23 November 2008

About Paraguay and AFS

Paraguay is a landlocked country in South America, between Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. It's about the size of California. Spanish and Guarani (indigenous) are the major official languages. Both Spanish and Guarani are used frequently, with Spanish prevailing in cities and Guarani in rural areas and isolated cities. The east is humid and rainy, the west is dry and arid. It's in the southern hemisphere, so our winter is their summer. (I will arrive in February- the middle of their summer, just before school begins.)
Just under 7 million people live in Paraguay. The capital and largest city is Asuncion. Other larger cities are Ciudad del Este, Encarnacion, Concepcion, Luque, Villa Hayes, Caacupe, Villarica, Pilar, and San Juan Cabalero. Hydroelectricity, generated from several major dams, supply most of the country's power. Soybeans are the most important crop.
Many people are poor, but many of the families able to host exchange students are middle-upper class. School runs on a half-day schedule, with classes being either in the morning, afternoon, or occasionally evening. Usually kids are put into a "track" in high school, such as business, sciences, or arts.

AFS was started in WWI by ambulance drivers from the US as the American Field Service. The group was reformed during WWII, and started exchanges after the war. At first, exchanges were just between the USA and several western European countries, but today high school students from over 50 countries are involved. AFS maintains an international umbrella organization, but is really made up of national organizations in each country. AFS-Paraguay was started in 1962, and hosted US students in 1966 for the first time. Today, AFS-Paraguay hosts about 200 foreign students a year from all over the world, and sends out approximately 150 Paraguayan students.

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