Dear Friends and Family,
I am wishing you very happy holidays from far-away Encarnacion, Paraguay. This year has been full of exciting challenges and I thank you for sharing these moments as well as supporting me along the way.
Paraguay has transformed from an unknown destination into my new home over the last six months. My professional Spanish is improving and my Guarani vocabulary is limited but growing. I have started working on several projects in community economic development, including teaching courses in English, entrepreneurship and employability skills. I am working with inspiring young Paraguayan leaders to build the capacity of a sustainable urban development NGO and I am also newly part of a national Peace Corps initiative that serves as a small business incubator and consulting firm for young entrepreneurs. I have the opportunity to work on a local level with women’s groups and youth groups in marginalized areas as well as work on a national level to strengthen the organizational structure of several country-wide initiatives. I could not have asked for a more fitting service to complement my Mater’s program in International Development from the University of Denver, which I completed in March.
It has been quite the adventure getting to this point, and I have certainly had both ups and downs. The heat here is unlike anything I have ever experienced, but fortunately there is terere, (the iced version of Yerba Mate), and plenty of activities to take my mind off the intense weather. My community, Encarnacion, has been a pleasant surprise. It is much more urban and touristy than I imagined my Peace Corps experience to be. However, I am appreciative for the uniqueness of my service and the opportunities I have to grow professionally and personally over the next two years.
The time has already flown by and I have no doubt that I will be reconnecting with everyone from Montana, Colorado and elsewhere before I know it. Until then, take care and know that I am truly grateful to have you with me on this adventure. All the best for 2015! Cheers, Emily