“A mother is always the beginning. She is how things begin” -Amy Tan
“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers” -Rudyard Kipling
Óga Ita, Itapúa, Paraguay
I have three moms. That’s right. Three. You should be jealous. My service here in Paraguay would not be nearly as rewarding and would be much more difficult without any one of them. They support me, give me advice, teach me, and those with whom I do not share any biological relation treat me like their own son. I am grateful for all three consistently throughout my time here.
In training, we stayed with host families and I was blessed with Mamá Stella, a mother with three sons of her own and, including myself, five Peace Corps sons over the years. She taught me Guaraní. She taught me how to gut a chicken. She taught me the half-assed Paraguayan floor-cleaning method of pouring water and sweeping. She taught me when to say Adios and she laughed at me when I said dirty things on accident. She left the gate open and opened her house, heart, and arms to me, a strange kid from a strange country and for that, I’m forever grateful.
Now Ña Benita Barz is a wonderful mother (yet a terrible cook, but hey we all have flaws). She makes me laugh and makes me feel welcome here in my new home. She always makes sure I’m eating and if I’m not seen after 8 AM, she comes to make sure I’m alive and brings along raw milk and revido to ensure that if I’m living, I’ve eaten as well. She teaches me about plants and remedios and I think she’s slowly turning me into the village medicine man based on the quantity of yuyos planted in my garden, given as gifts from her. She’s honest, yet kind, reminding me when there’s committee meetings or what the latest gossip about myself is. She is one of the most caring women I’ve met here in Paraguay and I am proud to call her Mamá while I’m here and to refer to myself as Chance Baez.
My real mother (and by far the best, hi mom!), Susan, has been so supportive of my choice to serve in the Peace Corps, although it means that we’re 6,000 miles apart and that my campo lifestyle sometimes scares the sweet bejesus out of her. Thankfully, we get to text and talk every now and I get to reassure her that, yes mom, I am alive and yes mom, my feet look better and yes mom, I’m eating well and mom, stop worrying, and mom seriously, I have the greatest health care here, and no mom, I don’t have dengue yet and yes mom, of course I miss you and yes yes mom, I’m sure my feet are fine. She doesn’t worry all the time, she just wants to make sure I’m okay and still happy with this ridiculously amazing adventure I’ve gotten myself into. She sends me letters and candy and coffee and books and toothpaste and soap and all manner of things, both necessary and just to remind me of home and of my real mamá. I love you mom, thank you for supporting me on this journey and for caring so much for me. Happy Mother’s Day!