It’s beginning to taste a lot like (our new version of) Christmas!
This year we’ve decided to reflect on things we don’t ordinarily say we’re thankful for around the table packed with savory food and our cherished family and friends. Not that we aren’t still thankful for friends and family—we are thankful for them most of all. But living in a different country and culture with access (or lack there of) to different amenities reveals a deep appreciation for certain frivolities that may have once been taken for granted. We know, too, that we will dearly miss certain aspects of our life in Paraguay once we have completed our service and returned back to the states. Here we highlight the little pleasures in life that we’re thankful for: five in Paraguay and five in the U. S. of A.
3am - My alarm goes off and I sneak out of bed as to not wake the sleeping Isaías beside me.
4am – I’m on a bus heading north out of town. It’s bumpy and dusty and I don’t want to mat my hair down, but I manage to catch a few Zzzs.
9am – I arrive in Coronel Oviedo, location of an entrepreneurship event that one of Paraguay Emprende’s (the project I help coordinate) partners is hosting.
9:30am – I walk past the event location a few times but finally notice it. I enter to discover it started a couple of hours ago. The invitation said 9:30am. I wonder how everyone except all the Peace Corps volunteers who arrived around the same time as me got the memo.
10am – We volunteers ask about setting up a table to display our informational brochures. We thought it was what we were invited to do, but it seemed like news to the coordinators. And no other organizations were there with tables. Nevertheless, they found us a table, a pretty table cloth, and a way to hang our huge banner behind us. Awesome!
10:30am – Elisa, the director of our sector, notices that we are on the event’s speaking schedule. We don’t believe her since it’s the first we’re hearing about it, but sure enough, the Paraguay Emprende Team is scheduled for 10 minutes at 11:45am.
11am – Devin, another volunteer, happens to have a Paraguay Emprende promo video on the pen drive he has with him. We decide to give a quick intro to the project and show the video. Perfect!
11:30am – I nervously practice my lines.
11:45am – We get bumped until after lunch.
2:30pm – Success. Our short presentation was a-okay and gave us some good attention, which will lead to more support and participants.
4pm – I head to the bus terminal and catch the last bus of the day heading south to my site.
7pm – The crisp fresh air streaming in the bus windows feels great. I’m tired but happy. I feel a strange love for Paraguay bubbling around inside of me. Or am I a bit motion sick? I smile as we pass men in chairs outside their houses, passing time without a rush in the world, and little naked kids running in their front yards.
9:10pm – It’s dark but the stars are bright. Based on the time I know I’m nearly home. I start to doze off and then become alert and realize our bus has stopped. Not a normal stop to drop off a package or for the driver to run into a dispensa for a snack. Stopped as in broken down. The driver and money collector are outside with flashlights, working on the engine.
9:30pm – I call Isaiah and tell him the news. And that I’m really hungry.
10pm – A huge chorus of those awesome frogs accompany the men as the continue to fiddle with the engine to no avail.
10:30pm – With a roar and a puff we are going again. The engine sounds awful and I decide that when we break down again (it seems inevitable), we’ll have to be close enough to walk the rest of the way.
11pm – We arrive in Yuty without more problems. Isaiah greets me at our door with carrots and peanut butter and we tell each other about our days. It’s a rare occurrence to be apart for so long and to not already know every detail of each other’s day.
11:30pm – I fall into bed and am asleep before I can even tuck in the bottoms of the mosquito net. I sleep hard and long and it is good.
We anxiously watch as little buds of mangoes, peaches, and grapefruit slowly grow in our back yard. Some of the delicious signs of summer.
Isaiah spent the better part of his 30th birthday recovering from some sort of stomach bug. We took it easy, played some games our friends at 8th Street had sent us, read our Harry Potter book aloud and soaked up all the well-wishes that came in through this blog, snail mail (!), emails, or Facebook. Even though Isaiah felt a little off, he definitely felt the love from all of you. Thank you!
Isaiah sported his fun t-shirt given by Igor and Sanny at his birthday gathering that we postponed until Saturday night to give his stomach a little more time to rest before diving into the delicious birthday treats I whipped up for the occasion. I was especially thrilled about my little homemade pennants, marking the milestone, hence they get their own photo.
But dive in we did! A few friends came over and we enjoyed a perfectly cool evening on our back patio, munching on food and playing some corn hole. Everyone was eager to pitch in to help keep our little borrowed grill fanned and going to cook up the shish kabobs.
We even sang Happy Birthday to Isaiah in three different languages, the lucky guy.
Although Igor had trouble keeping ALL those candles lit. Well, actually we had only three candles, each representing 10 years of good living!
Now Isaiah is adjusting to life as a wise old man, and I’m enjoying cracking jokes for the few months I have until I join the 3 decades club.
Do you remember your 30th birthday? Or are you a youngster who still thinks that sounds incredibly old? I’ve seen enough jaws drops on the faces of the kids at the soup kitchen when we tell them our ages to know that 30 doesn’t seem young to everyone!
We waited until dusk and then shone the bright light of a projector onto the outdoor wall of the soup kitchen, outlining the world and showing us where to trace. This step was surprisingly quick – once the logistics of borrowing a laptop, projector, ensuring they worked well together, and worked well outside were ironed out, that is.
Next it was onto the painting, which we did in the light of the day. We marked the countries to be painted the same color and the local youth group went to town, carefully filling in the pencil outlines.
As the vibrant colors were added to the wall, a real map began to form and everyone was excited.
Yet to come in update Part Three: we still need to finish painting a few more countries (Europe is a bit sparse), and then outline and label them all. Even unfinished, the map is adding some welcome color and life to the soup kitchen yard and all those who pass on the road.
Oh by the way, check out Part One if you missed it!
As of today, I’m married to a 30-year-old. Whoa!
Here’s to the birthday boy
who brightens my every day,
is quick to crack a joke but
slow to get rattled and
whose love of chocolate even surpasses mine.
Happy birthday, Isaiah! Here’s to the next 30 years, which I’m flattered to be a part of. May the adventures never end!
Upon returning from a quick trip to Asunción, Isaiah and I hosted an event of opposites. A group gathered in our yard to both welcome our friend’s baby, Nicolas, into the world as well as say goodbye to volunteer Katie who completed her service in Paraguay and is returning to the States.
We shared good food, stories, and words of wisdom for the guests of honor and all delighted in getting our chance to hold tiny baby Nicolas in our arms. I made sure to sneak in a couple of turns!
We’re grateful to know Katie (who was part of our very small VAC) and are excited for her as she returns to her family back home.
The welcoming and goodbye-ing at the party reminded me of the circle of life. (Where’s Phil Collins when you need him?) No death was involved, thankfully, but the cycle of Peace Corps volunteers coming and going is continuous.
The tears shed at the party reminded me that building relationships far surpasses any project I may complete in my time here and gave me energy to march on.
Welcome to the world, Baby Nicolas! Best of luck in everything, Katie!
It’s always fun to make connections from back home. It’s especially fun when those connections can happen in person. Face to face. Elbow to elbow.
We were lucky enough to make one of those connections this weekend when we traveled to the capital city of Asunción and met up for lunch and some Mercado 4 strolling with an old friend from our church back home, Ben. Ben is volunteering for 10 months at an organization in Asunción that helps people with AIDS.
This is an incredibly poor quality photo taken by my trusty cell phone, but it was all I had to document this 8th Street reunion, so it’ll do until the next time we meet up!
Ben is having a great experience so far and it was incredibly refreshing to share our reflections, opinions and challenges with each other. Oh, and of course we all practiced our limited Guaraní. We did all this chatting over a delicious Korean meal to boot.
To the rest of our 8th Street family, it looks like Paraguay is kinda the place to be right now, so start booking those plane tickets. Can’t wait to see you all soon!
It can be hard to be away from our families and friends for the normal, everyday stuff like a family dinner or a cook-out with friends. When special occasions roll around like birthdays or Christmas it feels especially appropriate to be with those with whom we’ve always celebrated, and the distance is noted.
Thank goodness for technology.
For one, we have this blog which keeps our parents (and others) in-the-know and included in our adventures here. We can email whoever we want and it shows up in your inbox just the same as it would if we were sending it from next door. We can receive adorable photos of our niece and nephew decked out in the Paraguayan ware brought back from my parents’ visit. (You can see why I sometimes want to jump through my computer screen for these cuties, eh?)
There’s also video chatting, which is the closest to actually being present. We’ve video chatted in to family gatherings and to receive the happy news that two of our best friends are pregnant.
Isaiah video chatted with his mom the other day, receiving one last tour of their beautiful house in the woods – now empty as she moves on to her next adventure. Looking through the computer out the huge windows of the Goertz house at the brilliant orange and yellow fall leaves put me right in the middle of a midwest fall day, and I soaked it up.
How grateful we are to have this technology to bridge the great distance that separates us from these milestones or the everyday. Though it is such a balancing act. To send my mind flying to a sunny fall day in the midwest (my favorite season), can make the sudden journey back to spring in Paraguay a little jarring.
To all but reach out and touch the beautiful bellies of my friends that are growing along with the precious gift tucked inside, and then feel the thousands of miles that separates us crash down on me upon disconnecting can take its toll.
I am happy in Paraguay and I’m not quite ready to leave. At the same time, I’d love to be a part of all the things going on without us in the States. Of course it’s not possible. Even if we were in the States we’d be distanced from some friends or some family as, even there, they are spread out across the miles.
The art seems to be in the balancing. To give up the idea that I can have it all, be a part of everything, have my hand in every delicious cookie jar. There’s something powerful about admitting that “defeat”. I cannot be everywhere and try everything. I cannot live eight simultaneous lives as to not miss out on anything, and get to see all of life’s choices play out in full like a Sliding Doors movie (which I still remember from high school since the idea appealed to me so).
I’m still working on releasing that idea fully. I am, however, already celebrating the fact that I can usually juggle diving into work at our Paraguayan soup kitchen, and then returning home to shoot off an email to my mom to say hello. The balance is nice. When I need more “home,” I can request a video chat or send out more emails. When I need more focus on the here and now, I can immerse myself in local projects. And when I lose my sense of balance (or intentionally throw it out the window) Isaiah is there to gently add some weight to the side that’s lacking and get my scales and my mind in good balance once again.
Thank you, technology and those who develop it, for making this possible. Now excuse me, I’ve got some
bellies friends to smile at in my video chat date tonight.