Now Presenting

Last Thursday we had a special visit from the head of our sector (Community Economic Development) Elisa, and our volunteer coordinator, Ben. They were in Yuty to check on how things were going and officially present us to our community. So two days prior Isaiah whipped up some invitations, printed them out at the local cyber cafe, and carefully cut them apart. (We’ve long since determined the king of careful, tedious tasks in our relationship so I happily get a free pass from joining activities such as cutting straight lines.)

Then one day prior to the big event we strolled around town hand delivering our invitations to people we know, places we’ve started working (or at least talking) as well as potential places we could work in the future.

I comment on the time frame of all this to draw attention to one of the big differences in American v. Paraguayan cultures. Back home you’d need to pass out invitations weeks before an event to get yourself squeezed into the busy schedules of all. The me from back home would have been a bit taken back, even annoyed to receive notification only a day before. “As if I can just drop everything on a dime…” I would have thought.

Here in Paraguay to invite someone weeks in advance guarantees the majority will forget all about it or expect that it’s cancelled lest they’ve received a reminder or update closer to the event. The ideas of long-term versus short-term are very different between these two countries and I’m just starting to figure that out and work with the system in which we find ourselves.

For example I’ll send out a text to the soup kitchen committee the morning of a meeting and lo and behold, people show up! If you knew me before you can imagine this is a stretch for me. I like to plan and schedule and know what to expect. And no one is more surprised than I when I admit (not too loudly lest my traditionally procrastinating husband should hear) that I’m really liking this change. I’m rolling with it and it has been relaxed and even fun. I’m learning to trust that things do get accomplished even if at the last minute.

Sometimes I wonder what will come of me when I return to the States in two years if I let myself get too comfortable with this tranquilo, laid back lifestyle. Will I annoy my friends with last minute plans? But for now I think it best to dive in and swim around like a true Paraguayan.

But back to our presentation. We all gathered into the municipal library where Elisa explained a bit about what Peace Corps is. Then Ben spoke on the four pillars of our sector (family finance, entrepreneurship, information technology, civic participation) and different project ideas that we could do with our community. This part really got people thinking as there were a lot of ideas flying around afterwards – nice!

And the last section of the presentation was done by Isaiah and I where we talked about our old jobs and work experience, the types of projects we’re each most interested in here, and told more about ourselves with the help of a little picture slide show. We kept it short and sweet partly because we had made delicious treats to share with those who attended and partly because I was a bit nervous to speak in Spanish and Isaiah was a bit nervous to speak in public.

Thankfully it went very smoothly! The local TV station even aired bits of it. I’ve been handing out my autograph for days now (just kidding!). And it was fun to chat with Elisa and Ben while they were in town. Not to mention the goodies they brought us – oatmeal, peanut butter!, and our brand spanking new bikes! And equally exciting, the basil seeds from our mail box in the Peace Corps office. (Thanks to whoever dropped those off for us!)

Now that we’re officially presented, the town is clearer on what we’re doing here and I am too. It feels like one more big step toward community integration, last minute preparations and all.


10 thoughts on “Now Presenting

  1. Sounds like an exciting day! So now do you just wait for people to ask you to do something or help them??

    Really cool bikes!

    • We’re already in contact with a number of organizations (thanks in large part to the volunteer who was here before us) so we’re gradually becoming more active in the projects they have going on – or want to get started. But yes, there could also be brand new people/organizations with ambition and an idea who approach us too!

    • Ha! He says he still has fire when it comes to certain activities – like ping pong. Although this year it’s all you, Dianne! (Although we’ll sure miss being there!)

  2. Hello Allison! I’m embarrassed that this is just the first time for me to ever respond to any of your blog posts, because I’ve loved reading every single one but have never said anything. – I’m basically just a stalker I guess. Your posts are so interesting though. We are planning to try to make your homemade tortillas and chips sometime soon. That sounded pretty cool. Otherwise, life continues to be good for us here. We’ve had a few changes since we saw you, but it’s all been good. The two new grandbabies (Parker – Erica and Troy’s and Ellie – Justin and Hannah’s) are great. And Bryan has had job transitions. After working in the same place in South Bend for 29 years, Bosch finally moved out of South Bend at the end of September. So, now he continues with his same job but has 3 difference desks: 1 in St Joseph MI, 1 in the Detroit area (he stays over night there when he goes up there) and then he works a couple of days a week from home. The jury’s still out on how this will feel long-term, but so far it’s been fine. And a couple of weeks ago I had an MEA board meeting in Puerto Rico. Bryan came down over the weekend and met me there. He was able to tour around Puerto Rico with our board on Sat so we could visit Mennonite schools, churches and hospitals. We also had a huge hog roast at Carlos Romero’s in-law’s house. After that Bryan and I flew over to Vieques and vacationed there for a week. I know that you guys had done that with Kate and Will. We stayed on the south side of the island near Esperanza and had a wonderful time. October is a really slow time for them, so there was hardly anyone around, but that was OK too – never a problem getting into a restaurant or we pretty much had the beaches to ourselves. Of course we did the Bio Bay tour which was great – although they wouldn’t let us swim in it. Didn’t you guys say that you actually got to get in? I seem to remember a story about Isaiah being able to get the water to light up! And of course it’s sad around here with Kate and Will being in California now. It’s just not the same without all of you guys! I’m glad your adjusting so well to life in Paraguay. What a great experience. Keep the blog posts coming and know that you have a fan reading them even if I don’t respond much. Blessings! Lisa


    • SO good to hear from you, Lisa! We sure miss the whole gang too. Reunion in Paraguay? Congrats on adding two more little sweeties to your grandkid collection. And I’m sure Bryan’s work transition is something to get used to with all that traveling. Very cool that you both spent time in PR and even Vieques! Wasn’t the BioBay the best? We used Abe’s Snorkeling – maybe that’s why we got to swim? Yes, Isaiah did find a way to really light up the water! I’m thrilled you enjoy the blog and it’s no problem to creep, I mean lurk, I mean stay behind the scenes (but thanks for saying hi)!

  3. you guys got bikes!!!!! wow what a treat. I was told we weren’t getting bikes. well maybe that’s what I get for having my presentation first, over 6 weeks ago. you guys rock.

    • You should be able to get a bike too! We just filled out the request form during training (after the charla on bike maintenance) and that was that. Definitely look into it as I’m sure they’ll come in handy! Of course – you could always get a horse instead, right?

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