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)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Thoughts Collected

All right. I'm in a better setting to inject a little more coherency into my post. Here it is:

Since arriving in Paraguay (going on our third week in a few days), I've been thrown head first into an array of activities, training sessions, communities, bee hives, bus routes, weather extremes, and languages. Here's some highlights:

  • As I mentioned, I've begun learning Guarani, the indigenous language here in Paraguay. When I hear others speak it, it's sounds daunting, but with some practice, it turns out it's not terrible. There's no verb conjugation, so it's only a matter of setting a context, and going (for example, in English it would be the equivalent of "I walk" "Tomorrow I walk" or "Four score and seven year ago, I walk." It's a cake walk)

  • With my increase in language ability, I have been promoted to higher levels of conversation with different members of the community (not only Carlito). My neighbors, Ever and Catia, who are roughly my age, now regularly engage me in conversation and I've been able to keep up quite well, and even translate a few jokes (Q: Que es la fruta favorita de Beethoven? A: Ba-na-na-na [To the tune of Beethoven's fifth]) They've been received with mixed reviews

  • I have been stung only twice so far. Once to make sure that I wasn't allergic (which I'm not) and another while working the hives for the second time. I forgot my camera today, but I'll bring it next time to give you a better look at what I'm actually doing. Luckily it hasn't been this yet (although I do own a hat like that).

  • The whole world of bees, outside of beekeeping itself, is incredible. There are dances that bees perform to communicate a variety of issues, such as where the nearest food source is to "clean me." The innately known roles and responsibilites that worker bees have in each stage of their 35-40 day, sleepless livese are awe-inspiring. I've learned a lot and it's all been really interesting.

Overall, I've been having a great experience. This week we go out to visit actual volunteers who are nearing the end of their service. I will be travelling the furthest, by myself (it's about 14 hours on two buses, one way) but I should be fine. It should be nice to see what I'll actually be doing.

Like I said, I'll be sure to post pictures next time and continue to send letters. For those of you whose addresses I don't have, please send me one to the address at the beginning of this blog(!) and I'll be sure to reply.

A few tips when snail-mailing: 1) Number them [In case any are lost, we'll know it] 2) Keep packages under 4 pounds (I know you want to send me that bike Fro, but it's just not going to make it through customs) and 3) If it is a package, and it's under for pounds, try to decorate it in some sort of religious fashion (possibly with crosses?) because other volunteers have reported that their belongings have been less likely to be tampered with when they have some sort of religious affiliation (weird, I know).

All right, that's it for me. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

First Week of Classes

AHH! What to say! How can I possibly get it all in (My question mark isn´t working on this computer).

Update= Class has been going for a week now. here´s a rough break down of our days-

5.30 Wake up, run with other volunteers (not required, just for our own well being)

6 Return, eat breakfast (coffee, bread) shower, read a little, walk to class (See my walk to class in the picture above)

7.45 Spanish and Guarani classes (taught only in Spanish). It`s really amazing how far my spanish has come and how i am learning a third language in a bad second. Mbae`chepa ndererra. That means ''whats your name'' in Guarani. Its quite challenging (actually not too bad).

1130 lunch with families (we all live about 5 minute walk away).

1 return for cultural and technical and other types of training (For example, we have done everything

from learn about apiculture (bee keeping) to the local gestures we should and shouldn´t use (in a game, we learned NOT to use the middle finger. Muy comico).

5 return home to do language homework, read about beekeeping, spend time with our families, use our language, and just take it easy.

We train in each of our local communities, but we also meet once a week in a centralized training center with all of the other volunteers. We have had sessions on safety, history, health, cultural integration, and everything else. It has been really great.

Theres so much more to say, and I want to respond to all of your emails, but the time in this internet cafe is limited and today is the first day we´re going to the hives. Write me letters and I´ll respond to those (although it may take a few weeks).

Thanks for reading and enjoy the above pictures.

Im doing great.