Sunday, September 30, 2012

Follow the Link to See the Pics

Below I have put a link that should go to the Facebook album that I created of my mural project! I would post the pictures, but it takes a really long time to download them...

Proyecto de Murales. Jovenes Encarnacenos.

Monday, September 24, 2012

City-Wide Mural Project

This past summer the city of Encarnación finished its costanera "riverside walkway" and river beach front just in time for the city's big tourist event of carnival. People from all over Paraguay and other nations flocked to the city to see the parades and enjoy the local sites. All of this movement got me thinking about potential projects that could be based on Encarnación’s newest hot topic: tourism.  

What do tourists want in a city? While good food and interesting activities are among the most commonly thought-of tourists wants, the attractiveness of the city and feeling of security are equally as important.

With a background in public relations, I know that with any new idea knowing how to “sell” it to those that may not yet understand its full value is extremely important. After speaking to the president of a local university, I began to plan of how I would teach the students of its public relations department to sell my idea to the public and municipality of Encarnación. And so, the mural project began.

Although it is not a new project to other cities and countries around the world, my mural project was the first of its kind here in Encarnación, Paraguay. After taking numerous pictures of walls with graffiti and others with nothing at all, I laid out a plan to brighten the atmosphere of the city, to involve local citizens in the process as volunteers and to show how the project could help with local tourism. To me painting colorful murals featuring the past and present of Encarnación could only lead to positive results. The young people of Encarnación would have the chance to show their skills and talents; local volunteers would have the opportunity to give back to their community; and citizens and tourists alike would have a cleaner and more enjoyable environment.

After getting “the go” signal from the municipality, the university students and I started making noise about the project. Together we went to speak to high school and university students about the two principle parts of the project: the competition and volunteerism. Those who wanted could design and submit a potential mural were presented with the four project themes: the Jesuit ruins, carnival, the lower zone (a former part of the city that was destroyed with the construction of the costanera) and the Paraguayan train. We explained that five designs would be selected to paint on walls that were on heavily-trafficked streets in the downtown area. Additionally, those students who were not interested in designing a mural, but did want to get involved were told that artistic abilities were not a requirement to participate in the painting of the murals, and each received a volunteer form to turn-in at a later date.

Now that the designs had been chosen and volunteers recruited, what was next step? Permissions. Property owners were presented with information packets and asked to sign agreements to show their support of the project and to give permission to paint on their walls and/or buildings. 

The weeks passed and the weekend of the event arrived. With funds from the municipality and the help of more than 60 individuals (students, local artists, professionals, Peace Corps volunteers), the five murals were successfully painted during the allotted time period. Although the temperature was in the 90s, the volunteers drank their terere and worked cheerfully throughout the entire weekend. The end results were overwhelming. Each mural featured a unique artistic style and told a different story of Encarnación and its people.

The week following the event the pictures of the completed murals began to appear on Facebook. A story featuring the project was printed in one of Paraguay’s most circulated, national newspapers, and video clips of the event were played on a local news station. It is my hope that the excitement continues, that tourists for years to come will take pictures of themselves in front of the murals and that others will ask them, “Where did you take that picture?” And that they will reply, “The beautiful city of Encarnación.”

Lastly, what was the most rewarding part of the project? I would have to say it was the reply that I received from one of the young people whose design was chosen. Trembling with excitement, after receiving the news that his design would be painted near the city plaza, the 15 year-old boy told me “Esto es mi sueño.” This is my dream.   

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pascua, Tormenta y una Falta de Agua

In honor of Easter I decided to share some of my favorite Easter activities with the girls at the orphanage yesterday (Thursday, April 5). Seeing as the school week consisted of only Monday and Tuesday, I had Wednesday to make all of the preparations. After my German class (yes, I am now taking a German class once a week on Wednesdays thanks to Pop and Mom), I went to the grocery store to buy food coloring and 30 eggs. While I boiled 22 of the eggs, I watched my favorite telanovelas (Spanish soap operas) and sorted through a huge bag of candy that Mom and Pop had brought to Paraguay in December.

With a full backpack I set out to the orphanage the next morning with Nicole. It was a tricky bus ride because Nicole was holding the bowl of 22 eggs, and I was trying to hold onto her because the bus was so full that there wasn’t anywhere to hold onto to brace ourselves for the evitable jolts and quick stops. When we got to the orphanage around 8 am everyone was up and running around while the tía was mopping the floors. We headed upstairs to do 45 minutes of creative writing (they are each writing their own story and drawing the illustrations), but of course everyone wanted to know why we had a mixing bowl full of eggs, so around 9 am I decided that it was time to change activities.

Ok, so I definitely checked for the recipe online, and I had everything that it required, but for some reason the dye would not take to the egg shells. I explained to them what the purpose of the water, vinegar and food coloring was supposed to be for, but that we would just have to try it some other time. Good news is that they really weren’t that disappointed because they loved cracking, peeling and eating the eggs. Go figure.

While they were eating, Nancy (one of the older girls) and I headed down stairs to hide the candy all over the back patio and in the vegetable garden. When we called everyone downstairs and explained the activity, they went crazy running around looking for the candy. It was more than a success.

Little did I know that the morning hours wouldn’t be the only exciting events of the day…

When Nicole and I were packing up my things, Nancy announces that “the storm” is coming, and she began to close all of the windows. “What storm?” I thought. I looked outside and to my surprise the sky to the south was dark red. Then I noticed that the red sky was coming towards us at an alarmingly fast speed. “Qué es eso?” I asked Nancy. “Polvo.” She replied. Dirt. Or dust. It was a dust storm. Within a minute of noticing its approach, it hit. We watched from the inside as wind blew clouds of red dust past the orphanage. After a few minutes I realized that even though the storm had not passed that Nicole and I had to go because we needed to go to the grocery store before the last buses left to go to our barrios (neighborhoods).

*Side note: During Semana Santa (Holy Week) everything shuts down on Thursday at about 12 pm until Saturday and just every other Paraguayan week, nothing and I mean nothing is open on Sunday.

We put our sunglasses on (not for the sun, seeing as there wasn’t any at this point, but so that the dust wouldn’t get in our eyes) and ventured up the street toward the grocery store. Within minutes of being inside, a downpour of rain started. After we purchased our food and supplies, we rain to the bus stop one block down from the store. Mine arrived first so I said good-bye to Nicole and got onto another very crowded colectivo (bus). Once I got home from walking the 7 blocks from the ruta, I was soaked. All I could think about was a hot shower. Naturally, the first thing that I noticed when I stepped inside my house was that all of the electricity had cut out. So, you know what that means. No electricity. No hot shower. I have an electric head on my shower that heats the water as it goes through it. No, you can’t touch it because yes, you can get an electric shock. “Ok, ok.” I told myself. “I will dry off and lay down in my bed for a little bit to warm-up, and then maybe the electricity will come back on so that I can make lunch.” Thirty minutes later I got a phone call. Nicole’s bus never came and seeing as she lives around 7 – 8 miles from the ruta, she could not walk home in the storm. So, I told her not to worry and that I would make us lunch because the electricity had just came on. The moment I hung up the phone the electricity went off again. I decided that I might as well go back out to the ruta to get her with an umbrella because I knew that she had to be just as soaked as I had been. When we got back to my house 20 minutes later, the electricity was back on. I was so relieved until I realized that now the water had gone out. And that is how it stayed for the next 8 hours (until around 9 pm).

Thankfully today the electricity and water stayed on all day. It was a Good Friday miracle.

Feliz Pascua! Happy Easter!
(Photos coming soon)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Programa de Apoyo

Every Tuesday and Thursday I work with small groups of 2nd and 3rd graders in order to help them with their reading and writing skills. We play games, do activities and read books. I began the apoyo (support) program at the beginning of March and plan to continue until the end of April. My hope is that I can help the students to catch up to the level of their classmates.

The morning students and the afternoon 3rd graders are easier to work with because for the most part they behave well and know how to share. The afternoon students in the 2nd grade though are another story. For example, when we play with the letters that I made on pieces of cardboard, they cannot share. When I say, “Who can spell “todo”? The child that has the “t” cannot share with the child that has the “d”. Also, they consistently hit each other and fight. I have tried everything. Giving praises. Awarding prizes. Separating rowdy children. Sending misbehavior-ers back to the classroom. Basically, nothing is working with this group. Seeing as the children only go to school for 4 ½ hours a day, I cannot take them out of their normal class time if they cannot work together, share, following instructions, etc.

Two things that I really appreciate now more than ever are rules and organization. Even if I set rules in my class, it will not work because no other classrooms have enforced rules, so children are not accustomed to having a concrete set of rules.  

So, I am going to try again next week, but I can’t turn miracles. I will help the students that I can!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting the Word Out About Didactic Materials and Non-Formal Education

An interesting opportunity arose a few weeks ago during one of the workshops that my co-volunteer (Nicole) and I put on with the Board of Education. One of the attendees (a teacher) is also a co-host of a Saturday evening cable program in Encarnación. She approached me at the end of the workshop to see if we would be interested in talking about didactic materials, life in Paraguay (as a foreigner) and what we do here in Paraguay in general. Needlesstosay, we knew it would be a great chance to reach other people about non-formal education styles.

At about 5 pm yesterday we entered into the studio and watched them as they taped the first part of the show, which was about the history of Encarnación (yesterday was Encarn’s foundation day). When our time came to go on air, we arranged the materials that I had brought with me on a table. It was truly a success because we were asked to go over how to make and use each of the materials and then the lady (Marisol) talked about the workshop and encouraged parents to make the materials out of recyclable items.

I would have to say that my favorite part was how she repeated something I said during the workshop. At the end of the workshop I had told the teachers that if copying from the board was not necessary that they should try to implement more hands-on learning activities in their classrooms. I brought to their attention that we (the teachers and the workshop instructors) knew that the “copy-everything-from-the-board method” was not longer working and that in order to seguir adelante (continue forward) it was the time to try new teaching techniques. I stated that in Paraguay playing games in school may not be seen as learning, but only because this would be a new technique, and that in fact, many countries use games and activities to teach new information and skills.

Over all it was a success. Although there is not a way to measure and evaluate the outcomes and impact of the show, it at least gave viewers a glimpse of what Nicole and I hope will be the future of elementary education learning here in Paraguay.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lo que está pasando acá en Paraguay

I can tell fall is coming because the daily heat seems to be less and less extreme…and for that I am thankful. Today I started off the day by putting some dirty clothes into my washing machine that the house’s owner left behind when she went to Buenos Aires to work. After a couple of bangs on the old thing, it kicked to life and so began another slow weekend day in Paraguay.

Seeing as the school year began about three weeks ago, my week days are now full of running from one place to the other. After leading an extra-help program in the 2nd and 3rd grade at Escuela Basica Dr. Francia, holding “Present and Future” classes at a center of technology, doing model lessons at two other primary schools, workshops with the Board of Education and working at the orphanage, my Monday – Fridays are teeming with activities, yet my weekends seem to get the better of me because they are so uneventful.

After reading two books last weekend and one this weekend, I am desperately trying to think of new things to do to keep myself from getting bored. I think to myself that it is ok to not do anything…that working so much during the week merits a peaceful weekend, but alas it is not in my natural to sit still.

Topic Change:

For Christmas my Aunt Cindy sent me a very interesting present. She sent me a box of note cards that each holds a date. A card for each day of the year of 2012. According to her instructions, I am to write something every day. Whether it be a quote, passing thought or event, I have tried my best to write something to record this eventful year of my life. A Peace Corps year.

I would like to share some of the things that I have written.

January 3, 2012

-          Went to the Plaza de Mayo (Buenos Aires) and saw where the Madres of the disappeared from the 1970s still protest for justice. I thought I was going to start crying. Tears swelled up in my eyes. Inspiring area. May I always fight for what I believe in like these women.

January 4, 2012

-          More walking around Buenos Aires. Went to La Boca (a colorful neighborhood that was previously settled my Italian immigrants) and a Beatles’ museum. I think that was Pop’s favorite thing in B.A.

January 6, 2012

-          Went to the glacier. When the ice broke off it was so loud. Pop made an interesting observation…you could see the ice break off and hit the water before you could hear it (sound travelling slower than what you see, which I have not thought about in years)…the wonders of science and the atmosphere are so beyond me. Amazing day. I was glad Mom, Pop and Carrie were there to share it with me.

January 10, 2012

-          Did a kid seriously puke 20 minutes after we (Pop, Mom, Carrie and I) left Encarnación? Yes. Did the bus driver stop and clean it up? No. Went to the “Hippie Market”, swam at the Alpes Hotel and ate pizza.

January 13, 2012

-          Slept late…then read Trueblood all day. Lazy, I know. Talked to Katie Hunt for the first time since I’ve been here. I miss her. I miss my friends and the people that I trust. Sometimes I want to talk to someone, and I literally just come to the same conclusion…I have no one here I really want to talk to.

January 15, 2012

-          Today I felt the overwhelming relief that I did not have any obligations. Free. Peace, inside and out…for the 3rd or 4th day in a row actually. So, I was back to the Trueblood series. Seeing as I finished the last paper copy (4th book) yesterday, I began to pick up on the PDF of the 5th book that I started last night. I’m officially cross-eyed  from reading from the computer from 10 am – 6:30 pm. I cannot fathom that Eric and Sookie aren’t real people. I swear that I think I am Sookie. Is it because the books are staged in the South? When am I going to find my Eric?

January 17, 2012

-          Another day lacking activities and the outdoors…read the remainder of the 6th Trueblood book and made myself rice and chorizo for lunch. It was a really hot day, so I thought about going to the river for about ½ of a second. Sadly, going alone isn’t fun, so I stayed indoors. I know that I am hiding from the world in this house. School will start again soon, and I’ll have to get back to being proactive and productive. At least that is what I am telling myself…

January 20, 2012

-          VAC meeting today. Ate at Hiroshima. Then went to Aldito to buy boy’s jeans to master the boyfriend jean look. Tonight Natalie, Nicole and I watched YouTube videos and had cheap box wine. My fan conveniently broke again, so looks like I’ll be taking to get it fixed tomorrow. Today is Carrie’s 22nd birthday.

January 23, 2012

-          Went to Nicole’s community. She organized the kids in three groups, and we worked on literacy. It rained off and on. Nicole’s community is really pretty. It is about 45 minutes from where I live. It is about 30 minutes done a dirt road. No wonder Nicole’s feet are always red. From the red dirt. The dirt is different here. What is the mineral?

January 28, 2012

-          Went to Carnival in Encarnación. Encarnación is supposedly the host to the biggest and best celebration of Carnival. It consisted of a neat/sexy/colorful parade of barely dressed women and children/adults spraying foam in my face. And in two weeks, I am going back for more…haha

March 1, 2012

-          Today it rained!! Yeaaaaa! It hasn’t rained that much lately, and no rain really affects people here. Some people don’t have running water for days/weeks until the next rain comes. Natalie, Nicole and I had a great day of lying around watching telanovelas and playing Clue. Days like these are the ones that get me through.  

March 5, 2012

-          Nicole and I went to the Board of Education in Encarnación today to talk about doing didactic material workshops at schools outside of the centro. I thought the supervisor was resisting our idea, but Nicole said that she thinks that he’s thinking it over. Thanks to Nicole I made my first homemade pita bread tonight. It was really good and definitely health. I really want to start cooking new things and eating better…I also went by the gym to make sure the prices and times had not changed. We will see whether I can get the fuerza to go three times a week like I am planning to do.

March 6, 2012

-          Busy, Busy, Busy day. And it was 114.8 degrees! Good and bad things happened today. I did two classes with the young kids (12-30) at the University of Leonardo Di Vinci. The university has a center with specialized classes like computer skills, etc. In the 2nd group the oldest student (around 30) broke down into tears when she was supposed to answer the 3 things that she was good at question from the activity we are doing and talked about how she was abused by her father as a child. I did my best to help calm her down. Then I went to the Formación Docente and despite the Ministry of Education’s ruling they are still training primary school teachers…Yay! We can teach our didactic materials course! Then to my school (Dr. Francia) were we cut out working with the 1st grade in my extra-help program and added one day with Jardin (grade before kindergarten). Lastly, had a meeting with the PR teachers at UNAE (university).

March 7, 2012

-          I had my first German lesson today! The teacher went over the pronunciation of some of the letters and talked about some general rules. I am really excited and hope that I will work hard and not get too frustrated with German. I am going to look for index cards to start making flashcards tomorrow and poco a poco. Aprenderé más y más. There are so many things I want to learn and do in life. I am glad that I have this kind of want and drive. I am so busy this week. I have so much going on and it is so hot outside so that is adding to my exhaustion. It is a good tired though. I love the U.S. and want to go home, but it is hard to imagine my life one year from now

March 12, 2012

-          After a quick 40 minute lesson today at Escuela Basica Dolores Cuña, I came home and spent the day reading and reading. I finished the 2nd book to the Hunger Games series. I feel guilty because I didn’t exercise again today. I am going to try to go to the gym on Wednesday and Thursday. Ideally I should go Friday, but I don’t have any commitments in the centro, so I know that I won’t go. It is just so hot outside. It is hard to get motivated to do anything, but sit and drink loads of water. Tomorrow I have a packed day. Sadly, I have to leave the house by 6:30 am…wahhh. I keep seeing where everyone is getting engaged and/or married on FB. I have always gone my own path.

March 13, 2012

-          Started the apoyo (extra-help) program today. The most I had in one group was 6 and the least was 2. The 2nd graders in the afternoon are going to need a lot of help. I always wonder what happens to the children that don’t learn how to read…? Why do teachers here just give up so easily on children? I think about the U.S. and how I want to get involved with literacy in the schools in my community. As technology continues to grow, children become more and more disconnected with books. What a different world you can experience with books…I don’t want other children to lose out on this valuable part of their imaginations and educations. What a beautiful thing it is to read.   

March 14, 2012

-          Two 4-hour workshops with Nicole and the women in charge of the 1st ciclo pedagogica (1, 2, 3 grades) in the Board of Education. The first had 8 teachers and 21 in the 2nd. We talked about didactic materials (my favorite topic). After the taller, one of the teachers asked me and Nicole if we could come to talk on her TV show on Canal 15 in two weeks. She wants us to talk about what we work in and why we are in Paraguay. I am so tired. Getting up a 5:30 am, me cuesta mucho! Tomorrow is my second day of the apoyo program.

I will truly try to blog more and to keep everyone more up-to-date about lo que está pasando acá en Paraguay!