Photos, Computers and Friends

It’s hard to believe that Jon and I are coming to the end of our service.  This July we will be making our way back home.  They say that the Peace Corps is the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” and I couldn’t agree more.  While I wouldn’t trade this experience in Villarrica for anything, it definitely hasn’t been a walk in the park for either of us.  It has now been almost two years since we last touched American soil.  We miss family, we miss the comforts, we miss friends. So thank you, thank you to all of those that have made that void a little smaller for us, sending us encouraging messages and updating us on life, Skyping with us, mailing us packages full of goodies and letters, we truly appreciate it.  And thank you to those who have visited us or met us elsewhere in Latin America. Seeing familiar loved faces is always a welcome respite.

Today I wanted to share some highlights of what life has been like lately. And by that I mean these past 8 months.

A while back I shared pictures of our town taken by our students. Below is an image of the final exhibition of the photography course. Everyone was pretty excited to find their photos.

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When we first visited our town one of the first places we went to was the Telecentro, a free public computer lab run by a local NGO and the municipality. The lab had 10 computers that were 14 years old.  They were so old that they couldn’t run Windows, which in turn meant no MS Office.  With the staff in the lab I wanted to teach computer classes, but felt it would be irrelevant doing it with Linux.  I crunched numbers to see how much we needed to replace the computers and it was just too much to ask family and friends back home for.
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13 Days in Peru

Remember those friends we went to Alaska with before heading out to Paraguay?  Well, we did it again, this time in Peru. And then in my normal timely fashion, it took me over two months to tell you about it.

Meeting up or having friends and family visit us are always highlights during our service, and this trip was no exception.  The trip started off with one night in Lima, Peru.  Jon and I got there in the early morning so we were able to explore Miraflores, the hip suburb of Lima.  We visited the chocolate museum, perused the plazas, visited the coast with its surfers, ate sushi, and then ate some more at the very popular “sangucheria” La Lucha where the sandwiches are over the top and the smoothies extra delicious.   I shall owe you the pictures.

Then we patiently awaited the arrival of our friends.  I practically jumped from my chair when their taxi pulled up to the hotel; the real fun and adventure truly was about to begin.

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That next morning we headed to Cusco, where we stayed for four days.   Cusco is an endearing town, with its winding cobblestone streets and red tiled roofs.  It was also once the heart of the Incan empire, so walking down narrow alleyways you are flanked on both sides by original Incan walls.

A little side story:  I would have completely missed the cute girl below, if it weren’t for the fact that she was reading her magazine out loud to herself and I heard her.  I just had to snatch the camera out of Jon’s hand and capture the moment.
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A walk through town (Part I)

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A little over a month ago, Jon and I finished teaching two photography classes in our community through a Peace Corps Paraguay program called Ahecha (“I see” in Guarani).  During three months we were loaned 10 point-and-shoot cameras to teach the class.  Each week we talked about a different photography technique, had the students go out and practice the technique and then upon their return, as a group, we would give constructive criticism for each student’s favorite photo.

The photos that came out of this class far exceeded any expectations I might have had. There have been many moments in my town where I wish I had a camera with me, but alas, that would require planning ahead, and that, I certainly don’t do.   Thankfully, through this class I now have an arsenal of images to always remember our town by, all from different perspectives.

The following photos were all taken by our students. These may not be their best shots, but are the photos that I felt best represented the sights you might encounter if you were to take a walk through town, our beautiful Villarrica.

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Our town has two large open-air markets where you can purchase your fruits and vegetables.  If you’re lacking the energy to get yourself to the market you can always purchase your produce from the lady walking down the street, carrying everything on her head, or the man with all of the tomatoes you might need all bagged and ready to go.
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Villarrica in Action

It’s been too long since I’ve provided a recap on this little life we live in our corner of the world.  But, here I am, trying to make amends.

These last months have been memorable, to say the least, and it already saddens me to think that one day our service will end and we will be packing up our bags.

Some highlights:

1)   I took 12 students who were in our business class to a business conference in the capital, Asunción.  The students got to learn about marketing, sales strategies, and even got to play the computer business simulation game that Jon and another fellow Peace Corps Volunteer designed and built.  It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity for them and they returned to our town with a renewed excitement for all things business.  Thanks to all of those who sponsored our youth, changing it from merely a dream to a reality.

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13 Days in Bolivia

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Bolivia was not one of my must-see countries during our service, but I wanted to meet my friend Matt during his travels in South America and Bolivia was what worked best.  (In hindsight, it should have been on my list.) During the planning time two amazing Seattle friends, Brian and Chris, also showed interest in the trip and just like that we had a great crew of friends to travel with in Bolivia.

The trip began with an unexpected day in Santa Cruz for Jon and I after missing a flight to Sucre.  Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia, but yet it felt less city-like and much more spread out than La Paz.  During our time there we lingered in the beautiful plaza, enjoyed a real breakfast (I am still trying to introduce the notion of breakfast in Paraguay), got to enjoy some frozen yogurt, and visited several museums.

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Then we were off to Sucre.  Sucre is known as la Cuidad Blanca, the White City, because the buildings in the historic center are all white with red tiled roofs.  It is a very endearing town with its meandering streets, cute coffee shops, and amazing food. They are also known for their chocolate shops, so I of course had to stop and enjoy a couple truffles.
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