“I never understand what’s going on anyway, why should Christmas be any different?” -Chance Wilcox to a fellow new volunteer
Óga Ita, Itapúa, Paraguay
December has been a roller coaster for me and with Christmas already come and gone, it means that I have also hit the one month mark since I first arrived in site. So much has happened in the last week and a half surrounding Christmas, that I thought I’d highlight it with a few of my favorite moments:
On the bus ride to Encarnación as I was going to get a package, the chattiest woman in the world sat down next to me around 4 AM as I was trying to sleep. “Where are you from? Are you German? Where in the US are you from? Do you like American Music? Do you like Kurt Cobain? Did you know you look like Kurt Cobain? So are you German? Have you been to the German colonies? Have you tried Paraguayan food? What’s your favorite? What are you doing here? What’s your name? Are you German? Here, meet my daughters….”
After collecting my package there, I hopped on a bus to Asunción to meet up with friends and get another package from customs there. The second chattiest woman in the world happened to be on that trip. “Do you speak Spanish? Where are you going? Have you been to Asunción before? Do you like Paraguay? Where are you from? Do you miss the US? Do you like Paraguay? What are you doing here? Where do you live? Do you like Paraguay? Did you know you look German?”
In Asunción, I hopped on a city bus to get to my hostel, but I thought I had gone past my stop and my backpack was huge and weighed down by packages for Chara and myself, so in my hurry, as I was trying to put it on, I full on rammed into a man, who, in turn, was forced to push his butt into a woman who was seated, breast feeding her baby. “Permiso, permiso, disculpame. I’m so sorry.” I hopped off the bus thinking, thank god I’ll never see those people again, and then realized I actually got off too early and wasn’t thinking right. So I started walking the ten blocks and right when I was a block from the hostel, the bus I had just gotten off of dropped the woman with the baby off across the street. If looks could kill, she would’ve shot me dead from across that busy Paraguayan street.
Seeing friends in Asunción, spending two nights away from site, and receiving mail from my parents, which we’ll call “unintentional Christmas presents” thanks to delayed Paraguayan customs, was an amazing Christmas present in itself. With new optimism, I headed back to site, ready to celebrate Christmas Eve with my host family, although I had no idea what that entailed.
To make a long story short, on Christmas Eve, Paraguayans wait until midnight to toast in Christmas Day and Christ’s birthday and then some of them go to big parties. I was not told this until 8:30 PM, after I had showered and gotten into my comfy clothes. This was my side of the conversation:
Oh we’re going to a party? Okay I’ll just change my clothes. Sure let’s eat some pasta before the party. Oh wine? Why not? Oh okay, yeah I’ll have some meat too. Wine? Sure! Bread too? I guess. More wine? If everyone else is… Oh okay. What time is it? Nine? Yeah I’ll take more wine. What time are we going to the party? Midnight? Isn’t that late? Sure more wine. I had a long trip so I’ll just take a quick nap before the party.
I woke up the next morning in my party clothes, about four hours earlier than everyone else. My sleepiness had trumped my readiness to party in Jesus’ name. Thank goodness that Christmas is a little more low key. My entire family came over (all 11 siblings, their spouses, and children) and we had a big asado (we grilled a ton of meat), played volleyball, and drank some beers.
I felt like part of the Baez family on Christmas, at elbows with Fredy and Ariel, eating cow intestine at a big long table with smiling faces all around, but it didn’t feel like Christmas. With the weather, a BBQ, beer, and volleyball, it felt like the Fourth of July with weird cow parts. It was one of the first days where I truly did miss home and my family and just felt out of place at the same time. However, I embrace this feeling. It only means that I’m human and that I have so much more ahead of me to experience, to feel happy about, to miss home for, and to grow into.
So again, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and is welcoming in the New Year with open arms. I for one, cannot wait to see what a full year in Paraguay puts in front of me.