Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are proud to announce our new home for the next two years: Santa Rosa, Misiones!

Located in the south of Paraguay, along the Argentine border, Misiones is famous for cows and catholic settlement ruins. Oh, and sheep. Our particular site has a population around 450 (452 now, as a friend of ours puts it). Also, we will be speaking primarily Guaraní, so get used to some more stories regarding the strange and inappropriate uses of the language in future posts. It is rumored that we will have both running water and electricity. We have a friend from training who will live about 10km away (6ish miles) and will be our brain-break when we need an English escape... if we even remember English by the end of this!

After being presented a folder of info about our site, we were approached by several directors and tech. trainers to be regaled with stories of how lovely our site is both, in ambiance and community. We have only seen a few photos and both passed through this department (state) for our Long-Field Practice, but already have a sense of lush, verdant rolling hills with a smattering of trees and rocky baby mountains jutting up. For the Oregonians out there, picture the northern approach to Eugene south of Salem.

To share a little of the antsy-butterflies (or burbujas, as Paraguayans call it bubbles in your stomach) we are currently feeling, the next Carter Lange post will be to tell you all about our week-long visit to our future community!!!!! Friday morning we will each meet our community contacts and all ride the bus back to our little town to spend a week meeting the family we will live with for a month or two, drinking a few gallons of tereré (cold maté & medicinal herbs) with each of the 100 families, see the house they´re building for us, visit the town school, and who knows what else.

Keep us in your thoughts! You are all in ours!
Much love,
the Carter Langes

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Keeping In Touch

M'bae la porte!

Hey folks, just a quick note that if you have Skype, you may occasionally find us online at the following username:


(please note there are not one, or two, but three periods in the name)

This and our email addresses ( and are great ways to contact us. In this space, we blather on and on about what we are doing, but please keep us posted on what you are up to as well.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Healthy Living

Just uploading some photos today depicting our life in Paraguay. We recently returned from Long Field Practice, a four day trip to another volunteer´s site in which Matthew went to the nearby campo, built another fogón (brick & mud oven), gave a talk to adults regarding nutrition, and a talk to kids regarding dental health. Tegan went to Encarnacion (a big city) and taught a lot of classes on a lot of different topics, including democracy, literacy, values, which she will go into more detail in another post. For now, enjoy the photos of Matthew´s trip! (and, as always, start at the bottom if you want it to make sense)

If Peace Corps doesn´t work out, there´s always Wrangler.

We also spoke about dental health at a nearby school.

The spider was found under my shoe one morning. The coin next to it is a little bigger than a quarter.

We gave a talk on nutrition at the local church.

My host sister, Gavi, followed me like a shadow.

This is what your kitchen looks like when you cook over an open flame for decades. Part of the reason you build a fogón is to keep people´s lungs from looking like this.

Views of and from the house.

View from my window at my temporary host family´s house. Piglets!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

La Vida

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are fifteen thousand words regarding our life in Paraguay. You should start at the bottom for chronology's sake.

Lots of photos depicting the challenges and rewards of building a fogón. We made chipa (a savory corn bread) with the community to celebrate.

Tegan has an ever-rotating group of kids who come over on weekends and make friendship braclets and other stuff (like cartwheels).

Dinner at our house (Matthew made chili!) with our host family and our friends Jeff & Carly
Digging a trash pit.

Planting trees.

Facepainting at our community party (the tembo'i incident)

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Schools" in Paraguay

A note from Tegan:

Well, it has come to pass that I am now observing and teaching in a sixth grade class in my neighborhood. In Spanish. To Guarani speakers. While my confidence in my Spanish is soaring in language class and in my home, it is another thing entirely to stand up in front of 23 pubescent native-speakers and try to command some semblance of a presence of authority. Fortunately, a friendly smile and earnest attempt at understanding a rapid-fire mash-up of two languages (none of which I speak fluently, mind you) goes a long, long way.

So far, I have observed a lot of yelling and vehement scolding on the part of the teacher, a lot of writing on the board for the kids to copy, and a lot of the teacher strolling in and out of the classroom as she pleases. We are told all of these things are quite common in Paraguayan schools. Bueno...these are all things I hope to find alternatives to in talking and working with the teachers.

For my first teaching experience last week, I led a round of the game where you write a sentence then pass to someone else to draw a picture, then fold the paper to conceal the original sentence and get someone new to write a sentence based on the drawing. I now know that this might have turned out better had we first discussed how to come up with a sentence to write, and had we discussed communal ownership of art, as opposed to art for private consumption. We have been told that centuries of dictatorship has effectively squelched creativity in Paraguay. Fortunately, I brought with me the belief that creativity can never really be killed, just buried very very deep. I will be thinking and reading on how to draw out creativity, in writing and in visual arts. Any informative websites or input would be most welcome.

Yesterday was a bit more successful from my perspective. My goal was less focused on content and instead centered on encouraging student participation. I tried to think of a subject in which the students are experts and settled on Paraguayan culture. Then I had us ditch the desks and rows to shake things up and had us all sit in a circle. They then taught me about Paraguayan maxims and the values behind them, traditional music, traditional clothing, food, and language. I´m not sure that they necessarily learned concrete, tangible content, but I do know that they participated and laughed a lot and were comfortable.

I won´t be able to build on this experience until two weeks from now because we are on the cusp of Long-Field Practice (fancy talk for a week working in the community of a current volunteer). Starting bright and early Monday morning, we will be heading out with our respective language groups and a teacher or two. Yes, you read correctly. Matthew and I will be *GASP* separate! We are both pretty excited to delve into hands-on learning, despite the pang of sadness at the thought of a week apart. My group will start leading high-school classes on the Values of a Democracy as soon as we arrive Monday evening. The rest of the week will be a blur of last-minute lesson planning and high-energy classes on various subjects to kids of varying ages. Wow. Needless to say I will be enjoying my free time this weekend.

Speaking of which, tomorrow at 8am a friend and I will be riding horsies around the countryside for a few hours. Due to some unfortunate miscommunicating, my horse-riding will be cut short in order to catch an irregular bus to the community that now lovingly refers to Matthew as the little-penis guy (please read the previous post before making any assumptions about that nickname). He has been toiling away in the still, blazing mid-day sun to build a fogón (brick oven) for a school in that community, and tomorrow we will taste the fruit of his toils, so to speak. A group of trainees and families will come together to inaugurate the oven with some good old-fashioned chipa-baking. Chipa is a cheesy, bread-like product that is not too unlike the bricks with which the oven was built. Maybe a little harder, though.

Come Sunday, I will host the 3rd meeting of my Youth Empowerment group. This was formerly just a bracelet-making group started by myself and a friend, but to my utter shock, it has morphed in only two meetings into a computer-skills club, a geography club, a physical-activity club, and a photography club. The girls are literally every kid I saw on the street the first day, plus a few who were then invited by the initial girls. They range in age from 5 to 13 and are just delightful. They interact with each other in a very respectful, genuine manner and are infinitely curious. I am currently figuring ways to get boys to join. When asked initially, they were quite closed to the idea, but I have since befriended an 11-year-old boy who might be interested in hanging. I think now that it has branched out from just bracelets, they might be more inclined.

In brief is good. We are busy. We are content. We are stretching and growing. And we miss you all very much.
The next message will be after long-field and hopefully will contain all kinds of language and cultural mishaps, as well as a few successful learning moments.
Much love to you all,

Monday, March 7, 2011

A True Story From Paraguay

This anecdote comes from Matthew's experience last week:

Our training group is divided into four 12-member groups. Each group meets in small school/church/community center (centro) for classes, guest speakers, et al. This last week was the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps' inception. To celebrate, each group had a small fiesta at their centro for the host families of trainees. Each party consisted of a short summary of the Peace Corps' efforts worldwide, some activities for children, and lots of food. In my group I was voted (some would say thrown under the bus) to be the Master of Ceremonies for our party. I worked with our language professors to prepare a bit of a program, but I got to ad lib most of it (all in Spanish). Approximately 30 people were in attendance (a sizable portion of the community). I introduced a couple of guest speakers, described the activities available for kids and then went about describing where they could find food. This is where things went awry.
The mother tongue of 90% of Paraguayans is Guarani. The trainees that have intermediate or advanced Spanish ability begin learning Guarani right away. Our trainers emphasize that speaking just a few words in Guarani can endure you to the people even more than your actions can. It is in this spirit of cultural integration that I chose to attempt to say “outside, there is food” in Guarani. Afuera, oĩ tembi'u. Easy enough. Except that my stage fright decided to kick in at this moment and I kind of stumbled through the phrase. The room erupted in laughter.
At this moment, I turned to another trainee and said (in English) “I don't know what I just said, but it must have been dirty.” You could just tell from people's reaction.
People filed outside and began eating and it is at this point that one of my language professors decided to clue me in. She said that when I tried to say tembi'u the people heard tembo'i. My blank expression must have told her that I did not know the meaning of that word. She translated my whole sentence for me: Afuera, oĩ tembo'i.
“Outside, there is a small penis.”
I spent the remainder of the party trying to find a corner to hide in. My fellow trainees have told me that their families still discuss this hilarious slip of the tongue around the dinner table. I have five more weeks of work left in this small community and shall forever be known as the-guy-who-offered-us-a-small-penis. This is the first time I have publically humiliated myself in Paraguay, but I have a feeling it will not be the last.