Change Yourself…Change The World.

DIY House Renovation: Peace Corps Style.
October 12, 2011, 12:24 am
Filed under: Paraguay

These past couple of weeks have probably been some of the busiest of my life. I have been on a constant go from 6 AM- 10 PM every day. While I can contribute half of this to my regular schedule: working with my cooperative, gardening, and preparing for a business course that I start teaching at a high school this Wednesday (fingers crossed!), the rest of the craziness can be attributed to one thing: house prepping. My house, while wonderful, is a fixer-upper. So… I’ve been fixing it up.

A couple of things I’ve been working on:

1) The walls in my house are full of mold. I heard through the radio so’o (Paraguay’s gossip channel, aka word-of-mouth) that the last renter left the house because she couldn’t take the mold anymore. I am now starting to realize why my landlord offered me such low rent, because this mold is freaking hard to kill off. After researching tons on the most effective methods, my best bet was tea tree oil- this managed to kill a good chunk of the mold, but not all- and it is growing back. Well, serving under hardship if necessary, right? Here’s to all of my windows being opened 24/7 for the next 2 years of service (fear not, friends: the mold isn’t that terrible. Plus if I REALLY wanted to kill it I hear there’s some special type of paint that kills mold, though it is expensive).

2) So since all of my windows will be opened 24/7, this means two key things had to be installed: screens for my windows so that the bugs don’t eat me alive, and after that bars on my windows, so that I don’t get robbed. Fortunately, Peace Corps paid for my bars to be made and the installation since it is a security measure. Score!

3) Now we move onto paint. Who wants a house with terrible mold stains? Unappetizing, thank you very much. So, I went ahead and got some paint, and I’ve been feeling like the Jesus of painting for the past couple of days, since I painted an entire room all by myself (proud much?), and then two more today with the help of my neighbors and my Paraguayan friend (plus last weekend a bunch of Peace Corps buddies helped me paint my second bedroom). The colors look awesome, and there will be pictures soon!

4) Now let’s talk about ceiling fans, and the lack thereof in my house. When it’s 97 degrees in the spring, you better pray to god you have some sort of fan. When I experienced 90+ degrees and humid weather at 10 PM at night while trying to go to sleep in my homestay family’s house, I realized that without a fan, I would probably melt during the summer. So, I went out and got myself two ceiling fans (about 30 bucks each), one for my room and one for the second room (this is where you will sleep if you come visit me… you’re welcome). My neighbor, who’s an electrician, graciously installed them and also fixed ALL of the electricity in my house!

5) Furniture. Ah, furniture, what an adventure it has been hunting for you. As Peace Corps Volunteers we are given a ‘settling-in’ allowance to buy things for our house, but I have to say it takes a lot of creativity to find even the most basic of things within this budget, like a fridge, bed, and stove. Luckily, I wiped out my biggest expense by buying a slightly used brand-new looking fridge for a lot cheaper than the going price (even my Paraguayan neighbors were jealous). My biggest expense was my bed, as I heard from many Volunteers not to skimp on this one, since cheap Paraguayan mattresses tend to create a big sink-hole after a month’s use. Finally, I went and bought myself a dresser for my clothes, and some of my Peace Corps buddies in the general vicinity chipped in for two cheap twin mattresses for the guest room. My next big expense is going to be a small stove and gas cylinder, which I’ll be purchasing soon!

6) Let’s talk luxury. Curtains for my windows. Well, let’s also talk privacy, since I have GIANT windows and nowhere to change without baring all to the neighbors. I bought fabric, had it made by a tailor, and then hunted around for the cheapest curtain rods to install in the house. Once the paint dries, these will be the next things up!

While the process has been a long one (and slightly expensive) to get my house to where it is today, I have to say it has also been really fun, interesting, and has provided QUITE the work-out for me! The amount of miles I’ve walked over the past two weeks, traipsing from store to store to find the cheapest price for things (and let’s not forget all of the times I’ve needed to go BACK to said store because no matter how many times a vendor tells me I only need this specific screw to install a ceiling fan, the electrician will always say that I missed something else) has been pretty much legendary. The people I’ve met in my community through it has been really great, and I can now say I’m pretty much an expert on all construction-related stores in Caazapá.

Finally, the best part of this has been the HUGE amount of things I’ve learned, from electricity to installing a ceiling fan, to mixing cement and learning how to paint properly- I feel like I’ve taken a course on ‘House Renovation 101.’ Quite frankly, it’s amazing- I joined the Peace Corps to challenge myself in new ways, and I love learning new things. Just the education in itself is worth it. I may be exhausted, but I’m glad that I will have a great space to live for the next two years, which I am sure will make me a happy and productive Volunteer. And at the very least, the neighbors all now think I am super ‘guapa’ (hard-working).

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