Chance: Me. Pronounced Chaun-say here in Paraguay. Also the Spanish word for opportunity. –icha: like, or such as.
Oga Ita, Alto Verá, Paraguay
“Only if you give us another volunteer just like Chance,” Abundio said. Eli looked at me in humorous disbelief and I gave her a half-grimace/half-chuckle. Abundio has always been my biggest critic, my least friendly brother, and yet here he was in front of my bosses and the entire community, saying the nicest things I’ve ever heard about myself here in Oga Ita. Eli and Alistair came down from Asunción on Tuesday to discuss with my community the possibility of a follow-up volunteer and how the next two years would look. Mainly, that the next volunteer would NOT be me. That maybe the next volunteer wouldn’t laugh like I do, or go running every other evening like a crazy person, or love ryguazu vori as much as I do, or have the same relationships, or do the exact same work that I did. G50 arrives in Paraguay in just under two weeks for training and hopefully, somewhere in their midst, there’s an unknowing trainee who Eli and Alistair think will love it here. And he/she is NOT me. They will live in my house. They will wake up to my mother asking if they want warm milk or cheese or pea vines or random yuyos she found in the field. They will take their visiting volunteer friends to the Oga Ita cave. They will discover the vista from Asuhaga’s fields on top of the hill when they unknowingly ask to see his crops. They will be given lettuce and carrots from Ña Celedonia, eggs from Ña Chumi, cheese from Ña Angela, homemade soap from Ña Claudelina. They’ll spend a year and a half not understanding a single word of Guaraní that Alejandro says because of his constant mumble. They will run past the school to a chorus of their name being yelled from the windows. But it won’t be “Chance”. Someone else is going to live here and it’s a weird feeling. My time in Oga Ita is in its last three months and I can’t help but to feel a little sadder everyday. But to sit in a meeting, with my bosses and my community, and to hear people say things about my two years here. About the work I’ve done and how guapo I’ve been and how they’ve enjoyed having me as a part of the community, has been one of the most fulfilling experiences. I know I wasn’t alone. I had a community of people who worked alongside me, who wanted to change Oga Ita for the better and who want to keep doing so with another volunteer. And who appreciate everything I’ve done. Little do they know how much I appreciate everything they’ve done for me.
On Wednesday, we visited four families who participated in my gardening project in order to see their gardens (and for Eli to collect a bag of oranges from every family) before moving to Perlita for the afternoon. I taught in both the high school and elementary school in Perlita for brief moments, but when my work picked up in Oga Ita, I had to abandon teaching there. However I had proposed the idea of the community requesting their own volunteer from the next group. We had lunch with the potential host family that I had previously talked to and then wandered over to the Elementary School for a meeting with parents and professors. The meeting was to decide if the community actually wanted to request an environmental volunteer, not necessarily assuring that they would, but it was surreal to be there in that moment. They debated and discussed, Eli asked if they wanted one, they said yes. She asked who the main contacts would be, to be the volunteer’s guides and counterparts, and three señoras raised their hands alongside the Vice Director of the school. She asked who the host family would be and Ña Juana and Karai Demetrio, who we had visited and eaten an amazing lunch with and saw their beautiful fruit-tree studded patio and large accommodating house, raised their hands. Eli asked for an applause and in that moment, Perlita became a potential site. Somewhere in the US, there’s a soon-to-be Peace Corps Volunteer, who’s frantically trying to decide what to pack within their 80 pound limit, they’re saying their goodbyes and mentally preparing themself to leave for a two year service in Paraguay, come September 21st. And this unknown person may just end up living in Perlita. This community that just said, “Yes, we want a volunteer” is going to impact their life in so many unknown ways. And it was amazing to be there for that moment, when a whole lot of unwritten history and relationships and lunches and terere sessions were just decided.
The next three months will fly by. There are trainings for the new G50, one last vacation, one more Ahendu. But more importantly, there are three more months of lunches, of walking down these dirt roads, of terere sessions mango guype, of getting my hands dirty in the garden, of lazy hammock afternoons, of laughing with Ña Angela, of ooohing and aaaahing at Ña Cele’s cooking, of reminding Asuhaga what my name is, of watching Teodoro quietly and skillfully make brooms, of sitting just outside my house on clear nights looking at the stars, of Ña Benita’s chipa, of coming out of the bathroom to find Sebastian had laying and giggling in my hammock. Three more months of little moments.