My best laid plans

Posted on January 25, 2012


I’m in Paraguay again!

I flew in on the same plane as Apocalyptica, who are apparently a cello-metal rock band.  They were in the economy cabin like the average person.  I respect that.  (Or maybe they just couldn’t get first class tickets?)  The dude with the drums almost asked me how to fill out the immigration forms, but he seemed unable to determine what language I spoke before an airport employee came to his assistance.  This is my new claim to fame.


Apocalyptica poster in downtown Asuncion

I surprised my Paraguayan friends by having a much improved Paraguayan accent when I arrived.  They asked if I’d been practicing.  I didn’t!  I think after speaking Spanish and having it spoken at me all-day-every-day for so long my brain got behind on processing the things it learned.  It just needed a break so it could catch up.

I spent the last week catching up with friends and colleagues and planning those details that you just can’t organize over email or Skype; you have to do them in a face-to-face meeting.  I’m hopeful that I will get some new collaborations with local investigators.

I’ve also been navigating the last few bureaucratic and administrative hurdles in the university before I can get started.  People often give developing countries a bad rap for being overly bureaucratic, but I sometimes doubt North American academic institutions are any better!  The secret to bureaucracy, no matter where you are in the world, is to know the right people and the magic words that open doors.  Even having done this before, I don’t think I’ve managed to make the process much easier.  It also doesn’t help when your university’s IT infrastructure implodes and you are far, far away…

On Thursday I’m making my first trip back to Isolationville and Integrationville.  This is a planning meeting only and a chance to catch up with people in the communities.  I’ve already heard some news from a friend who was in Asunción for the weekend.  When I left Paraguay in August there were 3 newly diagnosed cases of TB in Isolationville.  My friend tells me that now there are more than a dozen in the area.  I’m not sure how many of these are in my two study communities, because there are several other nearby communities that could be included in the count, but it’s very worrying.

I’ll be back in Asunción on Tuesday, and then I head out again with CEDIC to a different part of the Chaco to scope out 4 other indigenous communities I hope to add to the study.  These communities are easier to access and have similar institutional supports, but are from different ethnic groups (Nivacle, Lengua, and Angaite).  I visited them previously while I was volunteering with CEDIC on a project about vector control for Chagas disease in 2009.

This round of field work includes even more tasks than last time, but I will only be in Paraguay for 5 months.  Hopefully the freak weather system that drowned out the roads to my remote field sites and the terrible luck that stalked my field vehicles have run their courses.  I’ve organized the project in such a way that no matter where I’m stuck, I have *something to do*.

It’s summertime in Paraguay and really hot, but I haven’t suffered too much because the lab has great air conditioning.  So great that it’s actually kinda chilly in there.  When I head out to the Chaco I’ll be suffering temperatures that approach 50 degree Celsius.  There’s no air conditioning out there, but now that Integrationville has electricity in the health post I may get spoiled with a fan, or (*dreaming big*) ice.