Hello! Here’s how we would greet each other in Guaraní. The whole greeting between the two of us would go like this:
Iporã ha nde
Iporã ave i!
… said with air kisses on both cheeks. Really, really great way to greet people, I think.
So much to tell you so I’ll just jump right in. Will have to publish a series of posts to tell you the stories of what I’ve experienced so far. Please forgive me in advance for strange syntax and mixed, disorganized thoughts — my immersion classes have done some interesting things to my thinking processes!
I was told that my Peace Corps duty would run 24/7 and I’ve certainly found that to be true. My little community of Itá is about 10.5 kms from Guarambaré, where the PC Training Center is located. Each morning we go by PC shuttle but in the afternoons, we return home by public transportation, usually at dusk- on the collectivo. Training has been marvelous with many hours of Spanish immersion with Guraní training mixed in here and there. Tambien, there are classes in culture and traditions, plus a Tech class – where we learn more about what we’ll be doing at our individual sites once we start our independent assignments. Earlier in training, we each had a lengthy conversation in Spanish with a language prof to determine our class placement and I was happy to find that I was placed in the Intermediate class! There are only four of us in the Itá class, so we get quite a bit of personal assistance and training.
We also have sessions regarding the economy and history of Paraguay. What a young democracy we are! The constitution was written in 1992, establishing a democratic system of government which certainly and dramatically improved protection of the fundamental rights of Paraguayans –and that is what gives us fodder for our projects, in my opinion. A new frontier of opportunity. We will be working quite a bit with the youth of Paraguay – a generation experiencing the non-dictatorial leadership. It is a fairly young concept in this country that one can be an entrepreneur, can indeed become a thriving, if not flourishing, small business owner, a leader in the community, and a catalyst for change and/or improvement. Our assignment for this weekend was to tour our community and make note of the resources already in place and find the potential for additional resources that could be discussed with community leaders. My good friend, Marie and I partnered together for the project and have toured the city.
Let me tell you about my host family. Julia, the matriarch of the family, and her daughter Zulema, (who has children the age of Bess and David) are two sweet women who have opened their home to me. Z is an English teacher so I feel very fortunate to have the option to ask her questions in English when I get tripped up. She and her mother do mix in some Guaraní so I’m having a good time practicing that language, too. They have provided a colorful, private little guest room and bath for me, located just a few yards from their back door. I have sort of an indoor/outdoor suite with my fully equipped bathroom – which includes a hot water shower! Plus, on our patio, there are two wet sinks, a small refrigerator, a two burner stove, table and chairs, and utility room with washer and dryer. We have tasty food daily — rice, veggies, beef, mbeju, thick bacon, chicken and vegetable soup, and manioca, similar to the potato.
Before riding on the collectivo, we first had a class in safety and security so we’d be prepared! There are some problems with pickpockets on the bus, so we all hold our backpacks in front! Packed shoulder to shoulder, front to backside, sometimes having room only to stand on the steps of the bus, held in by the Guarda. Quite an interesting experience but each time we have made it without problem.
The weather is very nice, very humid. Last night was cold and I had to wear long underwear under my flannel nightgown, and wooly sox Lee gave me, in order to get warm enough to fall asleep! My host family has provided me with some great comforts – a little space heater and a nice woven cover that feels very cozy.
One evening, my satellite group met on the roof of one of the host family homes (Brienne’s house) and had vino and chipaguazu, sort of a corn soufflé that was muy rica! The stars were gorgeous and there were very large bats that flew from tree to tree. When I decided to come home, it was quite a walk from their house to mine, so one of my co-trainees, Jeremy, walked me home! It is advisable that we walk with someone when walking at night.
It is time for me to prepare my things for tomorrow and get ready for bed. I will heat up some water in my electric pot in order to wash my face in warm water! I do have a hot water shower, but a cold water lavatory, typical here. Perhaps our little white house-kitty will once again make her way through the opening between screen and window and I’ll find her purring at my feet in the night.