Monday, February 2, 2009

What I be

My host brother and Spanish teacher - Erico

I’m a Municipal Development Volunteer.

There are several different types of Peace Corps Paraguay Volunteers.

Rural Health

Enviromental Education

Rural Economic Development

Urban Youth

Crop Extension

Bee Keeping


Early Education


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 GuaranĂ­ (the native language of the GuaranĂ­ 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

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:




LIz Mariela