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!


Mom said...

Little one, I am planning on coming in late June or July. In US time, that is not a year. It is 6 months or less. Can you save up for the visa in this time frame??

michelle said...

wow!! so cool to hear about your days. sounds like you are adjusting to the changes well. I hate change so I am SO not peace corps material...and in PC years I am ancient!

lots of Van Damme huh? weird. I think you should jump up and straddle a couple chairs and really freak them out.

Paul said...

Hey Cassie, I'm so glad you blogged about your daily life. I've been wanting to hear what it's like day-to-day for you down there. Keep the blogs comin'! I love hearing what you're up to.