General Update March 2019

You’ve heard from Dylan’s parents and our friend Julie about the last couple of months, but now here’s our recap and some more on the beginning of 2019 here in Paraguay.

Alina and Daphne Visit

Towards the beginning of December we had a chance to welcome our friends Alina and Daphne to our site! Our Ecological Committee hosted an environmental forum with a neighboring district and representatives from WWF and another organization called Itapúa Respira (Itapúa Breathes). We had a great time showing Alina and Daphne around our site (and thanks to Santi for taking us to visit a nearby waterfall)!!

Mid Service Training

In December, we spent a week in Asunción with the 23 other environmental volunteers that we entered service with; checking in, and making goals for year two of our collective service. It was a great time to reconnect with everyone, and reflect on how flipping fast this whole experience really is.

A big highlight of MST was going to the dentist. Seriously. Peace Corps schedules our dentist appointments, and pays for two cleanings during 27 months of service. As people who obsessively floss/brush, our 6-month cleaning was a ritual. But at 18-months with no dental visit, we were starting to feel like we had sweaters on our teeth (pretty gross). But now we got some clean teeth, and it never felt so good.

The Heat

We know this is redundant, but the heat rules our lives. Mid-January to mid-February, we got NO rain, and it was 90+ degrees every day, with many 100+ days. And today is no different – the real feel right now is 97-degrees, and we the last rain we had was over a week ago. Hopefully in the next few weeks the temperature drops off a bit more, and we get some more rain.

When it’s so hot out, there really is nothing to be done during the day. We have to walk everywhere we go, and it’s just too hot in the middle of the day. We drink a lot of tereré, make iced chai tea, play cribbage and Hanabi (fun card game – thanks Julie!), and read. Oh, and we watched all 20 episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” in 5 days. Oops. The heat rules life, and you adjust accordingly.

Julie’s Visit

As you may have read in one of the previous blog posts, we were honored to welcome Julie Chou to Paraguay. Five years ago, Alli flew to the Dominican Republic where Julie was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and it was incredible to share stories and come full circle with Julie coming to Paraguay. We met Julie in Asunción before traveling to Pilar to spend time with the strong volunteer community we have joined here in Paraguay for an event. Then we spent 5 days in our site showing Julie our waterfall park and our day-to-day life. She met a bunch of the people that are very important to us here in Yatytay. Julie was able to try typical Paraguayan foods, drink lots of tereré, and so much more.

We then took off to Bariloche, Argentina for some mountain time. Bariloche reminded us a lot of Colorado – beautiful mountains, good food, good beer. In the few days we were there, we did 2 incredible hikes to Refugio Lopez and Cerro Llao Llao. And the best part – Bariloche has a wonderful public transportation system that dropped us off right at the trailheads! We’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

We finished off the trip with some time in Buenos Aires – drinking wine, eating steak, and wandering through parks.

Training at Procosara

In January we participated in a very successful training coordinated by our friends Alina and Daphne in the San Rafael Reserve, which is the last remaining piece of conserved Atlantic Forest in Paraguay. They are working on creating a national park, but as is the case in many conservation efforts, they are lacking money. Still, this was such a unique opportunity for the environmental volunteers along with chosen community contacts to visit this beautiful area in hopes of creating a network of environmental volunteers in the department of Itapúa. There were speakers from INFONA (Paraguay’s forest service), MADES (Ministry of Environment), Guyra (non-profit bird conservation org), and PROCOSARA (Protect and Conserve San Rafael). For 3 days we went on environmental walks, participated in group building dynamics, made presentations, and more – all as new friendships and connections were made. By the end of the 3 days, a new commission was formed and the network has a stated goal to plant 500 trees within the 7 communities represented at the training by this April. It was inspiring to see so many youth ready to work to better their country, and the environment. You can follow the progress of this group here —>. https://www.facebook.com/Itap%C3%BAa-Verde-Red-de-L%C3%ADderes-Ambientales-2192346381004767/

Kintish Parents Visit (See previous post!)

We had a great visit from Dylan’s parents to ring in Dylan’s 30th birthday. We flew down and met them for a couple of days in Buenos Aires where we shoved our faces full of food, coffee, and wine. We got to see some of the sites like the San Telmo Market and La Boca, and we walked through some of the many parks in the city. From there Dylan and his parents took off to Puerto Iguazu to spend a day at the falls. As the largest waterfall system in the world, Iguazu did not disappoint. Throughout this visit, we tried our hands at being full-time translators and think we did pretty good. But it brought us back to our days during training – we were so tired!

From there, we traveled by a bus and entered Paraguay for 3 great days in our site. It was incredible to have such an intercultural exchange of introducing Dylan’s parents to the people we are so close to here. Even though they didn’t speak the same language, with help of google translate and the power of food to bring people together, deep connections were made and it was very special to watch. We left our site to spend a night in Trinidad where we met up with our friends Alina and Daphne. Our last day was spent in Encarnación, laying poolside, and walking along the river between Paraguay and Argentina. The following morning, we dropped Dylan’s parents off at the train station, so they could start the long journey home. It was an incredible trip and we are so thankful that Debbie and Jeff took the time to come down here and explore South America with us!

Projects

We have been working with our ecological committee to get some projects outlined for the coming year. We’ve had two big-group meetings, and have already started doing a few projects. So far, we have participated in an environmental campaign with the municipality to clean up patios and neighborhoods to prevent dengue. We talked with neighbors about the importance of managing trash, and not burning it. Another project we have worked on is at a new tourist destination in our district, the suspension bridge. Accessibility to the bridge was lacking, due to a steep slope from the entrance to the water. Working with the municipality and ecological committee, we have been constructing a staircase out of recycled tires. We are about 3/4 of the way to completion and hopefully with a couple of work days left, we will finish with some tree planting. It’s been so great to be working on a trail again, and getting young people involved in the process! Follow their facebook page for more information on projects that they are working on! —–> https://www.facebook.com/Comit%C3%A9-Ecol%C3%B3gico-de-Yatytay-231527420642462/

We have another meeting tonight where we are going to be speaking about possible projects that include (but are not limited to): making a recycled tire park for kids at the health post, making composts in neighbors’ yards, more tree planting projects and our Basura Cero project. We will post more on this as things get rolling, but for now we are working on starting up our Basura Cero project that was such a success last year. Working with the superintendent’s office, we have expanded our reach and recently had a meeting with 18 school principals. We don’t know if the project will look exactly the same, but we are hoping to work with at least some of these schools on trash management practices in the coming school year.

Other than that, we are still doing great down here. We can’t believe how fast the time is going by. Sometimes it seems like a day will go on forever (especially in this heat) but 8 months is already too soon to be thinking about being done. We are very excited to welcome Alli’s parents down here at the beginning of April, and to continue creating and strengthening the great relationships that we have within our community here in Paraguay.

Until next time,

Alli and Dylan

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