Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The End ... or The Beginning?

The time has come … I am no longer a Peace Corps volunteer. I am now what they call a Returned Peace Corps volunteer. It is called RPCV instead of using words like ex or former because they say you are a Peace Corps volunteer for life.

About half of my group (G-38) had left Paraguay already, but, 15 of us were left for our swearing-out ceremony which included words from our bosses, receiving our completion certificates and ringing the bell that signifies the end of service … oh and who can forget, the cake!

It is a bittersweet moment ending my service. I was feeling a mixture of emotions, excited for the future, sad to be leaving so many new people in my life and just a feeling of uncertainty. End of service is one of those things that always seemed off in the distance and now that it’s here, I can’t help but thinking …. What  is next?

Well I do have a plan for the next few months at least and that is …. To stay in Paraguay! I have moved to a town called San Ignacio in the department of Missiones. I will be living with my boyfriend Jose and exploring some possible working/volunteering opportunities.

I have also decided to continue blogging! Keeping you up-to-date on my daily adventures.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cooking in Paraguay.

One of my favorite things to do is cook for other people. I'm not really a big fan of cooking for just myself, that is boring. So two years in my campo house have seen some pretty interesting meals that have stemmed from the lack of desire to cook.

But, when I have the chance to cook for other people I love it. However, cooking in Paraguay comes with its own set of challenges. Basically everything has to be made form scratch. You don't realize how easy it is in the States to be able to buy most of the ingredients for meals. In this country I've learned how to make so many things that I would have just bought from the store back home; things like bagels, pizza, pie crust, yogurt, buttermilk, and the list goes on and on. So my adventures in Paraguay have led to some pretty interesting concoctions.

Home-made pizza crust, brownie, banana icecream, bagles, and a perfect example of working with what you have, a giant quiche!

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Ahecha means "I see" in Guarani, and it is the name of an amazing program here in Peace Corps Paraguay. With this program, volunteers who sign up, receive a kit with a number of cameras inside to use in their communities to teach photography!

I received my Ahecha kit at the end of November. This ended up not being the best time for me as I was traveling a lot for holiday season, last minute planning for the camp and just to escape the summer heat. So my Ahecha experience ended up being a little more unofficial than  others, I didn't teach any classes or workshops, but, interested children would show up to my house and have impromptu sessions. We talked about various topics from how to use a camera, how to treat cameras, and what makes a good photo.

Children here are so fascinated with cameras because they are not as common as they are in America. Some kids didn't really care to listen to the lessons I would teach and would just take pictures of anything and everything (including a million selfies!). But I did have a handful of students who really paid attention and put in to practice what I taught them.

Here are a random selection of some of my favorite pictures taken:

"Volando" - AnaLiz (age 16)

"Ojos" - Elena (age 5)

"Chipa" - Fatima (age 13)

"Locitos"- Fatima (age 13)
"Aventuras" - Fatima (age 13) 
"Tomando Mate" - Mariana (age 9)

"Guapa" - Mariana (age 9)

"Pensando" - Mariana (age 9)

This project can also inspire other effects aside from creativity. I've talked about Elena before in other blogs. She is my 5 year old neighbor. Most times I absolutely adore her and other times she drives me insane. Honestly, I can see why she acts the way she does though. She is no longer the baby of the family now that 3 year old Alex, who is actually her nephew, is around and that can be hard for any child to understand. But, also she has her mother, grandparents, 2 older brothers and 6 older sisters who all are telling her what to do all the time and that can definitely be confusing to a 5 year old girl, especially if she gets opposing messages from them.

So when we started this project and I gave her the responsibility of taking care of this camera for a few hours at a time, she was SO excited. Before, I was a little nervous that she might break it, but, she took such good care of it I was so proud of her. One day at her grandfather's birthday party I told her she was in charge of taking pictures of the fiesta. At one point in the day, one of her sisters took the camera away from her for no reason, only because she  said she was too mala (bad) to be allowed to have it. Normally, I don't like to get involved in disciplinary situations like that, numerous times they have told me to hit/spank Elena or Alex when they do something bad too me or in front of me, it is very uncomfortable. But, this time I stepped in. I told her sister that I had specifically given her the camera to take pictures of the party and explained that Elena knows how to take good care of it. I also told her that you can't expect Elena to learn about responsibility and how to value things if you don't give her a chance. I really hope this experience has given Elena a little more confidence because sometimes I'm worried she'll get lost in the shuffle of her large family.

http://ahechaparaguay.blogspot.com/ - Here is a link to the Ahecha blog if you want to check out more pictures.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Camp Deporte y Vida!

Sorry I've been so MIA lately. I got a little busy with the holiday season and then the final stages of planning for Camp Deporte y Vida! (Formerly named Camp Caballero) But, it all came together in the end and it was amazing!

Last week 33 youth from all over the country came together at Tierra Prometida in Carapegua, Paraguay for a 4-day male sports and leadership camp.

All together there were 59 youth and volunteers involved in the camp!

The initial idea of the camp was a leadership camp for young men, to teach them values, planning for the future and by doing so making them a part of the gender equality discussion. We also made it a sports camp because we wanted them to have fun as well and show them that the same values that are important on the playing field are also important in your everyday life. We achieved this through a number of sports activities, because we also wanted to introduce them to new sports that they don't get to play normally. Soccer and volleyball are the two main sports played here in Paraguay, so we taught them to play American Football, Tae Kwon Do, Wiffleball and Kickball a well. There were also a number of informational sessions on subjects that ranged from, diversity, women's rights, planning for the future, sexual health and domestic violence.


Tae Kwon Do!

We had people from the NGO - Centro Para el Desarrollo de la Inteligenci (Center for the Development of Intelligence) come and teach the soccer segment of the camp

CDI has a program called "Partidi" that teaches young men and women good values through soccer. So they were a perfect addition to our camp!

We also had a "Professional Men's Panel" that included 3 men from CDI and one of the doctors from Peace Corp. They all talked about their individual journey to success.

Working on an activity called "Interview with myself in 10 years" it helped the boys think about what they envision their life to be in the future.

American Football!

Session on Domestic Violence. This is a topic that is not really talked about in this culture but is definitely a problem. He touched issues like self-esteem, machismo and healthy relationships.

A talk about women's rights with 2 people from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Women. This was an amazing moment seeing all these young men so interested in this subject, something most of them have never talked about before.

I was so impressed with the young men who attended this camp. They were all so involved in both the physical activities and the sessions. They all have such bright futures ahead of them and I hope this camp helped them realize their potential.

Also, thank you to all the people who donated to this project and made Camp Deporte y Vida! such a success! We couldn't have done this without your support.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Finally Leg of the Matney Family Journey: Asuncion..

It’s a Christmas miracle! I am finally finishing the last blog post on my family’s visit to Paraguay … back in August. Oops. Better later than never.

To wrap things up we spent a couple of days in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. Doing touristy things. I honestly really like Asuncion, it is definitely not a city that is on the top of every one’s must see list; but, it is growing, just like Paraguay, and I think that there are some pretty cool things to see.

First stop was the Peace Corps office. (Surprisingly, there are no photos) Got to show the family where I spend a decent amount of time. I gave them a tour and they got to meet a lot of the PC staff, including the country director.

Then later that night we took a walk on the newly finished Asuncion Costanera, very similar to the one in Encarnacion, the big difference being you can’t swim in this river. (Pollution, yuck.) But, it is a great place to take a walk, you can rent bikes, fly kites and eat popcorn and churros. What more could you want?! To get to the Costanera you pass the “Palacio Mariscal Lopez” (the former ‘White House’ … but the president no longer lives there.) Our visit to Asuncion was only days before the Presidental Inuaguration of the current President Horacio Cartes, because of this there was an insanely long line to get in to take a tour, like insanely long.

All the kites at the Costanera de Asuncion

The line to get into the palace. This was just the beginning. It keep going for blocks and blocks.

The next day we ate lunch with another volunteer friend of mine, Alex, and then we went to visit a barrio called San Jeronimo.  The people of this neighborhood have worked together  to make this a fun and inviting tourist destination in Asuncion. It is bright and colorful with an abundance of great recycled art. There are lots of places to eat and on Saturday and Sundays (the best days to go) lots of vendors set up tables with a myriad of crafts to sell.

Overall, the visit with my family was great, and I am glad they got to see what my life here in Paraguay is like. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Pearl of the South

Next stop for the Matney family was Encarnacion, Paraguay, which is located in the deep south of Paraguay on the Argentine border. You can see the city of Posadas, Argentina right across the river. First stop when we got to town was the newly built Costanera on the ParanĂ¡ River. This is the closest thing to a beach there is in land locked Paraguay and honestly it is pretty awesome. There are a few food places right on the sand, volleyball courts and a long, winding boardwalk.

Sunset over the "beach" in Encarnacion

Jumping photo!

The Costanera (Boardwalk)

The next day we wandered a little outside of the city to Trinidad the site of impressive ruins of a Jesuit Mission. Founded in 1706, Trinidad is said to be the most complete set of ruins in the area, with all of the aspects of a functioning mission and in 1993 it was made UNESCO World Heritage site. I was not expecting much before we got there, given the state of tourism in Paraguay, but I was thoroughly impressed. There is a small welcome center at the entrance with an introductory video and small exhibit of photos and artifacts. They have tour guides available at your request. The ruins themselves were also quite interesting and they were in a surprisingly  well-kept state. 

The main church - I was overwhelmed by its height 
Pretty sure we would not be allowed to do this in America, and maybe we weren't allowed but there were no signs or people to tell us not to. Oops.

Family photo in front of the main church

Final stop on the Matney family vacation : Asuncion, Paraguay!