(The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.)

The Peace Corps has us on a tight leash from when I wake up at 6:00am until the collective drops me off in Itá (my homestay community) at 6:00pm. It’s dark. I’m tired. I need to study my Guaraní, I need to run.

The weather is unpredictable to say the least. Monday can have a high of 52 and Wednesday 83. When it’s cold, there’s no escaping it. The metal window frames of the middle-class homestay houses are rusted open. There are no heating units and few houses have fireplaces. I am unbelievably lucky to have a heated shower and a private bathroom. Most volunteers have only a few minutes of warm water and share showers with families.

There are a couple culture changes from the norms I’m accustomed to that have been challenging to adapt to. The first is high-speed internet access for research and information purposes; although, as I type I know I simply need to adjust my ways and revert to the local paper. The internet infrastructure here is weak and can’t sustain the majority of downloads and/or streaming video. The other piece of the Brienne Puzzle I am aching for, even more than non-instant coffee, is alone time and freedom to come and go when I want and where I want. This is obviously a big one for me.

Our training regime consists of language and technical training, which includes the four pillars of the Community Economic Development sector;

1) Information Technology Communication and Computing
2) Family Finances, which focuses of budgeting and savings plans
3) Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development
4) Civic Participation, which is about facilitating steps for community development

However, one month in and aside from two amazing internships with active Peace Corps volunteers, which I’ll elaborate on in another spiel, a good part of pre-service training has been along the lines of Sex-Ed 101; medical lectures on STDs and hours chewing on the topic that alcohol can cause inebriation and make one more susceptible to having sex or getting robbed … yeah, I know, I know … to security lectures about what harassment is, to gender group discussions on “what someone does when they want to have sex with you.” 

Yes indeed, I was riding the “Is this for real!?” bus, but apparently Washington has mandated that we suffer through the Gen-Ed reminders before focusing on the tools and strategies we can implement in our practice. 


[Left: Guaraní class. It ain't easy. Right: "Butt Ball," one of the daily ice breaker we do at the Peace Corps Training Center]

So, back to the good stuff; the internships. I had one in San Juan Nepomuceno with Miss Ginsey Varghes and one in Eusebio Ayala with Ricardo Marques. 

In San Juan Nepomuceno I got to judge a business competition that were the final projects of Peace Corps’ Construye Tus Sueños entrepreneurial class, teach high-schoolers about the “7 Myths of the Condom” and get the hands-on tour of some available avenues one can meander down in order to immerses into a Paraguayan community; as Ginsey so thoroughly did.

[Left: Posed with a student and the Doc in a rural San Juan Nepomuceno school after chatting about the 7 Myths of Condoms to teens who seemed to have never seen one before ... which give the chat all the more value! Right: On the radio! In Spanish! We an awesome youth group in Eusebio Ayala.]

In Eusebio Ayala I taught a “charla” or class lecture on Forecasting Consequences, Cloud Computing and was on the radio chatting with a youth group about the 4th of July and some bits of cultural exchange. I also got to interview an employee at a Cooperative (most similar to a community credit union) and sit down with one of Ricardo’s Construye Tus Sueños students and hear about her small-business plan, and offer advice on how to pursue her goal and avoid getting loan; interest rates here are immense! 

Now, this is why I’m here. I finally got to take a look into the Paraguayan “system” and absorb a bit of insight into the educational foundation and its influence on self-esteem, socialization and career choices. Fascinating, to say the least, and very different from back home.

I never want time to fly by, but, as odd as it may sound, I can’t wait to get out and into Paraguay!

[Lights turn to vibrant orange and fade to simulate the sunrise]