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 Travelpod.com. I tried to send a message but it wouldn't let me, sorry! It's a beautiful fogón though! :)