Friday, December 15, 2006

Sockless in the Embassy

That's it. 11 weeks of training passed in the blink of an eye. If I were to come home right now, I would still feel glad that I had joined the Peace Corps for everything I've learned and experienced so far. Here's a rough "highlight reel":
  • I've managed to receive a slew of nicknames already in my training site. A few have been:
  • 1) "Casey Mokoi (or Casey Dos)" meaning I'm not the #1 Casey
  • 2) "Crazy Hudetz" (but pronounced "Craasi" from Carlito my host
  • brother) 3)"Mi amigo apicultor" ("My Beekeeping Friend", given to me from my neighbor) and 4) "Mormon Elefante" ("Mormon Elephant", from Carlito again. I don't know where he got that).
-I received 29 bee stings (yes, I counted) and two Pike (Pike, of course, being the bug that burrows into your foot, lays eggs and you have to remove with a sterilized needle. It's like a little game. [but I haven't figured out how to win])
-My neighbor is in a band called "Frequency Nueva" and while riding on a bus, I heard one of his songs on the radio.
-After being tested in languages I passed both Spanish and Guarani. I managed to give my thank you speech at my community's going away party in Guarani and it seemed to go over well.
-Was voted "Most likely to go Native" by the other beekeepers, meaning I'm the least likely to be seen again by other volunteers after we go out to our sites. I guess we'll see.
We all swore in December 15th at the embassy and got to meet the ambassador to Paraguay. During our designated snack time, I asked him what I would have to do to be granted political asylum, if such an occasion were to arise, and he told me that the Embassy in Paraguay doesn't grant it. I said I suppose I should keep out of trouble then, and he agreed. Not even a smile through the whole interaction! I hope he knows I was joking.
That night we all moved ourselves down to our "Bienvenidos" party. Before coming into the Peace Corps, I had heard how crazy parties could get, and this one lived up to its name. Here´s a run down:
-Peace Corps volunteers who were swearing-out set up the whole event at an ABANDONED hotel over looking the Rio Paraguaya. Back in its day, Dictator Stroessner and his cronies would throw extravagant parties on these grounds.
-Although I didn´t participate (I ran out of time) there was a full fledged "Superhero" theme to our party. The Environmental Education folk had full outfits to represent the different stages of the Experimental Learning Cycle (The "Ice Breaker" and "Reflector" etc. Very clever that group is). They came alive in true West-Side-Story-fashion during the competition, but were outshined by the "SuperMercados" of Paraguay (Get it? Supermarket? Superheros? These people went all out.).
-My family is involved in a Tobbaco Committe in their community. They are the cutting and packaging department. Throughout training there was drying tobacco on their floor, rolled cigars in baggies of 100 , and big shipments being filled. I managed to buy one such bag of cigarillos from my family to bring with to the party for 5 Mil Guarani (=Roughly 1 US Dollar) and they went fast.
-The trainer for Agro-Forestry brought the house down with a solo break dance performance on a backlit mini-colloseum.
-There was one kiddy-type wading pool that was full of water and one olympic size pool that was empty. The kiddy-type was grounds for general dunking, threatened chicken fights, and half-formulated reflections on training. However, by utilizing the superhero´s capes from Environmental Education, we were able to use the Olympic size pool as a slip-and-slide venue. There were only about 5 or 6 of us, but we managed to redefine the sport forever (The bruises and skinned elbows shall act as our trophies).
I hope that that party, which seemed to be the capstone* of our training, can act as a metaphor for how we will all perform for the next two years. Saying "yes" to the possibilities, using what´s around us to improve ourselves and others, and just enjoying it all the way through. What a perfect send off.
I leave for my site tomorrow evening and my goal is to be there for as long as possible before resurfacing. I want to find the pulse of the community and put my thumb on it. "Most likely to go native," perhaps, but hopefully that also means "most likely have another culture coursing through my veins." Jahechata.
When I do return from the first (and supposedly hardest) installment of my service, you will be the first to know (My goal is roughly a month or two).
Happy Holidays and keep me in your thoughts.
1) The Abandoned hotel
2) At the embassy after swearing-in, joined by the Environmental Education clan (Pre-Super Hero-Status)
3) My Christmas Card for the rest of my life
4) At my going away party in my community with friends (from right to left) Ariel and "You are Assunn" Christian
5) A picture from earlier in training with my Beekeeping Counterpart (and all around amazing guy) Jeremy
*I didn´t put that definition there because I thought you didn´t know what it meant (I´m sure you did). Rather it seemed to sum up what I was trying to say in just the right ways and I wanted to make sure that metaphor was understood. Okay that´s enough.
My Address now has changed. You can now send all of those encouraging handwritten letters to:
Casey Hudetz PCV
Cuerpo de Paz
162 Chaco Boreal c/ Mcal. Lopez
Asuncion 1580, Paraguay
South America

Sunday, December 03, 2006

In the Land of the Where-Cows*

Pombero Update: Last week, after hearing all of the myth talk and seeing the genuine belief in the eyes of my educated, intelligent neighbors, I decided I wanted proof. I asked one of the other trainee's host sisters, Lily, if I could see the Pombero one day. She said that there was one spot where they were known to go, so she told me to come by their house after dinner that night.

I came over, in good spirits, ready to dispell any sort of black- magic-voodoo that was thrown my way. "Donde?" I asked. She pointed me to one spot next to her house where there was a line of bushes. "Vamos!" I insisted.

As we walked, her three year old sister Monce tagged along. I did everything I could to scare them both. I picked Monce up, placed her in the bushes and shouted "Un regalo (gift) para los pomberos!" She ran back, with her eyes wide and fingers in her whining mouth, but still in good humor.

We stopped and listened, but there was not a sound. It was as if the shrubs and trees were holding their breath. I, however, took the liberty of puncturing this tranquility with a well-placed whistle. It went on and on and until both Lily and Monce pushed me and told me stop.

After a while, Lily picked up a stone and told me that if a Pombero was nearby, there would be a sound like th-- As she was about to throw the stone, the sound of another thrown stone whisked through the bushes towards us from our left. I stopped laughing. My whistling ended. I partly walked, partly ran back to the house with the two and haven't made any Pombero jokes since.

San Miguel: Before going out to all of our sites, the Trainees and I first needed to meet our Community Contacts. In order to make this an enjoyable first meeting, a little conference was held at a pseudo-resort. There was ice-breaking, team-building, map-drawing, expectaction-listing, and a slew of other activities to get us more acquainted with our Contacts for the next two years.

Mine didn't make it. Being so far off of paved roads, a rainy day prevented any buses from entering or leaving my site. I spent the mini-conference with the other trainees and contacts and still had a great time.

The next day, I was dropped off on Ruta 2, and given directions on how to arrive at my site. I travelled for about 3 hours in my first bus and 4 in my second. While riding in my second bus over a bumpy dirt road, however, there was a little commotion in the seats behind me. The bus driver had to stop, and reverse about 100 meters. His ticket-taking partner ran out behind the bus, and returned with one of the windows that had fallen off.

I spent the night in a hotel and the next morning walking to San Miguel with fellow volunteer Danny. As we walked, I asked about 272 questions and he had answers for all of them. He pointed out that as we neared the River Parana, the soil changed making it less hospitable for normal crops, therefore it was all fruit trees.

That's right. I will be living in one of the largest fruit producing communities in Paraguay. Not only that but my house (which the community has already arranged for me) is only about 800 meters from the Rio Parana, which divides Paraguay and Argentina. The winding road that works its way through the community is incredible in every direction.

Danny and I eventually met up with my contact, Carlos Ruiz Diaz. Upon first meeting him I knew we'd get along. His sense of humor follows the same rule as any good book, film, or piece of music: Tension and Release.

For example: You'll be talking with him and he'll casually slide something into conversation ("Or you could always sleep out here on the Patio...") and let the tension build a little in the air as you try to decide whether he's joking or not. Just as you're about to say something in response, his eyebrows shoot up, his eyes open so wide you can nearly see behind them, he exposes both sets of teeth while his punching bag bounces in the back of his mouth and he lets out a roar of laughter. It's as if he can hardly contain the hilarity that's forcing itself out of his body. It's like his face explodes. Quite the release.

After holas were exchanged we got right to it. Being so close to Argentina, Spanish was spoken very easily and I was able to keep up with all that he was saying (jokes and otherwise). They showed me where I would eventually be living, where the wood was that I could use to build bee hives, where his indoor, warm water showers were that I could use whenever I want, etc, etc.

Later his 14-year old son Hector showed me their land, able to point out any tree, tell me its name, when it blooms and what medicinal purposes it has. All the while talking about Paraguayan history, currency exchange from Guaranis to Pesos to Dollars, local politics, andhow to translate anything into Guarani. A fountain of knowledge that made my head spin.

That afternoon, Hector wanted to show me the River. We walked for about 20 minutes and found 4 other teenagers. We ate bananas right from the tree as we made our way down a path into the woods. I tried to steady myself on the gradual decline but after a while, it changed from a walk to a jog to an uncontrollable run through the greenery. I would use trees and manmade steps to right myself at times, but the rest was spent running full speed.

We eventually made it to the bottom and encountered a wooden row boat. One of the boys got some oars and we rowed out to a nearby sand beach. Swimming and chicken fights all occurred in the river that divided Paraguay and Argentina. It was incredible.

On and on and on. I could keep going but I won't. There was just so much that happened in those first two and a half days that bonded me with the community. I was presented to the school, I spoke at the Agriculture committe meeting (and I've been told that they're now interested in bees), spoke with a group of other men after they played Piki volley, (which is volleyball without the use of one's hands), visited the one man in town with bees, swam in another river, played pool, and really just tried to take it in.

I really lucked out with my site. Someone (San Miguel?) or Something (A falling Mango?) has worked its magic to place me in such an amazing location.

Before leaving my site, Carlos told me that I would have a nickname waiting for me when I came back. The men in the community had been studying my moves, and thought it was time I had a "Sobre Nombre." It's a tradition for everyone in the community to be named something, for example, "mono" (monkey) or "buffalo" (hawk, I think). I suggested something fierce like "Leon" or "Tigre" or "Tiburon" (shark), but he looked at me straight faced and said, "No, algo mas feo" (Something uglier). Wait a second.......Face explosion.

Pictures (I didn't bring my camera to San Miguel, so here are some old ones)
1) The all-too-real Pombero
2) A group picture from Thanksgiving.
3) A picture from my presentation on Dental Hygiene, from way back when. A good laugh.

*In Guarani, "Moo" with an accent, means "Donde" or "Where." Therefore, when their cows make their natural noise, they are asking "Where?" in the same way that our owls ask "Who?" This joke was of course not lost on Hector.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Boo-Yah Ka-sha

In my last entry, I reflected on the dangerous aspects of the Mango tree. You may have thought I was exaggerating the precautions necessary to live a life free of fruit induced concussions; that I was merely inflating the risks of my environment to make me seem like more of an adverturer once I had survived my time abroad.

But then this past week, while speaking with neighbors in my community, we all heard the familiar whisk of leaves and braced ourselves for the oncoming assault, and what happened? A Mango hit me square in the back! Ha! If you have the Terrere spilled on you while here, it's meant to be lucky, so I figure a Mango to the back has to be worth something.

The week started as normal and included a language class about how to identify different body parts in Guarani, as well as helpful health phrases for those unhealthy days which will surely come (unfortunately, the expression "I'm sorry I can't shake your hand because my fingers are swollen to the size of Chorizo Sausages from my 37 bee stings" was not included).

After a while the names of some body parts blended into the names of others, and before we knew it, we were learning all sorts of Paraguayan slang that would surely cause trouble (or at least a stifled chuckle) in an inappropriate context. It basically was a class on how to pick a fight in Guarani. Our teachers here have been great at letting us take the class where we need it to go.

As it turns out, Paraguayans do in fact have a Thanksgiving. However, here they just call it Jueves (that's not my joke). My Dia de Gracias was spent in the company of all of the other Trainees and their Dishes-to-pass. We feasted, shot slingshots at mangos, watched Ali G , fell into food comas, and discovered the local dark beer. A Thanksgiving well spent.

But then Friday came. Our "Dia-D" as my Language teacher called it. The day to learn where we'd all be living for the next two years. To help us relax a little (and I know I needed it) we all traveled in groups to different cultural sites in the surrounding areas. My group went to a national park, a church, an Artisan's training center and market, and finally (my favorite) a Museum of Parguayan Mythology.

This museum consisted of over a dozen life-size representations of the many myths prevalent in Paraguay. One such creature is the Pombero, who according to legend, is an animal that transforms into a alcohol-drinking, cigarette-smoking beast who will attack and kill you at night if you walk alone. Its Boogey-man nature is quickly scoffed at by us trainees and turned into a playful joke amongst one another, but the Paraguayan people don't take it so lightly.

One fellow trainee, Sam, was spending time with his host brother one night when he (Sam) began whistling. According to the code of the Pombero, he is attracted to this whistle and will come hunting in its direction. The host brother began to cry, so Sam asked for support from his host parents to help neutralze the situation and calm his brother down. "No" the mother said. "The Pombero is real. I saw him last night." This drove the child even further into hysterics and the situation was never resolved.

We eventually returned to Guarambare and were circled up to be given our site placements. One by one, our names were read off and we were instructed to place a sticky note on the larger map as to where we would be placed. I was the last to be called, and according to my Placement Director, "It's because he's going the furthest away!"

My site is in the small town of San Miguel, near Mayor Otano (where I visited the Volunteer Dan), in the Department of Itapua. I am very near the Argentinian border and a 12-hour bus ride from Asuncion (the capital of Paraguay). I will be a first volunteer in my community (although Dan has worked a little bit of bees there before). This upcoming week I will be travelling with my Community contact to visit San Miguel to scope out my new site.

I lucked out in a lot of ways to have landed this site (the Mango must have helped afterall) and from what I know, it seems like a good fit.

As Winston Churchill once said, "Had I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter." Sorry this rambled on so long. I hope you got this far. Write me a message. They're nice to read.


1) That very map I had mentioned with the sticky notes. I am the yellow one down in the South-Eastern region.

2) My Language teacher Delfina and I at the National Park.

3) One of the many Mythical creatures of Paraguay. This one, I thought, was the funniest.

4) A view of the lake in the nearby city of Aregua.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Long Field Practice

Right now in Paraguay it is Mango Season. This tree at different times of year is used for its far reaching shade; lately, however, it has become a bit more dangerous. Mango trees are in our yards, and along all of the roads and everyday you hear a whisk of leaves before a delicious bomb lands at your feet. I have been lucky so far not to have a bruised skull, but I can imagine myself waking up one day, looking up at the branches with a headache and group of passersby laughing at my misfortune.

As part of our training, we have 5 Dias de Practica which are designed as a time for us to get to know our community, locate resources, identify problems, and act on them in someway. Myself and two other trainees decided to give a presentation on Dental Hygiene to the kids in our community. If you can imagine two 6-foot men in full costume, acting out the importance of brushing one´s teeth in broken spanish and exaggerated pantomime, then you could have been in the audience. The kids liked it so much that we were invited to perform it again at the local church.

This past week, however, was different than any other we have had so far. It was our Long Field Practice where we travel to another community to have an accelerated glimpse at what our lives could be like in the coming two years. Our contact was a volunteer named Siobhan who had an exciting week planned for us.

I was placed with a farming family of 7. I shared a room with the 25 year old son Louis and my meals with the entire family. Luckily my family spoke both Spanish and Guarani so I could communicate quite easily. However, my family really seemed to enjoy it when I practiced my pronuniciations in Guarani (In their language, the words for Passion fruit, cat, and Guitar are all very similar, so when I told them that I really liked their cat juice, they couldn´t stop laughing. They even had to tell the neighbor.).

My first night I played futbol with the neighborhood group, but by the time my second night had rolled around, my presence had spread among the community. About another 8 or 9 kids came to play and it was a bit more serious. I tried my hardest to keep up with these Peles-in-training, but the full court sprints across their make-shift field, constantly on the lookout for slippery cow pies and ankle-twisting holes, slowed me down a bit and tired me out quite quickly.

After about half an hour of play, I was peer pressured into diving into their swimming hole. Although I tried to get out of it, claiming I had a fear of "Crocodilos" they assured me that only sharks lived in their pool. Once jumping in the murky waters, however, I realized it probably wasn´t the healthiest place for my immune system to be swimming. I dunked a few of the punks before escaping to their cold water showers (Dad, you can relax. The skin-eating bacteria has only made it up my calf so far.).

That night I harvested some Mandioca, their traditional food, and managed to cut open my hand real nice. The next day was spent beekeeping, giving presentations about yearly bee management, making soap, identifying green manures and other crops, and just taking in what our future sites may be like.

My beekeeping during the week was good, I felt that I was coming to recognize the General Dos and Don´ts which will help me in my years to come. I did manage to ignore a good amount of common sense one night with a fellow trainee and my host father.

We were in charge of helping my father Alquilino move a hive he had captured from the woods to his apiary. The best time to make such a move is during the night because a) all of the bees are back in the hive because they don´t forage during the night and b) they are less likely to sting you if they can´t see you.

We set out to find this hive and walked about 12 minutes down a path before entering his woods. We zigged and zagged through branches before finally coming upon his quite and tranquil hive set upon a log. We laid down our blanket, plugged the entrance to the hive with leaves, and lifted the hive onto the blanket. We wrapped it up but found that our blanket was too small. "No matter" said the inexperienced bee keepers, and proceeded to lift the hive and carry it through the all too quiet woods.

As we got going, however, the bees gentle buzz grew into a roar and they began flooding out of the hive. We put the hive down for a second to adjust and inspect our progress. The flashlight illuminated the hive and we found hundreds of bees covering the box and flying through the air. A splash of the light hit my gear, and I looked down to see about 20-30 climbing on my chest. I received about 3 rapid fire stings in the left forearm before hearing a buzzing inside my veil. The first time a bee has made it inside my clothes! I tried to kill the beast before he did any damage, but I caught a stinger to the left cheek. I groaned to the other beekeeper, and we decided to abort.

The hive was even more upset as we uncovered the entrance and undid the covers. The farmer tried to retrieve the blanket, but the other beekeeper shouted "Leave the Blanket and GO!" Although he may not have understood the words, the famer understood the tone and ran out with us.

On the walk home, it was decided that we´d try again the next morning at 5 before the sunrise. I was so upset at the failure, that I wasn´t able to fully appreciate the intensity of the Southern Hemisphere´s stars. We awoke and went the next morning, with all of the right equipment and completed the job. I got a few more stings, but they were minimal in comparison to the night before.

We returned home on Friday and I sat exhausted, swollen, and overheated in our transport back to our training communities. The Long Field Practice gave me a lot to prepare for and look forward to in the coming years. We find out which sites we will be placed at next Friday, and there´s a chance I might end up there. I´ll let you know as soon as I do.

Thanks for reading if you got this far. I´m doing well.



1) A Dangerous mango tree.
2) While doing my laundry, I noticed that the water spins the opposite down here. I took a picture and I think my family thinks I am crazy.
3) Me drinking Terrere.
4) Our group at our Long Field Practice site. The photographer didn´t realize her thumb was in the way.
5) A part of our tour and identification of all the different plants.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Speaking in the Third Person in a Third World

An eventful week. Let`s get down to it.

On Monday, we had two current volunteers help us with a beekeeping session. Matt is a bee keeper and Zach is in environmental education. Our mission that day was to transfer the hive that we had captured to our apiary, and fuse it with part of the crazy hive that chased us out last time. When we first arrived, we initially worked to try to find a queen to place in our new hive. We had no luck, but for the sake of practice we carried on. I initially received one sting on my arm, but wasn´t phased. We continued working the hives, when I received two more in succession. I had to put my panel down to relax for a second and asked another trainee to smoke me to mask the attack pheremone that is released when a bee stings. I got back to work and continued to receive 7 more stings, which at this point I had to leave.

I eventually returned and we completed our mission, but I was aching. Three on my left ankle, one on my right knee, two on my right arm, and four on my back. It was a night of tossing and turning, with my back aflame and my ankle itching like mad. As I showed off my swollen ankle and big red forearm to fellow trainees the next day during a tour of a Permaculture farm (see picture above, on the left), I managed to stand on an Ant hill and have my right ankle bit up. Oh, when will I learn.

The tour of the farm, however was fantastic. We were afforded a glimpse of how this Paraguayan family has created their own eco-system of sustainability. The waste from their cows and rabbits is broken down by their worms which in turn fertilizes their plants which feed their pigs, whose waste is decomposed by maggots, thereby releasing a methane gas with which they use to cook in their kitchen(!). The whole layout made so much sense, with the farmer working more as a manager than a laborer. When the father of the family was asked to speak of his Permaculture (Permanent-Culture) techniques however, he spent more time focusing on his life philosophy and all that his work had to teach his family and other farmers. It was a very educational field visit.

Wednesdays are our days to travel to the main headquarters to have bigger sessions with all of the other trainees. Since it is now week 5 (Can you believe it?) we had our second language proficiency test. I didn´t have to take a Spanish test, but I did have be interviewed in Guarani.

In class so far I´ve been able to grasp most of the many grammatical and syntax rules, so as I entered my tester`s quarters I felt somewhat confident that I could hold my own. We began. Disonel, another language teacher who has been teaching with Peace Corps longer than I´ve been alive, and in fact taught our current Country Director Michael Esschelman when he was a trainee way back when, started off with some easy questions. He lobbed up a few slow pitch softballs, hoping I could knock them out of the park, and I somehow managed to ask how his Husband was. ¡Que lastima!

My stomach sank, my concentration fled, and in no time I was broken man. I left the room with my head hung low and I tried to curse in Guarani, but I couldn´t find the words.

I cheered up in about a half an hour and was reassured by my language teacher that my Guarani would come with time.

The next day was the Paraguayan holiday "Dia de los Santos" (All Saints Day). My family traveled to the nearby city, Ita, in order to visit their deceased relatives in the graveyard. I managed to tag along. As we got off the bus, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people in attendance. We passed through the gates and I was met with a small village of pastel colored Casitas (small houses under which families bury their dead). I felt like a giant following my host mother as she wove her way through the neverending labryinthe of families, light blue houses, flowers, and trees. Children brushed past my elbow as they shouted to their friends ahead. "Chipa, Chipa, Chipa" advertised the bread man to any potential buyers. Widows wailed to their past lovers while old friends shook hands and made jokes. The sun beat down on us as we finally found our site and paid respects to my deceased Paraguayan grandmother.

What I found the most amazing of it all was the celebratory nature of life´s end. Before coming here I had read or understood the idea that Latin American countries take Death as a natural part of Life and celebrate it just as much as any other stage, but it wasn´t until I walked through this scene, saw its sites, and felt its energy that I fully grasped it.

That night, after returning, I spent time with my neighbors and friends in the community. They all claim to be interested in learning English, but as soon as I we start identifying exactly which phrases they want to learn, it always deteriorates into translations such as ¨Do you want to go steal a chicken with me?"

One friend of mine, Christian, however, was interested in delivering some messages from me to his host sister, a fellow beekeeping trainee. I wrote them down and had him practice them for me before he went to pass them on. Here´s a rough transcript:

Christian: Yuu Arr..
Casey: Si, You Are a...
Ch: Yuu Arr a Duurty Hoppy.
C: Casi. You are a DIRTY HIPPY.
Ch: Yuu Arr a Durrty Hippy.
C: Muy bien. Ahora, necesitas decirlo a Sarah!

The other trainee told me the next morning in class that she appreciated the message, although at first she had no idea why her host brother was calling her a ¨dirty happy." She did, however, enjoy the "Yuu arr Assunn" which was Christian´s broken version of "You are Awesome." I was in stitches.

Okay, this is entirely too long. I just had a great week. I hope you enjoyed the entry (if you made it this far) and that you´ve been getting my letters. Keep in touch and know that I´m thinking of all of you (except you Jeff).


Picture guide: 1 Group shot at Permaculture farm.

2 Me showing off the sweet Batea beehive that I built.

3 A glimpse at my open-air dining room at my house. You can even see my clothes drying in the background.

4 The tall one on the left is Ever who lives next door and has been a great friend and teacher so far. He is stretching Florencio who is my "cousin" who when I first arrived couldn´t look at me for more than 3 seconds before bursting into tears and running to his mother. Now, however, he calls me "Kurrui!" which is Guarani for "Senor" and we´re friends. The next one over is Freddi, who is one of Florencio´s older brothers. They all live two doors down. And the last one, is the one and only Carlito. They´re all family and spend a lot of time together, for example, playing Frisbee in front of my house.

5The next is a photo from when I went to visit the Jesuit ruins way back with my volunteer visit. I just thought it was a cool picture.

6 This photo is just a run-of'-the-mill in front of my house. Here the group is unloading sugar cane to make a juice for the final night of my grandmother´s prayer services or Rezos.ç

7 And last but not least is a picture from when I went to visit the volunteer Danny. Here I am standing with Danny (in the yellow) and a family that he works with in his community. Of course it wasn´t until after the picture was taken that Danny let me know that Paraguayans don´t smile in photos. ¡Que lastima!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Briefer Still

Here´s what I´ve got:

This past week we had my favorite tech session so far. With a current bee keeper, we all managed to Capture a Wild Bee hive (a Trasiego). It was really amazing. With the 7 of us huddled around a tree stump, we transferred all of the comb into a waiting ¨nuc¨ box by sewing the comb into appropriate top bars. We searched for the queen, but came up with nothing. We left the box there hoping that the bees would move into a new home, and they did. It was really a great class (one like I´ve never had). This is the way which I will most likely be attaining more bee hives once I enter the field. What a treat.

We had classes this week about the Machismo factor in Paraguay and how to properly deflect attention, let it be as a male or a female. Current volunteers came to our headquarters to give us an idea of what to expect. There were stories of past volunteers having parents offer their daughters as wives very seriously over a dinner; other stories were about the attention females will surely attract and how to handle it appropriately; tips on what to say when talk with the ¨hombres¨ begins. At times funny, others a little uncomfortable, it was all good to know.

This past week at the local Capilla (chapel) I helped with another childrens class and taught Red Rover. Trying to explain the rules and monitor a group of 11 or so Spanish/Guarani speaking children was a challenge, but I think they got the gist of it. Good laughs all around.

We had a day to learn how to properly prepare soy. In smaller groups, we travelled to different houses to cook various dishes. Soy empanadas, soy burgers, soy milk, and soy desert was a bit too much Soy for me by the end, but a good chance to catch up with other trainees and get a better sense of the kitchen.

Another beekeeper is keeping a blog here:
He uploaded some videos of all of us being chased out of the hives, some trainees cooking, and spending time at a local headquarters. Hopefully it will help you get a better idea of what we´re doing, but I apologize in advance for the language and certain camera zooms (you´ll know if you watch).

I´m still healthy, living the good life with my family, making some real friendships with other trainees and learning a lot. Thanks for reading and for the ongoing support. Hope to hear from you all soon.


Picture 1: Me walking through ITA with a Friend of mine named Nestor (my Paraguayan Cousin a host brother to another trainee)
Picture 2: My school where I have language classes and tech training most days.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Brief Update


I don´t have much time in the Cyber Cafe, but I will tell you what I can:

Last weekened I visited a current volunteer, Danny Westerhoff, to see how life in the PC truly is. I travelled the first leg of the trip on my own and met Dan in Encarnacion. We spent the night in a hotel before awaking the next day to meet up with a school that he works with. As one large group, we travelled to Jesuit Ruins and had a brief history lesson (the sights were incredible).

That night we travelled the rest of the way to Danny´s house and I got my first taste of a PCV´s life. His house didn´t have electricity for the weekend so we had to cook by candlelight. When I went to the out door bathroom, I could see Argentina off in the distance and I truly felt far away from everything.

At his site, Dan was involved in just about everything and give me a lot of ideas for what I hope to do when I eventually am sworn in as a volunteer. Everything from beekeeping, women´s committees, teaching english, bringing computers to the local school, setting up demonstration gardens, training for a marathon, writing in the PC newsletter, etc etc. A true jack of all trades.

The stars at his site were also noteworthy. Almost blinding in their intensity, I was awe struck every night I stepped out of his house.

While working at his highschool on Sunday, Dan overheard one of the girls say in Guarani that I was, ¨less ugly than Dan.¨ I suppose I´ll take what I can get.

I eventually returned to my training community (a 10-hour night bus) and resumed my studies this week. We have begun with more Guarani and also have spent more time in the apiary.

On our fourth trip out to the hives, we encountered our most aggressive hive to date. While doing our revisions, one beekeeper caught a stinger in the eyelid (which somehow made it into his veil) and left to try to remove it. Another suffered about 10 stings in a few minutes and left as well. It was down to myself, another volunteer, and our trainer. However, I couldn´t even see my trainer because of the intensity of the swarm.

We eventually were given the "abort" command and escaped from the Apiary. As instructed, we wove our ways in a serpentile fashion through the 7-foot tall field of caña plants. Bees fly in a straight line (hence ¨bee line") and can be lost if you weave and move like a snake while you exit. We found, however, that the bees were so upset that they followed us for another 15 minutes after we left. If you can imagine a clumsy giant, fully dressed in what seems like a Haz-mat suit, cutting through a field of green while puffing occasional smoke, cursing, laughing, and tripping on occasion, all while under the hot Paraguayan sun, then you can see what I´ve been doing during training. This is what a BA from DePaul Univeristy will get you, I suppose.

My nights have been filled with card games, homework, and Terrere Tea (their local drink of choice). I´ve helped at the local chapel with a children´s youth group, attended a few prayer services for my departed Paraguayan grandmother, and continue to better my Spanish.

Spanish update: I´ve moved on from jokes and have tried my hand at riddles and puns. I am feeling more comfortable in the past, present, and future tenses while occasionally mixing in a hint of the subjunctive. I have found that as my language improves, so does my relationship with my family and community, and all the better for my overall happiness.

My health has been good (despite the occasional bee stings) and training continues to challenge and reward me in a variety of ways. I can´t believe tomorrow makes 4 weeks since I left for Miami. Wow.

Well, keep in touch, and write when you can.

(Pictures to come soon)