365 Days. 365 days of speaking a foreign language (two in fact) every day. 365 days of seeing places I never thought I’d see, and meeting people with perspectives and backgrounds unlike any I’ve met before. 365 days of appreciating the hospitality of these crazy but warm people that have adopted me like one of their own. The best 365 days of my life. It’s been a year! Over a year, in fact. Sept 25th marked my one year anniversary in Paraguay. I didn’t even realize it until my dad called me that day and reminded me.
Hearing that number out loud makes it sound much longer than it seemed. Like most volunteers say, it goes by incredibly fast. I have to say that I’m just really thankful for this opportunity to live here. Most days I feel like all of this is normal, hearing the roosters in my yard waking me up, me speaking in Spanish, drinking terere, and trudging around town surrounded by the Paraguayan countryside. But I still have days where something happens that makes me think, “holy crap! I’m still in Paraguay?” Like I’m gonna wake up some morning and be back in Califon, NJ instead of Yhu, Paraguay.
And it’s not even halfway done yet! Sept marked when I got to PY for training, at the end of December I’ll really have one year left.
Well I dropped the ball again. It’s been a long time since my last update (which rereading now seems quite bitter, I was pretty angry when my wallet got stolen)! Tanto tiempo, like they say here. Mostly I have the same excuses for not writing, it’s that when I get home for work/school/family visits I’m usually too exhausted to write. I’m hoping that during the upcoming summer vacation (PYan summer that is) I can get some more blog entries out, and more consistently. Instead of trying to recall a lot of them and writing them down long after the fact now, I’m simply going to try and make my newer entries shorter but more frequent. Let’s see how this goes.
Today the water coming out of my faucet was a thick chalky white. Should I be worried? I looked at it for a moment and then shrugged and gulped it down. Que rico! Also someone texted me asking me to translate directions for a mounted sight on a rifle that are in English. Good to know I’m useful around here. I knew I joined the Peace Corps for something!
Recently I printed a million photos from my time here in Paraguay when I went into Caaguazu. A couple were me with my favorite families in town but most were just pics of people and kids in town. So I spent almost all afternoon walking around town and handing out photos to people. What a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon! They’re always really appreciative because many have very few fam photos. I’ve discovered (on the advice of other volunteers) that photos are some of the best gifts to give to PYans. There’s obviously no place to print them here in town and people don’t have enough money to go to Caagauzu to do it themselves. I found it strange that after I handed them the photos they always ask, “How much does it cost”? As if I was going house to house selling them like a business. I gave a couple of my fav families framed versions of them and me and my mom and sister when they came to visit. The visits took a long time because each and every family tries to make me drink wine or terere or eat something. And they all want you to sit down and talk to them for hours.
Also this week I download some new music onto my computer from the internet that I have in town hall (a long process), and it’s made me realize how much I miss music from the states, esp. the soft spot in my heart for country music. Currently listening to Brandi Carlile’s new CD (thx for getting me hooked dad) and my new fav country band, the Zac Brown Band. There’s only so much Reggaeton and Guarani Polkas that I can stand, although the polkas are growing on me.
Stopped by the tail end of a friend’s B-day party and it quickly became apparent that most of the invitees were pretty drunk. Which for the most part is pretty entertaining. One drunk guy looked at my feet and declared in guarani and I had huge feet (“PY GUAZU!”). Then he struggled to remember something, and then blurted out “BIG FOOT!”, in english mind you. I was impressed. Then he was like (in Spanish), “what do the Americans say….Yeti, right?” Which was pretty funny. I just hope my new nickname doesn’t become big foot. They’ve just recently stopped saying that I look like a young version of Jesus (since I cut my long hair).
But other obnoxious drunks also start talking to me really loudly in guarani and they stand really close to your face and are spitting at you while they talk. This annoys me a lot and I usually have no patience with them after I explain that I don’t understand what they’re saying. This one obnoxious guy wouldn’t stop so I made an excuse and left early.
Which was timely cause my mom called me from the states right after that! We have a sort of tradition now of talking every Sunday which I look forward to. Thanks for all the care packages mom!
Last week I had a visit from an EE (environmental ed) aspirante (trainee). Crazy to think that new group of EEers are already here and training in Guarambare like good old times. This new group G-31, is much bigger than ours was and the EE sector consists of 13 new aspirantes. I had signed up to get a visit (like I did with Dan a year ago), and because there are so few guys in this new group I got a girl, Jessica (not that I was complaining). Anyway the visit was pretty exciting because we were in the midst of Fiesta Patronal, a celebration of our patron Virgen Mary, Virgen del Rosario, or the virgen of the rosary. What it basically means is that Paraguayans take this innocent religious holiday and turn it into a week long excuse to party and drink!
Well anyway I met Jessica in Caaguazu and we had a quick lunch there before heading for the noon Santa Ana, the 2 hour bus to my site. When we arrived at the bus station they told us the bus just left, but that we might catch if we run (why does this happen to me so often). Anyway thankfully we caught it by cutting it off around the corner, only to discover that it was PACKED. Seriously, it was one of the most packed Santa Ana rides of my life. Jessica and I stood up for the entire ride and managed to talk a little during the ride. While standing up this lady sitting down in front of me kept nodding off and leaning her head on me, which I wouldn’t have minded if it wasn’t in such an awkward spot. Moving on! So we made it and I introduced Jessica to her new host family with Professora Tomasa, the librarian from the school I work at. I even dragged her to Soccer match that was just ending and while we were there the wooden bleachers next to us collapsed and some guy hit his head on the concrete post. They dragged him off…I never did find out what happened to him.
So this very same happened to be arguable the biggest party of the year in my town apart from New Year’s. I had agreed to work there to help the school which was sponsoring it, so we got there and predictably no one was there yet. So we spent a good two hours just hanging around and stamping entrance tickets to sell later. Next as the people started to show up (at around midnight) they told us our job was to stand at the gate and take people’s tickets and control the crowds. Which I quickly realized was the absolute worst idea because first of all people have enough trouble understanding me and it doesn’t help when there is blaring reggaeton music in the background. In the end this became clear to the Paraguayans as well and we ended up just sitting there at the entrance people watching. Which was pretty funny because I got to watch all these people I knew in town, including the teachers I work with, arrive decked out like they were going clubbing. I just wore jeans and a t-shirt to the party. Later we were able to slip away from the entrance (around 2am) and danced a bit. I even got Jessica to dance with my Paraguayan friend Alberto. Chisme (gossip)!
I knew from the moment that I heard I was getting a girl volunteer that I would take a lot of crap from people in town about it. Put simply, Paraguayans have a really hard time imagining how a guy and a girl can be just friends. They assume if you went into a girl’s house that you slept with her, and vice versa. It may sound like an exaggeration, but trust me, this perception is very real. Just today in fact I heard through a friend that some girl in town is claiming that she slept with me just cause I visited her house (this is another case entirely because the girl herself started this rumor). Anyway, as we walked around town during her 4 days here people were constantly giving we knowing nudges or winks. Or they would say something in Guarani like, “Guess you’re not looking for a girl anymore!” Thankfully Jessica didn’t understand most of the stuff in guarani.
Jessica’s visit also included a district horse show where two horses collided, a big storm coming through and knocking out power and water for a day, and basically us walking around town all day on Monday visiting all of the schools. I thought back to my visit with Dan a year ago and in honor of that we visited a High School English class where I had her talk in front of them for a bit. Predictably the students (and teacher, who basically speaks very little English!) all stared at her as if she was speaking Chinese.
Overall a good visit, but then I got an email from her a couple days later and she told me that on the Santa Ana bus ride back she had to stand up and again and ended up getting really sick and barfing out the window of the bus. I told her she’s a true Yhuense now (person from Yhu).