Hi Everyone! I just spent the weekend with friends and family in the Northern Neck as we celebrated many special events. Everything wonderful was going on all at once (as it usually does when I’m around my son-in-law Lee's family and extended family) and kept us all smiling! Celebrations were as follows: My son David’s 26th birthday, the birthday of a good friend, Stephanie (age not mentioned to protect the innocent) the debut of my boston terrier, Gus, into freedom (he learned how it feels to be off leash for hours on end, splashing in the ocean and roaming around wherever he pleased) and my departure for Paraguay.
Spending time near the water with so many people I love, at a moment in life where a new chapter is opening up, brought on an image I’ll describe to you. With a little more than one week to go before departure, I’m feeling a little like I’ve just slipped on my swimsuit and am walking out to the pier overlooking a large expanse of water full of colorful life, and soon I will rise up on my tiptoes and take the plunge into a very interesting, new environment. Slip on your sunglasses and watch for me! I plan to re-surface regularly to give you a frank report of my adventures in Paraguay.
First, let me just dive right in and tell you exactly what I’ll be doing in my service with the Peace Corps. Oops, can’t say that. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing; however, I can share with you what I have learned so far.
Next week, on Wednesday, May 29th, I’ll fly to Miami, pulling some very heavy rolling duffles, my violin strapped to my back, and toting a carryon full of vital overnight necessities. I’ll be attending an all-day Staging Event with other volunteers on Thursday, then depart at midnight for an overnight flight to Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, landing in the early morning hours on Friday. From there, we’ll be shuttled to Guarambaré, Paraguay, to begin Pre-Service Training. I’ll have three months of training there while living with a host family.
Daily training will consist of polishing my Spanish and learning a new language, Guaraní, as well as learning more about the culture, safety and security, personal health, and my sector, Community Economic Development. At the end of training, we will be sworn in as official volunteers and will begin our 24 months of service. At that point (around mid-August) I’ll learn the location of the site where I will be living and working.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work in CED. This sector is comprised of projects and initiatives in areas I’m very familiar with and have gained experience in over the past several decades, both personally and professionally. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to share what I’ve learned. Covered are entrepreneurship, small business development, civic engagement, youth leadership, family finance, and information technology. My job will be to assess the needs of my community, to identify and collaborate with community leaders, and then together we will strategically plan methods for reaching their goals. This all sounds pretty general, but that’s part of the thrill of the PC — you don’t really know what you’ll be doing until you get there and see what the community needs and what niche you can best fill.
There will be secondary projects I can work on, too, and the possibilities are endless. Here are some ideas: Women’s leadership workshops, confidence-building through creative expression (music and art!), HIV/AIDS awareness, empowering youth, summer camps, teaching English, etc.
As for learning what to take with me — I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to communicate regularly with a volunteer who is nearing the end of her 27-month stint in Paraguay. While spending endless hours googling Peace Corps Paraguay, I kept seeing (on YouTube and in blogs) a vivacious, smiling woman named Vicky – about my age, with reading glasses on her head and a great southern drawl. Soon after, I received word from the Peace Corps, introducing me to my assigned mentor — Vicky! Since then, through many emails, we have found that we have a lot in common and I’m excited that we will get to meet! Because of Vicky, I’m more prepared, have honed my packing list. We’ve discussed voltage converters and gardening supplies, shampoo and condiments, climate, shoes, and buses. I’m grateful.
Where will I be living and what will it be like? I have been told that CED volunteers typically live in the smaller communities, the majority have electricity (but no heating or a/c!) and many have running water. I will be issued a cell phone and will more than likely have Internet in my home or ready access to it at internet cafes and the Peace Corps office. My dear sister Ann (“Sistah”) and I have done a trial run with google video chat and we love it! So, I know that I’ll have conference chats with my big brother David, sistah Ann, Dabs, Bess, Lee, Gus, and all of you who would like to get online for a video party!
So there you have it, just about everything I know so far. Soon I will be taking the plunge into a whole new lifestyle. I’m looking forward to surfacing regularly to tell you all about it as it happens.