Saturday, October 17, 2009

My first Blog ever!

Hey guys!

I hope y’all are good whomever and wherever you are. My name is Laura. I am a Peace Corps volunteer in training, Volunteer Group #32, in the Apicultura (BeeKeeping) Program. This is my Blog. I hope you guys enjoy the awesomeness of my writings and learn a little bit about Paraguay too!

Today is October 17, 2009. Lots have happened since I got here the 24 of September. In the States, my little brother turned 23 ( I wished him a happy 22nd oops, haha), my older brother moved to Puerto Rico to practice law, and my dad exchanged marriage vows (congratulations, Pops!). As for my mom, she continues to be awesome and help me tie up loose ends in the states. My family is such an awesome support network. It’s nice to know I always have a couch to crash on, haha.

So…I’m in Paraguay… what….

Let me start of by saying, Dude, I am receiving a paycheck to hang with Paraguayans, learns a language, work as a beekeeper, and meet like-minded people. I wish my Florida friends were here partaking in this experience because I miss them! We would all probably just be here laughing at each other haha but I reckin we are all just following our own interests.

I am writing to you from Guarambare, a small town outside of Asuncion, the capital.

There are 42 potential Volunteers living in Guarambare. Nine of us are training to work bees i.e. beekeeping.

My Host Family
Everything I eat is straight from my mom’s garden. The milk and cheese come from her neighbor’s cow (no cows for us). The other night I slept on a hammock in the yard because it was too hot in my room. My house set up is sweet. I live in a guest house next to my host mom’s house, which is super unconventional. Example, another girl in my beekeeping program shares her bedroom with a pregnant chicken. I am not really sure how that got set up. Everyone shares their yards with dogs, chickens, cows, young children, etc. I watched a cow castration the other day. I did not puke, haha. Most women born in Guarambare will spend their lives here, marry young (by US standards), and have on average 5 children. In the rural areas that stat jumps to 10 children per woman. My host mom is atypical. She is worked for the Paraguayan Ministry of Education, lived many many years in Argentina where she rents her house now. Her sons (no daughters) are now adults with children. Two are accountants and one is lawyer. Her family is doing well. Her 15 year old niece, Jessica, lives with us. She goes to school and is super “guapa”. Someone who is “guapa” in Paraguay is super hardworking and it is absolutely a compliment to be called guapa.

Speaking of “Guapa”
The Peace Corps is one of the most guapa organizations that I have ever had the pleasure working for. The goal of the Peace Corps is to help communities visualize and/or materialize eventual self sustainable programs through hands on experience and formal/informal education.

My goals
As a Volunteer in the BeeKeeping Sector, I will be living in some rural area. My goal is to partake in beneficial information exchange that feed into the interests of the people. The interests depends on the needs/wants of the community. Not all communities will be interested in beekeeping. If that is the case, I hope to change their minds, as bees are so easy to keep and their honey can be eaten and sold for profit at very little time/monetary investment. The community may already have good beekeepers. If so, I can work bees with them and find a market for their honey. If the beekeepers are not good, then I can help tweak their practices. If the community is still not into working bees, then that is okay. I can still work on agricultural and health projects and start women’s groups and cooking classes. Who knows? As a link between my community and various NGO’s I can help to bring private and government funds that results in a tap water system for the community.

But that’s three months from now.

I am in Guarambare until mid December. The first three months of Peace Corps is all about preparation for our eventual site placement. I do not know where I will be come 2010.

In Guarambare we practice Guarani in the morning and BeeKeeping/Agricutural training in the afternoon. Guarani is the indigenous language of Paraguay.

Diosnel is our language teacher. His name is awesome because Dios means God in Spanish. Its like if I introduced myself as Godnel.

Back to Guarani, It’s tough, yo.

There are no preps and ownership like we know in English.

Ex. “Che ane’e che syndive” or “I speak with my mom”
Ex. “Nde rene’e nde syndive” or “You speak with your mom”

Notice the difference?? Che = I/mine (a)ne’e = I speak sy=mom ndive = with

My mom’s cow = che sy vaca

Also, the “y” in Guarani is pronounced like “ewe” but deeper, like a gorilla’s call “ewgh ewgh ewgh”. sy is pronounced like “sewgh”.

Another fun fact: “yes” i.e. the sounds one makes when “one is in accordance” is spelled “he’e” but sounds like the “hee” of a donkey braw but deeper and monotone. In fact, my Cuban grandmother used to make that sound when she didn’t understand and needed me to repeat. For the first two weeks, I was repeating probably everything to my host mom when what she really meant was yes, I understand , haha. I’m still laughing because the pronunciation of so many words is nasally and unnatural in the English language. Its very funny to hear gringos practice nasal noises. And there’s a lot. There’s a whole category of Nasal words and rules that apply to them.

Training is pretty involved. We work with Africanized bees. They are guapa as well as disease resistance. Getting stung is not fun but nothing too bad. Our trainer is Jonathan, a former volunteer. He is now dating a Paraguayan named Laura. In fact, almost all the Peace Corps staff are former volunteers who stayed, got married and had Paraguayan babies. I guess the odds are pretty good that I will have Paraguayan babies, haha. Side note: this chick who I studied with years ago is currently a volunteer here in Paraguay and…..yup, engaged.

Other cools things we’ve done in Training.
Used a machete
Built bamboo fence with machete and chicken wire to keep chickens from our garden
Started a garden
Destroyed a termite mound with axe to capture wild swarm (no good, as we could not find queen)
Built homemade hives “bateas”
Worked bees

I´m hoping to capture a wild swarm soon. :)

I’m done for writing today, but will write again (maybe soon).
Lots of luck,