Friday, May 30, 2008

Sustainable Developement, or is it just Beer Pong?

So I´ve uploaded some new photos on my flickr account.
Here are some highlights of my last couple weeks. I got to visit a field with a Paraguayan farmer who is actually using a rollo cuchillo and siempra directa. 2 of the biggest agricultural practices we push here in Paraguay.

Farmers in Paraguay have been farming the same stretch of land for years. Even generations. The big problem is that instead of adding nutrients back to the soils and leaving the fields to fallow for a season, the farmers continue planting the same things over and over, leaving the soil devoid of any plant food. Artificial fertilizers are bought, but alas, most farmers can´t afford them for their consumable crops, only their commercial crops (if they have any). A smart way to farm this land is to rotate crops, use green manures - such as planting a crop of beans which are filled with Nitrogen which feed the soil. Using mulch is a great way to contain the moisture in the soil, and the less turning over of the soil, the less topsoil your scraping off. Siempra Directa is direct planting. Planting directly in the soil without hoeing. You fertilize by planting an abonos verde over your land to add nutrients. You cut the abonos verdes down with an ox drawn rollo cuchillo - or rolling knife (which is really what it is). Its a round compressor filled with water to make it heavy, and knives sticking out all over it to cut the abonos verdes. You then leave the abonos verdes to become a mulch cover, and then plant your crop seeds directly into the cut, mulched field.

We got to check it out with the farmer and my local counterpart for my department of La Pastora. It was pretty cool. I really hope my farmer gets to check this out when we go to our seminar next week.

After that I headed into town to see Indiana Jones 4. I´m only going to make a couple statements about that movie.


All I can say is WOW.
Apparently not even an atomic bomb can kill Indy - but bad acting surely will.
And DON´T call me Shirley.
Now now, it was Indiana Jones after all. And I really liked the part where it was...Indiana Jones. Waste of time? No. Will I see it again? Yes. Is Temple of Doom better? You bet.

After that I mosied on down to Carapegua to visit a fellow volunteer at his site. It sure is different than mine, and he even has a bathroom with a HOT shower. I´m super jealous. When I spoke to him about peeing in a banana field and bucket bathing, he looked at me like I was from the Looney Bin.

BUT we did get to listen to some great Paraguayan polkas from his community (I think ALL of them showed up) a little bluegrass from us PCVs and heck, even a couple rounds of beer pong. All and all, a good night.

I can´t wait for next week.
Oh yeah, and I´m starting a radio program. It´s all in Guarani! Yikes!!!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Che Shrekicha

Shrek = Cassie: A Case Study

So I was sittin' in my swamp the other day, and I decided to list the reasons as to why I, PCV Paraguay Cassie Doolittle, am just like Shrek. First I'll write up the list, and then we can discuss.

Top 10 Reasons why Shrek is Cassie, and Cassie is Shrek:

1. Shrek and Cassie live in a swamp

2. Shrek and Cassie have layers. Shrek is an onion, Cassie is Parfait.

3. Shrek and Cassie eat bugs (although Shrek does this intentionally, I do it while eating my beans and oatmeal)

4. Shrek has plaid pants with holes. Cassie has ugly pants with holes.

5. Shrek is an Ogre. Cassie feels like an Ogre compared to the average petite Paraguayan.

6. Shrek is a Lone Fairy Creature in a world of men. Cassie is a lone Norte Americana in a world of Paraguayans.

7. Shrek and Cassie have a quirky sidekick. Shrek has Donkey, Cassie has the Virgin of Caacupe

8. Shrek and Cassie have gross teeth (especially after eating barbecue. It's almost impossible to get all the meat out of them with or without floss)

9. Shrek is on a quest for a deed. Cassie is on a quest to DO a good deed.

10. Shrek finds a princess as disgusting as he is. Cassie will someday find a disgusting prince, too...? wait...I might rethink that one....

So there you have it folks. A Case study of Shrek and Cassie. Get Outta MY SWAMP!!!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cassie Loves Mr. Show and Sunsets

So I´ve been watching a lot of Mr. Show on my DVD player out here in PY. Yup. I´m rotting my brain at night instead of reading novels. What can I say? I spend all day speaking 2 languages, working agriculture in a different country, while promoting rural health. I need some down time, and Mr. Show TCB. I mean, who could pass up David Cross with some guest appearances by Ben Stiller, Dave Foley and of course, my boyfriend, Jack Black!

I´ve been working a lot in women´s garden´s lately. Oddly enough, people don´t seem to value home gardens as much as they should. In a poor country where people make about $4 a day (farmers that is) you´d think a home garden would be a necessity, and people would have perfected it by now. But just like McDonald´s and Big Gulp back home, people pay for convenience instead of taking time to do it yourself. I can´t get too mad. I constantly come home after a tough day out in the field and wish I could whip up and instant 5 min Chicken Viola or go to a HYPERMART so I could get everything I need in a little time as possible. Although life is slower in the country, it certainly doesn´t mean that there is never enough time in the day. In response to all the other quazillion jobs a woman has to do here in the Paraguayan countryside (ex. feed all the farm animals, take care of kids, hand wash ALL the clothes, clean the house, go to the field and pick the beans and mandioca, prepare all 3.5 meals, serve terere when the men come in for their mid morning break, milk the cows, cut and bring in firewood for the stoves, wash dishes, make the beds, fix misc broken unelectrical items around house) they also are in charge of the gardens. Sure maybe their husbands might contribute and maybe fix the fence so the chickens and pigs don´t get in, but really - women run the roost. So having a lindo garden usually falls to the wayside, and what little money they have can be spent on buying a few crappy veggies the local almacen (little market that sells a handful of staples) can provide.
So my job has been to help create these gardens in a better way - by introducing new techniques (the use of compost, companion planting, mulch, natural pesticides, and new veggies). This goes along with better nutrition in the home, more than just a diet of mandioca, beans, tomato and onions.

So as I´m feeling pretty good the other day, I was terere-ing with one of my women after a hard afternoon in her garden. It wasn´t too hot, but a nice cool down was in order. I feel like I´ve taken her one step closer to better health for her family. She is especially poor in my community, and never has any fresh veggies. She usually never has anything to feed her family of 8 with besides mandioca and beans from the field. Their small parcel of land only yields about 1.5 hectacres of cotton, which is the cheapest selling crop while the most expensive to grow. I feel like I´ve accomplished something. I feel like her and I deserve a little time away from the house, kids, husband, and any other duties. I want to enjoy a fresh pitcher of terere. Her daughter pulls water from their well and places it in the years old, beaten up thermos. There is a small fish swimming in the water. After bringing it to her attention, her young daughter reaches in and plucks the fish out and throws it to the chickens. She smiles as her mother continues to pour the terere for me, and shows me the wet, rotted old tennis ball she also brought up out of the well. As she turns it over in her fingers, I look back at her mother, who nods to her. She throws the ball to her younger brother and they run off. The mother hands me another 'ha' of terere and I sip it looking into the sunset.