Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And the train arrives

Socios paving the way for construction


Let me start with a huge graciamante (thank you very much) to everyone and anyone who helped this project become a reality for the people of Tavapy II. The idea for its use has evolved over time, but the dedication of the community to completing this center has remained steady. About a month ago, the cooperative I work with formed a commitee to oversee planning and construction of the Community Center. It will also eventually operate and run the activities and services offered.

So, thats the good news. The bad news. The Peace Corps Partnerships program is denominated in dollars. When we wrote the grant application the dollar was at $1:5200 guaranis. When we received the full amount the dollar was at $1:3800 guaranis. Now the dollar is at $1:5100. For those keeping score, thats about a quarter of the total cost of the project. So we were faced with a decision: scale down the center, or (and we chose the latter) scale up and break the construction into stages, complete the first stage (primera etapa) and submit requests for government and NGO assistance to complete the rest. Tomorrow, the president of the commitee we formed is meeting with the governor of Alto Paraná to discuss assisting this project. So at this point we are crossing our fingers optimistically as we have received hints from the governor that he thinks this is a good project and a relatively small one as viewed from the department that has the second largest hydroelectric dam (and its royalties) in the world.

The first stage is to put up the basic structure. Second to complete and outfit the interior and the third to put in a second floor.

And here it is:

So thats it for now, more to come as things develop

Friday, August 22, 2008

Finally; the little engine leaves the station

I feel as though much of what needs to be said, has, or is included in the project description at SO I will be brief. The only elaboration I will make is that we have had the initial community meeting. The idea for the center has been slightly modified. Now more than anything else, the center can be thought of as primarily a capacitation center with the community/cultural aspect being an corralary benefit to having the building. The new government has already brought a new sense of hope and possibility to the paraguay consciousness. Lugo will serve as president without pay. He is determined to reject the tradition of considering political allegiances before hiring public servants, and he is committed to sending those servants into the paraguayan countryside to help. My site was visited by the then incoming minister of agriculture. This brings hope that we can take advantage of this newfound sense of service to bring people to the community to teach paraguayans how to improve their techniques for harvesting mandioca (their staple food) or what have you. Additinally we hope to form relations with the ministry of education and culture as well as health. I will leave it at this. Please help out if you can. Thank you so very much in advance on behalf of myself, but primarily for the people I have come to consider friends and family in Tavapy II.

Thank you again,


Monday, July 28, 2008

Good Trip

The point of Departure


The Banks

Open Waters

Soy Barge


Sunrise/Skull Island

Exit Strategy



Hace Tiempo...Upon rereading some of these rambling pointless posts, I realized that things have gotten a little heavy. Volunteers don´t just sit around on the government´s dime and bitch about the situation in the States...although we do do that quite a bit. So although it may seem as though all I am doing is solidifying my dissatisfaction with the American way of life, no es asi. Let´s return to the tranquilidad. I now have two dogs. The first, Chula, was given to me by a socio, he said because I needed protection (and he gave me a tiny, underfed female dog) but really because she had been eating his eggs. I don{t have pictures of either, but Chula looks like a liver springer spaniel mixed with a greyhound. When she arrived she snuck into my room while I was sleeping and stole and ate a kilo of uncooked rice, a kilo of mandioca flour, and half a kilo of grated coconut. I fattened her up and the first thing she did was go into heat ha imembyta, shes going to have puppies. The second was a dog that showed up in the abandoned lot next to my coop. I finally lured her in and she decided to stay. She pretty much is Rusty the Narcoleptic Dog. She is a tiny brown weinerish dog that is a tough little bitch. She got hit by a car while walking back from the store with me and limped for about a minute before walking it off. I also now have a garden I built with a friend. We planted one row for our consumption of garlic, scallion, cilantro, parsley, hot and sweet peppers, carrots, lettuce, and oregano, and 4 rows for lettuce to sell and 125 tomato plants. I am building a house. The house will overlook what I have deemed the most lindo vista in Tavapy. It will be two meters off the ground to facilitate sunrise/sunset viewings and also so I can pick mandarin oranges through my window. The first floor will serve as a sheep and lamb stable. I{m going to plant a lettuce garden for myself and also a yuyo garden for my terere needs. as for my work, we´ve processed about 80,000 kilos of hoja verde leaving us with 22,000 kilos of mborovire that left the lab as ¨primera calidad¨ and we{re about to sell to one of the leading yerba outfits in the country (while being sure to leave a few thousand kilos to sell with our own label, a year down the road). Fortunately what this means is that we will have capital at the end of the harvest. Peace Corps volunteers don´t tell their counterparts what to do, we can only influence. But it looks like preference is leaning towards concentrating on corn. Fortunately, this will leave us in a great position to install capacity for 300 chickens, por alli, and however many dozen heads of hogs. When we have ganancia after the corn, it is more than feasible for us, the cooperative, to buy an oil press to provide for the towns cooking oil needs as well as the protein supplement for animal feed from the oil cake. Additionally we may launch a mandio starch project that removes the starch component of the mandio root (the almidon) and leaves a solid (typyraty) that can also be used as animal feed and the skin which can be used for organic compost. Basically, what I want for the cooperative, and what I hope that the socios will come to want, is to be the patron of the community. The patron in paraguay dictates all. But never in a benevolent manner. The patron tells you what price you will receive for your cotton. The cooperative can act as a non profit motivated intermeediary and also as supplier and creditor. Vamos a ver, but I only have hope for this town and its people. They are in a position to greatly improve things and provide reasons to stay in the campo to their children. Eventually, the idea of my sector, I believe, is to provide enough flows of value through the various projects to have enough for a manager to skim enough to make a living, after the 6 years of free volunteer service in that position. I think we are on our way. We recently attracted 4 local ag engineers to join the coop, which made me particularly happy, because they are all in their 20´s and are the future of the coop. Bueno. I{m going to try and get some pictures up, and should have my camera again in the next few weeks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


May 20th

This is Ever, my best Friend Antonio ¨Cat¨ Vargas´s son. Antonio is going through a painful separation with his wife (I only divulge this because I have a hunch he won´t be reading this) and we were talking about it, and he just goes ¨Andres, I don´t care what happens for me, I just want a copy of the picture you have of Ever¨

Alcides. My Presidente´s first grandchild. I stayed at their house for my first month or so in site. Alcides´s favorite things were me throwing him into the air and catching him, throwing oranges as high as I can (ijyvateite!), and juking his pants off in tag-you´re-it.

The opening procession of the May 20th Independence of The Dos. The mitacuña´i is Rosy, my friend Alfredo´s daughter and his son Gustavo is carrying the stripes.

That´s Rosy

And thats the mita´itujama

Un otro no relatado

Patricia and Emanuel drawing in my room. They are the grandchildren of close friends. Antonio Torres, a volley teammate, and Ña Blanca, my go to tallerin lady.

sin titulo

Oh. And I wrote that last blog at my language teacher´s house from training. She was just put on leave without pay because cuts were handed down from Washington. I was passing through her town and she saw me heading into a cyber and we chatted. We get paid too much (the volunteers) and they´re cutting back on the most important aspect of integration, the lengua? And then we were sitting around having lunch and we saw on the news that europe is deporting its immigrants? I alemania taking the lead on that project? Jodido. Two trillion for a war and they´re cutting language teachers from the peace corps. Añarako

A picture popped up. Che kyha.

Photos doikoi

Photos are not working.

I finally got a bunch uploaded the other day, after two hours of waiting 10-15 cada uno, and the computer died and they all got undone. Anyways, there are about 20 good picture of the May 20th libertad celebration (its basically a kid parade). We´ll see if they´ll ever get up.

The last few days of been weird. Its been just over a year here, and por eso there´s been a lot of deja vu and reflection. I only stayed up all night the other night because I read two editions of People, the 100 Most Beautiful and the one about the texas polygamy cult. And I couldn´t sleep and went outside to have a cigarette (the store only had menthols) and saw the volunteers back yard which is exquisitely managed by the paraguayan owner to be and example of what a paraguayan backyard can be like. And then I stayed up all night brainstorming agroforestry, integrated, closed loop, aqua/api/silvo/pastoral/agricultural systems for paraguay. Its amazing. Fulano (paraguay´s campesino john doe) could so easily have all his fruit and vegetable needs met in 2 acres por alli. Additionally, the fruit trees (and many of the native trees) have symbiotic relationships with predatory ants, which in turn keep down the locust plagues. You can easily imagine a cooperative that plants oil palms on its members land (not plantacions of them, just 2-3-4 per acre) and then processes the nuts into biodiesel for their tractors and trucks. Also with fruit trees, yerba, oil plants, fire wood trees, trees that bees feed on, trees whose leaves can feed cattle, you can have many stories to the system. An upper strata a medium with shrubs and the lowest with traditional ag crops, corn, manioca (both of which are native and favorite foods of paraguay). Your yield drops with lowering uv penetration, but generally theres less need to fertilize the soil and use chemical pesticides. I´m an ag dork now. Its official.

Paraguay blew it against Bolivia. I thought the headlines should have been ¨perdio la batalla, gano la guerra¨because the game was only 4 days removed from the anniversary of the paz del chaco, the armistice in 1935 between Bolivia and Paraguay, which paraguay won, hence the lose the battle win the war. Thats what I love about latin america. They hate on each other so much, but at the end of the day its not so bad. I (gringo) sit and play volley with brazillians, germans, argentines, and of course los paraguayos. I was chatting with a guy who drives the bus route between asuncion and la paz bolivia and he asked me why i liked guarani so much and I told him because a paraguayan ¨ikatu he´i kurepi argentinopeguarä ha lo argentino nontendemo´ai¨ tell an argentinian he has pig skin and he won´t understand. They almost fell out of their chair. And yeah paraguayans call argentinians pig skinned, and the joke here is that you buy and argentinian for what hes worth and sell him for what he thinks hes worth, but the argentinians call the guayos funny names too, but aside from the occasional futbol riot or war, it really is a friendly banter (me parece) a lot like the british and the french. We were putting the finishing touches on the conveyor belt for the sapecadora and we were just chirping away and someone asks, ¨why does man want to fight?¨ (this was close on the heals of the ecuador, columbia, venezuela, us thing [after which I was asked if I worked for the CIA, i told the guy who asked me ¨no I´m just here to steal the fresh water¨ because thats their other big fear]) and I chimed in that my country has had its fair share of wars, and they agreed (like most of the world) but followed that they faught two disatrous wars (after the triple alliance; brazil, argentina and uruguay contra paraguay, paraguay was left with 10,000 males and 200,000 females after starting with about 500,000. There´s even a story of a group of young boys, after hearing of their father´s deaths on the battlefield, who found charcoal, probably from their tatakua´s, and drew on mustaches [to appear old enough to fight], found weapons and charged after the Brazillian soldiers only to be mowed down), we digress. Why do we fight ¨¿quien sabe?¨and I said I know why we fight and i used the exclusive we to exclude the rest of the world and only mean that group then and there, ¨rorekoma petei coronél¨ -we already have a colonel- because our treasurer´s last name is Coronél and he said to me ¨do you know Andrés, I already have a general, and went on to tell me that he calls his rembireko ¨che general´i¨ my little general. And I told him that my family calls my mother ore general´i, they couldn´t believe it, I couldn´t believe it, and we all just shared one of those moments where you´re like, we´re not different at all, to cliché it up even more. Another good one like that was when we were harvesting corn, and the socios still couldn´t believe that I could understand them. There were only three paraguayans working at the time, Anibel Ibarra and his two sons Cesar and Arsenio (his other son alcides brought me to the Dos for my first visit before I was a volunteer and ten of his kids are in Argentina or Spain). Anyways, we were getting the terere equipo ready and Cesar is saying to give the thermos to me, and his dad and brother were like ¨but Cesar, you´re the youngest¨ and I was just like ¨Añete, ne mitave¨, its true, you´re the youngest, and he kind of accepted his fate, and I was like, Cesar, I was a youngest brother too, I´ll serve. And they were just like, ¨you respect elders in the united states as well?¨ And it was just another great exchange of our shared humanity. And thats all I really hope for these days. To have the opportunity to run into another cell bag or pirate and talk la vida. Upeicha.