Saturday, February 25, 2012

A year and a half later...

Hi everyone!

Clearly, blogging is not really my thing, as it has been over a year and a half since I last blogged. Whoops! Important updates:

- returned to CT for Christmas and New Year with family and friends.
- traveled to Manaus, Brazil last May with 7 friends and spent 11 days in the Amazon. Incredible experience and absolutely beautiful.
- high school friend Katie Fullman visited in August. She was a trooper, despite the constant rain and cold spell.
- successful 6-week dental health unit at local school.
- helped organize HIV/AIDS workshop in March 2011.
- spent 5 wonderful days in Buenos Aires with Andy and his friends from the States.
- cooking classes with women in my community. Some have even tried the recipes on their own!
- teaching a 10 year old girl how to read and count.
- literacy workshop with the teachers at my elementary school.
- attended 2 weddings of Peace Corps friends!
- organized menu and cooking team to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 70+ people.
- lots of summer camps with friends.
- Christmas 2011 in Peru with my family. Did the Inka Trek to Macchu Picchu. Waking up on Christmas Eve and watching the sun rise over Macchu Picchu was stunning and is forever etched into my memory.
- working on library for my community.
- attended close-of-service conference.

The library project is my biggest project at the moment, and due to the fact that I'm not getting a follow-up volunteer (since I'm the third one in my community), I'm racing against the clock to finish it. I've already acquired approximately 30 books to donate to the library and am submitting requests to embassies and NGOs here in Paraguay for book donations. That being said, please read the below letter and pass on to anyone who may be interested. I am also contacting a few libraries in the US to ask for assistance or book donations.

Dear family and friends,

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my letter. As many of you may know, I am currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. My site, Tuyango, is located in the department of San Pedro, one of the poorest regions in Paraguay. The community is medium sized with approximately 160 houses and 800 people. There is a health post with a nurse, an elementary school (K-9th grade) and a high school in the community. Tuyango is situated between two cities, the closest being about 20 kilometers away.

Having spent much of my service working in the elementary school, I have seen how many kids lack creativity and intellectual stimulation. Reading is not a common pass-time since books tend to be expensive. In talking with the director of the school, we have decided that a library project would benefit the community greatly. I have already purchased some books and will donate my bookshelf to the library. There is a classroom available that will serve as the library. The library will be for all community members, and people will be allowed to check out books. It is my hope that people will find a love of reading, boost curiosity, and inspire them to actively make a difference in their lives and Paraguay. Additionally, I plan to teach the teachers how to use the library to supplement their classes.

I’m requesting donations of books in Spanish, or monetary donations through Western Union. I have a short two and a half months left and would like to have the library inaugurated prior to my departure. I have already purchased the entire Harry Potter series, Anne Frank, The Odyssey, 1984, Matilda, and some children’s books. I would love a book on friendship bracelet making, origami creations, arts and crafts from nature, and any other children’s or adult books. I know the price of shipping can be high, but I believe that there is a special book rate, as well as the flat rate boxes, which you can stuff to capacity for a fixed price (I think).

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for considering this. I hope that together we can provide books to help make Tuyango a better place.


Carden Ryder
Peace Corps Volunteer
Rural Health and Sanitation Sector
Tuyango, San Pedro, Paraguay

Thank you everyone, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all when I return in June!

xoxo Carden

Friday, August 13, 2010

Motos and ox-carts and horse-carts, oh my! Random Facts Episode 1

Sorry for the lack of updates, everyone. I wish I could say that it was because I was super busy with health projects (that's sort of true... emphasis on the "sort of"), or learning Guarani (also only a little true), but it's actually my own laziness and neglecting it, so for that I apologize. I'll try to be a bit better about updating.

Anyways, has it really been 6 months since I arrived in Paraguay? Time has gone by crazy fast, I must say. So, I've realized that through my blogging I haven't really clued you in to the random, bizarre, and sometimes hilarious oddities that I've noticed here in Paraguay. Here I present the Random Facts list:

- Motos aka motorcycles. You generally don't just see one or two people on a moto. Often it will be a family of 5, the occasional chainsaw, or a pig. I've even witnessed a person in a wheelchair holding onto the back of a moto. Hardly anyone wears helmets. It is also common to see 10-year olds driving motorcycles.

- Chickens crow at dawn. They also crow at 8am. And 9am. And 10am. Just when you think they couldn't crow anymore, they crow at 10:01am. I'd imagine that they eventually tire and sleep, but those wonderful animals have dispoven this theory multiple times when I wake up at midnight to more crowing. They must work in shifts to ensure that they can be heard at all hours of the day. Another side note about chickens: despite having been here for 6 months, I still laugh when I see them run. They just look so silly.

- My least favorite word in the Spanish language is Enseguida. This is the entry in my Spanish-English dictionary:
enseguida adv at once, immediately, straight away.
To the average American, this would actually mean "immediately" or "straight away." However, in Paraguay, this is simply untrue. Many times I've gotten the "I'll be there enseguida" and have waited from anywhere between 30 minutes and 4 hours. Sometimes it means "never." Oh hora Paraguaya. I love enseguida-ing other people. Hate being enseguida-ed.

- In Asuncion, it's not uncommon to have motorcycles, buses, cars, trucks, and ox-drawn or horse-drawn carts sharing the same road.

- While we're still on the transportation topic, let's discuss the buses here. I've been on buses that look (and probably are) brand new. The have reclining seats that are big and comfy looking and nice TVs. Just beautiful. I have also been on buses that look like they may or will fall apart any second. Also, it is not uncommon to board a bus to find that all the seats are taken and you end up standing the majority of the way to your destination. The times that you do get a seat, be advised that you will probably at some point or another have the inevitable crotch-in-the-face moment(s) or hour(s). You will also probably drive down an unpaved road for a good portion of the trip, making it a very bumpy crotch-in-the-face ride.

- I have seen more boobs here in 6 months than I would have liked to see in my life. I'll be sitting and talking with someone when they all of a sudden decide to feed their kid. This can be in their house, on their porch, on the bus, someone else's house, a party. You name it, they probably would do it there. Additionally, children breastfeed for a LONG time. My 4-year old host sister here occasionally is breastfed by her aunt.

- Kids and personal space do not go together. At all. Not only are my belongings constantly touched, but I've grown accustomed to drinking or eating something and having a child literally 10 inches from my face just staring. This also happens when I'm working on anything from writing a letter to preparing charla materials.

- There is no concept of inside voices. You could be 5 houses away or in the same house and the volume level stays the same. Today I was sitting outside with a friend and couldn't even focus on what he was saying because one of the boys across the street was yelling at the top of his lungs for his sister to come home for lunch. She was in their front yard. Mom, I'm sorry for all those times you asked me to call Nick and Austin down for dinner and I just stood in the kitchen and shouted at them. I now understand.

- In talking with other volunteers, we've discovered where the American rejected clothes have gone. One friend's obese mother has a shirt that says "Gravity Sucks." It is important to note that she has huge boobs and does not wear a bra. Another friend has witnessed a young child wearing a shirt with a picture of a cat on it and "Happy pussy" written on it. My other friend saw a 2-year old with a shirt that has a picture of a milkshake on it and "Sex Shake." Almost everyone has a playboy shirt. This includes small children and old ladies.

- Medical beliefs here are... odd. I once had a stomach ache and when I told my host mom she said that it was because I had my fan on at night and the wind got trapped in my stomach. The cure? Put some tobacco leaves on your back. I've decided that if I ever pursue medicine as a career, I will most definitely use these responses.

- Vegetables are almost always added into meals, but you can never tell when you're eating them. They tend to be cut into indecipherable pieces so I can't tell if I'm eating a carrot or a green pepper. Also, for a pot of soup for a family of 5, generally only half of a pepper is used.

- 3-year olds drinking beer through a straw. I see something very wrong with this. Who drinks beer through a straw? Also the fact that it's a three-year old is slightly to moderately disturbing.

- Old dudes with young chicks. I still don't understand the appeal. 15 year old girls with 40 year old dudes. Really?

- School cancelations for anything. A few weeks ago the kids were on Winter break. Winter break was extended for another week because it was too cold for the kids to be in school. This would be a legitimate excuse, however, that entire week it was in the 80s. El Dia del Nino is coming up, so naturally school is cancelled. In fact, apparently they have clowns, games, cake, candy, and cookies for the kids. Perfect opportunity for a dental charla :o)

- Tons of holidays. We have a lot of them in the States too, but let's be honest, who really celebrates friendship day? Here, dia de la amistad is HUGE. I got tons of texts that day from Paraguayan friends thanking me for what I do here and for being a good friend. My favorite was a 10-year old girl who came over to my house to give me a hug and say happy friendship day. I think the world would be a better place if we all celebrated this.

- I've been called fat by my aunt and host mom, meanwhile, they're both overweight and my aunt has high blood pressure. However, fat here isn't like, "Oh man, you're HUGE!" Instead it's a term of endearment, more or less. Also, if you're fat, you must be happy. For the record, I'm not fat and I'm still happy. I've also heard that if you're skinny, you must be in love. Apparently you cannot be happy AND in love at the same time.

- Paraguay really does get cold! I didn't believe people when they said that it was the coldest they'd ever been. I always just thought, yeah well I'm from the Northeast. I know what cold is. Well, truthfully, I've been colder but I've never been this cold for such a prolonged period of time. Back in the good old USA, if I'm cold I just go inside and my problem is solved. Here if I'm cold, I go inside and it's just as cold! It's inescapable. Boo 40 degree weather.

I'm sure that as I spend more time here in this wonderful, quirky place I call home I'll have more fun, random facts for you all.

Carden xoxo

Friday, June 18, 2010

We're gonna learn cosas. What kind of cosas? Oh you know, cosas.

I moved yesterday! No, not to my own house, but I moved to a different host family. As much as love my other family, it's nice to have a bit more privacy, since the new family I'm living with is older and their kids are all grown up and out of the house. My previous family included a 4-year old daughter, so naturally there were about a dozen other kids around too who would all touch my things. I know they're just curious but it gets tiring telling them to not touch my things without asking. C'est la vie. Anyways, my new family is great. They have a gorgeous property and I love spending time outside here because it's so beautiful. Che aaprendehina guarani ko'ape avei (I'm learning Guarani here, too). I've learned useful phrases like "There is no pique in my foot." Pique is a worm that burrows into your foot and lays its eggs in your foot and you have to cut it out to get rid of it. Pleasant, I know.

Anyways, today an NGO that is based in the Santani area came to my house to do a charla. We started off singing some Jesus songs, read a few verses from the bible, then jumped right in to breast cancer, pelvic exams, "vagina seco," and KY jelly. I'm still trying to figure out the link between the bible readings and songs and the charla. Aside from my new host mom saying she'd buy some KY jelly to "make things better", it was a decent charla. My new host mom is probably the sweetest person I've ever met and kind of reminds me of my own grandma, Mimi, so hearing her say that was a bit weird, to say the least. Gross is actually probably the better word to describe it. My new host dad is funny and is helping me learn Guarani and said he could build my modern bathroom. He's really cool and somewhat resembles Ivan Ooze from the Power Rangers movie (Nicky, Austin, and Lindsey - I really hope you appreciate the Power Rangers reference). He's nicer though.

The NGO that came to do the charla has a few German people who give charlas, which is awesome. After the charla they said that there will be another activity on June 29 and asked if I'd like to attend, so I said sure. I asked them what we'd be doing at this event. "Oh, we're gonna learn cosas (things)." "Oh, what kind of cosas?" "Oh you know... cosas." Awesome. Maybe they don't know what cosas they're going to teach us yet, hence the vague response.

In other news, my house has electricity! I still have to bring in running water, install my bathroom, finish changing the locks, and put bars in the windows, but it's one step closer to being able to move in. As much as I love my host families, it'll be a relief to finally unpack my stuff, cook my own food, and have my own space. I also finally went down to the elementary school and got the OK to get started on the World Map Project. For those of you who don't know what this is, basically I will be painting a map of the world (who would have guessed) on the side of the school and then I will teach a few geography classes. Especially with the World Cup and how every Paraguayan LOVES soccer, I think this will be a cool way to tie in culture and geography. A lot of people here don't really know much about geography. When I say I'm from the United States, more specifically Connecticut, they ask if I'm close to California. "No, not close at all to California." "Oh, New York then?" "Yes, I'm close to New York." I've decided to just start telling people I'm from NY. It's just easier that way. Some people don't really even know where the US is. I was talking to someone yesterday about the World Cup and Africa and this individual said "Africa... is that close to you?" "No, Africa is not close to me." "That's where all those black people come from, right?" Yay for geography/culture class!

After 128 days in Paraguay, I'm beginning to understand some cultural norms and customs here, some I don't think I will ever understand, some things that frustrate me and will probably frustrate me during my time here, and things that I have already fallen in love with, but I can truthfully say I am finally really happy at site. It was tough to adjust, but I can now comfortably call this home. There will always be the good, the bad, and the ugly, but the good definitely outweighs the bad. I know my Tuyango adventure is just beginning.

Carden xoxo

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The days go by slowly, but the months go by fast.

I can’t believe I’ve already been at site for about a month. I remember my first ten days here feeling like an eternity, and now I can’t believe that I’ve been here for 26 days. So, what have I done in my 26 days here? I’ve worn plenty of socks with flip-flops (super fashionable, I know), successfully made an idiot of myself in Santani numerous times (and more to come! Sweet!), gotten into the habit of flossing daily, worked on my house a bit, and have terere-ed with a bunch of people. So, aside from working on my house, it doesn’t really seem like I’m doing a whole lot of work. I can assure you, I did not join the Peace Corps or come to Paraguay to just hang out and wear socks with flip-flops for two years, as fun as that may be. As a health volunteer, we promote sustainable development – that is, we teach individuals in the community the skills and tools needed to lead healthier lifestyles. We do not arrive, do a project in 3 months, and then leave. We teach so that once we leave our sites after completing service, the community members can continue to use the skills we’ve taught them. It might not seem like real work, but in order to build trust and confidence in the community, I need to take advantage of the first few months here to get to know individuals in my community. Part of this involves completing the community census with at least 50 households. The census is used to help identify the most pressing issues in the community that need to be addressed. Some of the questions in the census are a bit personal pertaining to health and hygiene, so getting to know people is very important before I dive into the task of completing the census. I will hopefully have all of this done by the end of July/beginning of August and can then figure out what projects I can do in my community. I already know there is an interest in getting a modern bathroom commission started, as well as another commission for a garden project. I have also spoken with the director of the escuela about English classes and the World Map project, which I am super excited about.

Anyways… like I said above, I’ve been working on my house a bit. I need your help with something and would really appreciate your responses. I need to paint my house as well as the rooms inside. What color should I paint the house? There is a rose bush in front that I want to leave. Keep that in mind. Here are pics of my house!

Yay! My house!

Bedroom 1

Kitchen looking out toward the side window from the front door

Kitchen looking out toward the front yard/front door from the back door

Bedroom 2

Comment please with your vote for house/room colors!

Carden xoxo

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Address!

Hey everyone!

Just to let you all know, I have a new address at the post office in Santani (a town close to where I live). My address is:

Carden Ryder, PCV
Correo San Estanislao
Avenida Independencia Nacional, 727
Codigo Postal, 8210
Sud America

You can also use the old address, but this one I'll be able to check more frequently.

Carden xoxo

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Home Sweet Home... sorta.

First off, Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms I know! It’s weird being in Paraguay today. I know that if I were back in the States, I’d probably be having brunch with my family and my grandma and grandpa. Actually, in Paraguay, today isn’t any special day. Mother’s Day in Paraguay is actually next Saturday. It’ll be interesting to see how they celebrate it here.

Friday, April 30 was our swearing-in ceremony. It was at the Embassy in Asuncion and was really nice. After we had the ceremony, there was a reception with some food, drinks, and cake. Lots of pictures were taken, so I’ll try to post those on facebook soon. After swearing in, we went back to the Peace Corps to get our bank cards and cell phones. Finally, after everything was completed, we got to go to our hotel in downtown Asuncion. That night the Health Sector went out to dinner at a churasqueria, which was absolutely delicious. After that, we all went to a bar called Brit Pub for the night. It was a really good time and a bunch of the other Peace Corps Paraguay volunteers joined us. Saturday night there was a concert called Ahendu, which means to hear in Guarani. I performed 2 songs with a friend of mine, and it went pretty well. I was super nervous though! On Sunday, I ran a lot of errands with Lauren. We were all over Asuncion and had a great time. Monday, Amanda and I headed back to Santo Domingo to visit with our families one last time before leaving to site.

I arrived in Tuyango on Tuesday after a long and somewhat stressful day of traveling. Bauer, myself, my duffel bag, backpack, and 2 canvas bags left Santo Domingo around 9:30 am to catch a bus down to the bus terminal in Asuncion. Thank God I had Amanda and Jake there too! I don’t know how I would have been sane and gotten everything on and off the buses without them! Once I arrived in Santani, I was disappointed to find out that there were no buses going to my site that day. It rained Sunday night into Monday, and since the road I live off of isn’t paved yet, it was too muddy for buses to pass through. I ended up taking a taxi part of the way to site before the taxi driver decided it was also too muddy for him, and I ended up in the back of a pickup truck with some Paraguayans and all of my stuff. I arrived in Tuyango around 5:30 and couldn’t have been more relieved. It’s been a pretty relaxing time so far. As a health volunteer, we aren’t really supposed to start any projects in the first three months of being at site. During the first three months we are supposed to meet people, get to know the community, drink lots of tereré and mate, and complete the census. The census is what we use to determine the biggest and most pressing issues in the community that need to be addressed. Basically, I will complete the census with at least 50 families, and from there figure out what the community needs. I’ve met a few people in the community, been to the health post with my contact, traveled to Santani, and done a LOT of reading. It was fun because yesterday I walked around the community and tereré-ed with a few families. It was really nice meeting different people in the community, and I’m finally getting some names and faces memorized. I know it’ll take a while in a community that has about 150 houses, but I know that in a few months, I’ll know a bunch of the people here.

Yesterday I also got to check out my future house again. I am absolutely in love with it and can’t wait to move in. I have a lot of work to do on it before I move in, though. The entire inside needs to be repainted, I have to fix part of the roof, put in electricity and running water, install lights, put new locks on the doors, lots of yardwork, make a new fence, and start building my bathroom. This is a big enough project that I think it can definitely keep me busy over the next few months. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to move in at the end of July or beginning of August. It was cute because I have this little posse of kids that follow me around, so naturally they came with me to explore my housing situation.

Tomorrow I should be going into Santani to meet up with Amanda. We wanted to explore and buy a few things to bring back to our houses. I’m so fortunate that my best friend here in Paraguay only lives about an hour away from me. It’s been weird not being with my training group anymore. I know it’ll get easier as time goes by, but it’s still kind of a shock to go from being with these people every day for 3 months to being scattered all over Paraguay. I’m really looking forward to 4th of July and the reconnect with my training group in August. It’ll be nice to all be together again. Part of me feels like 4th of July will be here in no time, but at the same time I feel like this past week has gone by so slowly. Granted when I first got here, I felt like the first few weeks of training went by really slowly and then all of a sudden, it seemed like everything blew by. It will probably be the same here too. It’s just a bit tough at the beginning -- adjusting to all of the changes and meeting people. I know in a few weeks I will feel like a part of the community, part of the family here. For now, I keep reminding myself to take it a day at a time. Relax. Enjoy. Tranquilo.

Missing you all back in the States. Hope you are all well, and again, my door is always open to visitors. Mi casa es tu casa.

Carden xoxo

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Hi everyone!

So, this is my last post as a Peace Corps trainee – tomorrow is the swearing-in ceremony where me and my training class become official Peace Corps Volunteers. I can’t believe how quickly the past 11 weeks have gone by. It’s crazy to think that 11 weeks ago I was just starting training, barely knew anyone, and couldn’t speak any Guarani. It’s amazing how much things change after a mere 11 weeks. Some of the people that I’ve met have become such good friends of mine that I can’t even imagine not having them in my life at this point. Anyways, enough of that…

What have I done since I last blogged? Well, 2 weeks ago Sunday I killed a chicken! Yes, KILLED A CHICKEN WITH MY BARE HANDS! It was a… unique experience to say the least. Then my sister, my mom, and I cleaned, gutted, and cooked it for lunch. It was super tasty and gave me a new appreciation for food, or rather just chicken.

We spent 2 days last week in Asuncion for class. Tuesday we went to the botanical gardens in Asuncion. It was definitely not what I expected. In the afternoon, we were back at the Peace Corps office for a few sessions and then on Wednesday morning, we were back in Asuncion for a full day of sessions and lectures. We had another library visit and mailroom visit and the librarian told us some information about mail here in Paraguay. It takes a while for it to get here, especially packages. If a package arrives within a month from the time it was sent (by USPS) that’s amazing! If it arrives within 2 months, that’s good. Realistically, it takes about 3ish months for a package to arrive, so those of you that have sent me stuff, don’t worry that I haven’t gotten it yet! There’s still a good chance it’ll arrive in the next few months. Just give me a heads up, please, if you sent something.

Last Friday we had an “Auto Planeado” day where we got to design our own schedule for the day based on interests. A good number of us wanted to go to Luque to see the guitars and harps, so we were fortunate enough to get a driver and spend the morning there. In the afternoon, we were back in Guarambare for a session on plumbing and electricity. I figured this was a good session to attend, considering I have neither running water nor electricity in my future house. Overall, it was a pretty awesome day. I found a really nice guitar in Luque that I really want to go back and get. I hope that I can head back there in a few weeks and make my purchase.

This past week has been interesting, since it was our last full week at our training site. On Tuesday we had our last language interviews and our despedida with our families. All of our families came to the school with food and Diosnel (one of my language teachers here), Jotty (another language teacher here), one of the mom’s here at site, Franco, and Lauren all did speeches. I actually teared up when Diosnel and Jotty did theirs. They both talked about how we leave everything that is familiar to us in the states to come to a new country, a new language, a new culture, and new friends, and that our host families are so welcoming, despite not knowing who they’re going to get. They open their doors to us, help us acclimate, assist us with learning the language(s), and are an incredibly source of support during these few months of training. It makes me really sad that I have to leave this wonderful community and my amazing family. I feel so comfortable here and it sort of stinks that I have to go through the awkwardness all over again with meeting people, figuring out the community, and everything… only this time without other Americans. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks since site visit. It’s just been a weird mix of emotions. Part of me is pulling away from the group, since I’m not going to have them at site and need to fend for myself more and adjust to the “I feel alone” factor, but another part of me wants to live in the here-and-now and just enjoy the remaining time I have with them. Granted, tomorrow we swear-in, so there’s really not much time left to spend with them. I’m really excited for Asuncion this weekend after swearing-in. It’ll be nice to all be together for a few days in the city before branching off to the different parts of Paraguay.

Anyways, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of this blog entry. Wednesday for language class, we took a trip to Itagua and Aregua. They make this really nice Paraguayan lace (called Ñanduti) and hammocks here. We also got to check out this museum for about 10 minutes before they closed, and then went to watch how people make ceramics. In the afternoon, we were back at our training site with Ricardo. We played some games, including the “Random Pieces of Shennanigans Opera” where you split off into 2 teams and each person on each team is given a random object. As a team you have to come up with a play using all of the props, everyone has to participate, and all of the dialogue has to be sung. It was absolutely hilarious what we all came up with. Then we played another game with Ricardo and at the end he gave us all presents – MACHETES!!! He wrote names on each of them. Mine is called The Red Rider (you’ll slice your eye out!) and I love it. We were all super excited to get them. Before leaving the school, we tried throwing limes up in the air and cutting them in half with our machetes. A few people succeeded. I was not one of the few. Apparently I have really bad hand-eye coordination? Regardless though, it was probably the coolest gift we could have gotten. THANKS RICARDO!

So, like I said, swear-in is tomorrow! Next time I post, I’ll be an official PCV! This also means that my address is going to change… sorta. The address I’ve already posted is accurate but instead of writing PCT next to my name, it’ll change to PCV. I may get a mailbox in Santani (a town really close to my site) so if I do, I will post that address on here too.

For now, it’s so long to Santo Domingo. You’ve been great these past 3 months! Tuyango – I’m so excited to call you my new home for the next 2 years. To all of my wonderful blog followers – next post from Tuyango!

Carden xoxo