Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh and one more thing...I know how it feels to be scouring the internet looking for blogs before you depart for staging. So I would feel remiss (sp?) if I didn´t put this next nugget of advice out in the universe for whomever wants to devour it....on the subject of hair. I´m an African-American and I have relaxed hair. When I studied abroad in Panama, I could find beauty salons to relax my hair because there is a much more diverse population in Panama, there are black Panamanians, White Panamanians, and Mestizo Panamanians. I assumed that since Paraguay was so close to Brazil that that would be the case here too....Nahaniri (NO)!!!! Like I said in a previous post, they´re not used to seeing a lot of Black folks here adn will assume you are from Brazil. The word they use for peeps with dark skin is morocha/o. They don´t mean any malice, it´s just a descriptive term. Paraguayans are generally very friendly to everyone.

But back to the hair situation....if you are about to depart for Paraguay, have relaxed hair, and are not planing on going natural over the course of your service....arrange for your family or someone back home to ship you relaxer kits. Or right before you depart for staging, mail a package to yourself. Find someone back home that will mail you periodic shipments or you order some yourself off of Amazon. Be careful though because not everyone ships to Paraguay. You will not find any in Paraguay.

We may now return to previously scheduled programming.....

We´re Officially Volunteers..the hard part is what do I do?


Okay, so on Friday, 08/14/09, all 18 members of G30 swore in at the US Embassy. We took an oath administered by the Ambassador....and most importantly, we had some kickass cake! Now, i know its strange for me to give a shoutout to a piece of cake in the midst of this important event, but all during training people have been alluding to the ¨best cake ever¨at swearing-in. We had finger-foods and drinks, but it was obvious that we were just biding our time for the supremo of the event, the cake. After partaking in a slice, I must admit that it was quite good, but I wouldn´t say that it was THE Michael Jordan of cakes, maybe b-c i´m not a big chocolate cake person....

So, just to fill you in what´s been happening in these last weeks of training...

We had our final Dia de Practica. Lyn and I were supposed to give a charla (speech) to a class at the local school. We knew our topic and had met with the teacher and everything was kosher...until on our Long Field Practice, we found out that schools were cancelled an extra week (the week that we were going to give our charla). so we were forced to gather kids from the neighborhood to make this thing happen. well, we ended up giving the charla to about 4 kids and other trainees and our language/tech teachers. It went okay....i was just glad it was over....if I would´ve had more time to decide, I would´ve chosen a different venue and theme, but alas, that´s the way the cookie crumbles.

The week after that, we got our sites-where we´ll be living (hopefully) for the next 2 years. The day of the site presentations, they(CHP-the company that Peace COrps contracts for training) put on these activities during the day to keep us occupied, but they know that the only thing that´s on our minds are where they will be sending us to live....and they don´t tell us our sites until late afternoon, which means we have to spend the entire day participating in little activities pretending to be interested, while the anxiety level is at a premium. So when the fateful hour arrived, we sit facing a huge map of Paraguay on the wall and our APCD (Asst. PC Director) for our sector, calls out our name and our site and hands us a folder with info about our site. And I gotta say, that after spending all these weeks in training and being soooo nervous the day of site presentation, the whole thing is very anticlimatic. Because when they call your name and tell you your site, you´re like, ¨oh, okay, and where is that again or/and how to pronounce that again?¨ It won´t be a place that you´ve visited before, so you don´t really know what to think.

The day after that is when we met our contacts from our sites. These are the people we´re supposed to work with or stay connected to when we get to site but from what I´ve heard, often you won´t really work with your contact at all. So of course, this wouldn´t be Peace Corps if this event was not AWKWARD...they gave the contacts badges with their names and our pictures and when they arrived at our school, all of our eyes were glued to their chests for our pics. But the event went off without a hitch. The next day we traveled with our contacts to our sites.

My site is Pirayu. In guarani, it means fish-something, still not too clear on that (gotta get on it). But it is perfect! Hats off to Elisa (ourAPCD), Betsy (Volunteer coordinator) and Carola(Program Asst.) for a job well done. Pirayu is a medium sized city, but has a small town feel to is really close to Asunsion, which is great for my motion-sickness (the collectivos,or buses, here are no joke!) Even though it´s close to the Capital city, it feels farther away, which I like. The city is really tranquillo, which fits my personality. I am the first volunteer so everyone wanted to meet the norteamericana...they kept asking my contact to introduce them. On Fri of that week, I had lunch at the house of the intendente (mayor) and the funcionarios(Muni employees) for the Dia de Amistad-Friendship Day (which is a federal holiday here). They kept asking me if we had a Friendship Day back in the States, and I was like, ¨errr, I don´t think so¨ Do we? I gotta get on this.

But one of my contacts, who is all of 20 years old, took me walking around town with her friends. Pirayu has a lot of beautiful, antique buildings that need to be restored. There is also an old train station that doesn´t work but would make a great museum. So part of why they wanted a Volunteer is to help increase tourism. I think there´s a lot of potential, the city certainly has the natural resources. There are cerros (little mountains or big hills) in the background of the city that´s a gorgeous backdrop.

On my last day of my site visit...i got sick. The suspect? The Mani (peanuts). the family that I stayed with owns a Mani fabrica (factory), and so they have lots of peanuts around the house. well, since peanuts are a staple food of the South back home and I grew up eating them, I thought peanuts were a safe snack, so I was popping handfulls into my mouth. That evening, I noticed my stomach feeling weird, like I needed to make an appt. with the toilet to do some bizness. So I went to bed early hoping that when I woke up, all would be well. Around midnight, I woke up feeling worse, and I knew that something was coming, didn´t know which end it would come but it was coming...It ended up coming out of both ends and I had to wake my host mom up to tell her that I threw up over the bathroom floor. When she saw me, she was like, ¨It was the Mani?¨I´m like, ¨um yeah¨, so I during the night I woke up like 5 times, then threw up again the following morning with the sweet empleada (housekeeper) rubbing my back while I puked in the yard. She was even like, ¨The Mani?¨I called the PC doctor and she said not to travel that day, so then I called CHP to tell them what was up and that I´d have to stay in site an extra day. Then I called my training host family and of course my mom was very worried, b/c she was waiting for me and I didn´t call until later that day. So I stayed in bed pretty much all day, and by the next day I was feeling much better. We even joked about how my mani eating days are least until i get back in the States.

But I really had a great time on my site visit....It´s exhilarating and scary being on your own as the only Norte in a city. I can´t chill in the background letting the better spanish speakers in the group do all the talking while I tune out. The peeps are really curious about my life in the States and never stop asking questions that forces me into the foreground and into speaking Spanish (or Castellano, as they call it here). I know that my Spanish will continue to improve because I will be speaking quadruple than I was during training.

So what am I doing now? Well, today is Monday and we have until tomorrow to be in our sites. I was supposed to travel to my site today, but I texted my contact (we now have phones!) to tell her I will be coming tomorrow b/c it´s cloudy and rainy today. But the truth is, I´m kinda scared. I´m not physically afraid, but I´m afraid of starting over..We´ve spent 3 mths integrating into our training families and getting used to our lives here, but now we have to start all over again, and when I think about that, I am scared shitless. I know that I´m not alone in feeling like this but it doesn´t make it any less scary. On one hand, I´m glad training is over and we don´t have all our days tightly scheduled and we will have more free time and more control over our lives. But on the other hand, we won´t have all our days tightly scheduled and we will have more free time and more control over our lives!!!!! Yikes, where to even began...I mean, don´t get me wrong, I´m excited and this is what we endured the endless application process, complete with endless medical paperwork, and 3 mths of training for. But I´m afraid that I won´t be able to deliver, that my expectations and those of my community have far exceeded my capabilities. So I´m bumming around my training host family´s house for the day, spending a portion of my living allowance at the cybercafe.....

It´ll be okay....I have to remind myself of where I was 3mths ago, when I stepped on that plane in Tallahassee. Talk about SCARED shitless!!! And, alas, I´m here now and it´s okay...