Zumba class in Campo 9, after the first week it became a huge success- I now have classes twice a week, with nearly an hour long routine with on average 12 señoritas y señoras. Around this time I began starting a great friendship with my Profesora friend Liz Paola, this woman now has become my rock, the one person here who continues to inspire me to be a great person and a great volunteer-- looking back now, I wished I would have opened up sooner to here, but than again our friendship did come at the right time and the right place, so I have no regrets.
At the beginning of July my Mom came for a 10 day visit, words cannot even begin to describe how desperate I was to see her, hug her, and spend time with someone who knows me and cares about me. The time we had together flew on by, we spent two days in the capital of Asuncion where we journey through the infamous Mercado 4, a market that sells every thing anyone would ever want or need, it wouldn't be so far to say that they may even sell organs, as famously shown in the film 7 Cajas ( the few movies that exist filmed in Guarani). We then spent a few days in site, where we were stuck mostly indoors due to rain, a few visits to the Colegio and a chance to get to know my host family and my amigovio Francisco. Although communication didn't come with ease, I tried my best to serve as a translator, and general human vibes gave them an idea of what one another was like. Even to the point that with my Mom, Francisco and I, the three of us ate dinner together and piled up in my bed to watch a scary movie. It was a first for all three of us to be in a situation like that, but I would say all of us were very pleased on how the night turned out. After this my Mom and I headed out to the amazing Iguazu Waterfalls, it was amazing to get out of Paraguay, to get a new perspective and reminder of what life is like in a developed country. We wined and diner ourselves to the point of my pants being to small, had my first profesional massage ever (incredible) and of course visited the amazing Iguazu falls. Our visit to the falls was indescribable, you could feel them from over a mile away, the rumbling of the falls created a bone chilling reaction that stayed with me the entire day. After our visit into Argentina, we went back to site for a night to meet my site mate and her boyfriend in Campo 9..... and just like that our ten days were up. It was sad to say goodbye and go back to the life of a Volunteer, but it was also very great to have my Mom see how I live here, now whenever we talk I can share with her things, that she can actually visualize just exactly how my life is or give great advice on situations that she may have never have been able to understand if it wasn't for her visit here.
Right after my Mom leaving I was fortunately distracted by an amazing girls Camp that is led all throughout Peace Corps. I took my host sister Maria (12) and Liz Paola daughter Mila (13) to this camp. For three days we talked about women empowerment, gender equality, leadership training and women's health. Here I met a group of amazing health Volunteers, and met a potentially amazing counterpart in starting a Women's Health Campaign on periods and using re-useable products like DivaCup or cloth lining- Women's health and empowerment has become a very interested and important topic of mine that I hope to share with my Paraguayan community, as well as bring back to the States. The girls loved the camp, it was their first time to every leave their family for that long, and fortunately we didn't have any problems of home sickness, maybe my 6 years as a Camp Counselor helped out in knowing how to work with them.
After nearly a month out of site, I had finally the chance to settle back down to the slow town life style, and adopt a beautiful little girl puppy that we had found abandoned in the street. Without a home, and Pedro falta a companion, I thought she would be a perfect addition to the family--- plus she is just to adorable to pass up. With an unusually fast wagging tail and waist, I decided to name her Samba, after the Brazilian dance, and also the very cheap strong tall can beer that is known to borracharnos. Luckily Pedro and her have been getting along splendidly- all and all I think it was a great idea, though at times she is so small that I think Pedro just thinks of her as a squeaky toy.
Pedro a few weeks ago served great purpose as my guard dog and keeper as the house. We were sleeping on a quiet Sunday night, when Pedro started barking and growing fiercely, after many attempts to get him to quiet down, I heard a few shuffle noises outside, followed by a loud crashing at my door. Already being alert I screamed bloody murder, scaring off what I believe was an attempted robbery at my house. I immediately called Francisco to come over and check things out for me, luckily nothing was damaged or missing from outside, and the next day I bought more locks to better secure my doors and windows, to surely prevent any more robbery attempts. At this moment, I felt very proud of Pedro and how he was able to warn me in advance, serving his purpose as my companion and best friend in site. At the same time know, I had been noticing a bit of a liking he had to nipping and ferociously chasing every person, chicken, cow, or cat that passes by our house or by me. It unfortunately ended up that Pedro and another dog, bit a 12 year old boy ( fortunately not severe) but enough to get Pedro on lock down to the tree, until he can get neutered . I'm hoping that neutering him will calm him down a bit, and give me the opportunity to claim alpha and teach him a few commands- as of now he is a wild one that only listens when he wants to.
I also just got back from another retreat, this one being tech based and only with Liz Paola, we had a great time learning about all the things that we as Volunteers were trained on, way back then in training. It really enforced to our contacts that we aren't lying about these crazy ideas like benches made out of bottles filled with trash, or 4 hour long digging method compared to 1 hour that will make such a better difference in harvest for many of years. From this retreat, we left with a great plan to make three very long eco benches, made with eco-bricks (soda bottles filled with plastic trash), we are now just starting the project, so hopefully the next blog post I can update you all on how it is turning out.
That finally concludes the major projects/events that have been keeping me from this blog- so that is never excuse. My main problem the past two months or so is the constantly changing roller coaster of emotions that comes with being a Peace Corps Volunteer. Life has changed in so many ways that I was not expecting- all for the best- as it is challenging me to become someone great that would not exist without this experience. I think the main difference between the first six months in site and now ( officially more than 8 months in site) is that things were new to me and I was soaking it all in and getting to know all the different people in my community. Now that I am nearly 9 months in site, my relationships with people haven't gotten any better than they were when I first started, in fact sometimes I think they have gotten worse, due to a lack of effort on their parts and at times mine. It can be really difficult sometimes to force myself constantly to try and be friends with people who make zero effort, or often someone who is two faced and talk badly about me to others. This lack of connection or quality relationships in site has put me into a mild depression (situational, as I never experienced this in the United States). Fortunately I am open about my feelings to myself and others and am forcing myself to try and make some great positive changes in my life. So sorry to all my friends and loved ones who probably are thinking I have forgotten about them and our relationships in the States, believe me I haven't, I miss and love you all so much. I've been just trying to work things out on my own.
I promise to get back going on my blog!