Saturday, September 27, 2014

Granja El Roble and Belen (Part 2)

This is the cabin we stayed in.
Well, it turns out I took a LOT of pictures of the place, and they didn't all fit in my last post! Here are some photos from our second day. After a leisurely morning drinking coffee and eating breakfast, we walked into the town of Belen. In these little towns, you have to learn how to entertain yourself! We stopped by a tiny craft fair, walked forever looking for the river, talked to a really old lady who spoke mostly Guarani, got some ice cream, walked through the cemetery, and walked through a lot of mud! All in all it was a good day. 

The next morning we walked a few kilometers up to Belen.

Belen's claim to fame is that the Tropic of Capricorn runs through it!


This is the guy that crawled out of the lake!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Granja El Roble and Belen (Part 1)

Our first long weekend of the year is Spring Break, in September. As with all long weekends in recent memory, epic rain was predicted, foiling our original plans. A group of 8 of us (5 teachers, 2 spouses, and 1 teaching from another school) was originally planning to visit a lake and beach in Paraguay called Laguna Blanca. However, Laguna Blanca is at the end of a 40 km. dirt road. If it rained, we'd be stranded out there-possibly for days. If we made it. Our backup plan was to visit an Ecolodge outside the town of Concepcion, which is up to the north.

It took about 5 hours to get there. One interesting thing was this weekend coincided with a big event, the Trans-Chaco Rally, a 3-day car race, said to be one of the most difficult routes in the world. We did see some of the vehicles while we were driving.

Paraguayan Traffic Jam
As always, as soon as we got out of Asuncion the scenery changed drastically, and it was beautiful. I love driving through the "chaco"-it is flat flat flat and characterized by lots of palm trees and not much else! As is often the case in this country, we were on major highways that turned to dirt roads under construction for many kilometers, then back to highways. We stopped in Concepcion for food (and wine, lots of wine) before the last leg to our destination. This was on a muddy dirt road, but the cars and their drivers were champs and we arrived without problems.

The owner, a German named Peter, greeted us and showed us around. We chose to stay in a dorm-like room that slept 6, and a 2-person cottage. The lodging was definitely on the rustic side, but most of the charm lay in what was outside the rooms. The land is beautiful, overflowing with flowers and wildlife. Peter has rescued a howler monkey, a tiny silk monkey, a toucan, and some other exotic birds. He also has a bunch of turtles, aquariums full of critters, and a pet tapir. I also saw either a big lizard or a small caiman scampering into the lake. I decided not to swim in it. :)
Erica's eagle eyes (toucan eyes) spotted this guy hanging out on the side of the road. So cool!

This should get us through the first night.....

We spent the evening checking out the place and the critters while Peter's wife cooked up a feast for us! They raise pigs and fish and everything we were served was local and amazing! After dinner we got out the card games and the wine and enjoyed a beautiful evening.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Rambling Thoughts on Teaching Abroad, and My Decision

So to sum up the months of June, July, and August, I said goodbye to my students, about half of my friends/colleagues, went back to Colorado for three weeks, then returned to Paraguay with about 20 new teachers on my staff. Then only a few days later school started with my new group of kids. It was a whirlwind.

All that whirlwind kind of made me think about what it means to live and teach abroad. I mean, obviously, you have the amazing benefits of being able to travel, explore, and see the world like most people only dream of. And the downside of missing "home" like crazy. I kind of expected both. But one of my friends here in Paraguay, Bree, summed it up more perfectly than I could: "It's like I live two lives. I have my life in the US and my life here, and there is absolutely nothing in common between them." It's so true, and it's pretty bizarre. I think it might be easier in a lot of ways to be part of a teaching couple or family abroad than a single, for just this reason. I am embracing every experience but it's also a really strange way to live, when you think about it. Another thing that was a little difficult was the transience of the teachers at my school last year. I think it was an unusual year to have so many teacher deciding to leave at once, but dang if I was starting to like those people. Now I've started to make new friends with the incoming group, but it's still strange to change out half of your coworkers in a year. And in this world, coworkers = friends and coworkers = your family-so it's a big deal.

I hope I'm not coming across as negative because I am having the most amazing experience. The experience of a lifetime. Just doing some reflecting.

So the second part of my title, the decision. By the end of October we had to announce our intentions for the following school year. Yes, international schools run on a totally different hiring schedule! For me, I kind of always planned on staying for two years. For one thing, I have some ties at home, like my townhome, to consider. For another, I don't exactly know if, for every year I teach overseas, is another year I'll have to work in the US before I can retire. That would kind of suck so I should probably figure some Adult Things out pretty soon here. Plus, I just love where I'm from, and my people there, so dang much that I kind of want to go back! Not in a weepy-homesick-I'm miserable kind of way, just a normal way. So I filled out my paperwork and turned it in, announcing my intention to leave at the end of the school year. It's not that easy of a decision, really, because I have great friends here, and financially it's been beneficial as well. Not to mention my cush schedule and planning time at work. But for's the right decision for me. Who knows where I'll end up in a couple of years?

In the meantime, of you know of any teaching jobs opening up in the metro Denver/Northern Colorado area come July 2015, let me know!