Good Question--What do i do down here?
Jul 17, 2008
|I realized it has been a very long time since i gave you all a real update about life down here. I got to talk to many of you, but not all of you so if this is a review, sorry. Also i will try to address several question i recieved over and over, or i just thought were good questions and want to share the answer with everyone, hope that is ok.
So here it goes...
Overall I rate my Peace Corps Paraguay expiernece (so far) an 8....now you do have to realize there are a lot of factors contributng to this score, everything from the way the PEACE CORPS works here and in general, my community, friends and life style. It is not what i expected, but since i had no real idea what to expect, that is OK.
The Best Thing--my community. I am not sure how it happened, but i got extremely lucky and me and my commmunity are very well matched in both personality and project goals. This of course, is the ideal sistuation but volunteers don´t always end up as well suited to the needs of their community and there are conflicts on both sides....I truly like mu commmunity, it feels like home, i have lots of projects going on, the trust me for the most part, some even listen to my advise. Also i have a relativle low level of rumors flying around about me, and those that go around are harmless and usually small and funny, not meant to really hurt me-signifying that my community really does accept me. Many of my friends have a much harder time in site.
Worst Thing--ISOLATION and in general Paraguayans and thier closed minded culture. This might seem odd that i say this. As you all probably know, i have 4 PCV neighbors with in about 20 Kilometers of my, two within and hour´s walk, i have a cell phone i use to talk to my friends here daily and i see them at least once a week for our radio show we do together in town. It is not that i feel isolated from Americans necessarily, I feel very isolated from Paraguayans, which of all the things i imagined, is the one thing i never thought about. This isolation come in two forms. 1. Poverty and lack of exposer to the outside world make Paragayans very closed minded and judgemental. They are also not shy about thier opinions and think anything different is BAD, WRONG, or STUPID. Unfortunatly this isoltates me on many levels. I had not thought that i would spen two years working with and living among people who don´t know me at all. Because of thier inability to understand my life experiences, or thier unwillingness to try new things or learn about other cultures it is hard for me to put my ¨real¨self out there. For example, they shove some of the nastiest food down our throats then when we make somehting like guacamole, they freak out and refuse to even try it. I was listening to classical music one day and a neighbor came and told me to turn off that horrible stuff, and asked why you would ever like music without words. First off all, i love classical music with a passion, it wakes up my soul and comforts me but all they can do is insult it and will never appreciate it, second...they actually called Schubert ugly music, and third i hate Paragauayan music-so back off. Experiences such as moving to another state and in general the ideas of and American University studen´s experience, going to disneyland, traveling to differnt places for fun, hiking in the mountains, water or snow skiing, summercamps and even being a cheerleader are all things they have no capacity to understand because they just can not fathom them and have no context to place these things that make up my life. I go by a spanish name in site, Gabi (from Gabriela) becasue they can´t say my name. One of my neighbos has also changed her name ans we say that Paraguayans only know Gabi and Beva not Gariety and Besty. 2. Paragayans don´t know that Gariety drinks at all, likes to dance in whatever form available, or that i get along better with guys generally than girls becasue these are all things that culturally are not acceptable for women to do, so i don´t do them. These are big parts of my life in the sense of social interaction with my peers, friends and family, but my community never sees that side of me, they see a very different person. So i feel isolated because i feel that day to day...no one really knows who i am and what makes my tick, NO ONE. This wears on my, but luckily i do have great Peace Corps friends around me to support my and know me, they are my life line, and let me know i am definatly not alone in my feelings.
What Next or When am I coming HOME—I am looking into returning to Graduate school when i get back, i will be trying to get dual Masters degrees in both Applied Politics (campaign management and governing) and Latin American Studies. I have done a fair amount of research but have more to do so i am not sure where i want to go, but it will probably be in the east coast, NYC, Boston or DC. As far as when...I COS, meaning close of service, officially in the end of April 2009. I am trying to stay here in Paragay for up to a year more to work on differnt projects related to the Gender and Development projects i am involved with. I want to stay to improve and secure my spanish langauge skills and put off growing up just a little longer (hehehe). No, i honesly want to work on things and get some experience here that will be more directly applicable to my career track, not that health has not been interesting, it has, just not all that helpful so that in a main motivation to stay on a third year. I would be moving to a city however, not staying in my community so i will have better access to the internet and other amenities i lack currently. I will take the GRE and apply to grad school from here. I also am planning to travel home, mostly by bus and public trasportation for a few months so i need to factor all that into the timing. I am expecting i will probably end up back at home in the spring or summer of 2010 tenativly.
WHAT exactly DO YOU DO? Again i am a Rural Health and Sanitation Volunteer and my basic projects include a dental health education program, an intestinal parasite prevention program, basic nutrituion training, reproductive health, STD and HIV-AIDS training, building brick ovens, promotion of trash pit and wast management options, and construction of sanitary bathrooms.
Of these options i have completed a dental health project in the school with the generous help of Wood River Valley densits offices, a parasite prevension project that i am just finishing up with a year of free medicine from the US embassy for kids K-6th as well as a parents meeting, i have built a few brick ovens but not many, i have a school graden and am work with a group of women to provide a more nutritious school snack one a week and we will be moving into nutrution presentation in the school as well. I also have a modern bathroom with plumbing project. My community has had running water for a several years, but there are families that can´t seem to save enough to put in plumbing, so we have fromed a commission of 35 families and are doing community fundraisers and soliciting money from the local and state governments. It is my biggest project and i may or may not see it completed by the time i leave. I also have a Women´s committee that have a chicken coop and egg production project. This is not officially part of my project area, but since i am the one with the College degree from the US i am a resource to be tapped. With them we opened up saving accounts for the families and are doing alot of basic organiaztion projects and other random projects. I teach a 1st Aide class in the highschool and i have a radio show that covers every topic and any topic we want with my PCV neighbors once a week. I have plans to finish the school year with Sex ed and Healthy relationships in the Middle school and highschools. I think that is about evertthing. If you have specific questions about one of these things, let me know and i can clarify.
ARE YOU OK?--I am generally very content and happy day to day. I miss you all more than i can express. I don´t really miss the comforts of home except for the diversity of people and food i can find in the states. I cook for myself, don´t really eat Paraguayan food anymore if i can help it and live on my own. My neighbor and main community contact lives about 3 yards away with her family—currently 10 in the household. I never feel unsafe in my community and have had absolutly NO security issues to date. I speak mostly spanish and have given up on Guarani, which you all probabaly got form past updates. I like what iam doing, like where i am, but feel lonely alot of the time. This is the hardest thing. But coming home was a nice break and allowed me to recharge. I received more hugs and was loved on more in the 10 days i was in the states than the entire year and a half i was out! I will try to keep you all updated on the comings and goings of my life. I know i was out of touch for a while, but i will try to get back into blogging now that the weather is not so bad. It is still winter but it has been absolutly georgous since i got back. Soccer season in in full swing and we are doing pretty well, i will keep you all up to date on that as well, whether you want to know or not!
More to come i promise, remember to keep in touch.
Peace and Love,