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!