Thursday, December 20, 2012

Patagonia: It punishes.

"La Patigonia. Se castiga." (The Patagonia. It punishes.) 

These words were uttered by the Bariloche wine vendor across the street from where we are staying. He was referencing the weather, but his ominous words seemed to imply more than just the wind and rain. Or at least that's how Zack and I were feeling after our first couple days in Argentina.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gone Awesoming: Second try

I know the last time I used this headline, I shortly after killed my computer, but I live on the edge so let's push fate.

A lot has happened in the last week. I put on a moderately successful community event, Julia, my site mate has left town and in exchange I officially have full custody of a dog. (Her name is Mo. She's so cute.)

I am doing my best to get all these updates up, but things are crazy around here, compounded by the fact that I'm leaving for a two week vacation with Zack to Buenos Aires, and Bariloche on Saturday, and leave site for that trip today. Two weeks of Climbing, Argentine wine, good food, and wonderful company. It's gonna be awesome. I really wanna get one more real post up before I leave, but I am doubtful about it happening.  I'll be back after the New Year for sure, and will probably, be on Twitter and FB, but honestly the interwebs are gonna be the farthest thing from my mind.

So in case I don't get on here one more time, here is my Campo 9 family Christmas card, with Mo and her two Mommies, Julia and me.

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I was born this way: Lady Gaga comes to Paraguay.

Things I didn't think would happen during Peace Corps:


Paws up bitches. Lady Gaga came to town, and shit got crazy. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Giving thanks: A Thanksgiving dinner in Paraguay

Last week we all learned where Turkeys come from. (Not the freezer section of a grocery store.) Now it's time to talk about their proper final resting place.

In my belly.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Peace Corps Fitness Challenge: December

We are in full holiday mode. This is a time for not caring what you eat, and enjoying the holidays. However, I know that not everyone wants to abandon all physical activity in exchange for cookies and cocktail parties.

Here in Peace Corps Paraguay, this marks a time for lots of travel. Life kinda shuts down in Paraguay in December and January, so there isn't a lot of work to be done. PCVs take this time to visit friends, and take vacations. We often find ourselves on a bus, or in a different town away from our usual routine. Anytime  away from normal routine makes it challenging to keep up with workouts, and especially when faced with a 6 hour bus ride that day. That being said, it is not impossible to maintain some level of activity, even if it's just ten minutes.

This month's challenge:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Death in the Afternoon: The making of a turkey dinner

Disclaimer: This post involves blood and guts and death. I think this is totally natural and even a little awesome, but I know others might not.  Read at your own risk. 

“About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”  - Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon 
 In America, every fall we come together for a mass genocide. Millions die while we enjoy the crisp autumn air, the changing of the leaves, and take in a football game. We celebrate this time of death, and even cherish it. It is a beloved tradition to be shared with family. We call it Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why is it called a slumber party when there is no slumber?

I'm confused. Disoriented. I find myself in a whirling dervish of giggles and excited shrieks. The smell of nail polish is in the air, and hair scrunchies are flying. The scene feels oddly familiar, like that of a distant memory I've tried to block out, but also very very different.

I'm at a slumber party. 

In Paraguay. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rock Climbing in Paraguay: a long over due post.

The first thing I did when I found I was going to Paraguay, was google "Rock Climbing in Paraguay." Exactly one reference to one route came up in an online user-maintained climbing directory. I figured that meant there had to be some. As my friend Matt said, "There had to be a rock, somewhere." So a couple pair of undies and maybe a pair of pants got taken out of my backpack to make room for my climbing shoes and harness. It was a wise choice.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

They Really Like Me? - The Greatist Ambassador Program

I love the internet. It's power to connect people is remarkable. It really puts me at awe. However here at Sastre Desastre it sometimes feels lonely. I have all the metrics I want to prove that people see my blog, but  it is still hard to realize that people read my blog, and like it. To think these people extend beyond my friends and family is even more unbelievable. But the people at seem to like what I do. They have accepted me to be a Greatist Ambassador.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Why did I do this?
After ticking off my big goal of completing a marathon, I could no longer stomach the idea of running everyday. I was mentally exhausted, and I needed help to keep me in the rhythm of regular workouts. So I put on our PC Facebook group the Peace Corps Fitness Challenge, a series of challenges lasting one month that can be use to stay focused. To my surprise it found a good response, and now I want to invite you all to participate

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Nursing, Rock, and Roll in Paraguay

Guapo: def. Forget what you thought is meant. It means hard working. Not that you're hot. Weird, I know.
Charla: def. Forget that you thought it meant to chat. It's an instructional seminar. Weird, I know.

There are many different types of volunteers. Some volunteers are really involved with youth, others prefer an older demographic, some like to focus on national initiatives, and some just lock themselves in their house for two years and wait it out. Then there are those super guapo volunteers who give a charla or teach a class like every freaking day.

I am not a charla giving volunteer. While I have taught a variety of classes, I don't often find myself in front of a classroom. It's just not my thing. There are volunteers who jump into a classroom and light it up. They are captivating, and impressive. You can tell that they know what they are doing, while I just shuffle around awkwardly until my allotted time is up. I have good intentions. My results just seem to always fall a little short of inspiring.

Now, forget everything I just said, because I gave an awesome charla yesterday. To be fair, the awesomeness had very little to do with me, but rather a girl in sitting in the back of the room, who made my day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

FRANKEN STORM!!!!: 5 Peace Corps tips for when the power goes out

In Peace Corps we like to call days with power outages, Tuesday.

Living without power ain't so bad. It's the cruel irony of the water going out every time it rains, that really kills. But for all of you in America who are freaking out about Frankenstorm and potentially being without power or roads for a few days here's a few tips from a pro:

1) It's not that bad.
       You complain about going to work all the time. Take the time, enjoy your day off. I highly recommend you don't VPN into your work email. You are conserving the battery life on lap top for more important things.

2) Stock up on candles but be careful, they will set your clothes on fire that are hanging from the same bed post you just placed that candle. (True story.) No candle stick? Just melt a few drops on to the surface you want the candle to stick and then place candle on top of wet wax.

3) If the power goes out and the fridge doesn't work, no worries. Eggs don't need to be refrigerated anyways. Promise.

4) If you can't drive on the roads and are stuck inside your house do your best to not go stir crazy. I like to do chores super inefficiently walking from one room to another. It makes time go faster and I feel like I went somewhere.

5) Do not write snarky blog posts about how living with out power is no big deal. Karma is swift and just, and your power will also go out in the middle of writing tip number four. I can't make this shit up!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Zumba is Friggin' Hard: My exercise class

So a couple weeks ago a talk about what's wrong with health and fitness, here is where I talk about what's right.

While it is called a secondary project because it doesn't relate directly to my sector of work, one of the biggest and most important projects I've done is Paraguay is lead a group of women in a 30 min to an hour long work out class twice a week.

I was handed this class by the volunteer who came before me. She started this class, and asked for the next volunteer to continue. While never explicitly admitted I'm pretty certain that's a huge reason I was placed in this site. I'm sure glad they did.

Those who know me, know just how lacking I am when it comes to grace, and rhythm  I am super amped that I live in a time when jumping up and down fist pumping on a dance floor now counts as dancing. Anything else is pretty much over my head. But here I am teaching Zumba, and loving every minute of it.

Not since my debut in the Sunshine Dancing Kids in 2nd grade have I enjoyed choreographed dance so much. My group and I laugh and sweat our way through jumps, salsa steps and booty shakes. Most of the women there do have weight loss goals, and I imagine that some of them are at risk for obesity related diseases, but the goal of the group is not weight loss. The goal of the group is have fun, push our limits, and make fun of me in Guarani.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Laid back sippin on Terrere: tutorial number 2

Last summer I wrote, produced and starred in my own video about Terrere. That video, if I must say, was a gem. While I am still waiting to hear back from the Travel Channel about a possible pilot, it makes me glad to know that you all have been educated about Terrere. However, I think my solo video lacked a little of the essence of Terrere that is hard to communicate through words alone. So in order to fill that gap I give you Mike Nixon, fellow PCV and full time gangster.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LAY OFF ME I'M STARVING: Making sense of my role as a "Health Professional"

This post is a little about Paraguay, but not entirely. It's about more than Paraguay and in some ways less. It's about something every person does on a daily basis, one of the most intimate of acts. Sitting down and eating a meal.
Tastes so good.

Monday, October 1, 2012

This is what happens when...

This is what happens when you run for a long time on a red dirt road.

Did my own pedicure. 

That's not a tan line. Just straight up tierra colorada. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home sweet home. I pray to god this is the last one.

Generally in PC, people have health problems or they have housing problems. Those are the two of the biggest annoyances that plague volunteers, and it's impossible to go two years without one of these two becoming an issue. Be it guardia that just won't quit, or a land lord that scams the electric company and tries to peg you for the bill when they get caught. (That's for you, Rick.) This is the reality. I however, have been served up a double dose of reality this past year. Not only have I had any number of health ailments that I don't like to describe to my doctor let alone on this blog, but I have had a hell of time finding stable housing.
First one on the right

Sunday, August 26, 2012

This post is long, like the Marathon I just ran. (Now with pictures.)

Today I ran a marathon. I'm not sure what possessed me to do it, but I did. After running for six months I walked up to the start line, arguably unprepared but as good as it was gonna get. I figured I would just run REALLY slow and get through it. I had only one goal, to finish, and they gave me 6 hours to do that. Seemed reasonable. It was not. I was about to bend over and become this Marathon's bitch, and I didn't even know it.
This is how it went. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More from Business Camp

Last week I wrote about the business camp I helped put on. Even a whole two weeks later it's still my favorite project to date.  The winner has officially incorporated, and many others are getting to work. SUPER AWESOME!

Julie, a volunteer friend of mine, was kind enough to put together a short promotional video for the event. I think it captures the feeling of the event well, mixing both business and fun.

Jóvenes Empresarios de Paraguay! from Julia Pretzlaff on Vimeo.

Giancarlo sums up my thoughts about this initiative pretty well. It's in Spanish so you have no idea what those thoughts are, so I'll paraphrase.

"I can see the potential of each youth in presenting their projects. And with these youth we are going to change the country and make each day better."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

HALF TIME: One year in Paraguay

Sometimes it's hard to consider what I do work. If I  made one friend here in Paraguay, and kept up with this blog, I would accomplish two thirds of the tasks I am asked to do as a Peace Corps Volunteer. But I'm kinda shitty at making friends so I end up doing work.

Paraguay's Donald Trump is some where in this pic.
For the past year I have dabbled in a variety of projects. From exercise to kindergarten, I've done my best to keep busy. Some projects succeeded; most failed. This is my life.

Teaching kids to glue pasta to a piece of paper is not a wasted project, but you gotta define "impact" and "developement" broader than Texas' interpretation of the second amendment to think that's why I came here. However, this past weekend the reasons as to why I picked up my life and moved to this tiny country in the heart of South America were abundantly clear.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paraguay's biggest tourist attraction, in Argentina

"Hi Taylor!"
"Hey mom, hows it going?"
Muffeled person in the background
"I'm here with Jackie. She wants to know if you've gone to that place yet? She says you have to go to that place with the water falls. "
"What's it called...What?... Igwagoo? " - to Jackie
"Well, anyway you just have to go. Have you gone yet?"

I have had this exact conversation more than once, and I am glad to finally say, Yes Jackie, I've gone to Iguazu Falls, and you're right, it was incredible

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Clearly, I'm a danger to myself and others.

There are exactly four cannot, do not, or else get your ass sent home rules in Peace Corps Paraguay. I am proposing a fifth for the safety of myself and my fellow adrenaline junkie volunteers.

It's no secret I'm no huge fan of rules and restrictions. My Dad raised me right, teaching me its better to ask forgiveness than permission. However on this occasion I must admit that I was too stupid to do the right thing, and could have used a big brother guiding me.

Hot dog wrapped in empanada & Fried!
Campo 9 recently had it's Fiesta Patronal, or Patron Saint day. It was a fun filled day, with a church service in the morning followed by a procession where we walked behind a statue of Joseph for a couple blocks, and all topped off with a carnival. Julia and I had seen the carnival setting up for days. We were amped. We hoped for some carnival staples, greasy food, fun games, and good rides.

All of those things were present, but I would use a different adjective than "good" for the ride portion, unless you equate "good" with death defying.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let's try this again

About an hour ago I wrote and posted in regards to recent events here in Paraguay. True to form, I could not prevent myself from sharing my opinion on the matter. My good friend informed me that this was perhaps not prudent. Seeing as I only have smart friends I took her advice and took down the post.

I know this blog is the main source for many people who care about me to know what's going on in my life, so I wanted to bring you up to date. Here's what is the actually important part.

I'm safe.

As the situation becomes clearer perhaps I can add more insight. But for now, know that things are calm, and life goes on.

Thanks to you all for your concern.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

A good meal, A good day.

*NOTE: I've received negative feedback in regards to this post. I would like to clarify that this is not meant to suggest that the food culture of the US is superior other than it is the food I grew up with. Food is a matter of taste and the food here isn't necessarily to mine. I don't shy away from the words that follow, but please know that I respect that Paraguayans love their food and may dislike mine. I have posted the negative feed back and my response in the comments section. I think it best illustrates the legitimate gripes with this posts, and maybe fills in some of the gaps I left out when writing the following.*

I often complain about Paraguayan food. It's not my favorite food culture in the world. To be honest, no matter the culture, unless Jamon Serrano is a staple in the diet, it's not my favorite.
Eaten at every meal.
A weird diet, heavily centered on meat and starch, I find Paraguayan food bland and greasy.  Chipa guazu and Sopa Paraguaya are the primary traditional breads. They're the same fucking thing! And who the hell calls bread "Paraguayan soup?" They have soup here. It contains giant hunks of meat that you must gnaw at, because cutting tough meat inside a bowl of soup is really fucking difficult. Also, the pasta is gummy, and how one can love mandioca as dearly as Paraguayans do is beside me.  And then there was the whole pig nose incident, among other offenses.
Chipa Guazu, I think

Sopa Paraguaya, Maybe

 Yet we return to that recurring theme in my Peace Corps Service. Just when I think I can't take it any more, Paraguay throws me a bone.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bien Frio: My Terere Tutorial.

Spain has Jamon serrano; Ireland has Guinness; and since everything is bigger in Texas, I'll give the lone star state the whole category of Tex-mex. Everywhere in the world has that one thing. That food or drink not only typical but rather characterizes the place and the people living there. It holds a special place in our hearts, and it can sometimes be hard to imagine that elsewhere in the world wouldn't have the same.
There are few things more Paraguayan than that.

Paraguay is no exception.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

KONY2012 and TOMS Shoes - Meditations on doing good.

Teju Cole penned this article for the Atlantic this week in response to the KONY2012 movement. I recommend you read it on it's own merit, but also to increase your understanding of my post.

Not wanting "Better" to be the enemy of "Good", I acknowledge the accomplishment of  KONY2012 in raising awareness of war crimes in Africa. This thing practically hit cat video status. However, it highlights an uncomfortable trend that I couldn’t articulate properly until reading Cole's article.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

National Geographic: My house

Happy Thursday!
The first thing you do in Peace Corps is what we call "staging." You and all the people with whom you'll be entering country meet up stateside to have the first introduction to what happens next, before taking that international flight.

During these two days we get some general safety and cultural guidelines, but it's also a time to share your concerns and fears. My fears included things like "This is going to be really freaking hard," "Two years is a long freaking time," and "Did you know Paraguay is a developing country?" My friends, however, had something else they all seemed to fear beyond reason.

Me thinking: Bugs, really? That's all you got?

Almost universally, my new friends shared their fears of creepy crawlies indigenous to Paraguay. Spiders, scorpions, and even jaguars we're brought up as potential threats. I disregarded their fears as almost childish.

Now I am ready to admit, they were right.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Erin Go Braugh Paraguaygua! - Now with more Pie.

I'm never totally sure which day is actually St. Paddy's since I usually celebrate over a two separate weekends, but Julia came over last night feeling pretty confident it was the day. So what else was there to do except dye some beer green, put on Boon Dock Saints and eat pie.

How 'bout a pint? Or a medio-litro. We're not really sure. 
It may seem odd to celebrate this tiny North Atlantic island while in a Latin American country, BUT there is at least one Paraguayan of Irish decent. His name was Juan O'Leary, (Pronounced: O-Lee-aar-ree) and he's actually pretty famous. He even has a town named after him just 20 minutes away from mine. What he did? I have no idea. But hell, that's what St. Paddy's is about, very thin or outright false claims to Irish heritage. Right? Even this guy likes to brag about his Irish-ness.

So Happy St. Paddy's from this 1/8th (I think) Irish girl. I hope you all are recovering appropriately.

By request, Pie recipe after the jump.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Añe’e michimi guaranime (I speak a little of your god damn language.)

Recently in the New York Times there was an article about Paraguay’s indigenous language Guarani.

There are many indigenous languages still spoken in the America’s but usually each language is spoken by a small portion of a country’s population.  Lots of people speak an indigenous language in Bolivia, just not all the same one. In Paraguay, Guarani is spoken by almost everyone.
I can guarantee you those guys speak Guarani
I’ve mentioned this language in passing before, but seeing as I don’t speak it, I try not to be an expert on the subject. Guarani is a topic I have very mixed feeling about. I love it. I love that Paraguay is so proud of their indigenous language, and that there are increasing efforts to keep it alive and relevant. However, I think only Guarani itself might have sufficient vulgarities for how much I hate it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

America the Awesome

This is a few weeks late but I wanted to write a little bit about what a great time I had in America on my recent vacation.

It’s unlike me to write without some level of snark, but I genuinely enjoyed myself. I admit, returning to America was strange and not totally dissimilar from reentering the matrix, but that’s a story for another post.

I Dream About This.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Home Sweet..OH DEAR GOD!: First night in my new house.

It is not uncommon on the first night in a new home to find yourself sleeping on the floor. If you haven't ever experienced this, trust me. I move a lot. Sleeping on the floor is like a right of passage. This sort of indoor camping is a fun way to break in a new house. A pizza box, an air mattress and empty space you get to fill often are the only items in the house, heightening the excitement surrounding your new adventure.

I moved into a new place on Friday. It kinda happened like what I described above. Ok not at all. Rather I found myself rocking back and forth in the fetal position trying to block out the terror that surrounded me.

Go to you're happy place!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Ramblings of a Rambling Woman: 24 hours of Airports Documented.

It's one a.m. Well past my bed time. I'm drinking coffee and typing at the computer. Only two things can be happening here, I've been transported back to Holy Grounds at Villanova, or I'm waiting to catch the red eye out of Asuncion.
The one place in PY with AC decides to use it as a human refrigeration device.