Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pre-Service Training

Training is definitely a draining experience. It literally lasts ALL DAY.

We live in a more urban setting as I'm an education volunteer, but Jeff is picked up early every morning and taken out to the campo (countryside) where the other health volunteers live with their host families to train every day.

6 days a week we wake up at 6:20ish (for everyone that knows us, it's incredibly difficult) and eat breakfast with our mom (usually cafe con leche y pan con dulce de leche, or sometimes cereal).

Jeff's teachers arrive at the house around 7:10ish to take him to his language training in the campo with the other health volunteers. I head out of my house around 7:30 to make it to my language classes that start at 7:45. At about 11:30, our language classes end and I head home for lunch and a siesta. Jeff has another host family in the campo that feeds him lunch. I eat lunch with my family, chat it up a bit (this is usually my most effective communication of the day as I've just walked out of my language class).

After my siesta, I start my technical training classes (related to sustainable development, Paraguayan education structure or PCV survival) at 1:30ish. Classes run until about 5:30. Afterwards, I like to sit in the Plaza in the center of town (across from the church) with other trainees or Jeff and just let my brain relax for a minute.

Our family typically eats dinner around 7:30ish and Jeff is always home to join us. Dinner is a lively time with my family as everyone is recapping their day, planning for the next day, and (the best part) telling dirty jokes. I don't think we have a typical family. A lot of the other trainees have a very different experience at the dinner table, but again, we're pretty lucky with our set up.

Around 9:30 we each take a shower and study/do our homework until about 11:30. Then we sleep for a bit, and get ready to wake up and do it all over again. The weeks are incredibly draining and on Sunday mornings we like to sleep in as late as possible (w/out seeming rude or anti-social).

So far things are going well. We knew it wouldn't be easy and we were both ready for the challenge. Nothing has been incredibly surprising just yet, but I'm sure we're in for a few eye-openers in the future.

Since Monday is el dia de los enamorados (Valentine's Day), there are two fiestas tonight at two different clubs in our town. Apparently one is more traditional and one is more "chuchi" than the other (chuchi = a bit uppity; well-off... used as both a compliment and an insult). I think we're going to check out both places with our sister and brother tonight. Should be interesting.

Definitely missing everyone from home, but couldn't be happier with our choice to embark on this adventure. Besos y abrazos a todos!!!!

(The high school near our house)

Our Paraguayan Family

Our host family... where to begin?

We live with a really great family here in Paraguay. We live with our mom (who everyone calls "La Princessa"), our dad (a dentist in the community) and our older sister Enma (also a dentist) and her boyfriend Osvaldo. We have tons of other family that live close by (a younger brother that has a wife and son, and another older brother with a wife and 3 kids). We have another older sister that we haven't met just yet. My parents have a total of 6 kids (4 girls and 2 boys) and the 2 remaining women live in the States with their families. The youngest son is 28 and he spent his 9th grade year in the States living with one of his older sisters. He speaks excellent English and we rely on him to translate any awkward situations.

Our host mom celebrated her 70th birthday yesterday with a grand asado (bbq), cerveza and dancing. Not entirely sure why she was wearing bunny ears, but either way she the queen of the day.

They are really dedicated to helping us master Spanish (we've both improved GREATLY in just one week of classes and living with our family). They are excited to start teaching us Guarani, but we still have a long way to go with our Espanol. Guarani is such an interesting language to hear. It's a strange mix of sounds. A lot of the trainees are having difficulty with the "y" pronunciation which is a weird gutteral throat noise.

Our family is incredibly warm and loving (tons of hugs and hand-holding) and they treat us as if we've always lived here. We're really lucky as they've had volunteers live with them for years now. Their oldest daughter used to teach Guarani at the Peace Corps Training Center here in town and the 3rd (??) oldest daughter married a trainee she met here in town (about 30 years ago). They have a lot of experience with the organization and are excited to help us get through this training period successfully.

We have two family dogs. One is a mascota (or a priviledged house dog) named Kiki and the other is an outside dog named Rocky. We have 6 rabbits, a rooster and tons of chickens. They are a great alarm system for waking up in the morning.

Needless to say, we lucked out. Yes, there are awkard moments where we have NO IDEA what they're saying or there's a complete cultural misunderstanding, but all-in-all it's been a great start to our homestay. Our mom even stocked up on soft TP for us as she knows the stress, new environment and new food can really wreck a trainee's stomach. (Thanks, mom!!!)
Our house