Friday, June 17, 2011

4 Days Until Winter and it`s 80

Hello, World!

Matthew here. I apologize if my last post was a bit of a downer. We have been told that this two-year ride known as Peace Corps would be like a roller coaster: lots of ups and downs, and sometimes one right after the other.

My life here in Misiones started in a strange way, but now I have gotten my feet under me a little and am starting to feel out my role in our community. Every Tuesday and Friday Tegan and I have been visiting the primary school to give health-related talks to the 80 or so kiddos there. It usually takes two hours in the morning (grades 2, 3, and 4) and another two hours in the afternoon (grades K-1, 5, and 6). It's technically only a half day of work, but after so much Spanish, Guarani, laughing, and teaching, we are usually exhausted. We are preparing for a big event where we showcase how to reuse trash. We are planning to make hand-washing stations with every kid in the school, teach how to make jewelry out of recycled materials, and dig a compost pile, as well as make some refreshing orange juice to reinforce free, healthy, natural juice over (the much more popular) dubiously-fabricated soda.

Also, we have a girl's soccer team that practices two afternoons each week. While no formal positions, plays, or drills have been implemented yet, it is easy to see which girls are most interested and what are their natural inclinations on the field. We have at least two other Volunteers in the department who are also looking to start girls' teams in other parts of Misiones and maybe we can set up some formal games in the Spring. (P.S. June 21 is the first day of Winter. Hard to get used to that concept.)

Another development is a language class we have started in the secondary school (grades 7-12). We are hoping to foster an exchange of languages as we desperately want to improve our Guarani to better integrate into the community. Lots of families think that a rudimentary knowledge of English might help their kids in the increasingly-global job market. Our first class had five students, the second, 31. We have since split them up into two groups (middle school and high school). Most of the kids in the middle school group are reluctant to try and speak in English. We are going to spend more time going over the alphabet (only the letter “o” is the same sound in all three languages) and work on phonetics. Their latest homework assignment was to bring to class any English words they come across. We heard things you might expect like “yellow” and “sister” but someone came across the word “howdy”, which made us laugh out loud.

Tegan went to Asuncion for a long weekend with some friends to celebrate her birthday while I stayed in our community. I made drinking glasses out of old wine bottles (you only need wire, sandpaper, and ice for this; awesome!) and spent a lot of time with my host brother. He is all of 5 years old but I am convinced he is a Mensa candidate. He has essentially taught himself Spanish (in contrast, most kids here aren't really comfortable speaking it until age 10, if at all) and is always building stuff out of twigs and trash to keep himself entertained. We played a game where I would hide an old matchbox somewhere where he could not see it (since I've got about 4 feet on him, this is easy) and he would not give up until he had fashioned some way to get it back. If you go to Facebook and see a picture of a kindergartener with a bowl cut, that's him.

We celebrated Paraguay's bicentennial May 14th (pictures on Matthew's Facebook page) and with July 4th fast approaching, it seems appropriate to talk of independence. We remain living with our Paraguayan family of three where we are not afraid of the bathroom and our host mother cooks with some different and exciting spices (cumin, garlic, how we missed thee!). We have, however, found a house to rent for the next two years! The catch is that it has no bathroom. We are waiting on a local contractor to return and help us build it. After that and some furniture, we will hopefully be on our own sometime in July.

Tegan's two cents:

Mba'echapa friends and fam! Matthew about summed it up, but here´s a littleof what I´ve been up to. I recently celebrated my first Paraguayan birthday and it was a blast! The weekend before I met up with some other volunteers in Asuncion [sans the hubband, GASP!] for a few days of relaxing and catching up...and maybe a little all night boogying and karaoke! On the big day, here in our little hamlet, we had a lovely lunch with our favorite ol' lady and the teachers. Then for the weekend after we had a triple-header birthday party shared with a 7 year old and a 2 year old. Another PC Volunteer friend of ours came and stayed with us for the triple-header party and taught all our little friends the art of Frisbee. We barbecued an entire pig and sheep... needless to say we are not lacking in protein in Paraguay.

Opá (that´s it) for now! As always, please keep us up to date with all of your adventures in your lives as well!