Thursday, July 31, 2008

My new home and the Peace Corps life….

Friday, July 25th was an exciting day for the G27 Rural Economic Sector (that’s my group). We finally found out where we will live and work for the next 2 years. We found out on Friday afternoon (3PM to be exact) and we all left for those new sites the next morning. These are our site visits (and I’m writing you from said site visit). A 5-day trip to our sites to meet our counterparts and see where we’ll be for the next 2 years. Our primary objective during these visits is to find ourselves a host family that we can live with for our first 3 months in site.

My site is called Loma Grande and it’s about an hour (by car), hour and forty minutes (by bus) from Asuncion. It’s not too far from the Lake (Ypakarai) and has lots of nice trees and greenery. It is also slightly higher up than the towns below just where the Lake is located. There are a few great vantage points where the views are breathtaking. It is also not far from San Bernardino, which is the chuchiest (nicest, richest, etc) place in this region of Paraguay. It’s where all of the rich people go to vacation every summer. Kind of what the Hamptons must be like. It’s small – really small; population is around 4,000 but the municipality where I’ll be working is awesome. The mayor is young and enthusiastic and has great ideas of what could/should be done. The municipality itself – the building is small but has recently been expanded and has a ton of potential!

So you’ve now read about some of the positives: great mayor, lots of green and nature, location, and views. The downsides: no internet (well, almost none, but I’ll explain that in a bit), not a lot of families willing to let me rent a room from them, no groceries to buy and not a lot in the way of diversions.

Okay, first the internet situation: the mayor and his family own the only bus line that goes in and out of town. The upside of this for me is that they are going to give me a pass so that I can ride for free. This will enable me to go to Asuncion for free (though it won’t take me anywhere useful in Asuncion so I’ll still have to pay for another bus to get to the Peace Corps Office or to a market or shopping area) and also to another slightly biggish town: San Lorenzo. In San Lorenzo I can use a cyber café and buy groceries and veggies (essential for
any vegetarian diet)!

There are dispensas (small mom and pop-type convenience stores) that sell food items and stuff like clothes detergent, dish soap but they are REALLY expensive and I’ve been advised that if I want to buy food and especially produce items, I’ll have to go to San Lorenzo or Asuncion.

As for the internet, I’ve been told I can use a computer at the bus
company’s office. That’s great, but I doubt I’ll be there during the times that I’ll want to and be able to speak to my family via skype plus, how could I feel comfortable speaking on skype while people are working?? So that’s a real downer (though at least I can keep my blogs up to date J) but hey, let’s not forget I’m in Peace Corps. But looking at the bright side of things, I will be issued a cell phone (only 10 days until I get it!) so I’ll at least be contactable in-site and will be able to make phone calls home (albeit very quick ones). If you want to call me, let me know as I’m not posting the number anywhere as public as this blog. An occasional phone call would be a delightful surprise (and Paraguay is on the same time as the East Coast of the US at least until daylight savings kicks back in this fall). Again, not trying to be a negative Nellie here, but the downside again of the cell phone situation is that the cell phone company that Peace Corps uses doesn’t get a good signal here. I’ll have to use Tigo instead of Personal and so my phone calls to Peace Corps staff and most other volunteers will not be free but will eat up the minutes on the plan that Peace Corps provides. I guess that’s one way to ensure that I don’t use my phone as a crutch and rather spend my time integrating in the community!

As for my living situation, only one family had a living situation that met both my and Peace Corp’s standards (and mine were decently low). It seems like a great house but the downside again (not to be too negative here) but I have to share a room with a 12 year old girl. So much for my privacy! At least I’ve got free reign in the kitchen and can make my own meals and such. I’ve also got the use of the washing machine – a huge plus! The family runs a local cantina in town and I’m hoping I can use that as a way to meet a lot of people. I’ll be living with a married couple, their 12 year old daughter and 16 year old son (and their two dogs). A full house, but then I’m told they’re both out of the house most of the day (plus the kids are at school).
It’s close to the municipality (like a block away) and is across the street from the church (another great way to meet people). Also, because they have to go to either San Lorenzo or Asuncion to buy their food also, I will probably be able to work something out with them to get my own food. Lugging all of my groceries on a bus for an hour and a half (to San Lorenzo) does not sound remotely appealing to me (but if I have to like so many things, I’ll just make the best of it).

There are a few more ups that I’ve yet to mention. All of the roads (both of them) in and out of town are asphalted. Also, the road that leads
towards my closest neighbor in Altos (about 11 km away) is a great windy road with pretty views and decent shade. I will definitely be exercising by riding my bike to and from Altos as soon as humanly possible (should get my bike sometime in August or September). And writing about exercise reminds me that the Muni owns a huge piece of empty land across the street from where their main building is located. I’m told it’s quite safe to go jogging there alone if I want (and I want).

So I got a great site but it comes with certain sacrifices. I’ve been on a roller coaster (the roller coaster analogy gets old but there’s just no better way to describe the Peace Corps experience) since I got here to Loma Grande. I love it and then I feel disappointed that it doesn’t have something or that I won’t be able to find something that I think I need or want here. Then I remember – duh, you’re in the Peace Corps, Laara!!! It’s about service and sacrifice and that’s what you’re about too! Well, heck, I’m far from perfect and I too forget (from time to time) what’s important in life – but I usually come around.

1 comment:

Ana said...

Dear Laarita

So nice to read about your adventures! Hope you had a nice birthday yesterday! Tell us how you spent it in your new home. Looking forward to hear more about your new life!

Lots of love and hugs