Warm Hearts and Big Smiles

I recently read an article about those whose life doesn’t go exactly as planned, but in the end the deviation from the plan brought more joy than they could have ever imagined or hoped for.  The message couldn’t have ringed truer for me.

Doing the Peace Corps was something I always dreamed about since learning about it in high school (or was it middle school?).   During college, when several friends decided to do the Peace Corps after graduating, I felt a twinge of jealousy when I discovered what their next step was.  How awesome for them to do something unconventional.  But the Peace Corps, for us, just wasn’t in our cards; we were to move to Seattle, work, and eventually start a family.

What I didn’t realize, is that my husband is just as adventurous as I am, which in hindsight is one of the reasons I married him, and for his stunning good looks as well, of course.   So, before finishing my second year of AmeriCorps, we discussed what was next for us, and well… you can figure out how the rest of the story went.

Four years after the planning and discussing began, and the longest application known to man, here we are one month+ away from completing our service, saying goodbye to all of the amazing friends we have made.

Much of this blog space I have dedicated to our projects and travel, and while much of our time here in Paraguay has consisted of this, some of the most treasured memories I will take away with me are just the simple moments we spent with Paraguayans.  Paraguayans are truly some of the most hospitable and friendliest people you will ever meet.   They have welcomed us into their homes for many meals, giving us many rides, shared many tereres and mates, and most of all, have shared with us much laughter.  So today, is a day to share with you guys some of those small/big moments we have shared with Paraguayan friends lately that warm our hearts and bring big smiles.

During Easter it’s a tradition to make chipa, a traditional cornmeal and cheese based bread, so this year instead of just eating lots of it, I got to try my hand at making it with our friends across the street (who also are our landlords).   Jon even joined in at the end of it and become an expert chipa shaper.

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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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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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Camps, Camps and Some English in Between

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This a three part post of recent and not-so-recent happenings in our Peace Corps life. *All photos were taken with a point & shoot, please forgive me.*

Part 1:: Reading & Crafts Camp

During training there was a session on secondary projects given by the ever talented and amazing Peace Corps Volunteer Amy.   During it Amy told us all about the reading camps she had done in her community; I instantly fell in love with the idea and decided that somehow I would make this happen in my own community.
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