Sunday, April 19, 2009

Semana Santa, Como Planear Mi Vida and Every day Life

So, my friend Alfredo invited me to spend Semana Santa, “Holy Week” with his family in the “campo” – very rural area. I had also been invited by my training host family to spend the time with them. I was torn but decided to spend the four days with Alfredo and his family. I was eager to see a different part of the country and to spend time in the “interior” part of the country.

I slept in my own bed in my own room though the walls were rustic and had big spiders in all the crevices. Come on self, I said constantly, you lived in Africa; you can sleep in a spidery room! Sufficiently calmed, I went on the next challenge, trying to eat vegetarian while visiting a family that had just killed a HUGE pig. But pig is not meat they tried to explain to me. Ugh, well, yes, but you see, I don’t actually eat anything that comes from the skin of an animal. So I ate salads and sardines. See, “campo” life isn’t so hard! Well, I had a great time and was even invited back! Here are a few pics that highlight my time in the “campo.”

Making it through Semana Santa meant only one thing to me: the start of classes. The school year began here in mid-March but the classes that I am now teaching were planned to start after the Holy Week break – April 13th. Although I was anxious to get started, I was petrified to get started. I knew only a few of the students but now I would be working with virtually ALL of them. Basically I had worked out a plan to teach a Peace Corps life skills program called, Como Planear Mi Vida (How to Plan My Life) with the 7th, 8th and 9th graders from the elementary/middle school here in town. The middle/high school also has 7th, 8th and 9th grades and so I inquired if they would like me to teach the program there as well. I guess the principal liked the program – a lot, because she asked me to teach it to the entire student body (about 250 students). So 12 classes later, I’m busier than I could’ve ever imagined.

I’ve modified the program and am more or less sharing three versions with the students. One is for the younger students – the 7th – 9th graders, one for the 10th and 11th graders and the last one is a shortened version for the 12th graders. I will only have access to them about 2x/month so I’ve trimmed their program down to the essentials (basically job /career related stuff and family planning related stuff). For the two younger groups the focus will more or less be the same: self-esteem, decision-making, family planning, and job/career planning. I’ll be with those two groups once a week.

I’ve just finished my first week and am now ready (I think) to get into the real “work” of the program. Last week I mostly introduced myself to the students, talked about life in the US, and summarized the program for them. We’re starting with autobiographies. I’m having the students use a basic questionnaire (how old are you, how many sisters/brothers do you have, etc) to begin writing their stories. When we are about half way through the course I’ll ask them to do so again, but this time imagining that ten years have passed. Towards the end of the course, we’ll do our biographies one last time – this time imagining that fifty years have passed. I can’t wait to see how their lives will all turn out!

Another activity we’ll do is create our own personal flags. Just the way countries have flags with colors and symbols that represent their values/beliefs we’ll make flags for ourselves that illustrate these things. My flag will probably have a globe on it, some green color to symbolize my connection to the earth/nature and maybe something that symbolizes service leadership – if there is such a symbol.

Clearly, I’m excited abo
ut this work. I’m also excited about a new recycling project I’m trying to get off the ground. Everything is in place to get it going except…someone to buy our recyclables. There is no formal recycling program in this country but there lots of companies that will buy glass, plastic, etc. We just have to go out and find them! Well, my boss from Peace Corps helped me find a list of companies online and I’ve now given that list to my mayor. Hopefully we can work something out with one of these companies and start our program up. All of the proceeds from the sale of our recycling will benefit our local health council (of which I’m an ad-hoc member). This council oversees the running of our local health clinic and ensures the clinic is meeting our town’s needs. As an avid environmentalist, I’m happy to have found a way to begin to tackle my town’s garbage problems. I’m also happy to be working on a project related to my project plan (as a municipal development volunteer there are certain projects I should be doing with my municipality).

Finally a few comments about life in Paraguay. I’ve been asked what my day-to-day life is like. Well, not having a 9-5 job my days are always different. Most mornings I go to the municipality briefly to see what, if anything is going on. Now, I have classes every afternoon (and on Thursdays have morning classes as well). I also have the health council meetings every Wednesday afternoon (recently moved from Wednesday mornings). I spend time (sometimes a bit too much time) on my computer researching information for my projects and checking email (I recently got internet in my home though it is slow and not very reliable). So, a typical
day doesn’t really exist.

I try do laundry every few days so that it does not build up too much. I have a love/hate relationship with laundry day. I always dread doing laundry though it is not that unpleasant a task. I take my iPod and speakers to the patio where I wash my clothes and the music helps create a pleasant atmosphere. Washing clothes by hand is pretty simple: soak, scrub vigorously, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse (usually 4 rinses before the water runs clear), twist, flick and hang, let dry (depending on sun and other factors about 2-3 hours usually does the trick in summer), then iron carefully. I was not a big ironer in the US but here you MUST iron your clothes or risk the dreaded botfly. Basically, as I understand it, it will be on your clothes (you won’t notice) and once it comes into contact with
your skin will lay its eggs under your skin. You will then develop a painful blister (looks a bit like one of those under the skin zits) that will hopefully have you seeking medical advice at which point they’ll tell you that you are about to be the proud parent of some baby botflies. Seriously, they will just dig out the eggs or whatever and you’ll be fine but still…gross! So ironing can apparently, prevent this horrid scene from occurring. In a continuing effort to make these kinds of chores more pleasant I usually iron with my laptop or iPod nearby and listen to music or watch movies.

I try not to save up household chores for weekends so that I can actually enjoy those a bit, but with my first week of classes this week, I found myself doing A LOT of laundry this past Saturday. Here’s how my day ended up:

-woke up at 7:30
-ate breakfast, changed by 8:30
-did 2 ½ hours of laundry, was done by 10:30
-ate a snack, checked email, left for grocery shopping by 11:30
-got to San Lorenzo where I do some of my grocery shopping 1:00
-finished shopping and headed back to Loma 2:00
-got home from grocery shopping 3:30
-drank lots of terere and relaxed ‘til 4:00
-took clothes down from line and started ironing
-finished ironing and started making dinner 6:00
-checked email while eating dinner 6:30
-was in bed and reading a book by 8:00
-lights out 10:00!

Yes, people, sometimes my life is just one adventure after another….until next time …

No comments: