Monthly Archives: November 2010

My Running Process

  1. Alarm rings…I should go for a run today! Maybe I’ll go in the evening, when it’s not so hot.
  2. 5 hours later…I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go.
  3. I should go right now before I never leave the house.
  4. Spandex. Sneakers. Hi-Tech Adidas Running shirt with space for my headphones.
  5. It’s Go Time.
  6. You are doing it. Woohoo you are doing it!
  7. 10 minutes in…I’m going to die. I’ll never make it. There’s no way I can keep going.
  8. Just go for 20 minutes. Then you can call it quits. 20 minutes is acceptable.
  9. 20 minutes in…break time, need a breather.
  10. 25 minutes in…This isn’t so bad. I don’t know why I didn’t leave the house sooner
  11. 30 minutes in…how much longer til I’ve hit 40 minutes?
  12. What street is this? Where’s the road sign? Why does the road end unexpectedly?
  13. Ah, here’s the unevenly cobbled stone street with patches of sand I remember running on before.
  14. Run past the creepy park guard and family drinking terere on the street corner.
  15. Hello, kitty!
  16. Look out crazy driver, I’m not stopping so you’d better be!
  17. Oh wow, has it been 40 minutes already? I’m in the home stretch!!
  18. Just a few more dodgy sidewalks, unpaved cross streets, insane drivers, and motorcycles to dodge and I’m home free.
  19. Made it at last!! Well that was a good run!!
  20. Maybe I’ll go for a run again tomorrow!

And that’s how it’s done, folks!

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Another Year Over

Well, almost over anyway! I can’t believe how fast this year went, though I’m sure that while it was happening it felt painfully slow! I have certainly been through a lot of changes; my boyfriend moved to Europe, I moved out of my first apartment, I quit my first job, I moved to South America to follow a dream, and now we are inching towards December and then soon after 2011.

It is definitely bittersweet. While in some ways this was one of the most difficult years for me, I think my overarching feeling is that it has been by far the best year I’ve had in a long time, if ever. I’ve opened new opportunities for myself which would never have been opened if I hadn’t dealt with the difficulties of the earlier part of the year – and so I feel lucky to have been forced to overcome some major life changes and some challenging decisions to bring me to where I am now.

It’s easy for me to sit back and reflect now as I am edging towards the close of my time here in Paraguay, with only two weeks remaining, and heading home to see my family and friends for the holidays and celebrate the beginning of yet another New Year.  I can’t believe how fast the time passes, but I don’t think it will ever slow down so I might as well embrace it and do my part to enjoy every minute of the remaining 2010, in Paraguay and the U.S.

A Turkey to Remember

This Thanksgiving left me feeling full, satisfied, and loved. I have to say it was one of my most memorable and certainly one of my favorites of the last few years. Celebrating Thanksgiving in a foreign country gives you a sense of pride and patriotism that you don’t necessarily feel otherwise. Other people are listening to you to understand better what is this tradition from your homeland and, of course, who around the world isn’t willing to give thanks for the blessings they’ve been given in their lives?

I started the festivities out with my friends, for whom I am grateful! We went to the apartment of the sister of one girl, and prepared our Thanksgiving feast of 5 or 6 different dips, chips, crackers, and bread. I prepared guacamole, which kicked ass, btw, and we opened up a few bottles of Sidra and had Caipirinhas.

Thanksgiving with Friends

We each went around the table and said what we were grateful for, an emotional time for all (much more feeling and sensitive than the “I am thankful for’s back home”. I was thankful for having met so many amazing people in Paraguay and to my group of friends who welcomed me with open arms and took me under their wing, for without them this would have been a very different and dull experience.

I am lucky to have these girls in my life!

We drank into the wee hours of the morning, or around 1 am, and headed back home with the dust of our happy evening settling behind us.

The next day, THE THANKSGIVING DAY, I woke up early and refreshed to begin my tasks in the kitchen, which included making Grandma and Mom’s famous Noodle Pudding, Amandized Stuffing, and a very cheesy Green Bean Casserole. My friend Menchi came by to help me in the kitchen and we headed out to Lucy’s for a day of stuffing our faces and swimming in the pool.

The whole crew was there, all grateful for an unexpected half day out of the office, and ready to eat the deliciously carved turkey Lucy’s husband prepared, and the 10 side dishes that went along with it, (I might have had a typical Amanda moment in which I was terribly fearful that there would be a lack of sufficient food for everyone!) But I was wrong, of course. There were the three dishes I prepared, a huge salad, a potato salad, sweet corn, guacamole and bean dip, the giant turkey and gravy.

Lucycita y Yo in front of our Thanksgiving feast!

Not to mention the Peach Sidra, Passion Fruit Mousse, and 3 fresh baked pies!

This goes beyond mouth watering.

Needless to say there was PLENTY of food to go around and everyone raved about the dishes they had never tried before, including the turkey (which was imported from Brazil and cost $100 USD for 22 pounds…in other words, ridiculously expensive!) I proudly reported to the table that it was also my first time eating turkey – long story, but I haven’t since at least as long as I’ve been able to verbally protest! I had to get in the holiday groove, which I certainly did!

I gave my usual What is Thanksgiving shpeal – something about the first settlers in the U.S. being treated like king by the indians and saved from starvation and unnecessary hardship and HUGE FEAST to celebrate what we were thankful for. Come to think of it someone at the table asked WHY we celebrate with turkey, to which someone else replied because it was so big there was enough to go around, and I completely missed the opportunity to interject that in fact it was what they ate at the FIRST Thanksgiving which makes it so symbolic. There may have to be another Thanksgiving in Paraguay after all to right the wrong!

We then all went around the table saying what we were thankful for, with me taking the lead (to show them how it’s done, of course.) I told everyone how grateful I was to be in Paraguay, to have met such an amazing and inspiring group of people, and how lucky I was to have been given this opportunity to not only learn conservation, but to live in another country and to truly love the work I do. I thanked them for giving me that experience and said there really were no words to express how amazing it’s all been for me. I then promptly stopped as I realized I was getting quite emotional and choked up, (the first hint of going-away sadnesss?!) The emotion poured over as the next and next and next person also agreed how grateful they were to be part of the WWF family and how amazing a place we are so lucky to work in.

My Paraguayan Family - WWF

The day was a complete and total success. Everyone had a chance to relax, take some time away from the office and spend it in good company. Then the few of us who brought our suits hopped in the pool to cool down, while the others continued with their glasses of Sidra. I have had many moments of happiness here, but this has to have been one of the best. I feel like part of the team here and have become so ingrained in the structure of WWF Paraguay and the way of life here, that it will certainly be difficult to leave.

People ask me everyday, “Will you come back,” and I say with the utmost sincerity, “I definitely will.” There is not a doubt in my mind that I have found a home in Paraguay to which I can always return.

Where does all the garbage go?

I joined my boss and her husband at the CCPA (Centro Cultural Paraguayo Americano) in downtown Asuncion a couple of weeks ago to give a talk on a campaign WWF launched during the summer, and to give a bit of information about who I was and where I’m from. After making it through the preamble of being a North American I showed some photos of my beloved NYC – including the beautiful view I used to have of the Empire State Building from my living room, (well from my whole apartment really, since I lived in a studio…) I showed some photos of Central Park, (“Are people laying in the park sun bathing???”) and photos of the seasons and, of course, of my pets back home.

People then asked questions freely to practice their conversation, but I was not expecting to hear “What does New York do with all the trash from the city?” I thought for a minute before replying, “I have absolutely no idea.” And it got me thinking, what does NYC do with all of it’s trash? In Asuncion, the private trash companies pick up the waste and bring it to thetrash people to deal with, more often than not burning massive amounts of it at a time. But how do we deal with our garbage back home?

I know we have the Department of Sanitation New York City, and according to them:

Today, the Department is the world’s largest, collecting over 12,000 tons of residential and institutional refuse and recyclables a day. The City’s businesses, whose waste is collected by private carting companies, generate another 13,000 tons of refuse each day.

But this still doesn’t answer my question, where does it all go? Is it a landfill in New Jersey or Staten Island? Is it burned?

A group at MIT decided to find out by developing a trash tracking device to accompany civilians trash to the dumps to see where it ultimately ends up. While they began this project, it seems, in July 2009 – I have yet to see any results or findings.

I wonder, how can I find the answer to this question – do any of you know??

So Much to Do So Little Time

I cannot believe how quickly the time passes. I am left with only three weeks in Paraguay, (2 weeks, 6 days, and 3 hours – I kid, I kid) but really, there is very little time left, especially looking back on the past 5 months that I have been here. I’ve had my ups and downs, to say the least, but overall I could not be happier that I made the decision to come and was able to stick it out for so long. Granted, life in Paraguay can be challenging, especially for a foreigner,  but I don’t know how in my life I would have been able to reproduce this experience in another time, another place, with another goal in mind. It would be impossible!

With only three weeks remaining, though, I have to think about everything I want to accomplish before it’s Go-Time. What trips I want to take, what friends I want to see, what foods I want to eat, what work I want to accomplish. I think, pretty much, I don’t have enough time to do it all, but I am sure as hell going to try! After all, the only thing I need to do when I get back home is relax and sight see.

So on the work front, many things remain, personal goals such as translating our site from Spanish to English, and other projects I have agreed to help on that will take me well into my last hours here. And for friends, I am lucky to have such good friends here who have welcomed me from the beginning and taken me under their wing. We have our final road trip this weekend to Villa Florida, where we all plan to eat delicious food, drink some Sidra (Cider, much like champagne in the north) and get a tan. And then there are the gifts I haven’t bought, but should before I leave, Christmas is just around the corner, after all!

My schedule is packed, my head overwhelmed and exploding with energy and ideas, and my body is tired, but I will prevail! Only three weeks to go and so much to get done!

What am I thankful for?

As I get ready to start preparing for two big Thanksgiving dinners this week…one with friends on Wednesday and one with colleagues on Thursday…I have to ask myself what am I thankful for. The list is somewhat easy, but certainly not without its complexities!

  1. My family – for giving me the means to succeed and always supporting me even when I tell them I am quitting my job and moving to South America for a little while
  2. My friends – who are my backbone and who make me a (somewhat) rational human
  3. My boyfriend – for bringing excitement and love into my life
  4. Animals – my pets, specifically, but just in general – for being so loving unconditionally and just for existing
  5. WWF – for giving me the chance to explore my passions, and giving me an avenue to change my life – and, of course, for saving the world
  6. Living in Paraguay – for helping me to understand myself and my limits, for teaching me patience and another rhythm of life
  7. The changing seasons in New York – I’ve realized now more than ever how much each season means to me – and how truly beautiful where I come from is
  8. Air Travel – I would be nowhere without you! (no pun intended…)
  9. The Internet – someone had to say it…I don’t know how I would pass my days, or stay connected, or do anything really, without it
  10. My youth – and learning while I’m young how to take care of myself, how to eat well, how to exercise, and just generally how to feel good

I AM GRATEFUL FOR YOU!!

The list goes on, and maybe I’ll add on to it a little later – but I am feeling particularly grateful today for the things that have happened in my life and wanted to shout it (or blog it) to the world!

What are you thankful for?

REDDy for a New Future in Conservation

Helping you understand REDD+

What is REDD+? This is a term you may (or may not, depending on your interests and involvement in news stories regarding the environment,) begin to hear with more frequency over the coming months. For those of you outside of the environmental field, it may not hold as much weight, but REDD+ is the Reduction of Emissions due to Deforestation and Degradation. It applies primarily to the destruction of forests and how that contributes to an ever-more dire environmental situation across the globe – primarily due to the greenhouse gas emissions released during the destruction of forests and the lack of sufficient trees and natural elements to soak that carbon back in.

Why is it relevant now? REDD was initially proposed in 2005 as a potential solution to the world’s emissions problems, but until this point in time has not been successfully implemented globally. The UN is pushing hard for a REDD+ agreement and universal development, as are many NGO’s, governments, and indigenous groups.  The Kyoto Agreement – a legally binding agreement between signed-up countries to meet emissions reduction targets of all greenhouse gases relative to 1990 levels – terminates in 2012, and so the world is waiting with its breath held for a permanent and sustainable solution to take its place in order to comply with Zero Net Deforestation and reduction of emissions by the year 2020.

The Bible

At the end of this month there is another large international conference on Climate Change that will be taking place in Cancun, Mexico. The primary point of discussion for this conference, at least from Paraguay’s perspective, will be REDD+ and preparing the country for its implementation, as well as holding the more developed nations to their promises to reduce emissions as well. The ultimate goal is to arrive at the Rio20 Climate Change Conference, (in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 2012) with a secured plan for the future after the Kyoto Agreement ends.

What does REDD+ Really do? REDD+ (the plus was added within the last two years to emphasize the effect on biodiversity) looks to instate a plan of Payment for Environmental Services (PES). Basically, it recognizes that the problem of deforestation is an economic one and as such it looks to set up sustainable methods for financially compensating countries that are willing and able to reduce emissions from deforestation – largely focusing energy on local producers and indigenous groups that rely most heavily on the forests for their survival.

What’s the Situation of REDD+ in Paraguay? Many countries have already adopted a REDD+ framework into their governments and are beginning the process, but it does not yet exist in Paraguay. There is no universal agreement in the government nor among NGO’s or Indigenous Groups as to how it should be rolled out in the country, but the discussion is occurring now and should start development in the next year or so.

From WWF Paraguay’s perspective, we are currently working on a proposal with WWF Germany that would allow us to develop a sustainable REDD+ strategy to begin in (or around) July 2011. There are many small, unique factors to take into consideration (i.e. the ability to consult with Indigenous Groups prior to agreeing to accept any funding,) but so long as all involved parties’ wishes are honored, development should go smoothly. Famous last words? We hope not!