Thanks to everyone that has expressed an interest in my health and well-being during the last week- I have indeed arrived safely in Paraguay!
My service period began in Miami where I was introduced formally to the 21 volunteers participating in training and (ojala!) service in the area of Community Economic Development. During this rapid ?staging? session, we discussed our aspirations, anxieties, and Peace Corps' Core Expectations. The part of the lesson I enjoyed the most was focusing on the Peace Corps' Mission, which states, "Volunteers are making a difference in people's lives [...] through direct service as well as promoting understanding between cultures. Even the smallest difference is enough to make great impacts on people's lives."
As with everything, I decided it was time to outline some modest goals for my time in Paraguay. As such, here?s how I will define success in the next 2 years:
1) When I've been able to carry a fluent conversation with a local;
2) When I've made a close friend in my community;
3) When I've helped anyone in my community to reach a personal or local goal;
4) When I have developed long-term relationships and projects that I can follow into the future.
Mission statement and goals in mind, I boarded the plane for Argentina/Paraguay on Wednesday a bit nervous but also thrilled to be getting started!
Once I arrived, it took me a couple of days to settle into the groove of Peace Corps Orientation/Training. This was in large part due to the fact that I didn?t get much sleep on the overnight flight to Paraguay, but also a bit of "Is this real?" Am I now actually in a new country and in training to be a PC volunteer?? By Saturday, I had more or less realized that I indeed had arrived- I wasn?t just dreaming at all.
It has now been one week since the Thursday morning I arrived in Asuncion. While it's only been 7 days, it feels like I?ve been here at least a month already. I live with a very caring host family comprised of a younger mom, dad, a nine-year-old sister, and a five-year-old brother. I've got my own room in our house with a bed, a desk, and an armoire. My house is very well equipped with modern conveniences also. For example, I have both electricity and running water, an electric shower with hot water, and even a semi-automatic washing machine to make laundry easier. Additionally, the town has a good water sanitation program- so I even get to drink the water from the tap! All this chuchi (fancy) stuff has been a very pleasant surprise. I always anticipated a bit more harsh living in the Peace Corps, but as modernization has made it most places in Latin America now, it looks like it's gonna' be a pretty smooth ride.
The training thus far has been simply spectacular. I always knew that I would learn a lot through the Peace Corps experience, but I never thought it would be so very fast and so very far-reaching. Every morning we have language classes for 4 hours in Spanish and Guarani, and in the afternoons we have technical training in the area of Community Economic Development which is comprised of 4 working areas: Civic Education,
Entrepreneurship, Family Finance, and Information Technology. Our overall aim in each of these areas is knowledge and skills transfer through facilitating activities and helping to organize groups or events. The training is both a learning and exhibition tool- so while we are learning in each session we are to also mimic the facilitation style in our own activities in the field. An intense session pushes each trainee well beyond the comfort level to learn, experience, reflect, and eventually teach our topic. Effective!
All in all: My introduction to Paraguay has been quite wonderful thus far. I can only hope that the next 10 weeks of training will be just as informative and fun.