Published: July 25th 2011July 20th 2011
Week 4: July 13 - July 20
My fourth week started with a bang! I finished translating the USAID document in a 12-hour work day! In the middle of that day, we visited another junta (water board) in Posta Ybyraro, a town about 30 minutes outside of Asuncion. This junta is much more developed compared to the three juntas I visited on my second day in Paraguay. They serve a larger population, have a plan for the future, and support the culture of the community by holding a dance school on their second floor. That night I left the office at 9 pm, and I had to wake up early the next morning (Friday) to leave Asuncion for a meeting out of town.
This meeting was held in Eusebio Ayala and it covered the National Water Conference. It was a little more than 2 hours out of Asuncion, and we picked a couple people up on the way. I loved the car ride, because I saw many towns and street vendors. I feel like I witnessed more of the Paraguayan traditional culture being outside of Asuncion. There, I met the presidents of six Associations in Paraguay. Associations are the organizations
that overlook the juntas in each Department of the country (they look over anywhere between 50 and 300 juntas each). Two presidents (one from Horqueta, in the North, and one from a town about an hour out of Asuncion) want me to visit their towns to help with engineering related projects. The project in Horqueta is to determine the appropriate pipe size (diameter) for a pipe system to serve 1,700 new families (that currently do not have access to water). The project in the other town is to figure out the size of a reservoir that water can be pumped to and stored in to serve 12 families. I enjoyed hearing the passion that each person at the meeting had. I learned some Guarani (the traditional language in Paraguay) on the ride back to Asuncion and bought some warm chipa at the best chiperia in town (Chiperia Maria Ana) to snack on.
This weekend, I went out to a Reggaeton Discoteca, hung out in the pool, and went to a concert in a plaza in El Centro (downtown). The concert was so fun! There were many young Paraguayans out and having a good time. Downtown was actually alive after
3 pm on a Saturday (which is unusual even though it is downtown)! Sunday was another thunder storm for the majority of the morning and early afternoon. I saw the Paraguay game for Copa America at Paula’s parents’ house again. It was an intense game with Brazil losing by missing every penalty kick. After I left their house, the city was chaotic! Cars were honking, flashing their lights, and waving flags for over an hour after the game ended. It is wonderful to see the whole city (and I’m sure the entire country) unite under futbol (soccer) in their red and white jerseys chanting “Paraguay!” After the game, it was a night of firsts. I ate my first “American fast food” (Burger King) in this country and saw my first movie in a theater in Paraguay (Harry Potter: 3D!).
The warm weather continued, but it started to get a bit chilly again as I made my trip Monday night to Horqueta. The bus left the Asuncion terminal at 10:45 pm and arrived to Horqueta at 5:30 am. I worked that day with Porfirio Gayoso, the President of the Concepcion Association. I spent the day driving around as he showed
me the project area, I took notes about all the project information (pipe sizes, distances, amount of water users in each community, tank capacity, well depth, etc.), and we visited the Junta (San Antonio). This junta is also pretty developed, with a radio station to inform the town about health, water use, etc.; and they have a kitchen where they teach cooking classes to women in the community. After, we had lunch at his house with his family, and I was surprised by two young men who asked to interview me. I was asked about why I was in Paraguay, what I was doing in their town, and advice I had for water users. It was hard to think on my toes, but I think it went well. I later found out that my interview would be put on the town’s nightly news! That was pretty nerve-racking! After my interview, we went driving around again, and Gayoso drove me around the extremely poor part of town. This is where I encountered the peak of my trip. People live at the bottom of a hill, so rain runoff flows down to their stream carrying trash and any contaminants from uphill. Also,
there are only a couple wells, all of which I was told have water that contains fourth grade fecal contamination. Even a hospital here uses that water. A factory dumps its waste into the stream, and a cow shoe business dumps its waste right out the side of its property, which flows right down to people’s front “yards.” The smell was one thing, but the idea that this all eventually enters people’s water was disturbing. I wish there was something I could have done to help at that very moment. Later, I spent time with Gayoso’s daughter and her friend, reading and playing with them, then ate dinner (traditional asado), saw my clip on the nightly news (embarrassing but exciting!), watched soccer, and headed to the bus terminal. My bus going to Asuncion left that night at 10:15 pm, and I returned to Asuncion at 7 am, since the bus decided to stop for a whole hour because of the pouring rain. It was a long day and a half! Luckily I only had to go to work in the afternoon that day.
I met with the interns after work and watched the Semifinals of the Copa America that
night (Paraguay vs Venezuela) at a mall near their house. It was an adventure just getting to where I met up with them. It decided to POUR down rain right as I was leaving the office. The roads were like rivers, with inches and sometimes a foot deep of water. The cars here do not care about pedestrians, as they will drive fast through the streets and splash water every which way. I had to cross the street to get the bus in the direction I needed, so crossing the “river” was necessary. My feet were soaked! The mall put up a large screen in the food court for everyone to watch the game on. It was FULL of people of all ages, cheering loudly. I had so much fun! I think the crowd cheered more for the goals that Venezuela missed than for anything else. Haha! Paraguay ended up winning the game (after 90 minutes of regulation time, 30 minutes of extra time, and penalty kicks). The crowd was nuts, and the streets outside weren’t much different.
Another week has passed, and I feel like I have been here for so long! I am mastering more bus lines
as the weeks pass, which make it easier to navigate the city. Every day, I appreciate the support of those who made it possible for me to have this incredible experience. It is one that I will never forget, and has already contributed so much to the opportunities I see around me for using my engineering education. Hasta luego!
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