It’s been about two weeks now that I’ve had the phrase “Write blog post” on my to-do list. And today, I shall cross that off!
I have been in my site now for 13 months. Which means I’m getting into year two. A trend for the services of many Peace Corps Volunteers is slow first year, much more active second year. I’d say that’s the same for me. Things are picking up around here.
Glycerin Soap in AMUR
The socias of AMUR have begun making glycerin soap. We had three sessions learning how to do it. The first two were flops: due to the quality of the cow fat (it has to be grasa fea — the ugly fat) and due to the quality of the soda cáustica (not sure of the translation, perhaps lye – it’s the burning part like from Fight Club…).
We got it right on the third try. We cut the large block of soap into 55 pieces to sell. We did a cost analysis to determine the price. We considered the cost of the ingredients, labor, gas (from the stove). In my opinion they set the price low at 2,000 Guaranís each block of soap (about the size of a Dove soap in the States). Our first set of soap was sold to the socias. We did not do any fancy packaging, just simple plastic, clear bags to keep the soap from drying out. On future productions we plan on packaging the soap in better quality plastic with a label to be sold to customers outside of AMUR, perhaps in the larger city on the highway. We’ll have to up the price then for additional costs.
This project goes hand-in-hand with some of the other homemade cleaners the ladies make. Like dishwashing soap. Ña Ede is the professional in that department. We make a lot of money off that product – it’s a big markup, but it’s a great quality, and you get more for your buck that the smaller bottle store-bought brand name detergent.
Nikki’s Birthday, Again
Another September, another birthday for my neighbor Volunteer, G-mate and friend Nikki. We celebrated at her house, among a small group of Volunteers to shamelessly and freely speak English, eat “weird” food and drink “weird” drinks and listen to our kind of music (no polka at this party).
David and Brett (I helped with the chopping) prepared samosas. These are the Indian version of empanadas. We had beef turmeric samosas and traditional potato/carrott/onion/pea with curry samosas. Both were delicious and paired “nicely” with the box wine we found.
I’m teaching in 3 schools!
I’ve waiting a year for this day to come. Patiently, as I needed to get my language skills up to go tête à tête with kids. Plus I needed to liberate myself from some of the duties my initial contact in site had dropped on me.
Mondays – morning and afternoon – I have two classes at Escuela Parque. My neighbor teaches there and helped me get the gig. I initially pitched teaching to the oldest kids. Ages 10-12. But on my first day, they gave me all the kids. About 50 of them. That was tough. I’m doing activities in Leadership, Citizenship, Volunteerism and Self-Esteem. I have a manual written by an awesome former Volunteer, so it makes my lesson planning very easy. The first activity we did was called Manos, Cabeza, Corazón, Hogar – Hands, Head, Heart, Home. Picture a paper divided into quadrants with one of those words in each one. The students were supposed to think about their unique skills and abilities that applied to each area: manual skills, subjects they know a lot about, things they love, important parts of the home and community.
Wednesday mornings I’m teaching basic computer skills to the teachers at Escuela Parque.
I’ve also started on Thursday afternoons at my host mom’s school in a small country town on the outskirts of Valenzuela, called Piraretá. We’re playing games so far, and working up toward geography mini-lessons, and lessons about cultural diversity in our great big world. The big part of this project is to paint a World Map on a wall at the school. I went out there the other day to present the projects to the kids (ages 10-12). The professors and my principal host mom are all on-board, so enthusiastic and excited to have me there. It’s nice to feel so appreciated.
We’ll use a grid system to blow up a small map, to wall size. We’ll draw the countries, paint them and label them. And learn as we go. We’ll have to implement two fundraisers to accomplish this. First the kids will play BINGO one day at school. Each child will pay 3,000. Then we’ll use that money to purchase a nice gift, and we’ll hold a raffle among all the school’s parents. We should be able to get 200,000 Guaranís that way!
There’s a new baby cow on the block
This is good news for me because I love animals, especially baby animals. I didn’t waste any time telling my neighbor this. They think it’s so funny that I ask to pet the baby cow. But they always humor me. Even if it requires chasing the cow around her fenced-in area until they can reach her “leash.” I named her Bessie. Bessie’s mom did not survive Bessie’s birth, so Bessie is bottle-fed.
My Paraguayan niece Sofi just turned one-month old. I’ve never been around baby babies. This is weird y’all. She’s cute and everything, but she just cries, eats and sleeps. And gets baths, which are very complicated. She’s fun to have around though. She’s been staying with my host family (her mother – my host sister, and her grandmother – my host mom).
For my host dad’s birthday, we put a ribbon on Sofi’s head (originally from the bottle of wine I gift to him). And Sonia presented baby Sofi to him. He was tinkled baby pink.
Went to a health post inauguration
There’s a new health post in a small town outside of Valenzuela, called Ñu Guazu. From funds from the Health Ministry the new local was built. It will serve a number of small towns in the area, and have two nurses and one doctur available daily, and on-call. They will offer care for chronic illnesses (diabetes, high blood pressure), some OBGYN, vaccinations, first aid and ambulance for extreme cases.
I got some awesome packages
From Mom and Meg! Thank you! I love it all. This was a great pick-me-up.
Fun activities in AMUR // Cooking with Maureen
I try to share something fun in AMUR every other week or so. I made piñatas with a couple of my English students.
And Maureen came to visit and we make candy bar cookies — like a Chocolate Chip batter, but we don’t have chocolate chips, so we break up a chocolate bar.
That’s a pretty lengthy account of what I’ve been up to since my last update. I hope you enjoy! I’m quite happy with the diversity I now have in my Volunteer life schedule and my entertainment. Thanks for reading. Love and Peace,