The roads out to my study communities are still closed, so it looks like I’m going to be stuck in town for a while… I managed to get out of the Chaco in the first place by taking a very roundabout trip North with a priest and two nuns from the Mission, and a young man from one of the study communities who is about to start seminary school. The road I usually take is broken up with mud and sitting water in places, and even some of the detours that have grown up around the bad parts of the road have become yucky and impassable themselves. For example, this walking path which detours around about 50m of muddy road in Integrationville became a small lake itself:
The rain had filled up the tajamars (like man-made lakes, big open holes dug to store rainwater in the community) and the nuns commented that they looked really nice at the moment because they all had a thick layer of green on their surface. I was surprised that would be considered a good thing, but supposedly it keeps the dirt and dust from getting into the water. Here’s a photo I took of a tajamar earlier that week before it was fully covered:
Having water is better than no water, but I find the tajamars repulsive. Water quality is much better (and healthier!) when rainwater is stored in covered containers, and most community members prefer to use water gathered in this way and only use the tajamar as a final resort. Open water is vulnerable to contaminants and creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Not too many wildlife sightings on the trip out; the usual array of birds and a cute armadillo. We arrived at another Mission next to the TransChaco highway in the late afternoon, where we dropped off the nuns and the lovely older nuns who lived there treated us to freshly blended fruit juice. Our next stop was in 25 Leguas, where Radio Pa’i Puku is located. The priest we drove out with had a meeting there, and the seminary student and I bought tickets for a bus heading to Asuncion at 10:30pm.
I had several hours to kill in town, and was met with great hospitality in the church and Radio Pa’i Puku. I got a tour of their building and met some of the voices I regularly hear on the radio. I was even invited to do an interview about my research project in the Chaco! I don’t want to embarrass myself with my bad Spanish grammar on the radio station the entire Chaco listens to just yet, so I deferred the interview to my next visit.
I think I’ve mentioned previously how unreliable my satellite phone is (it’s an IsatPhone Pro – cheapest on the market, but I’ve had trouble receiving and sending messages on a consistent basis). When I can’t receive messages, I have to rely on the same communication system as everyone else in the Chaco far from the cell phone tower: the radio. Some people claim they can get several radio stations from Paraguay and Argentina, but the only ones that I can reliably tune into are Radio Pa’i Puku and sometimes another one whose name I can never remember. I prefer Radio Pa’i Puku because you get more news and three times a day they read off messages people have submitted so that those of us out in the boonies can stay connected with the rest of the world. When my field vehicle first broke down, and my sat phone had decided not to pass on incoming messages, my colleagues in Asuncion tried to pass a message on by broadcasting it on Pa’i Puku. (Unfortunately, I was running around collecting census data and not listening to the radio that day. Oops.)
The name Pa’i Puku comes from Missionary Priest Pedro Shaw, who first proposed the idea of a radio station for the Chaco. Priests in the Chaco are usually called Pa’i. Besides providing a mode of communication for the people in the Chaco, Pa’i Puku provides a lot of multicultural content, especially indigenous content. They also dedicate a lot of air time to social justice issues and I’ve heard lots of health education radio spots.
You can listen in live to Radio Pa’i Puku here:
Edit: The link above was working yesterday, but doesn’t connect you directly with Radio Pa’i Puku (720 AM) today. I’m leaving it up though because sometimes Paraguayan webpages have a way of randomly coming back into service, and there are lots of other Paraguayan radio stations you can listen to.
If you are a Spanish speaker and suddenly find you can’t follow the conversation, it probably just switched into Guarani. I was listening to an interview about dengue today and couldn’t understand half of it because the interviewer and interviewee were switching back and forth between Spanish and Guarani.