Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This One's for You, Debra

Hello All!
Welcome back to my blog, and please brace yourself for a deluge of photos...a photo storm, if you will. A photographic onslaught, flood, tormenta perhaps. Enjoy:

One of the Env sector's goals is to celebrate environmental holidays in the schools.  Don't quote me on this, but I think we're encouraged to focus on these holidays because when a celebration has a set date every year, it's easier to actually remember to celebrate it.  Oh, it's...September 3rd again!...let's promote environmental awareness! Haha.  So we center lessons and celebrations around annual events, and try to convince the students that the environment can be fun!

Here I am at the Escuela (School) in Yataity on Dia de la Tierra (Earth Day).  I'm (trying to) coherently explain the instructions for a game where students are either a logger, tree, or animal (fortunately, my friend Romina came along to back me up with Guaraní).  The purpose of this game was to show the effects of diminishing habitat on the animals, but also on the logger, who ran out of "work" at the end of the game.  Instead of villain-izing the logger, we tried to explain how new trees must be continually planted so the logger can continue to feed his family, and the animals can continue to survive.  (Queue dramatic Lion King circle of life/we're all connected music).
After the game, my community counterpart, Romina, helped me give a brief  and simplified explanation of climate change, in Guarani. Cause she's a champ.  We had attended a Peace Corps-run Climate Change workshop earlier in the year, and got the chance to show off our new knowledge and activities with the kids. 

The students listened attentively the whole time :)  There are about 25 students total in my school's 4-6th grade classes.  I generally teach them during their Wednesday Trabajo y Tecnología (kind of like Life Skills) class.

We finished off the Earth Day lesson by putting the children in groups who raced to complete a puzzle depicting children working in a garden.  We used this puzzle to illustrate how children could also become involved in the environment, and as a segue to the school garden lessons we would be starting the following week.  Ba Dum CHH

A few weeks later, schools and cities across the nation held several days of celebration in honor of Paraguayan Independence Day (May 14th) and Mother's Day, which is always held on May 15th in Paraguay.  My school began the 14 de Mayo (May 14th) and Dia de la Madre (Mother's Day) celebrations with patriotic recitations (?) by some of the students. Aka, they memorize and recite short stories or poems in honor of the day.

Interspersed with the recitations were several traditional Paraguayan dances.  Here, one class performed a chair dance. There is an uneven number of dancers, and each time the music stops, the dancer in the chair chooses a new partner and whoever is left over then takes their turn waiting in the chair.
This humorous dance includes short breaks in the music with corny declarations of love from the male dancers towards their partners. 

In the schools, children begin learning the traditional dances at a young age.  Nearly every celebration or official occasion in Paraguay also includes the performance of a traditional dance or two.

Some dances include only the female dancers. 

And not a school celebration is complete with the danza moderna (modern dance) as well, which is generally the current "hit" hip-hop or reggaeton song, with a choreographed dance that everyone somehow knows...I'm still mystified about how Everyone knows the choreography...

Sadly, this celebration was also one of the last that the Volunteer Brian would attend before the Close of his Service, so he gave a short speech to the students in this school.  Our school was one of those with whom he worked on his project Basura Cero = Escuela Saludable (Zero Trash = Healthy Schools). 

My host parents, Santiago and Secundina.  Secu is opening the Mother's Day gift that her grandson, Luca, made for her in class. ¡Chulina!

"Happy Mother's Day"

And here I am with almost all of the Profesoras of my school, all dressed up for the celebrations.

One of my favorite days in Paraguay happened not too long after.  We had a grand celebration for my neighbor's 90th birthday party. You can see Ña Mamirtha sitting here in the pink (the pink actually surprised me, since normally she won't wear any shade of red, which is the color of the Colorado political party), being serenaded with "happy birthday" in Spanish and Guaraní

Here are the musicians who perform at nearly every important event in Yataity: Tío (Uncle) Florencio, my host father Santiago on the accordion, and tío Florencio's son, whose name I still haven't caught. They sing in Spanish, Guaraní, and Jopara (the mixture of the two).  Some songs are traditional polkas, some are more modern, and some they just improvise on the spot.
Later in the evening a few more musically gifted joined in the jam sesh, and eventually someone remembered that I had bought a guitar.  They convinced me to run over to my house and fetch it, so they could quality check it, and eventually ended up trying to give me an on-the-spot guitar lesson.  That was a bit stressful! We got through the chords they referred to as "do," "re," and "mi," before I was too overwhelmed and had to put an end to it, haha.

Ña Mamirtha having a birthday dance.

After all the kids ate, we cleared the tables and all the adults ate the standard asado, basically a BBQ, with pig or cow meat, and yuca and white bread on the side.
I finally got both my host mom's in one place, with my camera too boot :)

All of my neighbors! Most of them are related, as well. In no particular order: Ña Minga,  her two daughters, her son and his wife, my landlords, the birthday girl and her granddaughter and great-granddaughter.

My 13-year old neighbor, Fátima
Sebastiana, Ña Mamirtha, Romina, and Brayan: 5 generations.  Sebastiana is Brayan's grandmother, and Ña Mamirtha is Sebastiana's grandmother.  Can you imagine being 10 years old and attend your grandmother's grandmother's 90th birthday party?? 

Rosa presenting Ña Mamirtha with her birthday cake.

My landlord family! Herme, Aníbal, Olga, and Leti

All the schools and high schools in Pilar participated in the Independence day parade, complete with uniforms, baton twirlers, drumlines, and lots of pomp and circumstance.

And of the thousand of people watching the parade, my host mom Ña Toona spotted me across the street! (In the red shirt)

My friend Leo's daughter, Veronica, in traditional Paraguayan clothing.

Every Monday, Nana (another volunteer) and I host an hour-long radio (¡Mba'e la porte, Norte! What's up, North American! hahah) show in Pilar on the station ZP12.  We generally talk about international holidays about to come up during the week, such as Earth Day or Women's Health Day.  Pictured here is our friend Leo, who often comes on the show with us; a national talk show host who was in Pilar and spoke on our show for a few minutes when he visited the station, Leo's daughter Vero, and Nana on the right.

Antonio! The man behind the scenes, who puts our music on for us during show breaks and just generally rocks.

Leo, Nana, and I in action!

On the actual day of Mother's Day, I celebrated with my neighbor, Sebastiana, and her family.

My puppy, Fulana, playing with Brayan's puppy, Chiquito.

Romina getting her Michi down from the electric pole. He did Not want to play with the puppies.

My landlord, Aníbal, climbing down into my well to give it a scrubbing.  The water in my well is not drinkable, so  we've been periodically emptying out a good deal of water, and Aníbal has cleaned it twice now. One of these days!

Sadly, Fulanita got very very sick a week or so before my trip to the States.  She nearly died, but after a few vets and a good number of shots, she pulled through.  What a champ!

On my flight to the States in early June, I was stuck with a 12-hour layover in Panama.  Apparently this is common, however, because the Panama airport has several tours designed specifically for travelers with long layovers.  I happened to be on the same flights from Asunción to Chicago with the mother of another volunteer, so we hung out!  We decided to take a lovely Panama Canal tour, which was quite cool.  The barges going through that canal are seriously massive.

In order to get to the canal from the airport, we drove/toured through Panama City.  There were some pretty great buildings that we passed by, including this one, Revolution Tower.

Back in the Chicago-area, a fire in the park brought in the cavalry.  I mean, my neighbors' have bonfire-sized trash  fires in their yards every couple weeks and no one bats an eye...

Had soooo much fun in Florida parasailing with my family.  Here are my Aunt Patty and I, conquering the skies bright and early the morning after the bachelorette party. Heh..

The main purpose of my trip home: attending this beautiful bride's wedding.  May I now pronounce you TJ and Kate? Haha CONGRATULATIONS ami!!

And Kate was nice enough too let half my family tag along :)  Here we are at the reception, my parents, Steven, Aunt Kelly, Aunt Patty, Chris, and his girlfriend Kristin.  It was great to get to spend some more time with all of you in Florida, since I unfortunately didn't have have much time available while I was in Chicago.

Because no post would be complete without them....why do cats love boxes?  Fulano in his new favorite box.

Mi amor Fulana just having a grand old time. Doin' what dogs do.

When I moved into the house, my landlords and I came to an agreement that instead of paying rent every month, I would put the money towards installing a motor and bathroom in the house. Win-win! So here you have it: the ingredients for a bathroom. Cement, a few fancy ceramic pieces, and some pipes and faucets.
Oh, plus a place to put it all. Here's the space that became a bathroom!

Most of the labor cost went to digging and constructing the pozo ciego, or blind well, pictured here.  This is where all the used water from the bathroom drains into, and the also constructed a top for it. It only took 1000 bricks, nbd.
And last but not least...the motor! We had an inumerable amount of problems along the way, but I finally have a working bathroom/running water in my house! Doesn't get much better than that.
(And yes, that's a Coke bottle...maybe I can get some sort of sponsorship? Ha)

Some of the most guapo (hard-working, in Guarani) youths in my community have recently come together to form the Health and Environment Commission.  We have some big, big plans for the future! But right now, we have kicked off our projects with by focusing on two.  Here I am with the Presidenta and Vice Presidenta of the commission, explaining the plan for our tree planting project.  We have applied for a grant from a Paraguayan organization, A Todo Pulmon, who will, ideally, helps us purchase trees from a local tree nursery to plant in our community.  We're beginning with a request to plant about 650 trees in the area around the church, and would like to eventually expand the project to include the Health Post, vivienda, the school, and individual families who are interested in planting trees in their yards.

We are also beginning a trash management project in the community.  We hope to install trash cans in a new plaza and in other ares of Yataity, and give talks on the separation of organic and inorganic trash.  We will follow this up with demonstrations of how to compost, and we plan on coordinating with the Municipality in Pilar to organize trash collection.

About 50 community members came to our launch presentation, including some students and teachers from the school.  We presented our plans and had several speakers, and I believe there's quite a bit of interest in the community and hopefully we can keep up the enthusiasm as the projects progress :)

We closed out the presentation with the symbolic planting of seven native trees in the patio of the church, where the tree planting project will begin.  Pictured here is one of the Profes from the school, planting a tree with the help of several of her students.

Here are Nilson and Romina, Secretario and Presidenta of the commission.  This is one of our small meetings to complete the grant request to A Todo Pulmon. They're soooo guapo/hard-working! I'm very lucky to have them in my community.


As is the norm at school celebrations, for Saint John the Baptist day my school celebrated with several traditional dances, small recitations of stories or poetry by students, and othr formalities.  Here is one of my favorite dances, where there is an uneven number of dancers and a broom. 

The dancers continue until the one with the broom throws the broom down on the ground, and when everyone hears the Thwack!, they quickly scramble to find a new dance partner.  Eventually, one dancer is left, they pick up the broom, and it starts all over again.  This happens quite a few times throughout the course of the song, and is quite entertaining.

And of course, a Danza Moderna/Modern Dance to top it all off.

Here I am with the Directora and almost all the profesoras of the school.  It was a bit chilly!

My neighbor, Fatima, and I decided to bake a cake!  It wasn't exactly the most lindo/pretty thing we've ever made, but it was tasty.  Cakes in Paraguay are generally cut into multiple layers, with dulce de leche, guava jam, chantilly, peaches, and other treats in between the layers.

The finished project, complete with rose garnish to make it as lindo as possible.

An impromptu English lesson! And Fatima got ahold of my camera, haha
And last but not least, my adorable 3 year-old neighbor Fabian, Fatima's little brother.  Their mother's house is bordered on either side by her mother's house and her siblings' houses, and Fabi can constantly be seen wandering between the houses, and then being tracked down by one of his siblings.

Well, I think I've covered most of the new things going on in Yataity.  I've had some computer issues lately, but after only four short weeks of trying to post this entry, it's finally here! (Sorry for any spelling/grammar mistakes, I haven't the energy to reread the post at the moment...we'll get back to that soon).  Because I know Debra at least has been dying for a new entry :)  I hope you enjoyed the photos!  As always, my contact information is on the second tab of the page, I miss you all, and hope to hear from you soon!!