Thursday, April 26, 2012

So, I obviously left Paraguay...a year ago. I felt weird continuing to blog on this blog, as it is called ParaguaySchmaraguay, so I've moved to a more general blog to chronicle my adventures elsewhere. I AM hoping to go back to Paraguay for Christmas, but this is really only in the general dreaming steps of the process. If you want to continue to stalk me on the internet, I'd suggest you go here

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Nancy Franke Library

I just got home from La Inauguracion de la Biblioteca de Nancy Franke (or, in ingles: The Inauguration of the Nancy Franke Library). This project has been a long time coming, and I’m completely psyched (I can’t even think of a word that emphasizes this enough) that it has been completed. I know that having accepted the naming of this library after me seems self-centered, but I honestly worked my tuccus off to complete this project, so when the library commission (or what’s left of it) suggested this, I enthusiastically accepted. PLUS, this is now the best fun fact that I’ll probably ever have about myself.

As you may realize, I only have a week left here in my barrio. It is INSANE to me. I honestly have no idea how the past two years have flown by so quickly. I leave on the 15th (next Friday), and then will be in Asuncion to swear out/festejar, and then will head on a 6 week trip through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia with my Peace Corps amiga. Anyway, I have been completely blocking out the fact that time is slipping past and that I’ll be leaving my lovely Villa Madrid so soon. I got choked up about two weeks ago a few times, but ever since have just continued to ignore it. Tonight I gave a speech at our library inauguration in which I talked about how I hoped that the new library would encourage a culture of reading and a renowned unification of the barrio (which is very segregated by section). The people who went were almost all people I have worked with on various projects throughout the past two years, and I got really choked up twice during my speech. I’m not much of a crier—at all—but it just all hit me tonight…unfortunately when I was in front of a crowd (including someone from the municipality). Anyway, the library inauguration was a huge success (despite me having to take two pauses to collect myself). There were a lot of kids and youth, and a lot of people of all ages stayed after to read and admire our wonderful collection of nearly 500 books. I had the pleasure of watching a 45-year-old woman discover the joys and wonders of pop-up books, which was actually a real highlight in my evening.

The library had looked a bit sparse until today, when we decorated it with maps, Paraguayan bicentennial stuff, and photographs taken by 4 neighborhood youth who participated in the Ahecha project. Ahecha (“I see” in Guarani) is a project that gives PCVs 5 cameras to loan to youth for about 6 weeks. The youth then take all sorts of photos, culminating in an exhibit within the neighborhood. They learn all about photography and then the photos are also submitted to the national Ahecha exhibit, in which photos are taken all over Asuncion for a few months. It is a really exciting opportunity for youth, and we had all the photos on display tonight at the library. Though some of the youth didn’t really seem to get the project, I was impressed overall by their work. And their photos added a lot to the library.

Realistically, this is just a really big step for this community library. My follow-up (who is great and meets all of my requirements—Yay!) will continue with projects, hopefully implementing a mobile library project with the schools, several reading/homework/geography clubs, and any other projects you may be able to think of. When I get back to the States (June 3rd—mark your calendars!) I’m hoping to rally a few groups to send down some books. Though we have a lot of children’s books, the books that the typical read-to Norte child grows up reading are IMPOSSIBLE to find in Spanish down here, and I definitely think they’ll be big hits in the library. (I've found that Where the Wild Things Are is truly amazing, regardless of the language it is written in...) That means, I’ll probably be harassing you. So brace yourself to donate to the Nancy Franke Library.

Prison in Paraguay

April 1st, 2011.

I went to prison yesterday. If you know me at all, you’ll understand that I was absolutely thrilled to be there, and then was totally blown away by what I saw. I went with another PCV to this small prison in Emboscada, Paraguay, which is about 20 minutes from my house. I’ve been to about 6 prisons in the US, ranging from camps (very low security where there aren’t even fences around the facility) to maximum security prisons—both state and federal. This was the first time I’d ever been to a prison outside of the US. The prison in Emboscada was shut down about two or three years ago, mostly due to the fact that the facilities were really old (constructed in 1903), and that there was a great deal of violence and murders within the prison walls. They reopened just over a year ago and currently only house just over 100 men. We spoke to the warden, a few guards, and one inmate. (Yes, just a single inmate—I found that to be a bit strange.) The warden explained about the variety of classes (educational and vocational) offered at the prison, showed us an extensive library, and a bakery with brand new equipment. There is a great deal of construction going on right now, mostly by the inmates themselves, to build a new housing facility which will hold about 500 new inmates.

OK, I didn’t finish that blog entry. But, I did go back on Tuesday with my follow-up Volunteer. We were able to actually go in and enter the housing units this time. I can’t figure out if we were only allowed to see them the second time because: A) day 1 was a bad day, B) the first guard showing us around thought we were slightly delicate, or C) because they figured we hadn’t been scared off too badly round one. It was confusing, but really interesting to go in. Again, they only have about 100 inmates currently, so the housing was pretty small. The guys sleep three to a room generally, on mattresses that lay on concrete bed structures. They’re able to have tapestries covering the bars to their cells, personal TVs, and all sorts of things (including hot plates!) that would definitely be considered contraband in most US prisons. We were shown all sorts of really interesting artisan work, like hand-stitched leather-covered terere (the tea, which is served with a thermos, cup, and metal filtered straw) equipment, neat little miniature boats complete with all the necessary ropes, jewelry boxes, and all sorts of other handicrafts. It was really interesting, to say the least. Another PCV (the one I went with originally to the prison) is hoping to help artisans at the prison sell their goods to other PCVs. She and my follow-up are both very interested in doing classes at the prison, though neither of them have worked in the field before. Is it weird that I’m slightly jealous? Maybe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

False alarm

OK, so immediately after posting that last blog entry my power came back on. YES!

Giardia and Power Outages

So, I did my Close of Service medical stuff a couple of weeks ago, and got a phone call from the medical office a few days later saying that I have giardia, which is a gross, though very common intestinal problem amongst PC Volunteers. According to one website, “outbreaks can occur in communities…where water supplies become contaminated with raw sewage.” So, ew. Anyway, apparently mine is minor and fairly dormant, so I’ll take the pills on my last day of service to make sure my system is healthy before I travel through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia…
On a very different note, a few days ago I was visiting Mari, one of my favorite ladies in my site. She asked me if I had heard about the 3 day power outage that was going to happen this week “all over the world” because of “that thing that happened in that other country”. I suggested she was talking about Japan, and she agreed. I laughed at the idea of a 3 day worldwide power outage, assuming she was just messing with me. But, alas, my power went out about ten minutes ago, and now I’m nervous that for some reason we’ll be without power for days. Other PC friends also lost power at the same time, so now I’m getting a bit nervous… We shall see, I guess. It looks like I should prep for a few days of candlelit reading…

Monday, March 28, 2011

Arch Nemesis or My Replacement

I’m having a standoff. With a cat. It started yesterday. It started raining, so I went around my house partially closing the windows to make sure the rain didn’t come in more than was absolutely necessary. This is a tricky maneuver because if the wind blows the right (or should I say wrong?) way, it gets in regardless of what I do. This is, of course, thanks to the fact that my landlord never got around to putting new glass in the broken, and in some cases nonexistent, panes. I did what anyone would do—used cardboard and duct tape to patch them myself. It’s generally effective, but after living in my house for a year and a half, some water is inevitable. Anyway, so I shut the window in my room last, and made eye contact with this mangy looking white cat sitting outside. I registered the look it gave me immediately. The look was that that a teenager gives his parents when they’re about to leave him/her in charge of the house for the weekend. It says, "Of course I won’t have a party", but you know that is exactly what he/she is planning. The look the cat gave me said, “Of course I wouldn’t dream of going through the window into your house—when you’re home.” I hate this cat. This morning I saw it again sitting on a table that I abandoned on my front porch about a year ago in hopes that someone would steal it. I noticed the cat’s ear, which was completely black and looked nearly rotten. But, rather than feel sorry for said cat, I just saw the look in his eyes and knew that he was just waiting for me to move out in a few weeks so he can claim my house for himself. Adding insult to injury, he is completely white. The only reason I mention this is that last October, shortly after moving into my house, I came home to find 3 totally white baby kittens stashed behind my refrigerator. It was disgusting. But not nearly as disgusting as knowing that the next tenant to my lovely home will be this disgusting creature that has already probably been in my house, wreaking havoc but finally catching the lone mouse that keeps scurrying around my kitchen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shakira and Wanna-Be Robbers

So I went to see Shakira last night. As I recently mentioned, I’m not a huge Shakira fan. I simply went because I had to do my medical testing and I could get reimbursed while hanging out in Asuncion with a bunch of my PC friends. There are about 200 PCVs in Paraguay and I’d guess at least 50 were there. While we were waiting in line to get into the “campo” section (the cheapest area), a camera guy approached my group. He wanted to interview some of us. I stepped forward (of course), and answered some questions, briefly described Peace Corps, and then was asked what Shakira song I most wanted to hear. I stalled. As mentioned, I’m not some sort of die hard Shakira fan. I’m not even a quasi-Shakira fan. She sings. Her stuff is EVERYWHERE in Paraguay, frequently being bumped from passing cars and neighborhood stereos. I said the only song that I can easily name—Waka Waka. I’m not sure of this song’s popularity in the States, but here is was a constant reminder that the World Cup was happening. Apparently this was an acceptable answer, and he moved on. No other PCV moved to be interviewed, so I was the only one to represent the US’s presence at Shakira.

We roamed around the “campo” area, or the field, where there was no seating. We danced and hung out all over. My best PCV friend, Barbara, and I wandered amongst PCVs asking if they were hungry…for a sandwich. This is a silly idea, of course. It is a ridiculous move that my sister and I used to employ in high school. You approach a guy and ask if he’s hungry, possibly suggesting that he looks famished. He is usually quite confused, until the person behind him and in front of him begin dancing and you ask if he wants a sandwich. At this point he usually realizes that you’re not trying to give him a BLT or something of the like. It amuses me. Yes, I’m 26. It’s the little things that mean so little.

Just after we satisfied the hunger of a PC friend of ours and took a picture of the three of us, I realized my bag had been unzipped. I saw that a guy and girl were standing right next to us and had been there for a bit. Though there was quite a crowd, it was easy to walk through so anyone passing through had no reason to find a road block. I grabbed the guy’s wrist with my left hand while my right hand fished around in my purse to see if anything was missing. My wallet was still there, but my phone had mysteriously disappeared. I asked the guy, in not the most delicate language, where in the world my phone was. My grip on his wrist was tight. He told me that a girl had stolen my phone and run through the crowd. Still holding tight, I told him to find her, and we rushed through the crowd. His female friend had disappeared at this point. He led me through the crowd quickly, but then led me back out into another group of PCVs. He told me he had lost the girl who had supposedly stolen my phone. I saw my friend Andy aka Sparkles and told him this *#*#(!!! guy had stolen my phone and to hold him. Miraculously, at that very moment the guy told me my phone had been handed to him. I took it in one hand while still holding hard on his wrist. I turned it on to be sure it was actually mine while giving him a lecture about how I only earn as much as Paraguayans and work to improve my community and how he should be ashamed of himself. (Yes, I was on a bit of a pedestal.) It was obvious that it was my phone once it turned on, and I told him to “leave us in peace” (which is much much stronger in Paraguayan Spanish), and then slapped him across the face. I’m sad to say that it was done with my left hand, and therefore possibly not as hard as I’d like. Maybe the slap wasn’t the most peaceful option, but getting my cell back was certainly the highlight of my night—even after hearing Waka Waka.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shards of Glass and Shakira

OK, just to clarify, I do not have dengue. I had some sort of terrible sickness that resembled dengue, but it passed and I survived (clearly). A ton of people have had the same symptoms in my neighborhood the past few weeks, though for some it has turned out to be dengue. I’m hoping that all of these cases of actual dengue (not its terribly uncomfortable and painful doppelganger) will make the municipality of Limpio come out to Villa Madrid to fumigate. Fumigation would help, but actually getting rid of dengue would involve people cleaning up their yards, keeping their homes immaculate, and maybe taking down those oh-so-lovely shards of glass that often line stone walls to keep people from climbing them. I’m not going to hold my breath.

Today I held a meeting to talk about the library and community problems. The head of the bus line 48, which goes in and out of my neighborhood about every 10 minutes, was there too. We had asked Linea 48 to donate some money for our library project, and in return he asked us to hold a community meeting to talk about various assaults that have happened on their buses within my neighborhood. The meeting went well, though started 45 minutes late, as per usual. I’m hoping that a kind of neighborhood watch group will be formed as a result, but I’m leaving in just 6 weeks (!) so I will not take on this project. We shall see. There is always a lot of crime in my neighborhood. As the PCV who lived here before me said, “Villa Madrid is a relatively safe place with some petty theft and the occasional homicide.” I’ve not heard of any homicides since I’ve been here, but I’ve always loved the optimism of that phrase.

Anyway, things are winding down, though I have maybe about 4 free days until the end of March. That being said, this week I will spend 3 days in Asuncion to have my Close of Service medical and dental exams and to go see Shakira. No, I’m not that big of a Shakira fan, but how can you say no to seeing her in concert while in Latin America?? Answer: You cannot. (Or at least I cannot.)

Shopping and Champagne

I’m not sure if I’m alone in this or not, nor do I really know where this urge has come from. Maybe it’s from watching Pretty Woman many years ago? I’ve always wanted to sit and drink champagne (and maybe smoke a cigar, though I dislike cigars) as people my same size parade around in various outfits at a store as I decide what I like and dislike. It simply sounds like the best way to shop. Though that did not happen (sigh), on Thursday I may have come as close to that as I’ll ever get. Except it was in a book store. And there was no champagne. As I’ve mentioned, my library committee received the grant from the US that we’ve been waiting for. On Thursday I went with a youth from my neighborhood to pick out books. He had to leave early, so I was sola for quite some time picking out books and shelves for our brand new community library. The book store employees realized just how much I was there to spend (about $2,000) and honestly treated me like royalty. They gave us a HUGE discount and then took our new purchases and me back to my neighborhood. This week we’re going to spend the rest of the money…maybe I’ll just go ahead and buy myself some champagne.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dengue and the Chosen Ones

So this week has been a bit crazy. I had been feeling kind of sick last Wednesday, but didn't really have time to be sick, so I pushed through it. Saturday I went to help a fellow PCV plant trees with an environmental camp she was doing in her site. By the time the camp was over and we had eaten lunch, I was just feeling completely exhausted. I had been planning on going to a birthday party for a 15 year old with my favorite family in my barrio, but just wasn't up for it. I did basically nothing on Saturday evening, and when I woke up on Sunday I felt terrible. I realized I had been taking ibuprofen steadily for 5 days, so decided to wait a while until I could figure out if I had a fever. I didn't feel particularly sick--but every muscle and joint in my body hurt, I had a headache, and I was just exhausted. When I finally took my temperature, I had a fever of 103!! I called the medical office, but was basically told to keep taking ibuprofen and toughen up. I said it seemed a lot like the symptoms of dengue (which is a major problem in my barrio), and the doctor agreed with me, but still said there was nothing I could do. Thanks. Anyway, I took two Benadryl and knocked myself out for about 13 hours. Monday I felt a bit better and my fever had gone down to just over 100, so I read in my hammock until my trainee got to my house for a four day visit. (Yes, obviously all I want to do when I have a high fever is host someone I don't know for four days.) The visit was good--I basically just had to show the trainee what life is like for a real live Peace Corps Volunteer. That included explaining that stuff gets cancelled last minute constantly, and that about half of the kids show up for school if there is rain, which there was.

Anyway, I survived the week, and don't think I still have a fever. (Small celebretory dance.) I also got a phone call from the Peace Corps Office yesterday. This year marks the 45 year anniversary for Peace Corps Paraguay, Paraguay's bicentennial, and the Peace Corps 50th anniversary. Obviously the PCO decided to celebrate all those things together. They're making a new Peace Corps Paraguay video, which I assume will be shown to new trainees here, and to promote PC PY in general. They chose me as one of the PCVs to interview! I'm not sure what this will entail, but am feeling pretty...ummm...special. Hopefully things turn around in my barrio in the next few weeks and people stop cancelling nearly every event I'm a part of so I can become slightly more positive before this interview. It has been, to say the least, a really rough week. I'm feeling pretty discouraged and frustrated. Here's hoping things turn around and I don't come off as a total Negative Nancy in this interview.....