Friday, June 25, 2010

Dia del Arbol, Birthdays #2 and 3

On my actual 30th birthday, I had 2 newbies staying with me for the weekend from the group in training now. Elisa, my boss, and Liz, from my group came early that day to help plant trees. It threatened to rain, but I said we were doing it si o so (yes or yes) and it held off till the next day. I'd arranged with Mario from the Environmental Office in the Muni to help us out. He had the trees, the tools, and the hole-digging labor. His workers went out the day before and dug 100 holes in a plaza near the Colegio Nacional (where my jovenes went to school). We met at 1pm (La hora paraguay, so 2pm) with my jovenes (youth) from the leadership camp and a 7th grade biology class that I'd invited to help. It was fitting that it was Paraguayan Arbor day, because we planted 100 trees.

Liz as tree

Tree planting group

Then we went back to my house to clean up and prepare for the party. Here are some pics. It was super fun.

Liz and Kristin
Pauli and me
Mauri, Daniela, Carlos, and me
Meli and me
Oscar and Pauli
Liz and me
Ashley, me and Taylor (the newbies)

The following week, I headed into Asuncion because I'd talked to Doug and Lisa, other volunteer geminis and we decided to combine resources and have a(nother) party.

Martin and Juany - birthday serenade
Courtney, me and Hannah
Jesse as Merman

Adam and Nathan
Betsy and Adam
Pauli and me
Caleb, me and Laura (slightly under the influence)
Sasha, me, and Jenna
Natalia, Giselle, and Adam
Lyn, Elmer, and Lauren
Jenna, her tits, and me

Whew - a party for every decade so far. Nowhere else I rather be.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coats for Kids and Birthday #1

I really liked those Carayao kids from the beginning, back in January when I met them at the Leadership Camp our sector was doing, but over the past few months, it's blossomed into something altogether bigger. We were faced with the challenge of doing a successful community project within 6 months, and it is not often that PC volunteers have to talk down Paraguayans and tell them to think smaller, but these kids...It took a month of weekly meetings to convince them we shouldn't do our first project getting clothes, shoes and food for all of the poor kids in their city. I didn't want them to go through one more experience of big talk and big dreams that never come to fruition. Think tangible, I said, we can always do more later, but we have to start somewhere. So we narrowed it down to coats for the winter, and down to one poor neighborhood. They hit the dirt and spent a Sunday going door to door, explaining their project and forming a list of 80 names and sizes.

We met every Thursday night, in the patio of a church. I'd take the 6pm bus the half hour to their town, we'd meet for about an hour, and then a few of them would sit with me by the ruta while we waited the 2 hours for the next bus to come through at 9:30. While we waited, we talked, we planned, we joked, we played - this was the most important part of the project.
Thursday night meeting - Lider, Mariela, and Oscar
Thursday night meeting - Margarita, Felipe, Vicki, and Jorge
Thursday night - me, Margarita, Jorge, and Vicki (and kitten that I found and gave to some friends)

We decided that we should beg for money on the ruta, since we had no funds to initiate anything bigger and less effective. Because they average 16 yrs old, I said we'd need help from the police so cars wouldn't run us down. We stood out on the ruta from 9-5 one Saturday, and I didn't have my camera, so I will paint this scene: Busy 2 lane road, cars and trucks zooming by all day long. About 5 of us, standing on the dotted middle line, holding decorated shoe boxes with holes cut in the top, a cop on each end. The cops motion the cars to slow down, and they do, rolling down windows to see what they'll have to do to get out of this cop situation. The cop steps to the side and one of us steps forward, wielding a box, and asking for a donation to buy coats for the poor children of Carayao. The driver looks at us, looks at the cop, looks back at us, and pulls out 5 mil or so. We got over 1600000gs (about $300) that day.

The next Saturday, they arranged for a driver and truck, donated by the municipalidad, to take us to the market in Asuncion and buy the coats. As anyone would do, however, the driver decided to run some personal errands along the way, so between stopping for chipa, picking up a TV, dropping off the TV, picking up his wife and taking her to the terminal, visiting Caacupe to pray a little, visiting the driver's family 20k off the ruta, and stopping every 20 minutes to pour water in the radiator, it took 12 hours. But we did get the coats, so it is what it is.

Oscar, Lider, Me, and Mariela
Lider, Oscar, Mariela and Cardboard newspaperman
Watering truck for the millionth time
Detour to Church at Caacupe

The next Saturday was the presentation. The muni donated chairs and we cleaned around the plaza, set up a podium, decorated with Paraguayan flags, and wrote a speech.
Lider, me, Mariela, Margarita, Oscar, Nestor, Vicki, and Jorge
Presentation of coats
Oscar giving
Mariela giving
Getting their coats
Kids with their coats

Since it was a week before my birthday, they threw me a party afterwards to celebrate.

In order to prove that 3 gifts of makeup were not a hint, they decided to give me a makeover. It quickly spiralled into a costume party.

Jorge and me
Jorge, Diana, y Felipe
Venos and me, brujas
Jorge and Diana
Mariela, me, and Venos
Diana, Mariela, and Jorge
Diana, Jorge, Maggie and Nestor
Me and cake
Nestor got tired as we were carrying back the borrowed chairs

And that's how I spent my first 30th birthday.


Chuchi - this is probably my new most popular word. It means snobby or fancy, but is used in the Peace Corps as anything nicer than dirt roads and shacks, or for a person, anyone who showers with hot water. Living in the city, I am super chuchi for here.

Fuerte - literally means strong, but because the culture is based on talking around everything, it´s when a person says anything they want in a direct way - it means asshole

Puede ser and otro dia - literally means "could be" or "another day", but because noone will directly blow someone off, both of them mean "never" and are the answer to a question of when something will happen

Deseas, en tus sueños, Que Arriba Perra/o and Es lo qué es - these are the terrible translations of American sayings that are not used here and don´t really translate, but we say them anyway. Literally they mean "you wish", "in your dreams", "What´s up bitch/dog?" and "it is what it is"

Qué guapa - this means "what a hard worker" and is used by Paraguayans every time I do ANYTHING manual, including carrying a dish to the sink or sweeping out my room. I don´t think they have high expectations for Americans and work.

Saludos - sending saludos by way of a mutual friend is how people tell each other they have a crush on them. The most serious kinds are given with a pinch on the arm and they mean business.

Thumbs up - this is done everywhere here and is a simple answer to pretty much any question. I will probably have carpal tunel in my thumbs when I leave here because I do this so much.

No se como comer esta - this is how one refuses food in Paraguay. Literally, it´s "I don´t know how to eat this" which creates an internal struggle for me each time it´s said because I want to be a smartass and explain that, just like any other food, you put in in your mouth and chew, but I don´t think that´s acceptable here.

No Más and Un poco - this is said after almost every phrase for no real reason other than to make everything sound like it´s not a big deal, even when it really is. Literally, it´s "No More" and "A Little", so the translations are something like "Sit down no more", "Come here a little", and "Do you want dinner no more?"

Cocido - this is a hot drink mixed by carmellizing sugar with a little yerba, adding just enough water to wet it, and then adding more sugar. It´s served by the thermos-full just before bed.

Mosto - this is to sugar what crack is to cocaine. It´s a "tradional" drink capable of putting even the sweetest tooth into a diabetic coma, and is served continuously at fun gatherings like funerals.

Ch-ch-ch-ch - this is the sound Paraguayans make to get each others´attention - like "Psst" . It´s especially used for catcalling, and they have nothing to follow it with - they just want you to look.