Thursday, November 1, 2007



Well, I don’t even know if that is how it is really even spelled in Guaraní (the mother tongue of Paraguay), but that is how they say it: PeeKay. Paraguayans think that PeeKay is hilarious, tell anyone you have it, they laugh at you. Maybe that is because they think it is comical that you are unaccustomed to, and disgusted by, the idea of a parasite crawling about, eating away, inside your flesh. I find nothing humorous about PeeKay, much less the fact that I can actually feel the devil wiggling around inside my foot right now. So I am going cut my PeeKay out of its happy home before it breeds. Note, I do not have any medical background and I am pretty much just guessing as what to do, this in no way constitutues an approved PeeKay removal program.

Step One
Idenify PeeKay. Yep, that white circle in the middle of the red tender area is definitely Peekay, which is a worm of some kind.

Step Two
Heat and “sterilize” your pocket knife

Step Three
Dig PeeKay out of your flesh.

Step Four
Clean wound.
(Left, hole in my foot)

The really gross part, after cutting open my foot with a pocket knife, was pulling the worm out bit by bit with tweezers. I hope I got the egg sack.
Where did I get PeeKay? Probably the toilet seat; and/or hippies.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Se Vende

"Se Vende"
You see this phrase on signs all over. Granted it is usually in connection to the sale of a house or lot. What I like is when the vendors are selling more random goods, like male goats, the burnt out husk of a school bus, or banana trees. It is not only the little signs that are interesting to read, it is also really interesting to see what the street peddlers vend. Everything from hair clips to tele-bingo cards to joke books, you defiantly get variety.
The most popular item by far is Chipa. Paraguayans can’t get enough chipa. It is really rich and filling, given that it is basically flour held together by pig fat, so I guess it hits the spot if you are hungry. I have yet to be that hungry to buy Chipa on the bus. I do like the chipa that is filled with cheese; I have not been brave enough to buy the chipa that is filled with meat. I am still trying to understand the economics behind the guys that sell soda on the bus. They bring on returnable glass bottles and then pour the soda into a plastic cup on a moving crowded bus. Why not just sell it in cans? I will continue pondering that one for awhile.
Along with the question of why I have no bathroom door. I am not too stuck up, I don’t think, but I do enjoy a door on my bathroom. It seems like my family would want to invest for the sake of interfamilial harmony. When I went to shave the first day at my new house, there was no mirror in the bathroom. I shaved by the stubble-brail method the first few days before I broke down and purchased a mirror. Stubble-brail is not as effective as you would hope, you get the majority done, but I would advise against it if you don’t want random stubble gardens. I wanted a simple shaving mirror, but they only thing I could locate was encased in a giant plastic flower. So I guess the moral of the story is that you can buy pretty much anything you want except things you need.

Friday, October 12, 2007

My House and Office

I did move out of this house into something less grand... but I still work in this office (left).

The Cats in Video

I still dont know when I am taking video or when I am taking photos with my camera, I am that dumb

My Future Cat

My cat is going to be the black one, it is pretty damn awesome. Plus the no mouse worries is in the plus category.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Comida Paraguaya
Here is the meal we were first served when we showed up for our first day in Paraguay. The sell roast chicken everywhere here in little roadside stalls, it is really pretty good stuff. It is not Roasmary roasted Whole Foods deliciousness but I like it. The white blob on the left is rice salad, which is white rice mixed with mayo and vegtables, bean salad which is little red beans mixed with vegtables, and the ever popular tuber, the bread of Paraguay, mandioca on the right.

Chipa baking in the Tataqua, the traditional dome-shaped brick over. They build a fire in the brick oven and the oven and then sweep it out and the residual heat traped in the bricks bakes the Chipa. Chipa is mandioca flour, flour, water, pig fat, and cheese… unless it is fresh out of the oven I find it unpalatable; hard, heavy, and flavorless. It reminds me of the emergency biscuts we ate in Outward Bound. The stuff is incredibly popular here. There is a little old man that walks around the office with a big basket of chipa on his head to sell every morning. I don’t get it. The Paraguayans swear it is delicious. Oh, and it also has a double entant as the female organ, as mandioca (long hard root) is the double entant for the male organ. So if you want to make your neighbors laugh up a storm, just tell them when asked that you don’t like chipa because you think it tastes old and hard, and that you prefer eating mandio. I wish they would have tought us that the first week instead of the last week of language class.

Asado paraguayo, Paraguayan barbeque, I really like this, it is hard to beat grilled meat swimming in salt and fat. They sell off the best cuts of meat to the world market, so the asado is really tough, but I like knawing on the bone. It makes me feel like a man, even when my neighbors are laughing at me uncontrollably after explaining my love for mandica. The most covited bit is the fatty end, which is litterally a think\ piece of meat sandwiched inbetween two slabs of fat. I prefer asadito, which is your classic street meat, little chuncks of meat grilled kebab style on a stick, intersperesed with little chuncks of fat. That is the flavor country.

Empenandas (fried meat pies), fideos (pasta, but not Italian style), salad, and tortilla Paraguaya (behind the empanadas, fried flour based batter with green onions, noticing the frying trend?) The photo on the left is tortilla Paraguaya frying away. Empenadas are really popular here. They are most typically stuffed with ground meat and egg, and can be made with a flour or mandioca dough. I like the mandioca dough. They have other varieties, chicken, Chilean, corn, and my personal favorite; ham and cheese.

The making of ham and cheese empanadas, you roll out the dough, and then put the disk into the little blue thing on the right where you stuff them with ham and cheese sauce (in the pot) close’m shut, and then of course deep fry them. I really like when they do empenadas in the oven, they are remarkably, and obviously, less greasy.

Tallerine, is the Paraguayan pasta dish, it is meat or chicken served with noodles, and an oily tomatoey sauce (the red stuff in the back pot), it is not like any pasta dish you have ever had. It is very filling, but nothing I would write home about, well, I guess I am kind of doing that now.

This is the famous “sopa Paraguaya”, which is not really a soup at all but a cornbread made of corn meal, eggs, pig fat, onions and cheese; but every mama has her own recipie. I really like sopa Paraguaya as much as I don’t like chipa. It is like a heavy cornbread.

The yellow stuff in the center and in the little dish is Chipa Gua’zu, which is nothing like regular Chipa. It is a type of corn casserole, much more similar to Sopa Paraguaya, but wit ha rougher gorund corn. I really like this stuff, it is a great side dish for when you get tired of rice with mayo. The brown stuff was asado al olla, or barabaque in a pot.

My favorite Paraguayan food: fresh, organic fruit straight off the tree. Fruit trees are everywhere, Paraguay is a very fertile country, and has delicious tropical fruit abundant. This is starfruit, there are other fruits that I had never even tried or heard of in the States. We have guava, mango, coconut, avacado, nispario, tangerine, grapefruit, limon, and orange trees growing in the back yard of my house. Needless to say we drink fresh fruit juice at every meal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To Future PC Paraguay Trainees

To G-25, G-26….ect: Staging and Arrival

You all have little more than a month to go before you head down here to begin your training. If you have found this you have obviously be scanning blogs because you are curious what your life for the next two years will be like. Frankly, I have no clue, but I can go through how our training process went so that you can have some sort of picture about the staging and training process.

About me: I am a 27 year old Master’s International student working in the municipal development sector. I my Spanish was basic, think hola, casa, burrito, when I arrived (and I am still alive so don’t worry if you can’t speak a lick). I had traveled to Latin America on previous occasions. I like Paraguay, even though it wasn’t my top choice placement, in general the people are very welcoming and friendly, which is critical if you are going to live with them for two years, but I digress.

Staging: You can read my previous posts about staging. Staging is mostly tedious. You sit in a boring hotel conference room in Miami and listen to the same information that you read in your information packet. Fortunately our staging coordinator had a sense of humor and that made it bearable. I hope that you get that lucky as well. Unless you have money burning a hole in your pocket, don’t go clubbing in Miami Beach, save the $140 they give you for Miami and use it in Paraguay. Take the shuttle that comes by and takes you to the hotel, that is another 15 bucks, which translates to 15 liters of beer. There is a place across the street from the hotel that serves up a solid Cuban sandwich. Eat those and save your money. Buy beer from the gas station. You’ll be glad you did. They give you less than $4 a day to live on in Paraguay, which is sufficient, but less than ample, especially if you to go out. Another tip bring a blank voided check to staging (if you are maintaining an account) so the can direct deposit your readjustment allowance, also steal as many hotel pens as you can. They tell you not to bring your laptop to Paraguay, but if you want to, bring it. I have no idea what the hell I would do all day if I did not have my computer here at the Muni, I use it to do all my work on as our Dept. has only one computer with an early nineties vintage, think floppy disk. I know your projects will be different, but digital photos, typing emails so you don’t have to do it in the one time per month you might get internet, it can be a great thing to have…I bought a used one, and I was glad I did.

Arrival: The will have you board a bus and take you to the airport, where you will then take a red eye to Buenos Aires. I was up the whole night long, and a wreck the next day. One of our group snuck into first class by being the last to board and just sitting down in a seat up there. That was pretty slick I do have to say, even though I couldn’t have pulled it off for a minute. When you land you are usually met by Jason Cochran, the Vice Director, Michael Eschelman, the Director of Peace Corps Paraguay and Lana, the Director of CHP, the company that runs the training of volunteers for Paraguay. They will take you to the CHP training center in Guaranmbare, an hour or so from Asunción. Pretty soon after arrival they will serve you a Paraguayan lunch (we had chicken, beans, rice, salad, the ever present mandioca (cavassa or yucca a starch tuber, like a potato but not, you are going to get more than enough of it) and salad. You will get your fill of ‘comida tipica’ so you don’t have to worry about going out of your way to try new things, they come to you. After that CHP gives you your family interview and some pep talks: don’t put tp in the toilet, how to work an electric shower…ect.; they load you into a van and drive you off to meet your host family. Meeting your host family is, in a word, awkward. They line you up across from the host families and your name gets called out and you go stand next to them, as everyone claps. It felt like I was buying a Saturn. CHP seems to believe that personal growth comes from unpleasantly inept moments. I grew tremendously during training.

You’ll get to your new home, and don’t go into your room and shut the door and pass out like I really, really wanted to do. Your family will think you don’t like them. Sit up and talk to your family until at least 8 or so, then go unpack and go to bed. Even if you don’t know what they are saying, smiling and nodding goes a long way.
Tip: Often checked bags don’t make it from Buenos Aires to Asunsión, like mine. With your group of 43 it is guaranteed that some of your bags won’t make it. So make sure that you have a change of clothes in your carry-on, along with a stash of TSA approved toiletries in the mandated clear plastic one liter bag. Or just flip your undies inside out and brush your teeth with your finger, not as refreshing but better than nothing. Also pack a towel because your host family is most likely not going to provide one for you.

I’ve got bad news for you guys, they are pulling an experiment and starting off teaching you Guaraní. If you don’t have any Spanish, go to your public library right now and burn some language CDs and check out a book on grammar and study at least 3 hours a day for the entire month or else you are going to have one hell of a time. Guaraní is hard. The grammar is easy, but the pronunciation is tonal, like Chinese. I have no clue what people are saying when they speak Guaraní to me; I can only pick out words. I am at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to language learning ability, plus I am tone deaf, so I am sure you all will do much better than I did.

The next day they take you back to CHP for language interviews, health and safety information and all kinds of things like that. Usually you go to CHP every Wednesday. They teach you how to ride the buses on the second day, which is a little intimidating, but it is easy on day three. There are three cool things in Guarambare/JA Saldivar. 1) Guarambare cheeseman. He is an old French dude with a glass eye who makes decent cheese (which you will start to crave as there is only one type of cheese in Paraguay) 2) The zoo, I have never been but my G swears by. (It is a BYOB zoo. I have to go at some point on principal) 3) Copetin Tres Bocas/asadito man, great place to spend a night after training catching up with the other sectors in your G, yet far enough from home that your host family won’t think you are a lush. A little dangerous late at night, one of my Paraguayan neighbors got rolled in that neighborhood, he didn’t have much money so the stole all his clothes, all his clothes. But just leave before 11 or so and you will be fine. (Also, Lomito man is delicious; ask Perry)

You will leave before eleven because you family will be in bed by 10, at the latest, and you don’t want to be that host daughter/son. Your typical day will go something like this:
Wake up a 6:15/6:30, tiny breakfast (think cup of instant coffee and a little stale-ish white bread), walk to the training center and be in class by 7:45. You typically have language class for 3 hours in the morning. I really loved the language staff at CHP, Pabla, Ramona, Silvia, if you’re reading this know you’re my ladies (and congratulations on learning the English language within the past two weeks). All of them are great.

You will then walk home and have lunch with your families at 11:30, which is the big meal of the day. My host mom was a smoking cooking. Others were not so lucky, luck of the draw I guess. After lunch you walk back to the training center for your technical training from 1 to 5. Then back to spend time with your host families. That is your life for the next three months.

You do have other “field trips”. Your second week you visit a volunteer in your sector, this was one of the best things we did. It makes you realize you really want to be doing this. You have five “Dias de Practica” where you are supposed to go out in your community and practice being a volunteer and giving charlas (talks). This is one of the worst activities you will have to endure. They pretty much give you no support or direction and tell you to go forth into your community barely speaking the language or having a clue what the hell is going on. I suggest you find your local school, ask the director what you should talk about in your charla, the next DdP give the charla and spend the next 3 DdP drinking Terrere and practicing your Guaraní. You will also have long field practice, which is the same as visiting a volunteer but for a longer term and more structured. There will also be random tech excursions and days to get to know Asuncion and the Peace Corps office.

Well that pretty much sums it up, if you have any questions leave a comment and I will be happy to get back to you.