Livin´ like the locals

Trip Start Feb 07, 2006
Trip End Aug 07, 2006

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Flag of Paraguay  ,
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

DISCLAIMER: It was always our intent to post our experiences with our sponsored child, Fabiola, in our travel blog. After meeting with Plan on our last day with them, they wanted to make sure that we did not give others the false impression that our experience was a typical one which sponsored parents could take part in.

As weŽve learned, Plan allowed us to spend a week with our child so that we could give them our feedback on the experience, as a type of experiment.

The goal for Plan was to get our feedback on the experience and see how practical it would be to offer such a volunteering experience to other sponsoring parents.

Hopefully, one day, such extended visits and volunteerism will be possible with Plan but as of this writting it is not. Please understand as you read this.


Make sure to check out Andrea's Travel Blog for more stories and photos of our trip!

Day 6 - A day in the life of an impoverished Paraguayan

Andrea was back and 100% healthy so we set out for the cotton fields. Fabiola's grand parents were farmers and owned some land nearby. Today, we would pick cotton in their field first.

If you think you're having a bad day, just thank god you aren't picking cotton.

In the sticky heat, crouched over and picking small balls of cotton from ripe pods of cotton hanging from small prickly plants is hard work. Their entire field grossed only $500 USD, which isn't very much considering just how much cotton the field produced, 1000 kilos.

After a few hours of picking weŽd been well bitten by several voracious species of insects and were dripping with sweat so we headed back to Fabiola's for lunch. It was time to cook!

We stopped off at the market and picked up some ingredients to make a popular Canadian dish for the family, Sheppard's pie. We bought enough to fed everyone and got to work. It was quite an experience cooking in their home on the brick oven.

By making a small fire under the pots, we were able to fry, boil and bake the pies within about an hour. Aside from the heat of being in a small room with a roaring fire ( on top of the already hot and sticky weather ) was the only major hardship.

This oven, or pre-fab, as it's called was very efficient. It had been one of the projects which Plan helped with and was much much safer and more efficient than a simple fire pit roaring in the kitchen which wastes wood and runs a risk of torching their home which was made mostly of dried wood and straw!

After lunch, we ate some guava from their guava tree, feed the chickens and did the laundry. Laundry here is done in a curious bucket.

Take one tire, cut in half, flip it inside out and seal one side.

Now get water from the well to fill it and voila, you have a bath for the kids and a bucket to wash your clothes in.

Seeing as the family only have 2-3 garments each ( which are very well worn and just barely hanging together ), doing the laundry almost daily is needed.

We got down on our knees, reached in for the soap and washed their laundry while the mother showed us how it was done. I'm not too sure how effective we were but we helped until all of the clothes, about 10 pieces, where now "clean'ish".

I've said it before and I'll say it again, we sure have it good in North America!

Day 7 - School day

Today we went to Fabiola's school, Plan had already helped this school quite a bit. They had new furniture, clean washrooms ( western style! ) and clean water.

It was the nicest looking school we'd seen so far.

By western standards, the school was nothing much but by Paraguayan standards, it was a gem. With 8 classrooms ranging from preschool to high school, they had their hands full. It was only a few days before school started after their long summer vacations.

The teachers were all huddled into a small room where the principal was hosting a meeting.

"Come! Come!" they waved us in.

Roughly 20 teachers were crammed into a small office. We shuffled over and stood in front of the teachers with the principal who we'd recognized from the "rodeo" a few days back.

Teachers in Paraguay made $3,000 USD per year, a salary they were obviously not too happy with.

We shared a heavily translated chat with the teachers for a while which included a funny question as whether I was single to which Andrea protested an exaggerated "Yes!" which got a big laugh from everyone.

Apparently the male teachers wanted to know if Andrea was single too. I didn't hear the answer to that question but I hope Augusto answered no! : )

Letters to a friend

Once a year the sponsored children send letters back to their sponsor. I was one of the only sponsors lucky enough to actually see the letter being written. Plan had organized for the kids to write their letters with us present. The kids gathered in a classroom where older volunteers helped them write the letters. I sat next to Fabiola and watched as she wrote me a letter and drew a picture which I would receive 6 months later in Canada.

"Bravo!" I whispered to Fabiola

Many of the kids didn't realize just how important it was to send these letters back to their sponsors, we wanted to make that they knew.

Just like Christmas

It was now time to unload the bags of goodies we'd hauled in from Canada for the kids. We called over the principal and Andrea handed him the stacks of pencils, erasers and other supplies which Andrea's school ( Ste Catherine's School ) had donated.

The kids then drew thank you cards for us to take home to the school after which we gave them each a toy.

We spread the toys out on a table and tried our best to avoid a riot as the kids eyes lit up and they were drawn in to pick their toys which we had stocked up on at the dollar store before coming to Paraguay.

Off we go

We ended our day at the school by poking at a hole in the ground next to the grade 5 class where a tarantula lived. Although having a tarantula living in the playground of a school back home would cause mass concern and even make headline local news, no one flinched when I pointed out that a freaking killer spider was burrowed under the class!

As the stick went deeper into the hole, I could feel the spider striking the stick in defense.

A few people pitched in and tried to lure the spider out for us to see but it was shy that day.

Perhaps it was best to leave it alone.

With out parting goodbyes came an invitation.

"Cerveca, Vino, BBQ" were all words I recognized in the principal's invitation for dinner.

We accepted his courteous invite to come eat with them the following day at his home.

Dinner was set for 9pm "a la manana". With the heat and long days, we were in bed by 10 these days, a 9pm dinner ( as is usual here ) would be a tough one but we'd give it a shot.
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hmatute on

Hey Luc and Andrea
First close look at your trip on a very cold Sat evening.
Luc: nice hair!
I will send you a private msg regarding your posting. The only comment for this entry: enjoy the people, their surroundings and their traditions - when you look back once in Canada you will remember that. Paraguay (and the rest of South America) is not Canada, and it's very likely Paraguayans would like it it that way. Cuidense mucho...

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