Friday, April 22, 2011

Long looong overdue post

Deadlines and timeliness have never been my fortes, but this one is just ridiculous. It has been a couple of months now since my last post, and quite a bit has happened during that time. First and foremost, many of you (my seven or so dedicated readers) probably already know that I am no longer in Paraguay. I won't get down into the nitty-gritty details, but let's just say that I had ideological differences with my boss. The situation in my school was not improving, and I was under increasing pressure from the office to start showing better results, but there was really nothing more I could have done. Pulling the plug was not how I wanted to end my service, but at the end of the day, that really seemed like the best (and only) solution.

Despite the inauspicious ending to my PCV career, I do believe that I made and impact in my little community of Ka'itá. Before I left I made arrangements for my ongoing projects with other volunteers in the area: a health volunteer from a site just down the road is going to come and help my women's commission construct and learn to use their fogones, and my good friend Michelle in Oviedo has been working with my school kids to help finally start painting the map. I can't wait to come back next year and see that giant, colorful map all completed. Now I just hope that they use it!

Yes, I meant it when I said that I will see this map again. I am already making plans for a Pan-American adventure journey across Mexico, Central and South America. For that journey I will start a new blog, so keep an eye out for that. Now I just need to find a job!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quick, unedited update

A few days ago, both my electricty and my water went out in my house. It wasn't until nearly 2 hours later that it even occured to me to think of this as "abnormal". It was during that part of the evening where it's not dark out yet, but no longer light enough to throw a shadow. I sat on the porch with my host family and watched the sky fade from blue to pink to purply grey, while the cicadas whined and the chickens climbed into the trees for the night. I was even following along with the Guaraní conversation somewhat, for once without that almost itchy feeling in my legs compelling me to move to somewhere more comfortable. We passed around the cool tereré as we felt the heat seep out of the muggy day like water out of our broken shower.

Despite all the stresses and bizzare occurances that we face every day as Peace Corps Volunteers (for example, the enormous bagged toad I found in my yard this morning, or helping my host mother ship a box of dried grass (apparently a yuyo) to Argentina...), it all becomes just part of the rhythm of life after a while, and becomes normalized. That is not to say that I don't still bouts of wonder, confusion, exasperation, novelty or hilarious irony on a day-to-day basis, but now I have a kind of framework to fit it all into: This is Paraguay, or at least my little part of it.

Summer is winding to a close and we're preparing for school to start up again... sometime. The "first day of school" is kind of a loosely defined concept around here, and I think it is just generally understood that kids will start drifting in when there's "probably class, si no llueve." (If it doesn't rain, that is.) The plans for the new school year are all still tenative until I can meet with the teachers, but this year the Education sector is REALLY pushing literacy and volunteerism as their main foci. Literacy especially for my sector, Early Elementary Ed.

Sidenote (or rather, belownote): Our group's "Sister-G" has finally arrived! No, it's not a hot new all-female hiphop group, but rather the new crop of Education and Health Volunteers for Paraguay: BIENVENIDOS, G-35!! My training group, G-32, is the last group that will contain EEE and Urban Youth Development as two distinct sectors; these have recently been combined to form EYD, or Education & Youth Development. So have fun G-35ers, you're the guinnea pigs for a shiney new Action Plan! Don't worry though, just survive training and you'll be just fine. :)

So, a little news about what I've been up to in Ka'itá. My Comité de Mujeres Vecinales is going great! In our most recent meeting we finalized the total number of fogóns we're going to build: twenty-two! An excellent number, in my opinion. So this week we're going to the Gobernación and the Municipalidad to get everything legalized, and turn in our pedido. Hopefully the Municipality will agree to donate all the materials we need (bricks, cement, rebar, etc) and not make us re-do any of the paperwork. They're VERY picky about their paperwork. (I find this totally ironic considering how disorganized everything else is.) If all goes well, we might be up and building brick ovens as soon as June!

World Map project is still on standby, while I search for someone - anyone - with a key to the schoolroom! The Directora won't open it for me, and everyone else claims that so-and-so-not-me has the key. I knew I should have made a copy for myself while I had the chance! The teachers should all be in school, though not necessarily in class, by next week, so perhaps I can figure out a painting schedule then. It's been very touch-and-go thus far, but hey! we've got the paint, so we're ready to go at the first opportunity! Pictures forthcoming!

That's really all the news from Paraguay for now. My portable modem is broken (again), so posting enteries can be tricky, but I'll do my best. Miss you all, and happy Valentine's day! (PS. If someone gets a more awesome gift than toad-in-a-bag, please leave a comment and let me know! Hehe!)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Holidays in the Heat

Frosty the snowman would not like Paraguay. Santa Clause would likely die of heat stroke in that big red suit of his, and I'm pretty sure the reindeer would be too kaigue to fly. This one one HOT Christmas! Not the first time I've seen palm trees and sweltering 95 degree days at holiday time, but it's still weird. To balance the mood a little I cut out a few dozen paper snowflakes and hung them up on threads from my ceiling. My Paraguayan friends all thought that they were lovely, but were baffled as to why I was making so many "stars". Nahániri, I told them, oĩ copos de nieve! They're snowflakes of course! ... Blank looks. Oh well, they all wanted one anyway.

Despite being a bit under the weather for Christmas, I had a good time. My host dad got back from the hospital and is doing fine, so that was a big relief for everyone. About a dozen of his relatives from other parts of Paraguay and Argentina all came to stay at our house for the week, so it was definitely bustling. I got to hear quite a lot of the lilting, Italianesque Argentine Spanish, which was fun, and my porteña aunts cooked up a ton of delicious (healthy!) food for our big family lunches. It was a bit overwhelming to have so many people suddenly in the house, but it was a fun family Christmas, South America style. (I also now have a free place to stay should I ever find myself in Buenos Aires. Thanks, Tía Koka!)

A few days after Christmas I had finally recovered from whatever little nasty stomach bug I got... probably from sharing so much tereré with literally EVERYONE in my site the week before. Paraguayans are so nice; they share everything. Even giardia. Okay so it probably wasn't giardia, since I recovered pretty quickly, just in time to do a bit of traveling for New Years. Nothing international, but it was nice to go back and spend a few days with my training host family in Naranjaisy, then south to Paraguarí to celebrate New Years with some other volunteers. It had rained nearly every day during Christmas week, and New Years was no exception. Oky tuicha kuri! It down-poured! Absolutely nothing happens in Paraguay when it rains, and holidays are no exception. So New Years Eve itself was spent with just a few of us, hanging out at my fellow Volunteer's house with the old Señor that he lives with. It was a very tranquilo evening. The next evening it didn't rain, so a few more of us got together, had pizza, ad walked around Paraguarí talking to people and hanging out at a gas station. It's apparently the place to be in Paraguarí, because there were a LOT of people there. Who knew?

So now it's 2011. Despite the heat, I've been pretty busy in my site, visiting all the houses and talking to all my neighbors and community members about this fogón project we're starting up. A fogón is a kind of wood-burning brick oven with a stovetop, an oven and a chimney. (Click the word fogón for a picture!*) This past saturday was our 3rd meeting, but really the first successful one. The reason? HEAT. My other two meetings were, per advice of my neighbors, held at 2 in the afternoon. I also figured that was a good time, since it's after lunch, so the mom's aren't busy cooking, and they don't have to go back to the fields to work yet. It's siesta time. Well, you know what people do during siesta time? NOT go to fogón meetings! I should have seen the mistake, since it was glaringly obvious: it's just too darn hot! I myself didn't want to go, I just wanted to lay in my hammock and not move! Finally realizing the error of my ways, I held this last meeting at 6 pm, when the heat has died down some, and I had a lot of people come! I talked about how the commission was going to work, the things we needed to get done and in what order, and who we needed to talk to to get the materials.

We chose a name for the commission: Comité de Mujeres Vecinales. (That's "Committee of Woman Neighbors"... it sounds better in Spanish.) That one won out over "Yvýpe no más!" and "Tatatĩ? NO!", which were my suggestions. (They were meant to be a joke... meaning "On the ground no more!" and "Smoke in my nose? NO!") Those two actually did get a few votes though!

The next part was the most exciting: voting for the e-board. I explained the roles of the President, VP, Secretary and Treasurer, which most of them were already familiar with, along with my idea, the "Zone Representatives", which would be a kind of liason between the far-flung regions of the community and the e-board. Elections went off without a hitch, and once elected, the women themselves kind of took over! I barely had to say anything; they planned the next meeting, decided the next steps we have to take, and delegated some responsibilities! I was so excited, I left that meeting glowing. Partially because I was happy, and partially because I was sweating like a kuñaréi tupaópe... I'm not translating that. ;)

This new year of 2011 is going to bring on a lot of changes in my work. I have other big news to share, but I will wait until I'm more sure of the details before broadcasting it to the internet. So you'll just have to wait in suspense until then!

So a late Feliz Navidad from the Heart of South America, and I hope you all have a wonderful Año Nuevo! :)

*PS. The fogón picture belongs to jessnsimon on I tried to send a message but it wouldn't let me, sorry! It's a beautiful fogón though! :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feliz Acción de Gracias!

So once again I'm writing this on the fly, so don't expect any great work of literature.

My portable modem thing has been broken for nigh on two months now, and I've been nigh on flat dirt broke, so internet access has been difficult to come by. My host brother knew about this whole North Korea thing before I did, and everyone is asking me for details, which I cannot supply. (Not that I've really been that connected with the world at large anyway... the last movie I've heard about being in theatres is "Alice in Wonderland.")

So, here's a quicky update on what's going on in Ka'itá, Paraguay.

Summer vacation doesn't technically start until Tuesday, the 30th, but in all reality there hasn't been class for the last three weeks. The past week and a half has been "exam week", and now that that's over very few kids come to school at all. (In fact, even during exam week a lot of kids didn't come. They know they won't fail. I've suspected for a long time that the grades my school submits to the ministry are all fabricated. I'm almost positive now.) Up until now, working at the school has been nothing short of miserable. The kids are great, for the most part. There's a small group of *@#%s, but I suppose that's normal in any school. It was the teachers and the principle that were getting me down. For a long time I thought that it must be something that I was doing wrong. Did I come on too strong? Have I been committing some kind of cultural taboo that I am unaware of? Have I just not been trying hard enough? Well, the more I thought about it, and the more advice I asked from my host family, neighbors and other PC volunteers and staff, I've realized that it really is as I had most feared. It's not me, it's them. You see, if it is something that I am doing wrong, then I can change and fix it. But if it is them, then I'm kind of stuck. (I must mention here, that there IS one good teacher in the school. The fourth grade teacher, who has family in Ka'itá, is a good teacher who is genuinely concerned with his students. It's a shame that the other teachers are just as awful to him as they are to me.)

Paraguayans are, in general, very open and friendly people. I hear that said about nearly every people of every land, but it's often true. If your glass is half full, maybe you could even call it human nature. But my coworkers in this school are unmistakably cold, closed and occationally downright malicious. I'm not the only one who thinks this. In all the time I've lived in this community, I've never heard a single good thing said about the school. Especially since none of the teachers are actually from the community, they don't have any interest whatsoever in its wellbeing. I even had one teacher answer, being asked about the high student illiteracy rate, answer without blinking "Well it isn't my kid." Wow. Just... wow.

I have left behind the notion that my evident failure in this school is my fault. I have really done the best that I am capable of doing. I have come to a decision that I long feared, but has to be made. Even my supervisor pressed me to make this choice. I am not returning to the Ka'itá school next year. To be clear, I am not changing sites, but I am going to be traveling to other nearby schools, whose teachers are willing to utilize what I have to offer. True, I will have quite a strenuous bike ride ahead of me every morning at 6:30 am. (For those of you who know me well... well,... yeah that's gonna be hard.) But I am willing to put in the extra effort in order to work where I am welcome.

Ever since I made this decision, everything is different. It's like I just took an enourmous deep breath of fresh air after slowly suffocating in a tiny, dark airtight box. The rest of my service, which previously looked rather dreadful and bleak, now looks hopeful. I am actually quite excited for the next stage in my service. The closest school to me is San Antonio, but that is a rather well-to-do school with good teachers, so while I will likely be working with them sometimes, I doubt they will be my main focus. A bit further away, but still within an hour's bike ride is Acosta Ñu. I have visited this school before, and met several of the teachers. They are already good teachers, but were none-the-less eager to work with me. Reaching this school (which requires riding up and down several enormous hills on unpaved roads) and maintaining a presentable teacher-appearance upon arrival is virtually impossible, but I'm sure I will find a solution. The preschool and third grade teachers seem particularily interested in working with me. I see many possibilities here, that may (MAAAAY) even spill over into Ka'itá, if I'm lucky.

Apart from Acosta Ñu, I am also looking at working in two other schools that are closer to Oviedo, some 15 km to the west. Escuela María Auxiliadora is as poor a school as I've ever seen. The parents, after years of not receiving promised government funds, built the school themselves out of scraps of wood, plastic sheeting and corrogated tin. Two large rooms hold six grades, and their bathroom is a hold in the ground under a three-walled shack with no running water. I met the Director and some of the teachers, and they were very welcoming and curious as to what my work entails.

The second school I have yet to see. My host family has ten children, but only one daughter. This daughter, Reina, is a teacher in an asentamiento in a barrio of Oviedo. ("Asentamiento" translates roughly to "slum" or "shanty town".) She is a wonderful teacher, and mother of an exceptionally bright four-year-old girl, Estrella, who thinks that brown is the most beautiful color. Reina asked if I could come work in her school as well, and of course I agreed.

I have also just three days ago started a fogón project. A fogón is a type of brick oven with a stovetop, an oven and a chimney. The majority of families in my site, including my own, cook their meals over an open fire on the ground. This causes two main problems: first of all, these families, especially the mothers, spend their whole lives cooking in smoking kitchens, causing chronic eye and respiratory problems. Nearly all the moms in my site have a kind of puffy, yellow scarring on the sclera, or whites of their eyes. Second, all of their food that is not boiled is fried. Obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure are all considered normal, since it is next to impossible to prepare healthy food that is safe to eat on an open fire. Even though building fogons is considered a "Health Sector" project, my community needs it, and I have already talked to a dozen families who are interested in participating. Early last week I talked to the current mayor of Oviedo, and the newly-elected incoming mayor, and they are both very interested in supporting my project. I am starting with building 11 ovens in the poorest area of my site, but I intend on constructing between 40 and 50 fogons in Ka'itá, Santa Lucía and La Victoria by the end of my service. With nearly the promised support of the mayor (and they have supported volunteers in the past) this is a very exciting project.

It's a wonderful thing to feel able and powerful again. I am not going to abandon the Ka'itá school, since I do have one great teacher, several wonderful students, and a personal, moral obligation to the place, but there are so many other schools and communities who need – and WANT – my help! Even though I have been a volunteer for almost seven months now, I feel like my real service is just beginning.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It is beginning to turn into summer here in Paraguay (southern hemisphere and all), which means that it's starting to get hot. I was actually surprised that, for a few weeks in winter, it actually got "cold". I say "cold" because back home in Michigan I would hardly consider 50 derees F as exactly cold. The big difference is, however, that in Michigan I can take a nice fall-weather walk breathing the crisply pleasant, earthy-smelling air, then go back inside. Here, inside and outside are the same, so there's really no escaping the temperature, especially at night when it gets down into the 40's and ocassionally the 30's. There were a few nights when I couldn't sleep through my shivering, despite wearing all the clothes I owned under 3 blankets. But that is now a thing of the past-- at least until next year.

Now it's springtime, turning into summer, and school is starting to wind down. Summer vacation doesn't technically start for several more weeks yet, but considering school usually gets out only half-way or so through the 4-hour day, skimming a few weeks off the end of the year doesn't seem too far amis.

Work in the school is still as challenging as ever. I've been doing some work with my elementary school kids, and while my teachers don't exactly block my efforts anymore, they still coldly refuse to offer any support whatsoever, and this can get discouraging. It doesn't really hurt me in any way, but the ones who are REALLY losing are the kids, so if the teachers refuse to benefit, so be it -- I will bypass their chill indifference and work directly with the students. It may not be very sustainable, but it is better than doing nothing. So I'm going to go ahead with my tooth-brushing charla tomorrow, and hand-washing on monday, despite what the teachers think or say. At least then these little monkies climbing all over me every day will be somewhat clean and have better breath! Who said that community development can't also be self-serving?

The World Map project is progressing slowly, but slow is what I'm going for. Before starting to paint the map itself, there is a lot of work and planning to be done. First, we have to raise the money for the paint. That's going rather well; we've already bought plaster and patched the numerous holes in the wall, and we have almost enough to buy the paint. Technically, we have enough for the paint, but not the supplies, and we need to keep a budget to fund the fundraisers we have every other week or so. I think by the end of October we will have all the necessary funds.

But money is only one part of it. I'm also teaching a "mini-class" twice a week about what a map is, what it's used for, and some very basic geography concepts. At the start, I showed the kids a globe, and several maps from an atlas, and they couldn't even tell me what these colorful objects were supposed to represent, much less distinguish north from south or oceans from land. It's a tricky thing trying to explain such a large-scale, abstract topic to middle-school kids with basically no exposure to such ideas (and especially to the ones who can't read), but we HAVE made progress. The association of "blue-means-water" was not very difficult for most of the kids, although the concept of an "ocean" is still rather foreign. (Paraguay is landlocked, after all.) North and south were easy, though they still confuse east and west sometimes. A few of my students are starting to grasp the idea of different continents and countries, and even think about why borders are they way they are. Most of them can now identify North and South America, and that Asia is "the big one". We have "find-the-country" races, and we've started doing some veeery basic trivia games, though those are still pretty hard. I'm trying to work them up towards a modified "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" type game! (Or perhaps "Moöpa yvýpe oñeñongatu Carmen Sandiégogui?")

We have several more weeks of "Comité del Mapa" meetings before starting the actual painting, but it's great that my students are actually excited about it, and are starting to take, if not quite leadership yet, at least tenative ownership of the project. This is the whole point. Geography is an important and fun topic to learn about (and teach!), but the real goal here is giving the kids something they can be proud of, and the tools necessary to realize their own "projects" in the future, whatever those may be. After all, these kids are going to be the ones to change Paraguay, not me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Turning tides

Several days ago, all of us from G-32, my training group, received an email from the office entitled "Got the PCV Blues at site?" Our new Programming and Training Officer sent us the note, describing the common "6 month nose dive" that volunteers often experience. Many volunteers feel like they "aren't doing anything" or that what they are doing isn't effective or useful. I suppose that I have felt a little bit of this from time to time, but on the other hand, I am only just starting to do after 4 months what most volunteers do right away when they get to their sites. So in a way I am still just beginning.

Here's the scoop. My school is still a mess. The Directora (or principal) got her job through political connections or family, as she is clearly unqualified for the position. Until I got there, her job was easy. Sit around and gossip with the other teachers all day, ignore the kids, and collect the pay check. The grades they submit to the Supervision in Oviedo are completely fabricated, to make their kids look pretty damn smart. Then they made a mistake: the 2nd grade teacher wrote the request to have a Peace Corps Volunteer come and work in the school. Before I got there, he thought that I was going to come in and teach the 2nd grade full time, so that he could keep getting paid for doing even less work than he already does. Well, that's not my job. When they found out that I was trained to teach the teachers how to do their work more effectively (emphasis on the word "work"), they wanted nothing to do with it. The Directora made it her personal mission to make everything I do difficult. She would interrupt my model lessons in the class, shoot down every learning game I started up, and got the kids back to copying already completed math problems off the board. When I asked to use one of the classrooms for an event I was planning, she said "yeah, sure, I don't care", then told all the other teachers that she actually wasn't going to let me, but not to tell me because she wanted to wait until the day before my event to pull the rug out from under me. (Fortunately, not all of my co-workers are horrible people, so I got a tip-off and was able to find another venue. Then the event got rained out anyway. Oh well.) So this was what I was having to work with up until now.

One afternoon my host brother knocked on my door to tell me that he had good news, and bad news. The bad news was that 5 of the Directora's family members were killed in a brutal car accident so horrendous that made the national news. This is an unfortunate tragedy, and no one, no matter how nasty they are, deserves something like this. I would never wish anything like this to happen to anyone. But the good news was that she wouldn't be in school for at least a month. (I actually doubt she will be coming back for the rest of the school year.)

School was canceled for several days, but when I came in on the first day it started up again, the atmosphere was very different. The teachers talked to me, without rolling their eyes or simply turning and walking away mid-sentence. I didn't get kicked out of any classrooms. I actually scheduled 4 model lessons for the next few weeks, and actualized them without a hitch. There was no back-stabbing, no plotting and no evil chisme. (There always will be chisme (gossip), but but it is no longer malicious, which is quite a relief.) All that patience and perseverance has finally begun to pay off.

My home base at the school is the Sala de Apoyo, or the "Help Room" where kids go for extra help in their studies during the half of the day when they don't have class. (Paraguayan kids only go to school for 4 hours a day, and recess usually takes up about 3 of the 4 hours, so these kids need a lot of help.) I try to have a plan for each day, but the plan usually changes as soon as I arrive. For example, today the plan was to solidify the schedule for my Reading club and English club, and to take some initial steps for forming a Youth Action Committee, but when I arrived in the school I ended up teaching the concepts of area and volume to a quiet 3rd grade boy who's answer for everything was "4 centimeters".

I was, however, able to catch two of my star students, Fátima and Miguelito, and get them excited about the World Map Project that we've been talking about for weeks. I was about to suggest starting a kind of fund-raiser to collect the 200 mil (around $40 USD) we need for the supplies, when Fátima pulls a half-used book of raffle tickets out of her backpack. She tells me proudly that they've already raised 19 mil by selling the tickets to raffle off 6 wine-bottle-glasses I had helped them make the week before. I was so pleased with her initiative that I bought two. We have nearly 10% of our goal, and we haven't even had the first meeting yet!

Tomorrow afternoon will be the first meeting of the map-making committee. We will discus why (and if) we want a big map in the Sala de Apoyo, what we want to learn with this project, and why it is important. We will come up with a name for the committee, and if there is time, elect a president, vp, secretary and treasurer. I expect to have around 10 or 15 students between 4th-9th grades show up.

Next week I have a meeting with the Parent's commission to discus possible community projects we want to undertake during Summer Vacation, which lasts from December to February. I am not as sure what to expect from that meeting, but with a little help from my Paraguayan friends in the school I think it will be productive. Or at least help pave to the way to a future productive meeting. New concepts and new attitudes are very difficult for Paraguayans, especially older adults, to accept, and they may be somewhat reticent at first, but any little step in the right direction is a small victory.

Future blog posts will hopefully be filled with pictures of smiling kids smudged with paint standing in front of a partially-completed world map, but until then I will leave you with just a few photos of where I live.

(Edit: Okay so my internet at home is too slow to upload photos. But I'll get them on here sometime soon, I promise!)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A lil something to chew on. Or probably ignore.

Well hello again! I promise I'm dead or maimed.

I know haven't updated in quite a while, but I deny negligence or procrastination as the culprit, as I have been bee-busy. I promise to update with a exhaustive (hopefully not exhausting) account of what I've been up to in the past month and a half, but for now I'll just give you a little Masterpiece Theatre moment of what is possibly my biggest challenge here in Paraguay:


Below is an extract from a book that I bought from a greasy, unshaven man at the bus terminal several weeks back. (Though I must admit that I was a bit greasy and unshaven myself at the time of purchase.) The book is all about Paraguayan Folklore. It is written in "Guaraní Guaraní" on one page, and Spanish on the opposite.

This is the myth of the Pombero, a very strong cultural phantasm that makes even adults nervous when it begins to get dark out...


Pombero rehegua:

Pombéro ningo tuicha ikurundu ha puéicha rupi ikatu ñanembotavy. Sapy'ánte oĩ ñande ypyetépe hína ha ni nañamalisiái hese. Odipara jave ndaipóri ohupyty va'erã chupe, ku yvytúicha ndajapillái mba'éichapa ova oĩhágui. Oha'ãngakuaaiterei enterove guyrápe, ha upéicha jave ndajaikuaái voi mavaitévapa la ha'etéva. Katu umi animal oikuaa chupe. Ohendúramo oñe'ẽ karai Pombéro ijapytepekuéra, ha'ekuéra oñemokirirĩetéma haitýpe.

Pombéro ndaje ijaukueterei ha haguepaite ipopyte entéro voi. Heta lája virtu voi ndaje oguereko, ha upéicha rupi ikatu oiko oimeraẽva mba'érmo. Sapy'ánte oiko chegui mbopi, guyra, yvyra rapokue térã yvyra matakue hamba'e. Ipypore ndojekuaái voi, ha'e ndohejaséiramo. Ára vai hamba'éramo ndaje oike ogakue guýpe térã tatakuápe okañy, ãga ohasa peve ára pochy. Peichahárupi oĩ he'íva ohechaha ichupe: isombréro piri guasu ndaje ha ikasõ revi guejy, oje'e hese. Hakatu hasy hína upéva, si ha'e iko'ẽmbáta hamba'éramo, Oikónte chugui karáncho ha oveve karape guasu ohóvo.

Jajehayhuka hauã Pombéro ndaje jaheja va'erã chupe cada pyhare, ñemiháme, petỹ hũ inakorã, ryguasu rupi'a ha kañami angu'ápe. Upéva ndaje ombovy'aiterei chupe ha ãga upéi ha'e oguerúma avei la irregálo, péicha eíra panal, yva ka'aguy hamba'e oheja la iñamígo róga rokẽme. Avei oñangareko enterove hogagua rehe, ani hauã itie'ỹva oja tei hese.

Ha la ipochýramo dnaje, ipochýma. Sapy'ánte la iñamígo hesaráiramo ha ndohejái chupe la angu'apegua, Pombéro ipochýma handive. Osẽ jave, opersegíma chupe: omoĩ ita guasu hamba'e hapépe térã odesatina chupe ka'aguyha rupe. Péicha ipochy jave ndaje, ñahendu guyra vaicha operere la ijerépe ha upéi opoíma mba'e ne.

Upéicha Pombéro ipochy jave ndaje, pe máva nosẽi na'erã ogueraha'ỹre reve voi. Upévagui añoite ndaje Pombéro okyhyje.


Now wasn't that exciting? I certainly thought so, for the 60% or so that I understood. (You can read about the Pombero in English on Wikipedia, though no internet source I have come across quite matches what Paraguayans have told me.) Just wait until you hear about the Kurupí. ;)

This selection was (almost) entirely in Guaraní Guaraní, or "Pure Guaraní". In reality, very few people speak "pure" Guaraní, or even really understand it. Most people speak Jopará, a mixture of Spanish and Guaraní. (The very word jopara means "to mix" in Guaraní.) The relative Guaraní-to-Spanish ratio really depends on a lot of things, including who is speaking, what they're talking about, and if they want you to understand or not. I have experienced this last aspect quite a bit. People who know that I won't understand them if they speak very quickly and in Guaraní nte will often use this tool to their advantage. Oy!

My site is very rural, and the majority of the community is either very old, or very young. People of "productive age" tend to move out of Ka'itá to go get jobs in Cnl. Oviedo or Asunción. Therefore, I hear very little Spanish on a day to day basis. True, most of my neighbors at least understand Spanish, and quite a few speak it quite well, but unless they're talking to the 'dumb americano', the Colonial Language is very rarely used in pleasant conversation.

BUT my Guaraní is improving. Not very rapidly, but any improvement is a victory. Guaraní requires that you think backwards – a mental exercise that will hopefully save me from Alzheimer's in the second half of this century. It also requires that I listen carefully not only to what is said, but to why and how they say it. Every word is a rabbit hole, with two, three, four or more meanings depending on the context. Most of them are dirty. I have made quite a few embarrassing/hilarious mistakes.

Language barriers are always a problem, in nearly any international context. But let me tire you now with a very old adage that is so very, very true: "Actions speak louder than words."

All of my students know that I am "tavy" (stupid/crazy/ignorant). Yet when I come to school every day, I see so much excitement! They ask when we're going to play math bingo, or do a teamwork exercise, or play "Escalera de la Muerte" (basically, hangman), or any other activity or game I have prepared for them! And my teachers have definitely noticed.

Patience and perseverance.