Thursday, October 21, 2010


Well life, although seems pretty normal to me here now, is by no way "normal" by an american standard. Its really kinda nuts what we do here in peace corps. They just kinda throw us into a city and say "well go to work", There is no real direction of what we are supposed to be doing, and it all depends on what the community wants. So the people I work with will generally just ask me if I know anything about such and such a subject, and even if I dont know too much, I will say yes. Then I go to work researching the subject and figure out a way to teach the subject in my broken spanish. We rely a lot on dynamics and games to teach. Its actually kinda funny, but it also makes us a lot less threatening while still getting our point across. It is just really hard to do what we do because we kinda just walk into organizations and schools who dont really "need" us but they are not going to say no to help, and we have to create a job for ourselves. For instance, it was totally my idea to make a school garden, I didnt really know anything about gardening beforehand, but I pretend I do. A lot of my job is just trying to get the educators and other people I work with to improve quality, be more dynamic, and more involved in their teaching and their community. It doesnt really matter where I work, or for that matter how often I am working, so at times it is really hard to stay motivated, other times it is really hard to get frustrated with the people because they are happy with the way things are. It is also hard to tell if the work you are doing is actually doing anything for anyone, or if you are just wasting your time. I think a lot of people also dont take me as serious as they would if I were speaking perfectly. I think sometimes they think Im stupid or I dont know what Im talking about, just because I cant say it perfectly in spanish. Then there are still other people who just have hidden resentments for the USA and its people. They don't really believe that the only reason im there is to work with them to improve the community. But on the other hand there are some really great things. Some people actually are motivated to work with you and improve their community. Some people understand where you are coming from and are willing to help and support you wherever they can. You meet some of the greatest, most interesting, and generous people during your service. You meet people and have experiences that you will never forget. You are basically forced to grow a lot as a person, and it makes you gain patience, understanding, and humility. It also makes you thankful for everything you have, and helps you understand yourself better. So, although there are days that you just want to stay in bed, and forget all the things that your are working so hard to do, it is worth it, and its what I signed up for. I was hoping that the experience would make me a better person, and I already think I have accomplished that, at least to some small degree. And although we all want to create some project that helps a whole population, for generations to come, as long I am making the difference in the life of at least one person down here, it is worth it right? Its a really crazy thing that we do, but I do believe that it is something that is worth doing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ups and Downs

Well its been quite some time since I wrote my last blog, and a lot has actually happend since the last one. I did go to Iguazu falls, thank you Melissa for coming down to visit. Iguazu falls is everything people say it is and more. The place is incredible. I think it would be worth it to come to south america if you were only going to go there. My friend Jose Luis and I took an over night bus there and met up with Melissa. We did the boat tour which although was worth it was quite expensive. I screamed like a little girl when they went up close to the waterfall. Afterwards we were soaked and it was kinda cold that day, so that wasnt too fun. We met a few cool people at the hostel, and the next day we headed out early.
Jose Luis went home, and Mel and I wanted to visit another city in argentina while we were heading back. We decided to go to posadas because it was on the way. On our way we saw where Che guevara was from, but we didnt have time to stop at his house and see the museum in his house. We got to posadas we just enough time to go to downtown and grab a bite to eat.
Posadas is really pretty in the downtown area but there were also a lot of poorer neighborhoods as well we found out when we got on a but to go downtown but it turned out that it was going the oposite direction. We ended up in a slum on the edge of the city, but luckily we just stayed on the bus and it took us wher we originally wanted to go. When we got back to the bus station we though we had quite a bit of time to kill until our bus to Buenos Aires left, so we were just hanging out watching a movie that they had playing at the bus station. A couple of street kids came into the station and were asking for coins, and afterwards started to play around and were goofing around. I started talking to them a bit, and Mel thought they were cute and wanted to take one home with her. I asked them why there were not at home, one laughed and said that the other one couldnt go home. I asked the other on why. He told me he didnt want to go home. When I asked him why he didnt he told me that if he goes home everyone is going to hit him. Just after the kids ran off, one of the ticket agents came up to us and asked us if were were larsen, and young. He told us that our bus was leaving us, but we both thought that we had two more hours to wait before our bus left. Luckily although we made them fifteen munites late, they waited for us.
So if you are going short distances in south america, bus is the way to go, but more specifically you need the full bed seats. It is a really nice way to travel. You have everything, they give you snacks, a good meal, champange, and the seat goes all the back so it is easy to streach out and sleep. It was actually fun to be on a bus for 10 hours.
When we got to Buenos Aires we met up with my peace corps friends Rob and Josh. We rented out an apartment for the week in the nieghborhood palermo. Palermo is really nice and laid back, they have a lot of little cafes and boutiques. I really like BA as a whole as well. The city is just as big or bigger than new york, but it never feels sketchy, or really congested. Well at least in the parts of town that we visited. There are a lot of sights to see, and some really pretty parks, but I dont think I can even beging to explain it all. We did go to see Evita Paron´s grave, and we went to La boca to have a steak dinner and watch tengo dancers. Other than that we went out a lot, spent too much money, and drank a bit too much too. But is was great to have an apartment to go back to, and to be able to cook.
Now the bus ride back was not so fun, because we decided to be cheap and buy tickets for seats that were only semi beds, which means that they only go 60 degrees back. Big mistake. My legs were killing me by the end of the 18 hour bus ride, and they hurt for about three days after. After I got back we I immediatly went out of town again because we had to go back to our training sight for and in service training for three days. So after all that traveling it was realy hard to come back and go to work again. Especially because my projects have kinda been stalling out lately.
I am getting a little bummed out with working at the school because it seems as though the kids dont really pay attention, and what makes it worse is that the teacher leaves me alone. Its not that I cant do the lesson on my own, it is just the lessons are supposed to involve the teacher as well, and she is supposed to help me with insight especially when I am lacking language ability. My garden project still hasnt really started because we are still working on cleaning up the space needed to plant the garden. There was a mountain of roofing tiles and cement that had to be moved, and what makes it worse is although I asked the kids to bring tool, none of them do, so we end up working by hand. It is a really slow process, but I am just going to not worry about it too much. If we get it done, and we plant a garden great. But its not the end of the world if we dont, and all I can do is my best to motivate them.
My Olympia day at the dequeni foundation went fairly well, it wasnt a complete desaster. I had about fifteen volunteers, about half paraguayan, and half peace corps volunteers. For that reason alone I think it was successful, but the activities went pretty well also. We had games, charlas, and interactive learning activities. The only problem was that at first no one was listening to me and the groups were changing before I told them to go to the next station. This caused a lot of confusion, but all in all everthing worked out OK.
Last week there was a big convention here called Foro de las americas. There were people from all over the world here, right close to where I live participating in activities and workshops that were designed to address the social problems that we are facing today in all of the americas. But the truth is that the forum was mostly for latinoamericans. I went to several of the workshops, and they were very interesting, but I realized that I probably shouldnt have been walking around the convention with a nametage that said I was from the states. In one of the classes a guy turned to me and asked me out of nowhere if I was sad that there was no more land left in the world to colonized in the name of the United States. I told him that I was actually againts the polocy of colonization, but it didnt really matter, he didnt like me just because I was from the states. Another guy sitting next to me told me not to worry, he said people that come to the forum usually are not for colonization. All in all though, the convention was a really cool experience. I got to see the president of Paraguay speak, and the nobel prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. I also met some really cool new people, and inparticular I met a group of people who are all social work majors from the national university here.
Apart from all that, I did start going to a gym here because I am getting fat from all the oil and meat I eat here. I also thought it would be a good way to diversify my friends a little bit, since all my friends are kids here.
I think thats all I have for now, but if you have questions or want me to talk about something specific, please tell me. It is hard to motivate myself to write this, I think the only reason I did it today it becaue my sister katie told me to do it, so if you wanna read more, just let me know.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Daily Grind

So I feel pretty settled in now, and I am getting used to my daily routine. I have been quite busy which is good, but sometimes I wish I could have a little more time just to relax and hang out. From what I hear from other volunteers that I trained with I am one of the busiest right now. Many of the volunteers that went to the more rural parts of the country are not even supposed to start doing things untill the three months in. They are just supposed to get to know people. I feel like ive met so many people that I will never get all their names strait. Some of the volunteers from my training group get mad at me because they say I am missing out on the "real" peace corps experience, and they say that they are mad at me because I have so many things to do in my site and so many resources. I guess I agree with them to some extent. I really havnt had to change my lifestyle all that much. And I even found a supermarket in town that has a couple isles dedicated to american food imports. I bought pancakes and syrup the other day. But then again whos to say what the real peace corps experience is.
I have been trying really hard to get some projects going both in the Dequeni foundation, and the school ive been working with, but I feel kinda like im just spinning my wheels. I am still trying to get the school garden started, but all the teachers in the entire county went on strike and I wasnt able to do anything for a while. And now they are on winter break, so it wont be till august till it finally gets rolling. I was feeling really discourage one day because it seemed like all that I was working for was just in vain, but the next day the principle and the teacher I was working with started working on my project when I wasnt even there, preparing the space for the garden, and that made me feel a lot better about the work Im doing here. I guess I just need to do my best and realize that things arent always going to go the way I envision them, and that I cant force the people here to do what I want. I think if I relax a little more I might actually get a little bit more done.
As far as the foundation, some days I feel kinda useless there, but I do still like haning out with the kids. They are really great, Most days when I come to work, five or six of them will run up to me and give me a big hug. Usually brightens up my day. My supervisor gave me a big project to organize in a couple weeks. She wants me to plan an entire day of games and activities for about 170 people, and I have to be the one coordinating it all. I asked for a bunch of help from my fellow volunteers, but I am nervous that it is all just gonna blow up in my face. We shall see I guess.
I am finally going to start working with the adolecent part of the foundation, we are doing a leadership camp, and the people I am working with gave me about three hours to fill with workshops. It is kinda funny being a volunteer because usually when someone gives you more work to do and doesnt increase your pay you get angry, but as a volunteer you just get excited when you get more and more work.
That is about all I have for now, but if you would like to know something specific please let me know. I dont really know what to write most of the time, and I and not sure if people really read these blogs, so I have been slacking on keeping up on them. Bye for now.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

So much happens everyday that I dont really know where to start on a blog. I could blog everyday but it is kinda hard to explain how it really is here, and I feel like I am not doing it justice by talking about a few things, but I dont know any better way.
I am mainly working with the foundation called dequeni. As I explained before we work with kids that normally would be working on the streets. The organization is one of the leaders in the country in the fight against child labor. But the kids usually come from bery humble socioeconomic backgrounds as well. Many of them are starved for attention and have behavior problems. Most days I help them with their homework, and I am trying to teach some of them how to read. We also play games and do arts and crafts activities. We just celebrated the international day against childhood labor, and we had a big celebration at the foundation with games for all the kids, and their parents. But it was a real desaster trying to organize a hundred and fifty kids into groups to play games. Last week I also implemented a new form of rewards and punishments for the kids based on their behavior everyday. I was really nervous that the people that I work with wouldnt like it because it creats more work for them, but they really seems to be using it, and it really works with the kids.
I am also working with a school that right next to my house. I am trying to start a school garden, but I am having a really hard time getting it started. I want the garden to have a deeper meaning for the kids, and I want them to understand that maintaining the garden is like maintianing the environtment. My site has a problem with trash managment, and littering, so Im trying to teach the kids at the school about the importance of taking care of their school, and their community. My friend jose luis and I tought 10 clases the other day about the decompasition of trash and the importance of not littering. I dont know if Im getting through to them though. Well see I guess.
OH and you wouldnt believe how crazy they are here for the world cup. There are paraguayan flags everywhere and I think there will be riots if they win, and also when they loose.
I am having a really hard time writing in english right now, so dont make fun of my spelling.
Until next time

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Swearing In

Well, I am finally a volunteer now. Its been quite a ride but training is finally over. No that it was really that hard or I was having a bad time, but I have been really excited to get started. The last week was pretty emotional though. On wednesday we had a goodbye party with all of our families. There was a lot of emotions expressed and tears shed.
On friday we all went to the US embassey for our swear in. There was a speech by the director of peace corps paraguay, and the Ambassador, but Rob was selected to be the guest volunteer speaker and just put the other two to shame with his speach it was so good. After that it was a bit of a party weekend. We were all given till tuesday to get to our respective sites, so everyone in our group stayed in the same hotel for the weekend. You can probably imagine what kinds of things insued when you put 5+ americans in the same hotel in a forein city. But besides that the weekend was really cool too. There are also volunteers from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan here, and there was a big sportsday mixer in the main park in Asunsion. We played ultimate frisbee and basketball with them. Then later that night there was a benifit concert put on by Peacecorps volunteers along with volunteers from Japan, and korea in nice little open air bar.
On monday I had to go get the rest of my bags from my host family in my previous house. I also took a telescope that my mom sent down here to give to me sister. You should have seen the look on their faces when I pulled it out of my bag. My host sister has been wanting a telescope for years, and wants to study astronomy in school. It was such a good present, THANKS MOM!. On the way back to my new site, I got on a bus alone with all my things, and right when I got on two guys in the back of the bus started yelling at me to come sit by them. I thought I might know them from playing basketball or something so I went back to sit by them. When I realized that I didnt know them and that they were just two drunk guys it was too late. They were rediculous and were screaming and shouting at me. Saying I am marine Paraguayo, I am you protector. And they were screaming estados unidos. They made me sit between them and one of the guys grabbed my back to hold it for me. It made me a bit nervous but I ignored it for the moment. When they both got up to pee out of the back door of the moving bus, I grabbed my back and moved forward a seat. They were trying to offer me prostitutes and what not and being complet jerks to everyone on the bus. They kept taking my hat and giving me theirs. The entire bus was staring and laughing at me, but it was a really uncomfortable situation. Then all the sudden they pulled out a knife, and asked me if it made me nervous. I dont know why, or what possesed me but I just took it out of the guys hand, because I figured he was joking around, but now that I think about it he could have been serious. I told him that I wasnt scared and pulled my machete out of my bag that my professor had given me. That made the two drunk guys laugh a ton, so luckily nothing bad happend.
The next day I went to the foundation where Im going to work at, just to tell them that I was there and that I would start to work this week. When I go there I saw that they were having a huge 25th aniversary party. I was joking with them saying that they shouldnt have gone to so much trouble for my welcome party. there were like a hundred people there that all work for the foundation in one way or another. For some reason all the women there wanted to take pictures with me. They told me I looked like a movie star, but by the end of the day I was blinded by all the flashes. It got the the point that the person running the meeting on the microphone started joking around saying that if they wanted a picture with me they had to get in line and pay 5mil guarani first. It was really funny.
That was yesterday, and for the rest of the day I was organizing my things in my new room, and I built a makeshift cloths rack. I was pretty proud of what I built with just my letherman tool.
That pretty much brings us up the the present.
Write me sometime will you, Id love to hear from you all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


So I finally know where I am going to be living for the next two years. It wasnt much of a suprise though because it is just outside of Asuncion. The name of the town is Fernando de la Mora. I was a little bit worried when I got the site assignment because I know that there had been a volunteer there before, and that the previous volunteer did not like his site. But when I got here I realized it is a great site and I dont understand why he didnt like it.

First of all I am going to be working with a foundation called DEQUENI. The foundation provides a place for kids during the day since their school only last four hours a day. Normally the kids would be working in the streets trying to sell just about anything, (gum, candy, fruit, newspapers, bingo tickets) but this program gets them off the street, they feed them lunch, and a snack and it also, provide them with some learning as well. The kids get a little bit of homework along with their lunch to ensure that they are doing more than just feeding their stomachs. There are only two professors and there are about 150 kids that come on any given day throughout the week, so you can imagin why they might need some help. There is also an adolecent division of the foundation that helps adolescents get jobs as grocery baggers. There are currently about 1500 baggers thoughout paraguay that the agency is responsible for. The agency also functions as a technical college when there are classes in motorcycle mechanics, hair styling, sewing, etc. All the departments need help so each of them seems to be pressuring me a bit to help their sector.

Secondly there is a youth group called J por J (Jovenes por Jovenes) that is part of the local church. I went to the church on Sunday just to find out a little bit about them, but they ended up introducing me to everyone and making me talk in front of everyone about what I was doing there. It was a really fun and interesting group that seems to do a lot of work for the community, and it happend to be their 11th aniversary. They were singing and dancing, and they made me get in the middle of the circle and dance for everythone.

Third, there is a highschool just a block from my house here, and the principle was excited to see me and to have me teach a class in their school. I talk to a professor about doing self esteem classes, classes about planning for the future, and also doing projects dealing with the environment.

Fourth I went to the city hall and talked to the secratary of womens affairs, (I think it would be called in english) and they said they would have a whole list of things that I could do if I so desire, which may include teaching english.

So if I want I could have work to do seven days a week. This makes me happy actually, because I am really excited to get started. I am really tired of training, and right now it actually feels like I am a volunteer but I have to keep reminding myself that I have three more weeks of training. I am here in Fernando de la Mora now, just to get to know the community and some of the institutions and resources in the area. I have already been able to help out with the kids at the agency though, and it is really fun. Today they were doing long division, and I almost didnt remember how to do it.

My family here is really cool too, Ive been teeching them card games, like spoons, and BS. There are two girls 9 and 11, and their cousin lives there too, he is 14. The parents are really nice and laid back, and the family is accustomed to having volunteers with them because it is the same house that the previous volunteer was living in. For some reason the volunteer left me a bunch of books, all of his furniture, shoes, and a basket ball, and a football. For the duration of training I had been thinking that finding a place to live and starting to integrate myself into the community was going to be really hard, but I cant believe how easy it has all been. My site is also close enough to Asunsion that I can take one bus and get to about anywhere. I went to a movie on Saturday with one of my co-workers. Everyone has been really nice.

This one things that sucks is that my good friend that Ive been hanging out with throughout training got assigned to a city about seven hours away, but it probably will be the best for him. We keep making jokes to our trainers and the director of the program that they are always trying to separate us and kill our bromance. But its all good, because everyone has to come through my site to go to all of the meetings that we have in Asuncion. Also it is a good site to have if anyone is going to come visit me, because I can get to the airport by bus in a half an hour. SO COME VISIT ME:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Long field practice

So, this was a particuarly long week this week. This week we had what is called long field practice. This is supposed to prepare us for actual volunteer service by having us do a bunch of presentations and get to know one of the areas that we could be sent. So, four of us went to visit a volunteer that is currently working in the town of Villa Rica. When we first got to the city, we met the volunteer and proceeded immediatly to a school where she had been working to check out their library. We were given an assignment to give a presentation to the teachers of the school about how to better use the library. This was a little strange though because we first of all had never seen the library, and second of all we felt like we were supposed to tell teachers how to do their job. After we arrived in the library though, we came up with some activities that the teachers could use with their students, so it was more like we were just giving them ideas of how to encourage their students to use the library. Soon after I was dropped off at my host families home for the week. It was a little bit awkward because they didnt seem interested in talking to me. It made more sense later on though because I realized that they didnt speak very much spanish and they prefered to speak in guarani. The sister of the family did have a boyfried that lives in buenos aires that was visiting, and he and I had a good talk about amost everything. We talked about religion, politics, differences between the states and paraguay, you name it. He was really nice guy and gave me his number to call when I go to buenos aires. That night the family gave me a bed that was kinda in the living room/master bed room, while the sister and her boyfriend shared a room with the 11 year old son, and the parents slept in the kitchen on a cot together. I kinda felt bad, but it would have been even worse to refuse their hospitality. That night it rained like crazy, I have never heard thunder so loud in my life, it blew the window open above my bed and I got soaked. The next day the power and water were out for the whole town. Im not sure how much it really was but I think they got something like 12 inches of rain that night, and there was all kinda of flooding in the sorrounding areas. I saw some pictures on the news of houses nearby that had water up to the roofs of houses. This also meant that we were required to go back to using well water for everything. I drank a bunch of well water, but so far I havnt felt any bad affects. Hopefully it doesnt come back to haunt me. That day in the morning we went to a cooperative when a different volunteer was working to check out her work. She was helping a group of people who make traditional paraguayan ebroidered shirts to diversify, and make a web site. The shirts are really cool, I bought a couple of them, so maybe you´ll see some pictures of me soon wearing strange embroidered shirts. After that we went back into town because we were supposed to have an interveiw on the radio. We had planned this big long script of what we were going to say on the radio because all of us are still struggling with the language, but it proved to be of no use. It ended up that the show host just asked us a bunch of questions regarding peace corps and what we were doing there. So my first time on the radio in my life I was speaking horrible spanish and a few words of guarani. Afterwards we went to visit an institution that is funded by the U.S. embassy that teaches free english classes to students of the area. We met a girl there that was in the advanced class and had just gotten a scholarship to study at the university of kansas. Afterwards we went to visit this very interesting old man that had a museum of his life set up in his apartment. The man had been part of a group called Los Gomez, that in the sixties and seventies had toured the world and been moderatly famous. He had pictures with sammy davis junior, and pope john paul. He told us that he had been to 72 countries and had lived in the U.S. for quite some time, and he had been to Utah a few times too. He also knew that he needed to go to wendover to have any fun. Later that night I did another thing for the first time. The volunteer we were visiting participates in a choir and invited us to participate. So the first time I ever participated in a choir, I was singing an Elvis song that had been translated to spanish. The next morning we had a meeting with some of the city government workers in the department of youth. We spoke with them about what a volunteer could do to help them in their work, and found out about a lot of the recoursed that we could use in our work. In the afternoon we helped in a tree planting activity on the grounds of a school after another volunteer talked to the kids about deforestation. After this was done we were able to assist fith graders that were supposed to be reading to first graders, and we even got to stay around for recess. The kids thought it was hillarious when I asked to join in on their jump rope. Im sure they have never seen anything as strange as a tall strange looking american, dressed in professional clothes doing jump rope. Soon after we had to give our presentation to the teachers. For the most part it went well, and we gave the teachers ideas about how to better use the books in the library and how to make their lessons more interactive, but it was at the end of the day and all the teachers just wanted to go home, so they seemed a little annoyed with us. During lunch that same day, I came home really hungy and excited to eat. Then, my family served me up a giant bowl of menudo. If you dont know what menudo is, it is cow intestine soup, and it is terrible. I felt really bad because I had to tell the family that I couldnt eat it, and it went to the dogs. Later that night, we cooked for the families we were staying with. We made soy empanadas, tortilla paraguaya out of soy, a black bean salad, and juice made out of soymilk and fruit, and it was all from scratch. The women thought it was strange that I liked to cook and clean, because in paraguay the men would never do such a thing. The next morning we went to a reformatorium for teenagers, and did a talk with them about values and future planning. It was really interesting talking to them, and they were really thankful that we came because I guess they hardly ever get visitors, and never from people who what to help them. In the afternoon we were supposed to go to a pretty big waterfall to swim, so we set out from the town towards the big hills that are nearby. When we got into the hills we started crossing little wooden bridges in our car that I thought were going to snap under the weight of the car, untill we finally got to one that had been completely washed out by the rain. We drove around for a couple more hours looking for an alternative route, but eventually gave up and went to another waterfall. It was small, but it had some little cliffs to jump off of which made all the driving worth it. Later that night we had a meeting with a neighborhood commision that was doing projects in their community, and had even requested a peace corps volunteer to help them in their work. There is going to be a volunteer in their neighborhood, perhaps even me, and we wanted to figure out what projects they wanted to work on when the volunteer got there. It was really impressive to see people in the neighborhood so motivated to help their community. The next morning we visited an ophanage, and aparently they dont not get a lot of positive male attention, because they were just swarming me. We were trying to play some games, and do some activities with them, but I spent most of the time, pulling kids off of my back. I had a body suit of children wraped around me. They all just wanted attention and hugs, and it was really sad to see their faces when we left. After we had a terrible lunch and walked around the city a bunch more, we got on the road to head back to villeta. On the way home we passed some of the flood zones. We drove over this stretch of highway where all you could see was water on both sides, and sunken houses. The river that flooded looked like it usually is about fifty feet across, but yesterday, it was about a half mile wide. Ive never seen anything like it.....