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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