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

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