How is it possible that there are only two days left until Christmas, eight days until 2014, and three months before I end my service as a Peace Corps volunteer and head to the United States (real life) for good?! Even though school is out, summer is in full swing, and people spend the majority of their time sitting and drinking tereré, the weeks still seem to disappear into thin air. Somebody make it stop!

This year I’ve decided to stay in site for Christmas rather than travel off to some beautiful exotic beach. It was a hard choice, considering the weather this time of year is muggy and uncomfortably hot, but I figured I needed to spend at least one Christmas here and experience first hand all of the Paraguayan traditions (Oh..and I spent all of my money on my last exotic beach vacation). I decorated my house, using a bush as my tree, put up lights, and made some pan dulce, Paraguay’s version of the oh-so-famous Christmas fruit cake. Although I’d kill for some eggnog, a fireplace, and some cooler weather, this situation isn’t half bad!

My beautiful Christmas bush

My Christmas bush

Night time view of my decorations

Night time view of my decorations

Pan Dulce straight from the fogon

Pan Dulce straight from the fogon

The past few months have been a whirlwind of travels, family, and work in site.

In September, along with the local Municipality and the NGO PLAN Paraguay, I organized a 4k fun run to promote health, fitness and to celebrate Dia de la Juventud, a day aimed at celebrating Paraguay’s youth. It was the first of its kind in Quiindy and we had almost 80 participants of all ages, female and male. It was a lot of work, but a complete success! There was an outpouring of community support in the form of prize donations, help from the police and fire department for safety, and nurses and doctors ready for any emergencies. Seeing motivation and determination in people’s faces as they crossed the finish line will forever be one of the highlights of my service.

The start & finish line of our race!

The start & finish line of our race!

Our fun run participants!

Our fun run participants!

October was full of sexual education and a 12 week vacation in the states to spend time with family and friends. Along with a health team of one local doctor, two nurses, and two students from the high school in my site that I selected to attend a two day seminar on HIV/AIDS, we were able to talk in five high schools with close to 600 students in grades 6-12 about HIV/AIDS and condom use. Our goal was to be fun, engaging, hands on, and honest. The students loved it! We had students stay after our hour long class to tell us how interesting the information was, to ask questions, and to ask when we would be coming back. I was especially proud of the two 16 year old girls that assisted us from my site. Even though they were talking in front of their peers (who whistled, hissed, and made inappropriate comments) about a very a sensitive subject (SEX), they stood proud and if they were fearful, they never showed it. Much more brave than I ever was at that age!

My brave high school students talking about condoms

My brave high school students talking about condoms

Sex education with Nurse Laura

Sex education with Nurse Laura

Somewhere between all of our sex-ed chats, I was able to squeeze in a 12 day vacation home. It was 12 days of pure heaven. After 18 months of not seeing my family and friends, going home and being able to spend time with everyone I love was absolutely amazing. I stuffed my face with treats and food I had been craving (Mexican food was first), I drank delicious beers and fancy coffee drinks, I got as many hugs and I love yous in as possible, and I tried to soak in the experience. It was overwhelming how thankful/lucky/fortunate I felt the entire time I was home. So much had changed over the course of almost two years: new babies, new marriages, new houses, new jobs, but at the same time, nothing had changed at all. Many times I stopped and thought, “JEEZE, I am SO blessed. STOP and appreciate this!” It definitely wasn’t enough time. I wanted to spend more time with my mom, my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends; however, I also knew that I had a job and a commitment to get back to. It did get me very excited to get home and be much closer to my loved ones!

First night home with my beautiful family!

First night home with my beautiful family!

I had missed my mama!

I had missed my mama!

Reunited with some of faves!

Reunited with some of faves!

Team Gold! Tee time with the Slevin Family

Team Gold! Tee time with the Slevin Family

The action didn’t stop in November as the women’s commission I’ve been working with FINALLY got sufficient funding to start construction on the fogon (an elevated, wood burning, brick oven) project we started over a year ago. On top of that excitement my dad came to visit Paraguay! It’s been a long, long time coming, but the hard work of 13 dedicated women paid off when we started fogon construction on November 15th! A Peace Corps friend and fogon constructing master came out to my site to do a training with two guys who had never built a fogon before. Two days later, we had completed our first stove! The next week I worked with the two bricklayers, guiding them along (and controlling Uncle Juan’s sugar cane liquor intake on the job), as we built five more. The women, who I think had lost some hope somewhere along the year long journey, were ecstatic and so grateful. The women have started using their new stoves and aside from a couple of adjustment burns, I have heard nothing but, “it is so pretty,” “it works so well,” and “I am so happy with my fogon!” regarding their new kitchen accessory.

Fogon #1 complete!  Uncle Juan in the middle

Fogon #1 complete! Uncle Juan in the middle

Happy faces all around

Happy faces all around

November 27th, after five months of anxiously awaiting his arrival, my dad arrived in Paraguay! Just my luck that the morning he arrived I got on the wrong bus and had a leisurely 3 hour ride around the city landing me at the airport about an hour late. (Sorry dad!) I decided to throw my dad right into the mix of things by choosing the public city bus option over the air conditioned taxi. After 27 hours of sitting, I figured he needed some adventures. We got on the bus and had a nice crowded, loud, hot, bumpy bus ride to the city center of Asuncion. We ate lunch and headed to my site.

Dad @ the Paraguayan white house

Dad @ the Paraguayan white house

Although we didn’t spend a lot of time in my site, my dad was able to share a big Thanksgiving barbeque with my neighbors where he tried lots of popular Paraguayan dishes, he got to go to a kindergarten graduation, wash dishes using the “bucket method” and get woken up at least 15 times in the middle of the night by the obnoxious chicken colony next door (I swear they’re out to get me). I’d say he got a pretty good idea of what life in the “campo” is like! After three nights in Paraguay, we traveled to Argentina. We spent a week in Bariloche riding bikes, fishing, swimming, drinking craft beers, eating cured meat and smoked cheeses, and adventuring around all of the lakes, rivers and mountains. Our week in Bariloche was followed by three days in Buenos Aires for more wine, more beef, more beautiful sites and more fun! Argentina was wonderful, and it was made that much better sharing the experience with my dad. I was so happy that he was able to make it down to South America and especially glad he got to see my site. It was an epic and unforgettable father daughter trip.

Biking around Bariloche

Biking around Bariloche

Great day fishing Lake Nahuel Huapi

Great day fishing Lake Nahuel Huapi

Wine-ing around Buenos Aires

Wine-ing around Buenos Aires

Since my dad left things have slowed way down. Because of the heat, between the hours of 12 and 5 nobody (including myself) does a thing! In Paraguay, Christmas day isn’t as big of a deal as Christmas eve, which means that tomorrow is the big celebration. I’ll be going over to my neighbor’s house to hang out with her family, and then after midnight I’ve heard everyone walks around wishing their neighbors Merry Christmas. The kids all have their fireworks ready to light off at midnight and the adults have boxes of apple champagne (Sidra) and sangria (Clerico). Should be a loud and crazy night.

2013 has been an amazing year for me! It has been filled with many successes, failures, new friendships, fabulous adventures, and unforgettable moments with some incredible people. Bring it on 2014! I am so excited to see what you have in store. Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year. As always, Thank you for following my journey.

Boat ride across the Tebicuary River

Boat ride across the Tebicuary River

One last thing! In February Peace Corps Paraguay is hoping to host the 3rd annual Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) for approximately 50 young girls. Camp GLOW Paraguay includes motivational speakers, engaging activities on sexual education, self-expression, creativity, goal setting, value formation, gender roles and personal identity. With your (tax deductible) support, our dream to fund Camp GLOW 2014 can turn into reality for this year’s motivated participants! Please unite with us in the movement towards female empowerment in Paraguay! To donate, click on the link below! https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=14-526-001

Xoxo Bridget

I knew I would eventually hit a mark in my service where my everyday happenings didn’t strike me as blog worthy and exciting anymore. I would stop getting sand fleas (or at least not think of them as GROSS anymore), I’d learn how to avoid getting bit by monkeys, and everything I did would be a repeat of something I had done the year before. With a little over eight months left in my service (holy cow!), I have to think more about what kinds of things I can share that will still be exciting and interesting for my followers back home. So, after four months without a blog post, here goes my best attempt!

Canoeing on the Paraguay River in Asuncion

Canoeing on the Paraguay River in Asuncion

Amigas

Amigas

The Chipa Overdose: Semana Santa, the week proceeding Easter, has come and gone. Remember last year when I woke up at 4:30 A.M to make chipa with my host family? Well, this year I woke up around 8A.M feeling like it was Christmas morning. Weird to think that when I arrived I didn’t even like chipa. Now, I crave it regularly and when my bus stops to pick up a chipa vendor, which is every time I travel anywhere, I have to distract myself and convince myself that I do NOT in fact NEED to buy chipa. So I woke up, walked over to my neighbors house and helped them form their chipa logs and bake them. For helping she gave me a couple of pieces to take home with me. I continued on my journey, went to another friend’s house, did the same job and was rewarded with a couple more pieces. This went on until I had eaten about 4 pieces of chipa from different families and had thrown a couple of pieces out my back door to the odd assortment of dogs, cats, and chickens that like to hang out around my house.

I had made plans to stay at a family’s house that night, so I got there around dinner time and of course, I was offered chipa. I ate it, because as I said, I like the stuff! About an hour later, the consequence of having eaten five pieces of pig-fat-filled chipa throughout the day started to catch up with me and I started to feel nauseous. The night resulted in my host mom serving me sour natural herb tea as I sat hunched over a toilet. Not only was it embarrassing to have zero control over my bodily functions in front of the entire family, but the fact that it was caused by my own gluttonous overeating of chipa was just shameful. The only good part about this incident was that the following day when I told people that I got sick from eating too much chipa (they all got a kick out of that), they didn’t offer me any more. Hopefully a lesson learned.

My first ½ Marathon: I’ve always wanted to run a half marathon and thought that doing it during my Peace Corps service would be perfect. Not only do I have lots of extra time on my hands, but it also sets an example of a healthy active lifestyle to members of my community. I made it a new years resolution and signed up for the Asuncion Half Marathon. Training was a bit difficult between scheduled activities and rain which prevented a couple of planned long runs, but reaching my weekly goal and increasing my distance (along with some good music and the promise of a guilt-free, carb-filled meal afterward, chipa?) was what motivated me throughout. May 12th, a cold, rainy day in Asuncion, I successfully completed my goal alongside a group of other volunteers. What an experience! The vibe, the energy, and the support all made my goal so much more attainable and made my first ½ very enjoyable. I hope to do a full marathon when I return to the states!

Work related: I finished my big world map that I was working on at one of the schools in my community. It is a great activity that many volunteers end up doing in their service and I liked it because I was constantly visible to the students. They’d come over, chat with me, ask me to talk in English, and ask me to point to certain countries. It was also fun seeing the students use the map as I had intended. Groups of students would stare at the map shouting names of countries, while the other group was responsible for finding the countries. It lets them see how large and diverse our world is and opens up their world view even if only a small amount!

World Map

World Map almost complete

I started teaching computer classes in the high school. Most of the students love to touch the computers and practice using simple programs like Paint, but a couple of the students are very fearful. We work on the basics: creating folders, typing, using Microsoft word, and I try to fit in internet safety tips and safe/smart Facebook use. Most students, even if they don’t have a computer, have access to Facebook on their phones. We’ve had a couple of incidences where inappropriate pictures are posted to Facebook or sent via text message, and I try to use my class time with the high school students to get them to see the potential consequences of their actions on their future. Hopefully they’re listening.

I started a reading club in the elementary school with students in 3rd and 4th grade. My school fortunately has a huge assortment of books but the students aren’t encouraged to make use of them. I decided to utilize the two teachers responsible for the library and asked them to enter into the classes with me once a week to read to the students and do a simple activity with them. Our first book with the students was The Cat in the Hat Returns, obviously read in Spanish (in my most animated and dramatic voice), and they loved it! After, we did a rhyming activity and although it was difficult for some students to think outside of the box and use their creativity, they seemed to respond well.

Unfortunately the first week of July, school went on their planned two week winter vacation and school has yet to start. A series of events, including a week of miserably cold temperatures and two more weeks of teachers striking to make changes within the ministry of education have prevented teachers from deciding on a start date. The word on the street is that school will be starting again August 28th, but hopefully that’s not the case. I’m reading to get back to school!

Outside of school: Because of a change in political parties at the end of April, my fogon project is on hold for awhile until we can start asking for funds from the governor August 15th! It is frustrating, but I would prefer to at least try to use the local resources then to immediately turn to other, easier, funding options.

My walking/workout club was proving to be a great success until the weather changed and it started to get dark earlier. The cold inevitably meant members of the club were “demasido kaigue” or without motivation to do anything (yes, they actually said this to me). I went for a couple of days by myself to prove that the cold couldn’t and wouldn’t keep ME from walking, but that didn’t change the situation. I’m thinking when it warms up again in a couple of months we can try again. Recently a couple of women have been telling me they need to walk because of their high blood pressure, so hopefully we’ll have a good group once we start.

THE COLD arrived! All summer long as I poured ice water over myself, took multiple cold showers each day to cool down, walked around town with a sweat towel which was always soaked by the time I got home, I spoke of how much I couldn’t wait for winter. Well, now winter is here, and I’m not quite sure which is worse. For about two weeks straight it rained and because it is so humid here, when it rains for multiple days in a row everything starts to feel wet. My walls started to sweat, the clothes inside my closet were all damp, and the other day I took out a pair of shoes that actually had MOLD growing all over them. It is awful! It also made it much harder to plan anything or motivate myself when things were constantly being rescheduled because of the rain or the possibility of rain. It’s starting to warm up now, but I’ve heard the “southern winds” are heading our way next week—that means cold! I know I’ll regret saying this in a couple of months when I have to shed my layers and turn on both of my fans to find any sort of comfort, but I’m already looking forward to the warmth.

Flooding in front of my house!

Flooding in front of my house!

My Birthday: At the end of June I celebrated the big 2-4 in Paraguay. Last year I passed around alfajores, but this year I wanted to do something special since it will be my last birthday spent here. I asked a local shop owner and one of my host moms to make a cake for me and I invited all of my host families to my house for cake, hot dogs and mayonnaise, and juice. I know, I know, shame on me for serving such unhealthy food, but it was my birthday and I was working on a budget! About 20 people came, including host moms, host sisters and brothers, and one of my close Peace Corps friends who came to visit and help with the party. We all squeezed into my kitchen, ate hot dogs, sang happy birthday, and then ate cake. I also got some sweet gifts including a thermos for hot water, a necklace, a mirror, underwear, socks, a hat and a shirt. I had a wonderful birthday and was so happy to be able to share it with all of the people here that mean so much to me.

Cake, hot dogs & juice

Cake, hot dogs & juice

Pictures with the birthday girl :)

Pictures with the birthday girl🙂

Birthday Party

Birthday Party

The whole gang!

The gang!

Itaipu Dam: Last month I went with a group of friends to visit the Itaipu dam near Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este. It’s the second largest dam in the world and the largest operating hydroelectric facility. The dam provides Paraguay with about 85% of its electricity and Brazil with about 20% of its electricity. It is massive and so impressive to see. We got to have an inside tour of the dam and learn all about the process of how the energy is actually produced–SO interesting and worth the visit.

Itaipu

Itaipu

Itaipu Dam

Itaipu Dam

IMG_2065

Private tour perks!

Private tour perks!

SO BIG

SO BIG

One last thing that I am so excited about: My dad is coming to Paraguay in November! I had been hoping that someone from home would come down to visit so that I could share this beautiful experience with them and so that they could fully understand my day to day life. I knew that it would be difficult, but it is actually happening and I could not be happier! My host families are getting so excited and they all have been talking about how they want to have asados or barbeques to celebrate his arrival. I’m sure it will be overwhelming, but I think my dad will love Paraguay just as much as I have grown to love this country.

Asado..get ready Dadio!

Asado..get ready Dadio!

That is the update for now. Miss you all back at home!

Hasta Luego!

Bridget

I know, I know! It’s been two months and I haven’t updated the blog, but it is not because I’ve forgotten, am lazy, or because I don’t want anyone to know what I’m doing, rather it is because my computer was stolen! Yes, you heard right. The 13 inch Macbook that got me through all four years of college and journeyed with me into the real world was stolen. I will explain later, but for now I have a lot to catch up on.

School started in Comandante Peralta about two weeks ago, so up until then I’ve been enjoying every last bit of summer with trips around Paraguay for Carnaval celebrations, summer camps, and a unique (to say the least) fishing trip. Summer was wonderful, but I am now officially back in the swing of things and could not be happier about it. April 20th will mark my one year mark of being an official volunteer and although I’ll still have a year left,  I’m already thinking about how hard it will be to leave my community that I’ve grown to love and see as my own.

As I mentioned in my last blog, this summer two of my close friends and I decided to host a traveling summer camp in all of our sites. We started in my site, traveled to Bree’s site, and ended in Maddy’s site. The camps were designed for kids between the ages of 6 and 12, lasted for four days each, and consisted of themes including: art and science, exercise and health, culture and travel, and finished with a game day filled with games that are typical in the United States (sack races, slipping slides, balloon tosses, etc). It was a blast! Not only was it nice being able to hang out with my girlfriends during the slowest and hottest part of the Paraguayan summer, but we also got to know the kids in our sites and introduce them to a fun concept that we know so well in the U.S, the SUMMER CAMP! We of course had a couple of mishaps. In my site little Carlos got a little rowdy and decided to hit the slipping slide (yes I know these were probably outlawed in the states years ago for being so dangerous) feet first. This resulted in a head slam that left him whimpering and crying until his mom came to take him home (she also cried). In Bree’s site, Camila stubbed her toe during a sack race and we’re assuming due to her being dehydrated, her toe wouldn’t stop bleeding. This led to more tears and a quick end to the sack races. Both incidents occurred on game day, the last day. Not too bad! We’re hoping that because of the low injury rate parents will entrust their children to us again next summer.

Maddy's kiddos with their certificates

Maddy’s kiddos with their certificates

Mud slide

Mud slide

Exercise time @ camp

Exercise time @ camp

Slippin slide time!

Slippin slide time!

Silly pose with my kiddos @ camp

Silly pose with my kiddos @ camp

Science day @ Camp..Slimee!

Science day @ Camp..Slimee!

Last year Peace Corps Paraguay started to host a camp that is held in many another Peace Corps posts around the world, Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). I was able to invite three girls from my site between the ages of 15 and 17 this year, and it was such a great experience for us all. It is an overnight camp where the girls get to stay in cabins, eat in a mess hall and there was even a camp fire! Sexual health, cyber safety, healthy relationships v. unhealthy relationships, theater, exercise, and many other topics were talked about and my girls responded so well to everything! Even now, a month and a half later I’ll stop by one of their houses and they’ll start talking about how much fun they had, someone they met at the camp, or they will start singing a camp song we learned there. Next year I have decided to be a part of the planning and I am already so excited to participate again in such an amazing camp focused on empowering women!

Camp GLOW cabin

Camp GLOW cabin

All of the camp participants!

All of the camp participants!

The lovely ladies of Comandante Peralta!

The lovely ladies of Comandante Peralta!

Camp GLOW with our cabin

Camp GLOW with our cabin

Starting at the end of January and continuing into February the Carnaval season took over Paraguay. Many have heard of Carnaval celebrations in Brazil, but I was surprised by all of the celebrations here. Of course they aren’t as large and as crazy, but seeing as how I can’t just drop everything for a weekend trip to Brazil, I definitely got my fix here in Paraguay! Carnaval is basically a large street parade where samba groups prepare dances and dance along a designated and blocked off street. They wear super elaborate and colorful costumes with lots of feathers and glitter. It is a beautiful spectacle. In the stands the crowds cheer, spray foam on each other, dance and sip on adult beverages. I went to the Carnaval in Encarnacion to watch two Peace Corps Volunteers who live there perform and then traveled to Villarica a couple weeks later to experience another Carnaval.  (This is where it happened! While we were out of our hotel room enjoying the festivities, someone entered our hotel room and stole 2 computers (one being mine), money, a cell phone, a camera, and a quick dry towel -weird.)

Celebrity pose at Carnaval

Celebrity pose at Carnaval

Carnaval in Villarica: FOAM in hand

Carnaval in Villarica: FOAM in hand

Carnaval in Encarnacion w/ our lovely volunteers

Carnaval in Encarnacion w/ our lovely volunteers

Carnaval 2

Encarnacion beach time

Encarnacion beach time

A couple of weeks ago my community contact asked me if I wanted to join a fishing trip their commission was going to be hosting to raise money for a project they are trying to fund. They’d be driving to Pilar where the fishing was GREAT and then we’d be returning. I decided it would be a lot of fun and I love fish, so I joined the group. We left my community at 3 A.M, sat on a bus for about 4 hours and arrived at our destination. A POND along the road. I thought maybe someone knew something I didn’t, so although I thought it was weird we would drive so far to fish at a pond (mind you there are ponds much closer) I stayed positive I’d catch a real prize fish. I realized my positivity was not warranted when after about 2 hours the whole group had about 3 fish in total—three SMALL piranhas. Similar to many other situations in Paraguay, the only thing you can do is laugh. I realized three things about fishing in Paraguay this day. 1. They use bamboo sticks to fish (clearly you’re not catching the big guys with a bamboo pole). 2. They use meat as bait (no surprise they’re catching piranhas), and 3. They DO NOT catch and release. No matter how small the fish is, we’re taking it home to eat. I’ve gotta admit, the Piranha soup a couple of guys manage to stew up was delicious! There has been talk of another fishing trip, and I’ve already said I would go again. Hopefully better luck next time.

Pond fishing

Pond fishing

Bottle Fishing

Bottle Fishing

Pre Fish Soup

Pre Fish Soup

The fish you catch when using meat bait

The fish you catch when using meat bait

More recently I have been very busy in site! Still working with the commissions doing cooking classes, working in one school doing a large scale world map on one of their walls, and most recently I started an evening exercise class. I have about 7 women/ young girls that have been attending pretty regularly and it is a lot of fun! We start with some easy exercises (jumping jacks, butt kicks, etc), stretching, and then we walk and jog laps around the soccer field. Each week a couple of new people come and join us, or walk separately, but I figure at least they know they have a place where they can come and be active. Another volunteer and I are hoping to plan some sort of 5k or 10k walk/jog race before we end our service to emphasize how important living a healthy, active lifestyle is. I’m trying to set a good example and have been training to run my first half marathon in May which has also been keeping me busy. Any and all suggestions are very much appreciated!

That is the update for now. I can’t believe it has been over a year since I have been home. I miss my family, friends, carne asado burritos and good sushi every day, but as I mentioned, I feel like this is my home now. The kindness that I have received and continue to receive from my neighbors, friends and host families fills me with so much happiness! A year later, I thank you all for continuing to follow my journey! Also, Happy Easter!

Recent PC Trainee visit

Recent PC Trainee visit

xoxo Bridget

Hello and Happy New Year to all!

I am back from an absolutely amazing vacation and although I still am stuck in summer fun mode, I fortunately have another month before school begins and the real work starts back up again.  These past couple of weeks I have been planning, hosting, and assisting with lots of fun summer camps, which explains the delay in this post. I plan on blogging all about these camps, however, in an attempt to keep things relatively “short”, I will stick to the theme of vacation for now.

December 20th I boarded a double decker bus in my pueblo of Quiindy headed for Montevideo, Uruguay. The trip was approximately 24 hours, but the good company, air conditioning, big comfortable seats, snacks (pre-packaged carbohydrate overload), and whiskey drinks made it go much faster than expected. Perhaps I’ve just gotten used to waiting around and sitting for long periods of time, but 24 hours flew by! We arrived in Montevideo where we would spend two nights and traveled to our friendly, clean hostel. It was in the perfect location. A couple minutes walk from the beach and close to lots of shops and cute restaurants. Within minutes we were heading out to see and gawk at the ocean for the first time in 10 months and to find a place where we could enjoy our first Chivito. Chivitos are Uruguay’s national sandwich. Click here to see Anthony Bourdain’s take on the wich.  DELICIOUS. Meaty, cheesy, saucy, HUGE. What else could you want? I was in love and ate a total of 4 during our 12 days in Uruguay. I will be back for another one day! I loved Montevideo, the beach wasn’t especially beautiful, but the people were kind and we had some delicious food including fresh pizza from a corner pizzeria, fresh sushi, and delicious baked corvina fish.

Montevideo

Montevideo

Bus to Uruguay

Bus to Uruguay

After two nights in Montevideo, we boarded a 3-hour bus to Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay. We arrived to our house and fell in love! Not only was it air-conditioned, filled with natural light, and clean (spider/bug free!), but it was also ON the beach. We could walk out from our porch and we were immediately surrounded with beautiful white sand. Each morning I took advantage of our proximity and made a little beach visit. Nothing like a fresh sea breeze and some ocean water to make you feel alive!  Punta del Diablo, known for being a sleepy beach town, was a very relaxing place. We quickly learned that most people there don’t eat lunch until 3, dinner is served around 12 and no one will judge you for sleeping in until 11am.

We made it to heaven! Punta del Diablo

We made it to heaven! Punta del Diablo

Kitchen

Kitchen

Our fancy bathroom

Our fancy bathroom

In South America, Christmas Eve has more importance than the actual day of Christmas. From our balcony we could see families in all of the surrounding houses barbequing with their loved ones. When midnight hit, all of the houses started lighting off fireworks for about half an hour. It was beautiful! On Christmas morning my girlfriends and I cooked up a big brunch and then started preparing for Christmas dinner. There were 8 other volunteers who were also in Punta del Diablo for Christmas, and we had all decided to meet at our house for a potluck style Christmas dinner. We ended up having a wonderful time, playing games, drinking Uruguayan cerveza, and eating our massive feast of Corvina, steak, stuffing, ceviche, macaroni and cheese, fresh baked bread, stuffed peppers, and of course cookies, pound cake and lemon bars for dessert. Although I wasn’t able to spend this Christmas with my family, being with all of the other volunteers was the next best thing and made me feel oddly at home.

Christmas morning

Christmas morning

Christmas morning

Christmas morning

Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

Girls night out in Punta del Diablo

Girls night out in Punta del Diablo

After 5 nights in Punta del Diablo, we boarded a bus headed for Cabo Polonio National Park. We got to the terminal in the Park, but had to get on a 4×4 jeep/sand buggy contraption to get into the town center. Entering Cabo Polonio was like entering a weird hippie vortex. It is a beautiful place with no running water, all water comes from wells, no electricity, all electricity is provided by solar panels, flowey skirts, dreads, people doing yoga on the beach, small colorful beach shacks, restaurants lit by candle light, drum circles, “space brownies” on restaurant menus, and lots of people trying to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle. We knew it was different as soon as we got to our hostel where the hostel owner had only reserved 3 spots for us (even though we had transferred money five months earlier to reserve four spots) and rather than apologize he said, “ No problem! One sleep on the hammock or on the couch tonight, but tomorrow maybe two girls share a bed?” So, instead of getting upset about it, we gladly shared a twin sized bed in a cramped room for 2 nights. No discount, no apologies. This is how Cabo Polonio works. You roll with the flow. It was weird at first, especially after being in Paraguay for 10 months, but we got used to it and soon enough we were shopping through artesian stands for flowey skirts and thinking about getting beaded dreads in our hair.

4x4 to enter CP

4×4 to enter CP

Entering Cabo Polonio

Entering Cabo Polonio

Our hostel in Cabo Polonio

Our hostel in Cabo Polonio

Failed sandboarding attempt

Failed sandboarding attempt

Getting weird in Cabo Polonio

Getting weird in Cabo Polonio

View of Cabo Polonio

View of Cabo Polonio

Afternoon cocktail in CP

Afternoon cocktail in CP

Roadside hotdog

Roadside hotdog

As New Years Eve was quickly approaching we had to get to our final stop on the trip, Punta del Este. Punta del Este was the complete opposite of Cabo Polonio, but equally as wonderful. Known for being the Miami of South America, the who’s who of South America venture there for New Years each year for over the top house and club parties. We were hesitant at first because clearly our group wasn’t exactly the who’s who of anywhere, and our pockets were slowly starting to empty. Luckily we met some people in our hostel that took us under their wings and carted us around to different parts of Punta del Este. Our hostel was also fantastic! Each night the hostel bar opened up early and everyone chatted until we all went our separate ways around 2 or 3 in the morning. There were people from all over staying there. We met groups from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, New York, Atlanta, Montevideo, etc! Needless to say when January 2nd rolled around and we were packing our backpacks to head back to Paraguay, the mood was a somber one.

Punta del Este

Punta del Este

The famous fingers in Punta del Este

The famous fingers in Punta del Este

Our final dinner in Punta del Este

Our final dinner in Punta del Este

Nos veremos Punta del Este!

Nos veremos Punta del Este!

During our 12 days in Uruguay we met some amazing people, ate some delicious food, danced until the sun rose multiple times, spent hours and hours on the beach relaxing (I’m now about 4 shades darker), and had an all around magnificent sweat-free time! I would highly recommend Uruguay to anyone considering it.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years also.

As great as it was, I am happy to be back in my community. I missed the hot, dirty, down-to-basics life! A new year means new projects, new resolutions, and I’m sure many more lessons and things to learn. February 9th marks my one-year in country point. Pretty crazy how fast time flies! As always I miss everyone back home and think about you guys all the time, but everyday I am thankful for my Peace Corps experience and wouldn’t change anything about it.

Back to the dirty sweaty grind :)

Back to the dirty sweaty grind🙂

Xoxo

Bridget

The holidays are upon us and here I am in my cozy little Paraguayan house, my 100-count single strand of lights strung by my bedroom window with care, These Are Special Times Celine Dion’s Christmas CD from 1992 a fixture on my ITunes, holiday cookies  cooling (sugar, oatmeal raisin, cocoa thumbprints, and gingerbread) for my Paraguayan neighbors and friends. I should mention it is 95 degrees and unbearably humid. Not exactly the ideal day to bake 12-dozen cookies. More of a drink cold water, lay under my fan, move as little as possible kind of day, however, I decided I needed to share some of my holiday cheer and I figure the sweat currently dripping off my face will all be worth it.

Crazy for cookies!

Crazy for cookies!

The past month and a half, although not much in terms of work, has been pretty eventful. I attended two more Quinceñeras, celebrated Thanksgiving with other Peace Corps volunteers, visited the Virgin Saint in Caacupé, and went to a my first Paraguayan funeral.

The Quinceñeras: While living with one of my host families, I became very close to their extended family. The sister of my host mom turned 15, and because their family is better off than most Paraguayan families in the rural areas, they went ALL OUT. We’re talking fireworks coming out of the stage, a photographer, a band that played on the STAGE, a fruit table with cocktails. It was beautiful and the girl who’s birthday it was had a fabulous time. We danced and dance until 6 in the morning when I decided to take a bus back to my house. A little bit crazier than my 15th birthday and probably nicer than my future wedding will be.

The Quincenera herself

The Quincenera herself

Sweets and cocktails

Sweets and cocktails

Dance floor with fireworks!

Dance floor with fireworks!

Dancing the night away

Dancing the night away

The second quince was for Carmen—my neighbor and host sister. Her family had a dinner with neighbors and a couple of her girlfriends. Much smaller scale, but equally as special. I got pulled into dancing multiple polka songs with my host dad, and spent the rest of the night hiding out by the food table sneaking chorizo and cake bites. The quince tradition here is so important for families and they take so much pride in it. The parties are also a huge source of community gossip for weeks! “I heard she got a car sent to her from Argentina!” “I heard they didn’t even give out cake!” One family told me that it is a tradition to have a quinceñera so big that families spend all of their money to celebrate their daughters 15th birthday and the following day might not even have money to eat. A bit of an exaggeration, but I can see some truth to it.

Quincenera 2

Quincenera 2

Polka with pops

Polka with pops

 Thanksgiving in Paraguay: Considering Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday I was determined to make it a special day even if I was in Paraguay, in the heat, away from my loved ones. Peace Corps has a tradition of renting out rooms in a hotel in the southern part of the country to spend the weekend together eating traditional thanksgiving food, drinking, and splashing around in pools, but that wasn’t until the weekend, and I wanted to celebrate on Thanksgiving day. Three of my girlfriends came to visit my site and we made a Mexican feast. Burritos with spanish rice, black beans, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pudding pie! (I have become OBSESSED with making homemade chocolate pudding, who knew it was so easy and you don’t even have to use a J-E-L-L-O packet! ) We had a wonderful evening together and then a fun filled weekend. Thanksgiving success!

 First Paraguayan Funeral: One of the families that I stayed with for a couple of weeks lived on a small compound where the grandfather had a home right behind the family’s home. Shortly after I left the home, the grandfather fell, became very weak, and had to move into the family’s home. He stopped walking and my host mom became his caretaker. When I would go and visit we would share terere and although his spirits remained high, he continued to deteriorate. A couple of weeks ago I got a text from my host sister informing me that her grandfather had passed away. I didn’t know exactly how to handle the situation. What is the culturally appropriate thing to do? I called the family and let them know how sorry I was about their loss. They told me the funeral would be the following day and that they expected me to attend. Of course I would, no problem. The next day I got ready, headed to the church where they had a short mass and then we accompanied the body to the cemetery. The family had gone in cars and I trailed behind with a couple of others walking. As we approached the cemetery I heard people screaming and because nobody else was freaking out, I decided to go with it. When we got to the casket, the daughters of the grandfather who had passed away were all standing around their father’s body screaming and pounding his casket. It was a scorching day and because they were exerting so much energy screaming and pounding, a couple of the sisters started to faint. Again, I did as the Paraguayans did and just stood by trying to hide my shock. Later I asked one of my neighbors if this was a tradition and he said that although you won’t see it all the time, the screaming and other dramatic displays of emotion show to those who are attending the funeral how sad you are, how much you care. Although I would have appreciated a warning, I know what to expect at my next funeral.

The Virgin of Caacupé: This is a HUGE tradition in Paraguay. Starting around the first of December and lasting until the 8th, thousands and thousands of Paraguayans visit the city of Caacupé to honor the city’s virgin saint or “our lady of the miracles.” It is said up to 300,000 devout Catholics make the pilgrimage each year from all over the country. I went with a commission in my community (by bus) on the 2nd of December and there were already so many people! We attended a crowded mass and walked around the streets where vendors of all sorts take advantage of the influx of visitors. The rest of the week you saw people hitchhiking, riding their bikes, and walking along the side of the highways attempting to get to Caacupé by the 8th.

So many people!

So many people!

Mass

Mass

The virgin saint

The virgin saint

The Church of Caacupe

The Church of Caacupe

 Vacation: School ended the last week of November and although my community has been having lots of graduations and end of the year events, the days seem much longer and the street (I would say streets, but there is only one) is silent. Luckily, foreseeing this months ago, some girlfriends and I started planning a Christmas vacation.  Tomorrow we are getting on a bus and heading to Montevideo, Uruguay. After spending a couple of days there, we will head to Punta del Diablo for 5 days, Cabo Polonio for 3 days, and finally Punte del Este for 3 nights. Not only am I excited to spend Christmas and New Years with some of my closest friends here, but I am SO excited to see the ocean after 10 months and eat SEAFOOD! You better believe I will be eating fish every chance I get! My next blog will extensively document our 13-day journey through Uruguay. I am a little bummed to be missing out on the Paraguayan traditions of pesebres, their version of nativities that most families decorate and put in front of their homes with fruit, lights, and ornaments, the large Christmas dinner, clerico, the Paraguayan version of Sangria, and spending time with the families I’ve grown to call my own here; however, not bummed enough to stay.

Pesebre

Pesebre

Wouldn’t be a blog post without a bug picture!

MONSTER BUG

MONSTER BUG

I hope you all have an amazing Christmas and New Years. I thank you all for following my journey thus far and I can’t wait for all that 2013 will bring—what a year this has been!

xoxo

Bridget

I know I know, I promised to make my blog entries MORE frequent, and instead they have become even more infrequent. Life gets the best of us, even when it doesn’t seem like much is really going on. Bear with me as I quickly try to recap the past 6 weeks.

First thing is first, I have now been in Paraguay for 8 months and the 24th of this month marks 6 months in site. How on earth are these days passing so quickly? They say your second year in site goes by much faster because you have your projects developed and are fully integrated into your community—I can’t even imagine.

The "Crazy" pose with some amigitos..SHOES OFF!

The “Crazy” pose with some amigitos..SHOES OFF!

 

Living alone. It’s glorious. I shower when I please, cook what I want to eat and when I want to eat, I can stay up late or go to bed early…it’s great. There is one thing, however, that is NOT glorious about my abode. BUGS. I know I mentioned that I had a bug problem in my last blog, but since then, SPRING has SPRUNG and every living insect has decided, without considering my mental and physical health, to reproduce.  LITERALLY. I don’t say this because every corner of my house is actually covered in bugs, rather I say this because I find their EGGS on my curtains, on my walls, in my food containers. I swing at these beetles, ants, mosquitoes, silverfish, spiders, moths, centipedes, crickets, I smack them, I spray them, I yell at them, I speak to them in a moderate tone (just in case it might work), I spend 4 hours screening in my windows…none of it works. Just when I feel like I can relax without having some beetle kamikaze into my face, I feel something crawling on my neck or arm or leg. DAMNIT! They win again. They win every time! I would spend every last one of my monthly 295 dollars to make them disappear, however, I have yet to see any pest control vans roaming my dirt roads, so I will continue to fight this battle (I’ve gotten incredibly skilled at whipping out my flip-flop and killing multiple bugs at one time). I guess the bright side of the bug invasion is that they make chickens seem like cute little trained puppies or some other cute thing.

What is this thing on my WALL!?

What is this thing on my WALL!?

My morning sweep routine..seriously, this is one nights worth

My morning sweep routine..seriously, this is one nights worth

 

I have been able to travel around a bit over the past month. I visited two other volunteers in their sites, went to a strawberry festival, and went to a national park and swam in a waterfall. Being able to see other volunteers in their sites is really cool. Seeing other sites and comparing them to my own makes me realize that I have a very centralized location. The volunteers that I’ve visited live very far from the nearest highways and only have a couple of buses each day, compared to my site where buses pass every hour or more. The strawberry festival, pictures included, was definitely worth the trip. My friend Bree and I decided to go on a day when the temperatures peaked at 104 (miserable), but we didn’t know that when we started our journey there. We got on a bus and headed off. We saw a couple of booths on the side of the street and passed them, still wondering when we would find THE strawberry festival. Finally, we decided to ask, and turns out, those booths on the side of the street WERE the strawberry festival. Apparently the term ‘festival’ here can be a very ambiguous term. Although the festival wasn’t a full on festival you would expect in the states, the strawberry empanadas, juice, ice cream, popsicles, cake, liquor, and actual strawberries, were worth the trip to the cute little town of Aregua.

Yummy Treats @ Strawberry Fest

Yummy Treats @ Strawberry Fest

Strawberry Fest

Strawberry Fest

Strawberry Fest

Strawberry Fest

 

A couple of weeks after visiting my friend Bree and adventuring off to the strawberry festival, a big group of volunteers went to visit our fellow volunteer and friend, Amy, in her site. From her site we decided we would rent a bus to take us to Salto Cristal, a waterfall that is supposed to be very beautiful and well worth the trip. Well, we traveled, we traveled and we traveled and finally, we arrived. The waterfall was beautiful, but it looked different from the one we had seen in photos. A group of volunteers decided to make sure we were in the right place, and of course, we weren’t. Turns out, our hired bus driver didn’t know where Salto Cristal actually was. Either way, the waterfall was beautiful and hanging out together was a blast. Look at that, rolling with the punches.

Enjoying the falls!

Enjoying the falls!

The group headed to "Salto Cristal"

The group headed to “Salto Cristal”

 

Last weekend I went to my training community to attend a small family dinner for one of my first host sister’s Quinceañera (15th birthday). Her sisters had let me know that they wouldn’t be able to afford a big party, so it would just be the family at their house. I packed lightly and was really proud of myself for only taking a small purse with my pj’s and toothbrush. I arrived to find the whole family decorating the house for a big party. Um..did someone say 70 people? Now, I thought I had dressed appropriately for a small family dinner, but I was not prepared for a full on party. I know Paraguayans and when they hear “Quinceañera” they go ALL OUT (these are the same sisters that shaved their eyebrows and got super dressed up to CLIMB a hill on Easter morning)! I ended up having to borrow clothes and make-up from one of my host sisters to make myself more appropriate. Being with all of my host sisters, and getting ready together, really made me feel like I was a part of their family. The party ended up being very beautiful and the fact that I hadn’t packed a suitable outfit didn’t seem to matter by the end of the night. I have two more Quinceañeras in November and you better believe I will be properly dressed for both of them!

With my host sister @ her Quince

With my host sister @ her Quince

1st Host Fam, Fabiola's Quince

1st Host Fam, Fabiola’s Quince

On to working in the community: I determined that in order to give myself some sort of normal schedule, all I had to do was make plans, set days and hours, and that would be that. Simple? NO. I didn’t take into account that there would be rain (remember, Paraguayans don’t like to leave their homes when it’s raining), teacher strikes, soccer tournaments, dance practice, etc. Basically, each week I start out with a schedule. Tuesday, I have English class from 8-9:30, Wednesday I have my dental hygiene classes from 3-4, Thursday English classes and then 3-4 Dental Hygiene, and Friday English class from 10:30-11:30. That all looks great, written out, but not once in the past month and a half have I been able to successfully follow through with this schedule. I’ll head to the school only to discover school was actually canceled because the clouds were out. I’ll go to the high school and the students will let me know that we can’t have English class because they need to practice for an academic competition they have in 2 weeks. It can be VERY frustrating. I like having plans and structure, but it is nearly impossible here. Recently, as much as I try to let it go, this has been making me feel inadequate (just imagine having your 5 hour work week cut in half). Luckily the school year is coming to an end, so I’m hoping after summer vacation I will come back with a renewed outlook on teaching in the schools and come up with a solution to the ever-changing schedule.

Oh, and remember how part of my dental project was to have toothbrushes and toothpaste donated along with a visit from the dental/health van that my department runs? Well, when we turned in our project to the governor and he approved it (SWEET), he didn’t actually read the project (NOT SWEET). Thus, he didn’t see that he had agreed to donating 200 toothbrushes and toothpaste. Basically he only agreed to the dental/health van. This means that a teacher from the school and I have to go spend another seven hours at the governor’s office to ask him again.  Oh, and the van that was supposed to have two doctors and one dentist, ending up only having one doctor—defeating the whole purpose, which was to have a dentist come after the completion of my month long dental series. But, as mentioned in my previous paragraph, the month long dental series has turned into 2 months, so I guess it makes sense that the dentist never came?

Why we use floss demo

Why we use floss demo

Partner brushing..a real hit

Partner brushing..a real hit

Dental Health Materials

Dental Health Materials

 

I am still working with the women’s commissions (up to 3 now). I am helping them to elaborate one Fogon project, a modern bathroom project, and most recently a baby chicken project (they will raise them, then sell their meat). These three groups help me use up the extra time that I’ve recently had. They seem to think that I really know what I’m doing, and ask me to help them and give them advice all the time. Little do they know that I too am learning as I go, but it is a real confidence booster.

I have yet to complete my census. It isn’t bad once I start, but the idea of going to people’s houses and asking them awkward questions like, “What kind of bathroom do you have,” “where do you throw your trash,” and “Does anyone in your house have STDS?” makes me unbearably uncomfortable, needless to say, out of my 50 I have to do, I still have 30 left.

That is all for now. I know it doesn’t seem like much but as time passes, my daily life seems to give me less things that stick out as unordinary and “blog worthy.” I guess that means I am slowly getting accustomed to the things that stood out as strange before. The other day, my foot started hurting and I leaned down to find my third case of pique. It didn’t even faze me. Someone picks their nose, and I think, “I feel you, all of this dust makes me want to do the same.” I was chatting with my dad the other day and he stopped the conversation to ask, “is that a CHICKEN in the background?” It was a chicken, and it had been blabbing on our entire conversation, but these ears of mine have gone chicken deaf. The nearest volunteer came to visit me in my house the other day and asked, “Hey, where’s your sink?” Oh, right. I don’t have a sink. This is my life now, and it feels kind of good!

Visiting the Cerro with the next Quinceañera

Visiting the Cerro with the next Quinceañera

 

Adventuring

Adventuring

Hanging out at the soccer tourney..(Maddles, notice the arm grabs)

Hanging out at the soccer tourney..(Maddles, notice the arm grabs)

My favorite class. Preschool

My favorite class. Preschool

Fresh Molasses bubbles..gross

Fresh Molasses bubbles..gross

 

 

 

As always, I miss my family and friends more than you guys know and hope you all are well. Sending my love!

Xoxo

Bridget

A.K.A: Brigida

199 days in Paraguay and 4 months in site. Although I studied abroad and have spent plenty of time away from the states, this is the longest that I have continuously lived in another country and I have a certain sense of pride in myself for getting to this point. I realize I have a long ways to go, but each milestone deserves to be celebrated—we will call this my 1/6th way mark!

I know that it has been a long time since my last post, and as I do not want to turn this post into a novel, I am going to try to highlight the most important parts of my past 2 months.

Mi Casa

Mi Casa

First of all, I moved into my house! I am a proud renter of a lovely Paraguayan house. It was a lot of work preparing the house to get move-in ready (painting, fixing cracked walls, buying things like a refrigerator, stove, gas tank, shower, etc.) but the work was all worth it. After 6 months of living with host families, sharing rooms and my personal living space with 9 and 10 year olds, having my belongings constantly questioned and poked at, and respectfully eating the Paraguayan diet of fried dough, whole milk straight from the cows (delicious, but a natural hip enhancer), carbohydrate and cholesterol overload, and white bread, it has been a refreshing change to live alone! I loved living with families and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet so many great people, but I was ready and love my newborn independence.

The first week in my house, it took a lot of effort to actually get out and visit other families. I had been way past due for some privacy, silence, and space. I was afraid if I left my house I would again loose these things forever. Now that I have been here for three weeks, I am finally feeling adjusted and a part of the community again.

Having a house in Paraguay requires a lot of upkeep! I spend a lot of my time in my house sweeping up piles of dirt that seem to accumulate seconds after I’ve just cleaned the whole house, and killing massive moths, ants, beetles, silverfish, and spiders. WHERE ARE YOU ALL COMING FROM!? My best friend has become “Mata Todo” bug spray, translated= “Kill Everything.” Probably not the best for my respiratory health, but it makes it bearable to sleep at night, so I choose Mata Todo every time. Unfortunately Mata Todo does not kill the chickens that sneak under my fence and chirp and make loud chicken noises at ALL hours of the day and night. It is 3A.M, the sun is NOT rising, WHY ARE YOU MAKING SO MUCH NOISE, and while I’m at it, STOP POOPING ON MY PORCH! Unfortunately my screaming and “ch-ch-ch’ing” at them does nothing, so, I’ve decided I better get used to their presence. Maybe if they start leaving their eggs I will be more accepting?

Visitors. 9 year old cutting my grass with a machete

Bedroom- most uncomfortable bed EVER

Backyard view

Baño

My garden, check out those tomatoes!

My Kitchen!

2nd view of my kitchen

Additionally, work has been heating up! During the winter vacation here, which lasted from July 9th-23rd, the closest volunteer to me and I organized an intensive English camp for students in my pueblo of Quiindy. We had approximately 25 students who came to each of the 10 classes. It was a great experience and gave me a ton of confidence in working with teenagers, teaching, and organizing camps and classes. The students seemed to really enjoy the class and although it required a lot of work to plan out our 4 hour-a-day classes while making them interactive and entertaining, seeing the students positive evaluations of the class made it all worth it. After this experience, even more than before, I have so much respect for teachers, especially those who put the effort and time into making classes engaging—it is hard work! I also have continued with my English classes in the high school. It can be frustrating at times when half of the students are allowed to the leave the class to finish their homework from the night before, or are allowed to play checkers while I am trying to teach, but instead of getting worked up about it, I try to take advantage of the students who’s full attention I do have.

English Class

I am working on a larger project in the elementary school, which will start in September. Accompanied by the local dentist, I will be giving each class, Pre-K through 6th grade, a series of 3 educational lessons on dental health, accompanied by a donation of toothbrushes and toothpaste (I am hopeful!), and completed by a visit by my department’s dental van which will give students free dental attention. Most people here do not see dental health as a huge concern and thus, don’t pay much attention to their own dental hygiene. I’ve lived with families who are fairly well off and intelligent, but their kids will take a glass of coke to bed with them and not brush their teeth! I don’t know if there is anyone in my community who has all of their permanent teeth. It is a problem and something that could be easily prevented with the proper education and consistent hassling—which is why I have decided to start with this topic.

In the beginning of August, Quiindy celebrated its Patron Saint day. It started with a parade, which I was invited to march in as a “Profesora” at the high school. Everyone was freaking out that I wouldn’t have the proper clothes to wear in such a highly regarded event. I ended up borrowing a pair of heels, from my closest friend in site, that was too small and made for a pretty miserable 3-hour wait in the heat before we were able to march. After the parade, there was a Torrin. I thought it would be more of a bull fight, but instead it was more like a rodeo where professionals (?) did tricks on the bulls and a couple of minutes of bull bucking. The event was hosted by a couple of smaller individuals that everyone got a kick out of. I’ve gotta say, Paraguay is not the most politically correct country. After the Torrin, we went to the carnival where the family I went with was hoping to ride the Ferris wheel. I feared for my life (Ferris Wheel in Paraguay?), but fortunately it was broken down—whew! It was fun to see and participate in one of my community’s largest and most talked about events.

Torrin

Parade-Quiindy's Fiesta Patronal

Another tradition I was able to take part in this year was Día de Los Niños at the local elementary school (Day of the Children).  The day started off with hot chocolate and cookies for the kids, followed by time spent in bounce houses, face painting, visits from the police and fire department, lunch, a clown act, and lastly, bags of cheese puffs, candy, cookies, and cheap plastic toys. All I could think about was whether or not half of these kids would be brushing their teeth after consuming so much SUGAR, but of course they were ecstatic and all had a wonderful time which was great to see.

Firefighters visiting-Día de los niños

Clown at Día de los niños

On the parasite front, I have been mostly in the clear with the exception of another attack of pique. This time it caught me by surprise so as disappointed as you all may be, I was not able to document the extraction. My toe slowly started to go numb and my nail started to turn grey before I realized there was a problem. It had snuck under my toenail so I hadn’t seen it or felt much of anything. Boy was I surprised to find a whole pack of eggs when I went to work on my toe with my sterilized needle.

Well we are on the topic of parasites, the other day I went to a birthday party at a friend’s house. After eating the entire meal she had prepared, she started talking about how her daughter’s parasite problem has improved. I asked her what she meant and she told me that her worms have been falling out. Now, almost every family will tell you that their kid has a “sevo’i” or parasite so I insisted that she tell me more, “falling out how?” She took me over to an empty soda bottle where she had been storing her daughters worms (up to 6 inches long!). It was the most fascinating and simultaneously disgusting thing I have ever seen. After she showed me and I stood silent, she proceeded to tell me that a doctor once told her that her daughter would have parasites for the rest of her life because she got very scared once when she was younger. I told her parasites are also caused by the ingestion of fecal matter, to which she responded, “Oh, it could be that too?” Needless to say, I think parasites will be my next topic of discussion.

There you have it for a little update of what has been going on in my life over the past month and a half. As always, I have my good days and less than great days, but this is normal in any place. I am continuously learning to appreciate the things that make Paraguay and Paraguayans different from others I have encountered. The differences that lie between us, although sometimes frustrating, are the things that I am learning to accept and in some cases adapt to.

Thank you to all of you who have sent emails, letters, packages, and other forms of communication! Also, thank you for reading and your continued interest in my service and Peace Corps journey.

Until the next blog,

Bridget

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