I'm going on my third week as an Encarnecena; and since I will be living here for the next two years I might as well adopt the local namesake. I am amazed that I will be living the life of an urban Peace Corps volunteer, instead of my romanticized image of a rural volunteer watching her garden grow and fending off the occasional hostile cow. Although my site placement has hit me somewhat by surprise, I am thankful for the many opportunities I have to pursue here.
As soon as I arrived I hit the ground running with a two-day conference promoting volunteerism with various speakers and projects highlighting local volunteer organizations. I made friends with young people from the three Rotaract organizations here in Encarnacion and was able to accompany one group on a project visit to a neighboring health clinic and attend the awards ceremony for elected officer positions, which turned out to be an elegant evening of pomp and circumstance at a sushi restaurant. I have been pinching myself lately and wondering, "am I really in Paraguay?"
I also am working a few days a week at the office of employment where I will develop curriculum to help young people find employment, better their resumes, improve their professional English and even start a social entrepreneurship course with a national seed funding competition as the end result.
The rest of my time I am using to work with various non-profits in the area, specifically one that focuses on sustainable urban development on a city, national and international level. I get to develop a best practices course for non-profit management and help bring these organizations along from the start-up/fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants phase to a more sustainable and operationally sound model.
I also confirmed with Fundacion Paraguaya, a reputable microfinance organization, that I will be collaborating with them to perform a social performance audit using the measurement tool developed by Truelift, an organization I worked with in Colorado. This will be the basis of my work for my master's thesis at the University of Denver.
In addition, I should probably also mention that I will also be compiling a community study of Encarnacion and various SWOT analyses of the organizations and institutions I will be working with here in Encarnacion.
So if anyone (including myself) thought that I would be lounging in the countryside, sipping on terere and voraciously reading Anna Kerenina and all the other classics I downloaded on my kindle, you're dead wrong. Now if I can just get my professional Spanish up to snuff, I will be ready to take on the next big life challenge that has been handed to me: become a guapa (hardworking) Encarnecena and make some serious waves over the next two years.
Wish me luck!