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A Trabajar en Villarrica

When folks from back home email/chat/talk with us, a question we always get is “What all do you guys do down there in Paraguay?” So, here you have it, a post solely dedicated to what we do in Paraguay with pictures galore.  And yes, we do things other than constantly sweat and kill bugs. (Please excuse the quality of some of the pictures– they were mostly taken with a point and shoot).

1. I teach/taught typing. 

For the past two months I taught typing at a local middle + high school.  This school was the very lucky recipient of a fully equipped computer lab courtesy of the Korean aid organization (KOICA), but unfortunately since the Korean volunteer has left the lab was only used for two class hours per week.  My original plan was to teach Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. but I quickly discovered that many students could barely manage using a mouse and a keyboard.  So, we started at square one, typing.  The students have a way to go, but I plan to continue once summer vacation ends and school starts back up.  (Yep, we are in the midst of summer here on the other side of the hemisphere).  During the same time Jon taught PHP at the technical high school, the same stuff that runs those websites that go by the name of “Facebook,” “Wikipedia” and even this little blog.  

2. We walk a lot and drink terere. 

A significant chunk of our day consists of simply walking. We live a good distance away from the center of town, and once in town have to walk from offices to schools to markets to home, etc.  Thanks to a sweet little birthday gift (a.k.a: a Fitbit) I received from a friend all the way from the U.S. of A. (love you Eab!) I now know that on average we walk 7 miles per day.  To cool off from all that walking we drink lots of terere with fellow Paraguayans.  Terere is the national drink of Paraguay/a way of life. It consists of a guampa (metal or wood cup), a bombilla (metal straw with a filter at the bottom), a thermos (filled with really cold water to refill the guampa), mate (a loose herb), and friends.  You get together with friends and alternate drinking from the same guampa via the same straw.

3. Attend Municipal Meetings.

Every Wednesday morning we attend a local inter-institutional meeting.  Through this meeting we have made contact with local movers & shakers in town and it has given us the opportunity to participate/help in a variety of events in town.

4. Encounter cows.

Almost everyday we have some sort of encounter with cows.  This country is full of cows and their owners let them roam the streets freely, which means they mow our lawn everyday.  While driving on the main highway in Paraguay it is not uncommon to have to stop to let the cows cross the street.


5.  Lead/organize one-time events in a variety of forms.

Thus far, we did a two day computer training for school teachers, a self-esteem speech/activity for middle schoolers organized with the local Rotaract club, an environmental/disability awareness day long training organized with the local tourism office (we even came out in a local magazine with this one!), and a Halloween cultural event (pictured above) with the kids from the local American Cultural Center.  About Halloween, those kids were deathly afraid of bobbing for apples and refused to try it, until one bold child went for it and then suddenly bobbing for apples became the most popular thing on the street, even if it meant getting completely soaked.

All of these smaller events were learning experiences for Jon and I, full of successes and some failures.


4. Take electrical hot showers in our very own little house!

To keep cool in the insane heat we take lots of showers.  The shower heads are a little different here though, they have electricity running through them which converts the water from hot to cold.  So yes, this means we could electrocute ourselves.  But um, hot water showers are totally worth the risk of electrocution. More exciting than electrocution is that this past month Jon and I moved into our very own little house! That’s her in all of her cute orange glory. Hopefully you’ll get a tour very soon.

5. Teach our very own English class.

Our little English class has a whopping 5 students, but we like it like that.  The previous volunteer left us with two very hardworking students and from there we invited a few others that we knew were also interested, but still keeping it small since we didn’t really want to overwhelm ourselves teaching something we had no previous experience with.  I am slightly in love with our students and have enjoyed the challenge of finding fun and creative ways of teaching English.  The bottom picture is of them enjoying those Chocolate Chunk Cookie Dough Brownies. This past class for Alvaro’s birthday I made Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies, they were very popular as well.  (Let me know if you guys are interested in a post about these!)

6. We cook and share the food.

Jon and I have been rocking the kitchen and sharing the bounty with Paraguayans.  I can proudly say that my host mom can now make carrot cake and quiche all on her own. Above is the food we prepared for our Site Presentation, where our boss comes from the capital and introduces us to our community.  The bounty above included: mini quiches with pancetta and caramelized onions, apple pie empanadas, hummus with pita, and carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (more potential posts if there is interest!).  Those Paraguayans devoured all of it.

7. We lead a weekly discussion group with the English students at the local American Cultural Center.

We’ve had fun in coming up with all sorts of games to get them to practice their English, including games of Jeopardy, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, and Celebrity.  The bottom picture was the little surprise birthday party the students organized for me which included lots of cookies, candy and soda (yum!).

8. Spend time with Peace Corps friends and family.

During Thanksgiving week Jon and I had our very first visitor, my dad!  We enjoyed visiting the the countryside of Paraguay, going to the lake, buying a few too many artisanal goods, and listening to traditional Paraguayan harp and guitar music.  We also had the pleasure of hosting our very first Thanksgiving with my dad and a very special Peace Corps couple, Allison and Isaiah.  Side note: Allison and Isaiah were married on the exact same day as Jon and I and took exactly the same planes from Cedar Rapids, IA to Miami before we headed off to Paraguay.  It is truly the people that make all of this worth it.

And that, my friends, along with a couple of other things we have up our sleeves, is what we do in this country that some call Paraguay. Next time, though, let’s talk food!

6 replies on “A Trabajar en Villarrica”

Of Course we want to know more about the recipes! And it looks like you two are busy doing interesting and worthwhile things!

Yes, busy indeed! Though now that the holidays are coming things are slowing down. I shall bring you those recipes!

The house looks very cute! And I bet the cows don’t just mow the lawn–they probably provide free fertilizer, too 🙂 Do you and Jon have to cage your vegetables to keep the mooing mowers from sharing those, too?

We have fortunately not received free fertilizer, thus far. Though maybe I should inspect more closely. 🙂 Thankfully most of our lawn has a fence around it, so they mow the exterior part. If that makes any sense. Though once, a cow did get in our yard and it took two people to get it back out.

Nalena, thank you for sharing! Yay for walking to work…7 miles a day. Wow. Loved this post. Looks like you are a great teacher and great cook, too.

Ruth! A little late of a response, but yes, it’s a lot of walking! Though for full disclosure, lately we’ve been clocking in 5 miles per day. I hope you are doing well and I am sure you are cooking lots as well!

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