12 August 2012

My last days in Paraguay.

I had my last days at the Escuela Agrícola this week and am now waiting in Asunción until my flight Monday night back to the states. I still have some work to finish up for my internship, but I mostly feel like my time here was very enlightening and I am ready to move on.

The half-birthday/farewell party group.
On Thursday we celebrated Amos' 4.5 years old birthday, which turned into a farewell party for me with school staff and volunteers in attendance. It was a great surprise and fun to help prepare and consume some delicious food. I am so excited to be in control of my own diet once I return to the states and have fresh produce and a kitchen at my disposal instead of eating three meals a day in a boarding school dining hall! Leah and John, the US couple living at the Escuela Agrícola, cooked an amazing meal and passed on some great recipes to me as I lived with them for my last few days at the school. Pan de queso, chipa paraguaya, soy milk, yogurt...

06 August 2012

Sugar Cane, Networking, and Employment!

I have been sick the last week or so, in bed and being taken care of by my good friends Michelle (Peace Corps) and Jorge (agriculture school teacher). It was not fun, but I am better now!

Before I got sick I spent a hot, exhausting day in the chacra- the sugar cane fields. The school owns a couple of hectares of sugar cane that they sell to a local sugar mill and is basically a cash crop to provide income for the school. There is definitely a certain level of gender separation of tasks, so I was the only female in the field. I practiced my machete skills by trimming and cutting down sugar cane stalks at least a foot taller than myself. After we cleared a section, the truck came by and we loaded our piles in the back. The guys kept handing me bigger and bigger piles and I'm happy to say I passed their tests, to the chorus of "mujer fuerte!" (strong woman!). 

With a load of sugar cane!

22 July 2012

Young Entrepreneurs

Fundacion Paraguaya is a partner of the international education organization Junior Achievement, which works to teach entrepreneurial and business skills to youth around the world. They work throughout Paraguay and have three groups at the Agricultural School. The school focuses on creating rural entrepreneurs, not just teaching students how to be productive farmers. This sets them apart from other agriculture schools and even farmer apprenticeship programs in the United States, where the emphasis is often on production and not necessarily the  financial management of a farm. Students must create their own business with the support of Fundacion and Junior Achievement staff and volunteers.

Traditional Paraguayan dance to kick-off the event.

05 July 2012


Last week was the traditional Fiesta de San Juan. It was unclear to me exactly what was being celebrated, a patron saint or some sort of solstice tradition passed down from the Spanish, but celebrar we did! The escuela had a San Juan party organized by some of the students. There were lots of traditional foods, most of which included mandioca flour, cheese, and salt in some combination, such as m'beju, pastel mandi'o, chipa, and pan casero. There was a huge tree trunk stripped of all its branches, placed in the middle of a field, covered in motor oil, with bags of prizes at the very top. Students had to try and climb the tree in order to get the prizes, consequently slipping and sliding all over the place as they became black with oil.
Terrible picture of the oil-covered tree-climbing activity.
There were also two+ guys dressed as girls with their faces completely covered walking around holding hands and talking in shrill voices. No one seemed to know which students they were and if they caught you, you had to pay them and go through a fake marriage ceremony with them in order to be let free. Needless to say, I did not get close enough to take any pictures! Then there was the dancing. Ah yes how I do NOT miss awkward high school dances. Now imagine that all of your teachers and their families are present as well. Apparently it's something done in this part of Paraguay, but everyone lined up with their partner, creating two long lines of awkwardly swaying bodies. Because so many of the teachers are so young and alumni of the school, it is hard to determine appropriate boundaries between staff and students sometimes. Some professors joined in the dancing, but I politely declined...
Frankie (volunteer), Lucia (in charge of Lactation Plant), Jorge (gardening teacher), William (visiting Ecuadorian teacher), Me!
Los extranjeros! Michelle (Peace Corps), Me, William (Ecuador), Brett (South African English teacher), Frankie (Brazilian/US English assistant)

For the Fourth of July we had an awesome party at Michelle and Jorge Martinez's house. Jorge is the vice-principal of the school and my boss. It was the most flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants Fourth of July I've ever had! We laughed A LOT however. Present were many Paraguayan staff from the school, five US citizens, one Brazilian-American, one South African, and one Haitian. We had tacos mexicanos- with homemade tortillas from Leah and John and the rest of the food was prepared by them, Michelle, and Frankie. About twice as many people came as expected so while we waited for everyone to arrive we listened to reggaeton and...had a pumpkin carving contest!

Team 1
Team 2
Now this may seem very strange, but here it is fall/winter and the middle of a very abundant pumpkin season. Pumpkins will be very hard to come by in October, so it seemed logical to combine some US holidays into one super celebration. After pumpkin carving Frankie, Michelle, and I gave thanks for the important things in our lives (pulling Thanksgiving into the mix) and then enjoyed tacos, red wine, and flan with red, white, and blue star sprinkles. What a wonderful celebration of good friends and international relations!

02 July 2012

Organic: To be or Not to be?

Last Tuesday I went with four of the marketing students to Asunción to sell our products at a market called Agroshopping and in a wealthy neighborhood in front of Fundación Paraguaya's main offices. (An exhausting day as we left the school at 3am and the first group got back at 6pm, the second at 11pm.) The market the school targets is definitely the wealthy Paraguayans in Asunción. Agroshopping is in one of the most expensive shopping malls in the city and caters to an elite crowd. The difficulty is that all of the other products look prettier than ours - huge red peppers, tomatoes, apples, etc - but ours are the ONLY organic products in the whole market and the only ones being sold by the people who produce them. All of the other vendors buy their products from large whole-sale dealers, usually from Brazil, and then resell the products at Agroshopping for a higher price. It creates an interesting dynamic as we try to balance our prices with the quality of our product and how it compares to the other stands around us. It is at least a good way for the school to get attention and start to build it's base. Part of my job here is to give recommendations as to how the school can expand it's market and achieve a more stable financial base. The vegetable gardens bring in the least amount of profit, compared to the animal products and hotel.

In our mandatory Agroshopping uniforms with our beautiful 100% organic produce and Fundación Paraguaya banner!

24 June 2012

Intro Pictures

Here are some photos from my first couple of weeks at la Escuela Agrícola San Francisco de Asis. 

My room. 

My office! On sunny days I like to sit in that chair on the balcony to work. 

Paraguayan Politics

Here is the story of the current political situation in Paraguay. I have compiled my own research and conversations with staff from the school to try and give a comprehensive picture. On Friday, June 22nd the Paraguayan Congress impeached the country’s president, Fernando Lugo who was elected in 2008. Lugo was part of the movement in Latin America toward left-leaning presidents and is seen as a strong advocate for social programs and especially the rural poor. He was unable to enact many of the policies he promised, however, because of a Congressional majority by the opposition party, Colorado.

History: Lugo was the FIRST president not from the dictatorial party, Colorado. The Colorado Party ruled as dictators for thirty years, ending in 1989, and then their party’s candidates were elected up until Lugo in 2008. The Colorado party still has a significant portion of Congressional seats. Lugo ran as part of a coalition government with the support of the Liberal Party, Colorado’s main rival. Lugo’s vice president was from the Liberal Party.

22 June 2012

Farm chores and Political chaos

Much has happened in the past four days!

I have been on a rotation of the different parts of the school in order to see them all before I start my own projects. This has been a great way to learn more about the school's model as well as meet more of the students and staff. First and second year students go through all the rotations as well, spending a month at each section and then choosing one to specialize in, where they will spend their entire third year.

Tuesday- 'Planta Láctea', where all of the dairy products are processed. I cut, deseeded, and peeled pumpkins for two hours to make marmalada de zapallo (a cross between jam and dulce de leche) and watched them start the process for dulce de leche, made from our own cows' milk.

18 June 2012

La Escuela Agrícola San Francisco de Asis

I have arrived at the agriculture school where I will be working for the next two months! It is a three year program for students from ages 15 to 18, the majority of which are from campesino families around Paraguay. There are also students from Ecuador(!!), Argentina, Haiti, Bolivia, and maybe more but I am not sure. It is a boarding school so the wake-up bell rings at 5:45am, breakfast is at 7am after morning chores, and all students must be in their rooms by 9:30pm. The three grades are split into two sections and alternate one week of class in the field and then a week of classroom teaching. The curriculum is very intensive, with only half a day off on Saturday.

Here is an image of the school from Google Maps. The red dot is on the hotel, the trees to the left are where the buildings are and to the right are most of the gardens. You can zoom out to see where the school is within Paraguay.

View Larger Map
I have not yet met all of the staff and teachers that I will be working with, but so far everyone I have met has been extremely welcoming and excited to have me here. There is a family with two young children from the United States and a South African English teacher, otherwise no other interns.

17 June 2012

La Vida Paraguaya Comienza

As many of you know I am spending this summer after graduating from University of the Pacific working at Fundación Paraguaya. This organization was founded by a Paraguayan alumnus from Pacific and works with three initiatives - microfinance, entrepreneurial education, and sustainable agricultural education. I will be working at the San Francisco Sustainable Agricultural School about an hour (by car) or two hours (by bus) from the capital of Asunción. I spent the weekend meeting other interns working in the capital from Singapore, Australia, United States, South Korea, Paraguay, Spain, South Africa, and France; on Monday I will go to the school and begin settling in there.

I am excited to be jumping back into speaking Spanish, visiting a new country (for me), and learning more about the financially sustainable school model that Fundación Paraguaya uses and their sustainable agriculture programs.

Love to you all.