Che Paraguay- My Paraguay. Also the title of a well-known song here in Paraguay about one’s love for this beautiful place.
Oga Ita, Paraguay
In the short few days since my last blog post, I’ve been a semi-okay volunteer, running this way and that, trying to do good work and avoid getting dengue while still loving this amazing country that I call home. It’s been over a year and a half now and I’m starting to realize that the last eight months are going to go by a little too quickly. This stage of my service here in Paraguay is so comfortable. Things are normal. I no longer feel the need to call my G-mates after every little encounter or happening for support or a ridiculous reaction because now, all that previous ridiculousness is my everyday life. And it’s no longer ridiculous. Despite the normalcy, there are still moments of such “Paraguay-ness” when I remember where I am, how lucky I am to be here, and how amazing this experience is. During Semana Santa (Holy Week) at the end of March, I helped my mom make chipa (a cheesy, fatty, carb-loaded bread-thing) all afternoon on Wednesday, as dictates Paraguayan tradition. I was helping her by kneading the dough to make over 200 chipa, my arms deep in an old wooden box filled with manioc and corn flour, pig fat, and a dozen eggs. The smell of anise and baking chipa was everywhere, Paraguayan harp ballads playing on the radio, the taste of cool mint and Yerba maté in my mouth, and the chatter of my mother and sister-in-law’s rapid Guaraní gossip in the background. I was laughing, joking, speaking in my own weird Gringo Guaraní dialect, drinking terere, kneading the massa, and just generally feeling included when I had one of the greatest feelings of “Paraguay-ness” I’ve ever experienced. It’s warm. It makes you realize how far you come and how much time you have left while still keeping you locked in on that exact moment. In one second, you appreciate everything around you as home, as the place you’re meant to be in with the people you feel as though you’ve known since birth. You look back to a group of new trainees, dressed in ‘business casual’ and grouped together for the first time in a generic conference room in a Miami Airport hotel. You look forward to a group of weather worn volunteers, wearing their best, which still has holes and stains and bleached colors from the sun, about to ring the bell and finish their service. And you look at yourself. Someone different. Someone who you don’t recognize in that group photo from Miami. Someone on a journey of so many different levels. Someone so caught up in “Paraguay-ness” that they don’t realize that their mother is scolding them for not paying attention and getting mandioca flour all over the place.
That’s the “Paraguay-ness” effect.
That’s Peace Corps.
That’s being a volunteer.