Beautiful little waterfall in Mariscal Lopez, near Piribebuy, Paraguay!
Beautiful little waterfall in Piribebuy, Paraguay!
Beautiful little waterfall in Piribebuy, Paraguay!

I wrote this in an email to my parents 10 years ago when I was serving in the Peace Corps in Paraguay.

About two weeks ago, I went to visit another volunteer for four days to see what the life of a real volunteer is like and it’s very slow paced.  He lived in a small community really far in the middle of nowhere called Mariscal Lopez.  It was located about an hour walk from the small town of Piribebuy.  He was a very nice guy and he introduced me to many of the people in his community.  One day we went to a school meeting because school has just started for the year here in Paraguay (their summer vacation just ended) and the entire meeting was in Guarani and I understood nothing.  I really feel like a baby right now, because I don’t

The brick oven (fagon) that the Peace Corps Volunteer built in his village.
The brick oven (fagon) that the Peace Corps Volunteer built in his village.

know a lot and I’m just soaking up so much information every day. Anyway, he lived in a very small little one room house (12’x12’), but he has fixed it up really nicely (he has added a brick oven, a latrine, a floor, walls and a new ceiling).  We didn’t spend much time inside because it was just too hot.  He gets water from the local spring in the community which is where everyone gets their water.  We purified the water by putting Clorox in it; one drop for every liter.  We bathed in the river at the end of every day which really felt good because it was so HOT!  It was really the only way of getting clean there where he lived.

A nice swimming hole to relax in Piribebuy, Paraguay!
A nice swimming hole to relax in Piribebuy, Paraguay!

Somehow during my stay there, my skin acquired some type of organism.  It started just on my arms and I went to see the doctor and they said that it is heat rash and I wouldn’t really have to worry too much about it.  They told me to just use some anti-itch cream and I would be fine.  I have such hyper sensitive skin I knew it was going to get worse and sure enough, a few days later it spread to my legs.  It constantly itches and when I’m in the sun I pretty much want to claw off all the skin on my body.  I didn’t think it was heat rash because that supposedly should go away after a week, but mine only continued to get worse.  Because of the heat, sweating and itching, it spread to my entire body and I think it’s an allergic reaction to some type of plant probably similar to poison ivy.  It’s not

Small waterfall in Piribebuy, Paraguay!
Small waterfall in Piribebuy, Paraguay!

poison ivy because they do not have that here. (Although, I was told there is a particular Paraguayan Mango Tree that has an oil very similar to poison ivy and my skin would probably act similar to this plant as my skin does to poison ivy, but that’s not what I got it from this time because I wasn’t around any mango trees.  The Brazilian mango trees aren’t poisonous to me).  I really can’t wear anything right now because cloths just rub and spread it more so I basically walk around miserable and almost naked every day which is not fun.  I go through a tube of cream a day because I have to apply so much to my body.  I was thinking I would just have to wait this out and it would go away, but then my leg started swelling from my hamstring and quad muscle all the way down to my foot.  My entire left leg was very tight and numb.  

The skin infection I had during my Peace Corps pre-service training.
The skin infection I had during my Peace Corps pre-service training.

Finally a week later after not being able to concentrate in my pre-service training classes and just being plan miserable, I was able to go to Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital to see the doctor and get it checked out on my day off.  She sent me to see a dermatologist.  He said it was probably an allergic reaction to a plant I brushed up against or something I ate or even bathing in the river a few weeks before (he said I had the highest chance of getting whatever it was from the river because usually people always get fungi from the river) and I really

The skin infection I had during my Peace Corps pre-service training.
The skin infection I had during my Peace Corps pre-service training.

hope that’s not it especially if that’s how I have to bath when I get to my site.  Anyway, he gave me a prescription and sent me to have some blood tests done at this lab in the downtown area.  Then I had to go and buy a prescription from the pharmacy and then went back to my doctor so they could inject me with a high dosage of what I think was a Cortizone shot!  It hurt so bad, but within a few hours my itching had lessened considerably.  Now it only itches

A beautifully designed and built pyramid located in Mariscal Lopez, near Piribebuy, Paraguay.
A beautifully designed and built pyramid located in Mariscal Lopez, near Piribebuy, Paraguay.

when I rub something against it which is much better then just itching constantly.  It’s been a full two weeks now and it has almost all gone away, thank goodness.  It takes forever to do things here because this whole process of seeing the doctors took me all day to do.  Luckily we

A beautifully designed and built pyramid located in Mariscal Lopez, near Piribebuy, Paraguay.
A beautifully designed and built pyramid located in Mariscal Lopez, near Piribebuy, Paraguay.

had a day off during the weekday to actually do stuff, so it kind of sucked to be poked and prodded on my day off, but it was really good to get it taken care of. Speaking of shots we have about one shot a week during our entire training period for all of our vaccinations we are required to have.

This was actually written in 2007 and is being posted in 2017 for the first time!

Luke Keeler

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