It´s so hot here!
Trip Start Feb 06, 2007
21Trip End Apr 26, 2009
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Greetings to all my peeps in the good ole' USA! I am able to post two entries today, because I am starting to use my laptop when I can at my house to catch up on blog entries...this way, I don't spend all afternoon at the internet café. The computers there are extremely slow and there is always a line! I learned about a new program called SKYPE...I would encourage you to google it and find out more about it. But, basically it is a phone program that I can use on a computer in PY to call someone back home in the states or anywhere in the world, for that matter. It is free for internet to internet. So, if you do not have a landline telephone that you tap into for your internet, then I can pay 2 cents a minute to call you on your cell phone or other phone. That is much better than what they charge here at the publica telefono COPACO. I am excited about that.
This past week, I learned a lot more about what I have to do in order to qualify for Peace Corps service. As you know, I am in an intense 3-month training program...dubbed the longest job interview ever. This is true! I was particularly glad to learn this information because it provides me with a sense of closure about some anxieties that I have recently been having with this whole process. Just because I go through training doesn't necessarily qualify me for service. There is a paper trail. Every so often, I will sit down with different people, including my language and tech trainers and the country director himself, so that they can evaluate the progress that I am making in five areas ... they include community development and personal adaptation, personal health, safety and security, language, and technical training. The process is dubbed TAPS - Trainee Assessment Packet. I have a part to complete every now and then and the staff adds additional assessment. The assessment process is based on the trainee qualification criteria and the achievement of the above five competencies and performance objectives. The process includes check-offs, quizzes, exams, and/or simulations, as well as language interviews and monitoring by each of you of progress toward meeting my goals. The way they put it to me --- I particularly like...they said "working with you to see if this is going to work for you." I like that, because I want someone to talk to me every now and then and tell me how they think I am doing compared to what they have seen in trainees for the past 40 something years.
Informal feedback happens all along. The formal TAP for assessment of my progress and participation is scheduled at two points in the training cycle. The first is in week number five, which is a benchmark review of where I am on the road to qualification by meeting the competencies and indicators of the five component areas of pre-service training (PST). During this time, I will be given the opportunity to reflect on commitment and gauge knowledge, skills, attitudes, and practices in the context of Paraguay. It is also a time for me to analyze the progress I am making and to develop and strategies necessary in order to improve. The second formal TAP assessment and interview is in the final week of training. Once again, my self-assessment and the staff assessment is brought into context. Questions I ask myself - --- the big one is do I recommend myself for PC service? My PC-LPI (language proficiency interview/exam) score is weighed into the mix of things. Did I meet the language level criterion? This is what I worry about the most.
If I make it through, then CHP (the people who are training me) will make a formal recommendation to Peace Corps in Asuncion based on my record of progress to meet the qualification criteria. The PC country director makes the final decision of whether or not to act on the recommendation to accept me, or not, as a PCV. It's a very technical process, but I am very glad that it is in place.
So, that's what I have to do in order to stay for the entire two years. I have to say that there have already been a couple of days that I am questioning my presence. Today, however, answered why I am here...I met with my Reading Club this morning. Myself, along with a partner...a very nice young lady from Wisconsin named Brook, went out the past couple of nights to invite the kids in our barrio to our Club de Lectura. We invited a host of children. This morning, a total of 15 showed up, including our three teenage volunteers. It was absolutely amazing. When I got up this morning, it was raining, and I thought that we surely weren't going to have a good show. The banners that we made got wet and kind of messed up...but all the confusion cleared up when the first couple of kids came in. The purpose of this project is to further integrate ourselves into the community. We started with a couple of icebreaker games to learn the children's names. I thought that we had some strange names in South Carolina. Let's just say that it isn't just an issue in our country...but okay..so I got their names now! Then, we read them a story and we asked some questions about it...it took me so long to ask the questions that I had....then we had the children draw their favorite part and decorate our club banner and so forth. They were so interested in the story...I have never seen anything like it. American school children aren't all that interested because they are read to everyday of their lives almost! Here in PY, reading is frowned upon. I have spent many a hour after dinner this past week reading and studying in my room-when my mom and dad see me...they always say "Que guapo!" Which translated, means you're hardworking! Reading is not considered a leisurely activity here...I am in a country where the illiteracy rate is super super high, especially among adults. Pictures are going to be doing my talking for a while! You should have seen how many of them raised their hands so anxious to answer questions we had for them.
After we read to them, we played two games - Simon Says and a water balloon toss. They loved both games very much. We also announced our contest awarding a prize to the child who brings in the most bottle caps. They are going to be great to use in the schools to help teach math. If you would like to send dollar tree prize items to me...muchas gracias!! You just would love these kids! I have three favorite little girls. Their names are Catalina, Fatima (Pronounced totally different than what you think), and Faviola. They are so angel - like! They are so sweet and precious, and just love to help me out. They also love to tell me what I am not saying correctly and how to correctly say it! Most of the children that came today didn't have shoes. Some had their sandals. You could obviously tell that many of them didn't bathe that morning or night before (many in my community bucket bathe - I am grateful that I have a bucket that I can pour into my shower head to make it work for 4-5 mins and my toilet!!).
This coming week is going to be super busy. Monday is a normal training day. Tuesday is our first dia de practica...part of the TAPS process. We are visiting some area local schools to make ourselves known...it's kinda like in the US when you are in an education program. All of us have been assigned to schools that we will be doing our practicum work in...where we will present model lessons and complete workshops with the faculty. I will be working at the school in downtown Guarambare. Super excited! I was, however, informed today that I need to get a school uniform..which I thought someone told me that I didn't need to get one. Oh well...I will be visiting the modista (clothesmaker) in my barrio pretty soon. The dia de practica carries over through Wednesday. Thursday is going to be pretty interesting. I haven't been into Asuncion yet...none of us have. So, the CHP staff have designed a scavenger hunt type deal for us to complete. Not sure when we need to leave because I have no idea how to get where I am going, but we have to be at a central meeting location at 12:30 in the PC office in Asuncion. I am supposed to ask my family how do I get to my particular destination...al Mercado cuatro. Again, the language barrier is a problem. I have to do this by myself. That means taking the bus into Asuncion by myself. The horror stories I have heard about on the buses that go into Asuncion just scare me to death. Again, be reminded that the economic situation in PY is extreme...and people just put knives up to other pppl on the bus to take what they want. I, however, do believe that I am preparing myself correctly. I have made my fake wallet and I have everything around my neck suspended from a loop. So, if they want it, they have to take my neck too!! That is the trend with cell phones in PY - the ppl are suspending them from their necks. So say a special prayer for me on Thursday. Friday, we have a regular day. Some of us will leave Friday night for our first overnight tech excursion. Friday through the following Tuesday, I will be working with a currently serving PCV in education somewhere in the country - it could be as little as one hour away or as far as 11 hours away we have been told. So, I'm kind of nervous about that to, again...we are on the buses and I will be by myself. IT's going to be interesting and eventful I am sure, because I get a first-hand look at what other PCVs in my field are doing - how they are living, working, socializing and so on. Plus, this will be a great chance for me to get the information I need for my first CHARLA presentation the following Friday on 2nd grade education in Paraguay.
So, it's going to be a long next ten days or so! Things will move fast, that's for sure! Tonight, I made empanadas with me family. My host brothers and I continue to play our nightly game of UNO..they love that. It is truly the game that will never end. I didn't get a chance to exercise the past couple of nights, because it's been raining. I got my helmet from the CHP staff so I can lawfully ride a bicycle now! I look so dorky with that thing on.
I do want to share an amazing cultural experience that happened yesterday. While in Guarambare for group training, I witnessed a funeral. It is very different than prevailing traditions in the US. The coffin is carried from the church down the street in the hands of the pallbearers - no hearse. Behind the coffin follows the family of the deceased and any who are joining in the parade. There were at least 100 people in this "parade of mourning." Some were nicely dressed in traditional black somber dress, but there were many who just had their normal clothes on drinking their terrere in the middle of the street. They were also chanting something - couldn't make it out. But man it was pretty culturally exciting.
My health is okay. I am still adjusting to the new foods. My host mom is a fantastic cook. She is starting to let me help out in the kitchen (both outside and inside). The foods just rarely seem to settle with me...I still have bad diarrhea, but I feel so much better and just getting it all out!! LOL! I started drinking SUERO CASERA ..a dehydration juice type thing so I can get fluids back in me per the doc's order. It just seems to make me go more. I know I'm not getting enough water in me...not near as much as I was consuming before I left the states. Oh well, it will get better I am sure. The mosquitos are so bad here...everytime the first one comes out in the AM or PM - my family is just scared to death...screaming DENGUE, DENGUE..where is the spray!!
This week, I am especially missing a couple of things --- some orea cookies and my mom's fruit smoothies!! Gosh, I would love to have those!! Thanks my friends for sticking with me and keeping me in your prayers. It means so much to me and yes, I do feel your prayers! Thank you again. I do have an unspoken prayer request and would GREATLY appreciate you lifting that up on my behalf to our Lord for his guidance and assistance.
I am able to load a few pictures, not too many. Hope you enjoy them. Pics of my host family are forthcoming!!
PSSS.....church again this morning was very interesting. i am typing some of my blogs at home on my laptop, so i am going back and forth..so i am not crazy. just conservative with the time. i took communion this morning for the first time here. i lined up to get it from the nun..it was very nice. my friend helped me to translate what the priest was talking about in his message ' it was on the golden rule..treating others how you want to be treated!