Saturday, October 10, 2009
When Darlis and Matias aren´t rifling through my things or begging to play Uno they can usually be found hunting birds behind my house. The absence of neighbors directly to the right and left of me has allowed for a small bird sanctuary or, as Darlis and Matias see it, the perfect spot to hunt. A little patience, a sling shot and a few small pebbles are all one needs for a light afternoon snack.
Paraguay has an incredibly diverse bird population. I know nothing about birds but it is always interesting to observe the different types zipping around Tacuati. About 6 months ago I was privileged to witness a passing flock of toucans. Darlis and Matias say the more colorful birds taste better. Luckily they were not around for the toucans.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
The Fiestas patronales ("patronage festivals" in English) are yearly celebrations held in countries influenced by Spanish culture. A fiesta patronal is usually dedicated to a saint or virgin, who is the patron of whichever city holds the fiesta. Usually town members adorn the town streets with advertisements, colorful decorations and other things. In big cities there are particular fiestas for each neighborhood, usually about the patron saint for the local parish.
Wikipedia is pretty weak sometimes. I'll post something that better explains the origin of the Fiesta Patronal. Actually, just google it. That would save me some time. You spend half your work day on Facebook or blogs of this caliber anyway. Thanks.
This past week was our fiesta patronal. The patron of Tacuati is the Virgen de las Mercedes. Her feast day is Sept. 24th, so on that day the town decorates the streets with colorful streamers, flags and paper flowers. The entire community, even those that are not Catholic (omg!), come out for the 9am mass and post mass procession. The procession moves through most of central Tacuati and stops in each barrio to make a blessing. The procession ends in about an hour and is followed by an afternoon of family parties and cheap fireworks.
I enjoy the Fiesta Patronal in Tacuati. Tacuatanos from all over Paraguay return for the week. My host mom’s sister made the visit all the way from Cordoba, Argentina. The reuniting of families means lots of music, drinks and asado. If you scroll down on this very page you can see photos from various asados I’ve forced my way into. El Asado (or The BBQ) sits deep in the heart of Paraguayan culture. Tacuati lies the middle of cattle country, which makes Tacuati asados that much more meatier.
The asado is almost always beef (although it is not uncommon to BBQ sheep, pig or chicken) . The meat is either cooked on a grill over charcoal or on long wooden sticks that lean over large trenches full of wood. The average Tacuatano likes their meat well done, drenched in salt and lime. The lime and salt bath makes your tongue feel real good. Unlike our neighbors to the South, Paraguayans do not use a chimichurri sauce. Usually the enormous proportions of cow are accompanied by a mayonnaise salad reminiscent of cole slaw or a mayonnaise mixture of rice and vegetables, recipe follows: One bell pepper/One Tomato/Mucho Mayo/1lb of rice.
Liam’s heart: Really dude? More meat? Huh? Gonna wash that down with some mayonnaise salad?
Liam: Calm down, it is part of the cultural integration. It is just this week.
Liam’s Brain: Liar
Liam’s heart: Nice try, fatty.
Coming back from the States directly into the Fiesta Patronal week allowed my gluttonous streak of heavy food binging a slow, gentle death. Only last night did the reoccurring nightmare of that Deep Dish Pizza taunting my limbless body return to haunt me.
Back to the Fiesta Patronal:
For the nine days before the 24th, the rosary is recited and a mass is had each night. Following each mass a variety of events take place, from indoor soccer tournaments to bingo. The highlights are the concursos civico and artistica. On the night of the concurso civco a majority of the community gathers to watch students performs skits that address community specific issues. This years skits touched on domestic violence, the mayors secret smoking habit and the lack of medical equipment in the Health Center. The concurso artistica is the town talent show, where anyone that can play an instrument, sing or dance has 5 minutes of stage time. There are even prizes and judges.
The majority of the participants perform traditional Paraguayan dance in traditional Paraguayan attire. See photo.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I use a combination of fencing and well paid neighborhood kids armed with sling shots to protect my garden. I'm putting Spinach salads on the map in Tacuati. Slowly.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Mary Kennon Walker was my site mate for the last year. She held my hand when I could not see. She clothed me. She fed me oranges to fight off scurvy and fed me bacon to fight off homesickness.
After two years of working with the community owned and operated savings and loan cooperative, Mary has returned to Knoxville, Tennessee where she will pursue her dream as an underwriter for a well-known insurance company.
Mary and I collaborated on a few projects in site including a photography class, a recycling workshop and a three-day workshop on domestic violence and women's rights.
Mary let me stand in the room while she taught a photography class, led a recycling workshop and coordinated a three day workshop on domestic violence and women's rights.
Mary is actually a lawyer and has plans to practice law in Georgia, where coonskin hats are not required in court attire.
I wish her the best of luck. She will be missed.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
My host brother and Spanish teacher - Erico
I’m a Municipal Development Volunteer.
There are several different types of Peace Corps Paraguay Volunteers.
Rural Economic Development
There might even be more. There are almost 200 volunteers in Paraguay.
After years of Stroessner’s centralist government, Paraguay is trying to delegate more power to the Municipalities of each district. Municipal development volunteers are helping to make their respective Municipalities more efficient and to improve their ability to provide to the community.
The Municipality of Tacuati requested a Peace Corps Volunteer to help organize neighborhood commissions and assist with the general organization of things. They must have been severely confused to find their new volunteer to be a large, lumbering fool, drooling and speaking bad Spanish, incapable of understanding any question on the first time.
They were kind. I spent every (lie) morning at the Municipality, drinking terere and listening to the 4 employees tell stories in Guarani. I understood nothing for five hours a day. Now I understand nothing for only four. Until it was generally understood by the town that I couldn’t speak Guarani nor Spanish very well, I tried blending in to dark corners, fearing the moment I’d be asked another question. My brain was always sore, my pillow a little damp.
Language abilities have improved tremendously and I still venture to the Municipality daily. The Municipality is open from 7 till 12, Monday through Friday. The average day is pretty, pretty tranquilo. A few people will come in to pay taxes on their cattle or to talk to the Mayor. I’m looking to put together a few projects concerning trash removal, the construction of a sanitary waste dump and the formation of neighborhood commissions.
It is Summer. Things are slooooow.
Mary Walker is my site mate and my spiritual guide. The two of us are currently participating in Ahecha Paraguay.
I’m lazy, so I’ll let the CoCoMu website explain Ahecha Paraguay.
What is Ahecha Paraguay?
In Guaraní (the native language of the Guaraní people of Paraguay) Ahecha Paraguay means ¨I see Paraguay¨. Ahecha Paraguay is a project of the CoCuMu Committee of Peace Corps Paraguay, designed to give Paraguayan youth in rural areas the opportunity to learn digital photography skills while developing their self-esteem and gain new world perspectives through the lense of a camera. New skills and personal development are facilitated through hands-on workshops taught by volunteers working in communities all over Paraguay. For more information, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking Photos Next to the Rio Ypane
Ahecha has been one of the most exciting experiences I've had in Paraguay. Usually groups of teenage girls frighten me. The six Paraguayan girls participating in the photography classes have been overly enthusiastic and patient. I don't fear them. Mary and I have been leading classes and field trips, trying to teach the girls the various aspects of photography, maybe a little self expression and creativity too.
Mary and I are both Master's of Photography in Paraguay.
Each week we push the girls to find interesting subjects, think about light/depth/emotion/perspective/other photography stuff and not just take pictures of each other in model poses. We continue to see hundreds of pictures of flowers, cats wearing socks, and pictures of other pictures. There is progress though. There continues to be very interesting photos of Tacuati and some girls are even starting to like black and white photos.
What the hell is the point of Sepia?
In a month from now we’ll have an exhibition of the photos in the town center and there may even be a national exhibition in Asuncion.
I'll start posting photos the girls have taken in a few weeks.
Here are the ladies: