With all of the new projects I've gotten into as of late, it has been a week chockfull of work and even more so a week for learning. Although I am frequently the "teacher" or "facilitator" in my activities, I find that I spend most of my time learning (sometimes I think more) than teaching. I wonder if there will ever be a time when I feel like I've finally "figured out" Paraguay. So, please find the top seven lessons I learned in my classes this week:
My first family finance workshop with the local Coop took place last Saturday. The Coop selected theme was "Needs vs Wants" and despite somewhat nasty weather we had 10 people attend. That's a stellar turnout for a pilot program in finance I'd say- so all started well. Our first activity was to name the things that we most value in life. Responses included family, friends, experience, etc. After a small icebreaker of "what would you choose to keep on a stranded ship at sea?," we then started into a division of "Needs vs Wants." And this is where I encountered by first big lesson of the week: "basic needs" is a very big category. Divided into two groups, participants enumerated a long list of basic needs, the highlights of which included cleaning supplies, cosmetics, education, cell phones, and transportation. Really? I had no idea that make-up was a basic need, but it tells you a lot about the values in this society. The "lindo" factor- it if looks good it is good enough. Second big lesson of the week: when we looked at the lists none of the things that we say we really value in life (family, friends, experiences) ever showed up. Wow, are we really so focused (not just Paraguayans mind you, all of us worldwide) on material and consumer goods that we forget about the important stuff in our needs/wants? Yikes! It makes us give Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs a closer look- how many basic needs do we need to fulfill before we start to think about our social wellbeing and self-actualization? Is our list of basic needs so large now that we aren't moving on from the base of the pyramid? Just some thoughts on lessons one and two.
Construye tus Suenos
My first ever micro-business class was quite the adventure as well this week. Lesson number three: Setting-up a classroom and a projector takes over an hour. Yes, I need to arrive an hour early for class because something, really everything, will be sure to either go wrong, not work, need moved, etc. before I can get started. Fourth big lesson of the week: It is very hard for the youth in Paraguay to think through the details of their personal goals and aspirations. Often the responses are very cliche. For example, question is, "Why do you want to start your own business?" followed by a response, "To improve my quality of life." Sure, why not? But, what does that really mean? Break that down for me. What is "quality of life"? Are we talking a big house, new car, land out in the country or something to bring your family closer together as you are going to be running the business as a unit? Lesson number five: In all cultures there is a limit on the amount of listening one can tolerate before interrupting. In Paraguay, this time is 20 seconds. Clearly, I've got to rework my listening activities in the future.
Games in English
My second English class took place just the other day and it was certainly a hoot! Sixth big lesson of the week: English makes NO sense whatsoever. Why is it that we form questions with one verb and reply with a completely different verb? Why are there sooo many irregular conjugations? Who came up with this language anyway? Jajaja (hahaha). Finally, the seventh lesson of this week has been that class-size typically doubles the second week. Without further promotion, I was shocked to find over 35 kids in my afternoon English class this week. Apparently word got out via chisme a week late that we had English games in the library. I'm debating starting a third class, but I understand that class-size typically shrinks dramatically after lesson number three. So maybe not...
Always learning! Thank you Paraguay- not a dull moment!