Saturday, August 30, 2008

My first month in site

So, my first month in site began with a bit of a bumpy start as I was in a new town, new home with a new family and with a new case of insomnia! Alas, as with so many things in life, I made it through that bump in the road. Some of the highlights of my first month: the support and friendship offered to me by the health center staff; visiting the rural areas of town; meeting a ton of people; visiting my neighboring volunteers; getting involved with the community health committee.

It sounds as if I’ve been busy, though I’ve been on a PCV guilt trip. Basically, my mornings (most of them but certainly not all of them) have been taken up with the trips I’ve made with the nurses from the health center. The days I’ve been lucky, those trips have taken up my entire morning. On the not-so-lucky mornings, I’ve either not gone out at all or I’ve been done by 9:00am. The worst feeling – at least for me, is that of being unproductive. Some mornings, when I’ve found myself suddenly free, I have managed to be productive with busy personal work. I’ve begun work on my thesis portfolio, written letters, organized my personal things, done laundry, ironed, and written this blog. A few mornings (and all too many afternoons) have been spent either sleeping or being a couch potato watching movies on my computer. Now, you may be thinking, well, Laara, our tax dollars are supporting the Peace Corps and its volunteers to work in developing countries not so they can veg out and do nothing. I would agree with that sentiment, and some afternoons I have gone to the schools to help with projects or just gone to visit people. Believe it or not, visiting people is my number one project for my first three months in site. This time is meant to be used to integrate and become a member of the community. I’m certainly not accomplishing that on those afternoons that I’m vegging out, but I would argue that I am putting myself out there as much as humanly possible given my energy levels and the fact that some nights I get only an hour or two of sleep. Some of the productive afternoon/evening activities I’ve participated in include: an artistic celebration of Paraguayan tradition and folklore at the school; a family birthday party, and a Church festival. Now, that I’ve moved into my new 2-room paradise and my sleep has nearly been restored to normal, you have my word that I will spend your tax dollars wisely. Some of my plans for the coming weeks are as follows:

I’ve already made arrangements with the health center and mayor to get a city vehicle to take a group of nurses and myself to the further out rural areas. The nurses will check for vaccinations, talk to people about local health issues and I will be meeting people and trying to find a few answers to a survey that I’ve come up with. Normally, the nurses would go to these areas on moto (a scooter or motorcycle) but PC forbids volunteers from driving or riding as passengers on these kinds of vehicles. Having arranged to get a city car (and chauffer) ensures that, not only can I attend, but also that we can take more staff members and more vaccinations, medications and teaching materials. It also helps ensure that we can spend a bit more time in these areas. We’ve already agreed on those areas that we’ll target (one rural barrio or compañía each week) for the entire month of September.

I’ve also now learned (or at least seen) where two of the rural schools are located. I’ve spoken to director of one of the schools and told her that I’m interested in coming for a visit and observing some classes. Given that I’ll have to walk that will take me a good hour and hanging out at those schools will likely take up the rest of that part of the day. Some other stuff that I have going on this month:

September 5th is the new and improved Community Health Committee’s first meeting

September 7th there is a special commemoration in honor of an ex-Paraguayan president who was also a war hero and who’s plane crashed here in Loma Grande (Paraguay’s President Lugo is said to be planning on attending)

September 9th my supervisor and volunteer coordinator will be coming to formally present me and my work to the community

September 19th I’ll be attending a GAD (Gender and Development) meeting in Asuncion

September 27th or 28th I’ll be back in Asuncion to help a few friends celebrate their birthdays

September 29th I’ll be helping one of my nearest neighbors celebrate her town’s festival

…and just like that, the month is over. And that’s how things go in the Peace Corps. Sometimes you are incredibly busy and other times you’re planning what to make for dinner during breakfast.

Now that I know more people though, it’s much easier to “put myself out there” and just go and visit or walk around. I guess that is also the challenge of being in a small town. There’s no cyber café so whiling away the hours on the internet is not possible unless I leave town; there’s no park area so just sitting and people watching isn’t really an option; and there’s no bar or café so sitting some place to just hang out, read or people watch isn’t an option either. I guess I’m trying to say that there isn’t much to do here and so it’s up to each person to decide how to spend their time. I guess that is true no matter where life finds you – we all have to decide what the best use of our time is. It’s just that so many choices have been taken away from me. Hmm, maybe that actually makes my decisions that much easier…..


Anonymous said...

Congrats on the first month!

daryl breithaupt said...

Congrats again on your first month!