Boy oh boy how time flies! It’s been three weeks since my last blog post and many things have changed since then. First I’ll start by recapping my long field practice experience.

Our language class of 4 traveled to Kavaju Reta, Guarani for “State of the Horses,” to visit Lauren Reef, a very “guapa” (in Paraguay guapa is used to imply someone is intelligent or hardworking) volunteer who has been in Paraguay for over a year now. Long field is meant to help trainees get a feel of what it is like to be an actual volunteer by giving Paraguayans classes on certain topics, building fogons in people’s homes, meeting with commissions of women, going to the health posts, etc, etc. (Very beneficial!)

It was beautiful! I don’t want to overuse this word, but it actually was. On our drive to her site I saw “mountains” (more like giant hills) which are a rarity in Paraguay and something I was starting to miss. Her actual site was much more spread out than the town I currently live in. The houses were pretty far apart and the animals roamed much more freely (which is saying something since I trip over my cats, dogs and chickens pretty regularly). I walked up to my host family’s home and was instantly greeted by baby pigs and cows walking around like they owned the place. I think it is hilarious how all of the animals here learn to live together. I look to my left and see some dogs and cats chasing the chickens. I look over to my right and see a group of giant cows being chased by little farm dogs. It’s a site to see and very entertaining.

My host family was very nice. My dad and mom both worked around the house and my three siblings were all in school. As our training group was very busy with pre-planned activities, I didn’t get to socialize with them as much as I would have liked. The one major difference between my host family over my long field practice and the family I live with for training was the food. NO vegetables or fruit in Kavaju Reta. Breakfast consisted of hot milk (fresh from the cows in our backyard) with sugar and hot dog buns with dulce de leche. (Yes, that’s correct, some sugary milk with white bread with some…SUGAR!). Lunch was usually white rice with meat, or pasta with meat, and dinner was fried meat or white rice with meat. Needless to say, I was pretty darn happy to get back to my cucumbers and melons in Hugua ñaro. I did, however, make two friends in Kavaju. The first day as I was having lunch I felt something or a couple of somethings brush past my leg. I looked under the table and saw a cat and a chicken begging for food (their picture is attached to this post). For the next 3 days, every time I ate, snacked, or sat down, my two friends accompanied me. I can now add “begging chicken” to my list of first time experiences.

My second day in Kavaju Reta, our group was working on a fogon* (description of a fogon at the end of this post) project and I decided to go home and change into something that I could get mud on. I ran to my house, threw my bag on my bed and sat down to kick off my shoes. BAWKKKK BAWWWK BAWWWKKK. That’s right. A HEN had climbed through my window and was hiding herself on my bed trying to lay an egg.  So here we are in a face off. Me screaming and trying to get the chicken off of my bed and outside, the chicken bawking and squawking also realizing she had misjudged her egg laying location. Eventually, I got my bedroom door open and the chicken ran off, clearly still upset that I had interrupted her plan.

Aside from my animal interactions, while we were in Kavaju Reta, we were able to give a short nutrition talk to a group of high schoolers, we completed a fogon, we made bar soap with a group of women, and we visited the community’s health post to talk with them and learn about local health problems. It was very exciting to put some of our training into action and to imagine ourselves actually living and working in a site of our own.

Yesterday we had our site revealing. After spending half of the day in Asunción eating good food and walking around some of the historical sites (as a mini stress reliever), we traveled the hour back to our training site where our directors and trainers were there to greet us. We started with some dancing and singing in Spanish and Guarani and then the real fun started. One by one our names were called out of a hat, we were asked to place our pictures on a map of Paraguay that had all of the potential sites listed, and we received a folder with information about our future sites. It was very nerve racking finding out where we are going to be for the next two years! I am headed to …*DRUMROLL* Comandante Peralta, a community in the district of Paraguarí, which is about an hour from my current home and an hour and a half from Asunción. The community is quite large, 3,000 residents, compared to most of the other sites that only have about 200-500 people. I will have running water, electricity, a modern bathroom, Internet and cell phone service. Sorry to break it to those of you who believed I would be making my own mud hut. As I am going to be visiting my future site tomorrow, I will have lots of pictures and information to share when I return—stay posted!

After I found out my site 🙂

Aside from all of this exciting news and these fun stories my life in Paraguay is slowly starting to come together! One more month of training and then we are off to our individual sites to start our projects and start what we came here to do. As for my Guarani, it is slowly improving. I have been practicing with my host mother and although I speak like a two year old, she can understand most of what I say. We are now able to have conversations and I can understand her questions—it’s a lot less frustrating for both of us. (I had a Guarani progress interview last Friday and I felt pretty confident going in. When the interview was over, the language professor informed me that when she asked me what my hobbies were, I said I liked to cook husbands. Instead of saying temby (food) I had used the word tembireko (spouse/husband). So, while my teachers think I’m a feminist out to cook up some husbands, I personally think I’m making some huge strides in my language abilities.)

The weather has been absolutely perfect. My heat rash is gone and I can finally comfortably wear my pants! There has been a nice breeze during the evenings and we even had rain on a couple of days. Paraguay is experiencing a mini drought this year, so rainy days are great for us trainees because we get some relief from the heat, and great for the Paraguayans who desperately need the water to have successful crops. The rain did make me realize another packing error on my part—I didn’t bring winter shoes. Luckily, winter here normally only lasts for a couple of months.

Thanks for reading, and as always thank you for the comments and emails!

Also, I was informed last week that my beloved “lita” (grandmother) has Pancreatic Cancer. This will be her second battle against cancer and although she is a strong, beautiful woman, I am asking for prayers of health and strength to be sent her way. If you get the opportunity please check out the following Facebook page my wonderful cousin Angel created to find out more about her case. We love you Lita.

xoxo Bridget

One style of fogon

*A fogon, picture included, is basically a large cooking surface made out of bricks and mud. They are fairly easy to make and can be very beneficial for Paraguayans who still cook over large pots on the ground. My host mother still uses this method and although she doesn’t have any visible/audible respiratory problems I have looked at the tin that covers her outdoor cooking area and I can only imagine the amount of smoke she inhales each day. Fogons also tend to be a cleaner way to cook because the cooking surface is elevated and wandering children, chickens, cats, dogs, ants, cows? etc have a more difficult time accessing the food.