Thursday, January 31, 2008

PY Heart Jackie Chan

I believe everyone knows how I feel about Jackie Chan, but what a pleasant suprise to know that in Paraguay, everyone here feels exactly the same!

I have seen the following Jackie Chan movies since being in site for a month:

The Medallion
Rumble in the Bronx
First Strike
The Tuxedo

If you think about it, that is a lot of Jackie Chan for only 1 month in site, and not all my host families have televisions.

There is also a wonderful 80s retro station here that I listen to as often as I can. Most of us G-25 Crop Extensionist know this station due to our tech excursion weekend when we went to Salto Cristal falls. We were lost in a sugar cane field and heard the song 'Everybody´s Guile' that went on saying the same thing (Guile) for like 20 minutes. The songs are so random. I heard an Oasis tune, Barry Manilow, and right after, Gene Loves Jezebel.

Gene Loves Jezebel, people!!! Talk about obscure 80s tunes!

Not much else to report. I am getting ready for my site presentation where my boss is coming out for a visit, and I hope to get a good turn out.
I move into my house on the 8th. Wish me luck. I have to find a good bug bomb to get out all the creepy crawlies. I seriously killed a spider as big as my palm.
Let me repeat that.

I Jackie Chaned it´s azz.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Weekly Wierd News

So I have heard that some people are interested in my day to day activities.

Actually, they really do vary until I move into my own house. Move in, you ask? Shall I explain?

So for the first few months, Peace Corps requires new volunteers to live with families in the community. It´s for safety, language and integration purposes. Most volunteers live with a family for 2 weeks, and move to another house. Sometimes they can stay longer, but PC recommends switching families in order to spread yourself out. Otherwise, some people might feel slighted and not want to work with you in the future.

In my situation as a follow up volunteer (which means there was a volunteer in site for 2 years before me) I have a house ready, but need to fill it with all livable things, i.e. stove, dishes, fan, screens, etc. I have also been switching families every week as opposed to every 2 weeks. I do this because the women´s commite - who applied for a volunteer - are running my show for a while. While the commite did all the work to get me into site, I belong to the whole community, and therefore need to be flexible - but sometimes I am treated as a possesion of the commite. This becomes a difficult situation as I want to help ALL and not just SOME people.

I am currently staying with the president of the commite and her family. I switch every Wednesday (Tuesday is the meeting and the commite decide who I will stay with then) and Thursday I come into Oviedo to buy groceries for the week I am there. I usually buy the staples of a Paraguayan kitchen: Oil, sugar, flour, pasta, tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, rice, salt, and sometimes bread. Please note that the bread is golf ball size and usually hard. They use it in their morning cocido (sweet warm milk) as breakfast. Since I do not eat soggy bread, this ritual makes me cringe. The picture attached is all hard bread (like italian breadsticks grammy used to have back home) that most Paraguayans eat as snacks.

Upon arriving at my new house with my clothes bag, mosquito net, shower bag, travel pillow and sheet - I immediately set to work by worming my way into the daily routine. Most people try to treat me as a guest, and if I ask if they need any help with their chores, of course they say no. So what does Lilu do? She asserts herself and butts her way into the routine (if possible). So yesterday I sat down with the señor and started shelling peanuts from his field. I got really lucky as the señora works in the field with her husband, and after a small mid morning breakfast of tortillas, we headed out to their field where I helped plant corn, peanuts, and picked beans for the next 4 hours. In between this hot, humid morning, we broke for terere at about 10 am to cool off. At 11:30 we headed back to the house where my señora started cooking lunch and my señor did some other chores up until our noon meal. I was really excited as this was my first time working in the fields with Paraguayans. Usually it´s just the men in the field while the women stay home and work their butts off ALL MORNING. My last house consisted of me milking cows for an hour, cooking breakfast, picking beans, preparing lunch, taking care of kids, and cleaning the house and laundry. Whew. These are some hard working people!

After lunch we take an hour siesta. This is pretty staple and most families and towns (including Oviedo) shut down for the next hour or so - the hottest part of the day. After my siesta I usually visit other señoras, help gather firewood from the field, make preparations for dinner, and end up chilling out around 5 or 6. We don´t have dinner until 8 - 9pm (as Ted and Michelle said) and so I usually shower and sit and relax until dinner where I try to butt in and help prepare dinner around 7. After dinner, families that have TV will watch some pretty bad spanish dubbed movies (lots of Van Damme down here) while I usually read. Im in bed by 9:30 and out by 10pm.

Little by little I feel I´m integrating and my language is getting better. I still sit around and nod alot - with responses of ¨Si, si¨and ¨No se¨ but the more I listen and talk, the better I will become.

Today I needed a break and bought some articles for my house. I´m so excited I bought silverware, a tea pot and a scrubby broom to clean the concrete floors in my dormroom-like house. I have a far way to go to get everything I need. I just bought a stove a couple weeks ago, so that set me back a pretty penny of Gs 350,000 ($70). I get paid about Gs 1000,000 per month, so that´s quite a bit for me. I can´t say what my budget is for sure right now, as I´m not completely self sufficient yet. I will be using my host family´s water and electricity and paying them around Gs 30,000/month. It cost Gs 20,000 roundtrip to get to Oviedo and back, and I have no idea how much food I will consume, but popcorn and pasta can´t be THAT much....

On a lighter note, my mom is looking into taking a trip to Lima, Peru where I would meet up with her and we could visit Machu Pichu in about a year. I hope everything works out for that one. I have to save lots of money and get a visa, but I have a year to do it!

So there is an average day of a Newbie Peace Corps Paraguay Crop Extensionist. I will drastically update my daily life when it changes in the next couple weeks. I have a site presentation to prepare for, where my boss is coming out to meet my community. Let´s hope people show up. Some volunteers barely get their host families to come, let alone their community members!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bloggin LiLu Style

So I was sitting under a tree the other day shelling some peanuts when a mango dropped on my head and gave me a big ole thought!

I haven´t been blogging very well lately. My catch phrase of ´Ranting and Raving´just isn´t true these days. I started thinking about how I just post boring stuff like site assignment, what I ate for thanksgiving and how that ox cart came out of nowhere, when the mango awoke the statement, ¨I really haven´t done any top 10 lists in a while¨.

So in true Leeloo (my name here in Paraguay because Cassie also is 'casi' in spanish, which means 'almost' and people get a good laugh at it - hence, I changed it to a GOOD name) Style:

Top 10 Things I´m Glad I Brought to PY
1. Watch (people don´t really use them here....)
2. Travel Pillow (the pillows here remind me of grandma´s log)
3. Sheets (good for moving from house to house)
4. Multitool/pocket knife
5. Hat and Bandana (i´m sweating like sweat was a fashion statement)
6. Boots
7. My Favorite deodorant (i brought lots)
8. My Music (which i could sure use more of....hint hint)
9. Beach Towel (while a pain to wash, it´s better than the hand towels used here for showering)
10. Dental Floss - my dentist will be so proud - but it´s seriously like flossing in Kingpin.

Top 10 Things I Wish I had Brought
1. Smaller Sleeping Bag (uh...mine is normal size but not for hiking - it´s huge and everyone else brought nice Hiker´s bags the size of a coffee can...the jerks)
2. Hobbie Books....lots of them (I want to learn how to tie knots! and juggle!...I have a lot of time.....)
3. Radio/Speakers/Ipod - I need more music and everyone brought theirs with a charger
4. Camera
5. Small Backpack for overnight trips - even though i´m an overpacker, I need a small bag for overnighters and weekend trips
6. Yoga Mat - i want something for the floor in order to stretch
7. Hard copies of Photos
8. Travel Money - for my weeks in Buenos Aires dahhhhling....
9. Harry Potter (all of 'em)
10. Better Clothes*

Top 10 Things I miss in the US
1. Screens on Windows
2. Washing Machine
3. Modern Bathrooms
4. Easy Access to All Things Vegetable
5. Everything Working (from the bus transportation to the $40 American dollar radio I bought, and ended up working 2ce - you just have to get used to nothing working the way it´s supposed to. If you can´t get used to it, you WILL go insane and make pancakes naked**)
6. Air Conditioning
7. My Voice (if ever there was a time in my life when Cassie can´t talk back...)
8. Target
9. Mobility (i´m going to see a man about a horse...)
10. Flouride in my tap water (they just don´t seem to have it in the well water either - you know, when you pull the bucket up and you have to pick the bugs and leaves out...) my teeth feel permanently fuzzy

Top 10 Things I love about PY
1. Stars - they are FANTASTIC - I can see TONS of them! I want to get a constellations book as well....
2. Natural Food - I actually see what I´m eating, which sometimes makes me less hungry - so I lose weight! I mean, I killed a chicken for Christmas for the love of Pete!
3. Terere
4. Simple Living - and not like the joke magazine for bored housewives - serious simple lifestyles
5. Haggling
6. Crazy Buses (like the Knight Bus in Harry Potter - they drive like that here, except they don´t squeaze between 2 double deckers)
7. Tortillas
8. Siestas - this naptime needs to be instituted into the US
9. Funny English Language Items that don´t make sense***
10. Paraguayan Polka - I WILL master my accordian in order to join a band....

*So I only brought work clothes. I had no idea I should´ve just brought clothes I was comfortable in wearing everyday. Basically I look like a crazy Island Of Dr. Moreau person who doesn´t want sunlight to touch their body. And a slob at that. I feel the need to dress cute AND be an effective volunteer. Hard to do when most of my good clothes were donated to me by my friend Kara who went home early. I bought a pair of jeans and my host dad (and other volunteers by the way) said I looked like I had lost 10 lbs just by clothing adjustments! Note to trainees reading this - bring what you would wear everyday and what you feel comfortable in. Don´t go out and buy hiking gear and think mountaineering is a good look for everyday of the Peace Corps. Bring your favorite stuff! You won´t regret it - just make sure it can hold up to hand washing. Nothing too stretchy - no dryers here to put things back to normal!

** Our program director told us a story about Peace Corps volunteers who went a little off the deep end by not taking personal time and vacations days. He said when PC went to visit the volunteer cause they hadn´t heard from him in a couple months, his community members pointed to where his house was and made the crazy circle motion with their fingers. When PC arrived, the volunteer was making pancakes naked at his house, and nailing them to the walls and ceilings. Moral of the story - If you need a break from site, take a break. Don´t go Loco. That and someone threw a kid over the fence. I thought that was pretty funny. Don´t do that either.

***I read a blog about a chinese guy who thought the same thing in the US about all the chinese characters showing up that didn´t even make sense - like on clothing, cars, and tattoos. Shirts that say, ¨Heart Loves I¨and a notebook that I bought that has a picture of a surfboard and a big word saying ¨SPORTS¨next to it. I love funny english translations.

So there you have my Peace Corps Paraguay Packing Wish List.
I´m pretty happy here. I only have a few weeks left before I move into my own house and things get rolling. I can´t wait to be my own woman again, and not have to climb up mango trees just to get reception on my cell phone. Sorry again for the last post. I don´t know why my phone isn´t working....oh wait. See Item #5 in list 3.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Text Message me for FREE!!

That´s right, chillins! You can text me for NO MONEY! Just go to this link:

go to the left hand side of the website to the Accesos Directos menu and click on the line that says:

Envio de Mensajes

Type in my phone number which is 0971 (which is in the drop box) 702151

and write me a quick message in the box (up to 110 characters)

put your name in the nombre box

click the circle at the bottom which says 'ahora' (meaning send now)

type the verification in the code box (like when leaving a message on my blog)

and hit 'Enviar' (send)

That´s right. You can text me while you´re sitting at work, play, or just hanging around on the internet wondering if I´m online and ready to chat! I know you all miss me terribly - especially since I´ve been gone for only 3 months so far!
If you´re reading this right now - take a moment to visit the website and send me a little message! I would really really really love it.
Does that sound too desperate? Well, believe it people. I would love to hear from anyone seeing as how I´m probably killing a pig or macheteing down a sugar cane field. Seriously.