BY ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH I received my site last wednesday. It’s a semi-arid town in the department of Paraguari, and its got 75 houses in it. The land has that flat, sun-seared look to it that you see driving down the interstates at the end of summer, when all the grass has turned tan-copper but the trees still are green. It’s basically one long road, very Spaghetti-Western-looking. The people there were incredibly nice and gung-ho when I met them. I was there for five days, and visited probably a third of the houses in the area. The main issues that the place is dealing with is water scarcity, high blood pressure, dental problems, and a scarcity of vegetables.
As far as the physical infrastructure of Portrero Pucu, I was pretty surprised. It has many developed houses, there seems to be a wealth of cattle, and the house I was in staying in was one of two on the property of the landlord – and both had modern bathrooms. As my visit was kind of a reconoiter/get-to-know-the-community, I can’t tell you everything I’ll be doing. However, I do have some ideas: Many of the kids asked me if I was from the US, and then one asked me if I was from Germany, thinking it was a state in the US. So probably we’re going to do a World map on one of the school’s walls, if I can get permission from the Directora. I also wouldn’t be surprised if I spent a couple hours a week helping out one of my contacts with his English class.
Health related projects are going to be a little more tricky. The site’s biggest deficiency is water – my house had it, but there isn’t enough pressure to reach many houses in the higher elevations of the site. That makes it harder to grow vegetable gardens, promote cleaner hygiene, etc. However, there is a ton of bovine fecal matter lying just about everywhere, and that’s a prime site to infect children with hookworm and rowndworm. I stepped barefoot in a nice fresh patch during a football game…MORE
EDITOR’S NOTE: Phawker South American Bureau chief St. John Barned-Smith just started a two year hitch in the Peace Corps stationed in rural Paraguay. You can read his previous diary entries HERE.